Disconnection kills. This may sound dramatic, but our brains and psyche rely on various aspects of connection for survival. Disconnection can lead to an increase in depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, heightened anxiety, as well as a weaker immune system and other physical health issues. Our brains are hardwired for connection. From the moment we are born, searching for sustenance from our mothers, to nurturing and cultivating safety from our parents or caregivers, to forming friendships, and intimate relationships, we are driven to connect. There is an instinctual need to feel a part of and accepted in our families, our communities, and in humanity in general. So what happens when we don’t receive connection, or it doesn’t feel authentic? What causes this disconnection?
Our beliefs and feelings of connection are heavily influenced by our early childhood experiences. This is where our ideas about how the world and people operate are solidified. At a deeper level, this is where we decide if the world is a safe place to explore and be curious about, or if it is a dangerous place, forcing us and our systems to be on high alert 24/7. This time is also important for how we understand relationships. Our parents or caregivers are usually the first people in which relationship rules are worked out. We test the idea of safety and getting our needs met while in relationship. When we are crying, do we get picked up relatively quickly? When our diapers are soiled, or we need milk, do we get taken care of? When we feel scared, are they there to comfort and soothe us?
If the answer to these questions is consistently yes, then we are more likely to see and experience the world as a safe, loving place. This allows us to feel confident and secure when encountering new people and new experiences. One of the biggest situations this helps with is dealing with the unknown. When we are secure, connected and feel safe, unknown or uncertain situations will feel less threatening. This is because at a subconscious level we know that our needs will be met and things will be okay. On the other hand, if those needs are not met at this critical age range, then the world, people, and the unknown will feel more intimidating and frightening. This comes from your subconscious, causing a feeling that there isn't enough love, support, or time for you to get your needs met. This can be generalized as a deep feeling of whether you are important or even more so, yourself worth.
In a perfect world, most of us would get all or a majority of these needs met. But if you are continuing to read this blog, odds are this is not the case. Millions of people do not get their basic needs met at an early age. So what does this disconnection do to us? What happens if we don't get this secure, confident attachment? What happens if we don't see the world as a safe place to explore and connect?
The answer is complex, but generally it comes down to one thing. Isolation. When we believe that our needs won't be met or no one else can take care of us, then we are forced to learn how to soothe and take care of ourselves. This hardens the belief that we are actual, truly alone and we cannot depend or rely on others. This belief hardens so strongly that even when people do experience positive, healthy relationships, they don't believe they are either worthy of them or they will end up leading to more pain through abandonment, heartbreak, abuse, and/or seeing them as they see themselves - worthless. This isolation, difficulty to connect and be in relationships with others drives us to form relationships with other things, such as alcohol and other drugs, risky behaviors, and/or constant stimulation or distraction. This can look like overuse of social media, video game use, porn, drugs, and the most overlooked for adults - working an unhealthy amount of hours. All of these behaviors tend to come from one thing, distraction. So what are we distracting ourselves from? This feeling of being alone and disconnected.
There are many different ways to cultivate or strengthen the feeling of connection. It is important to start this reconnection first with yourself and then move outwards toward those closest to you, your local community, country, and the world. Reconnecting to yourself focuses on the idea of being worthy. Worthy of love, worthy of time, worthy of respect. This can be specifically strengthened by taking care of ourselves. Eating well, moving our body, mindfulness, nature, general self-care, helping others, psychotherapy, and finding purpose/meaning in life. One great way to cultivate this feeling of connection in therapy is through the use of psychedelics, such as ketamine, cannabis, psilocybin, LSD, and MDMA. These medicines tend to create an underlying feeling of connection. Connection to everyone, every animal, every plant, and all of life or creation. This sense of connectedness immediately removes the feeling of being alone, of fear, and of separation. The use of these medicines in conjunction with a therapist in whom you have safety and trust with, allows these corrective, positive experiences of connection to solidify in our consciousness and help break down those rules that were formed previously in life.
Another great way to work on strengthening connection is through touch. The idea of touch can be a sensitive subject for those that have had traumatic experiences with their bodies. But, if a person can develop enough trust and safety with a friend, family member, intimate partner, or therapist then using touch can be an extremely healing tool. This is complex at many levels, but can be reduced down to the chemical of oxytocin. This is the ‘love’ drug or ‘connection’ drug. It is released after hugging, or holding, or touching someone for more than 20 seconds and creates the feeling of trust, comfort, safety and love. Applying this skilled use of touch helps us restructure the way we see the world, relationships, and safety. At an unconscious/subconscious level it shows us that we are worthy and that we truly are not alone.
The idea of connection seems so simple and easy, while disconnection seems like a clear thing we should want to avoid at all costs, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Once this feeling of disconnection happens in the system and gets solidified, the idea of reconnecting is scary, full of potential disappointment, abandonment, and danger. The message our brain and body receive is that we must protect ourselves at all costs and that other people or groups will jeopardize this safety. This is where support, mindfulness, groups, and therapy come in. Disconnection often happens in relationship (or lack thereof), and reconnection must also happen in relationship to maximize the chances of healing and growth. Having corrective experiences with loved ones, or a therapist that you can trust,can be vulnerable with, and will not approach you with shame or judgement are crucial steps we can take to begin the process of connection. We begin this connection with ourselves, then our loved ones, families, friends, community, country, and then the world.