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Paradox of authenticity and attachment

Paradox of authenticity and attachment

Divya M

29 June 2021 at 09:00:00

"Human evolution requires that as a social species we always need to be part of a family for survival. This means that feeling cut off from our tribe is still life-or-death scary." Susan David

We as human beings are born with physiological needs for our survival in the long-term, but as evidence says; there are two specific needs which human beings require:

Attachment and;

When we talk about attachment it signifies; feel, contact, attention and love and when a child is born and has been separated from their mother, they crave for love and touch, without which an infant may struggle to survive or even die. Our attachment need as humans is enormous and they remain important throughout our lifetime because we have attachments within society, social groups, families, colleagues, friends and so on, without which we can't survive.

It's our basic need to be loved,

To love,
To connect, and
To belong.

And then there's another need, which is authenticity. Authenticity is the capacity to identify or feel your emotions and feelings, to understand and experience physical contact and to be able to express who we truly are. It's how we feel about ourselves as individuals and our ability to be ourselves without fear, shame or guilt.

So far, so good...

...however now these questions arise,

Are we allowing attachment or authenticity in our relationships?
Are we allowing both? or,
Are we struggling with an apparent paradox?

The research from Harvard Business Review says, Being yourself is the best way to form meaningful relationships, which are integral to career success and growth, no matter what field you work in. It shows that people with a robust social network have better job performance, feel more fulfilled, and even live longer. This is possible when we allow our authentic self to emerge with attachment.

They continue by saying that, there is nothing called a "work-self." When we share something meaningful and vulnerable and speak like a human rather than being pretentious and trying to be someone else, we induce value which helps us to develop strong human relationships...

...but even so the research indicates;

We still feel

Shame, and

...which often prevent us bringing ourselves into reality.

This provokes the question: Why?

Well...the answer is trauma.

Dr.Gabor Mate a specialist in ADHD, addiction, mental health, and psychology says:

“If our environment cannot support our gut feelings and our emotions, then the child, in order to ‘belong’ and ‘fit in’ will automatically, unwittingly and unconsciously, suppress their emotions and their connections to themselves, for the sake of staying connected to the nurturing environment, without which the child cannot survive. A lot of children are in this dilemma – ‘can I feel and express what I feel or do I have to suppress that in order to be acceptable, to be a good kid, to be a nice kid?’” ~ Dr. Gabor Mate

As children, we learn to sacrifice authenticity for connection mostly unconsciously, our body’s intelligence recognises that if we are our full, vibrant self, we’ll lose the attachment with our parents. We may even lose any semblance of a relationship at all.

Humans are wired for attachment and will do whatever it takes to experience it.

Our sense of self, our sense of life, depends on it. When faced with a situation where being authentic is unsafe, we appease our parents’ expectations of how we 'should' be. Their preferences of attitude and behaviour trump our instinctive impulse to be honest, expressive, silly, imaginative, etc. Therefore, subtle agreements are made with our parents, like—

If I give up myself, you’ll love me;
If I hide, do what’s “right”, fit in, not rock the boat,
Our relationship will stay intact and I’ll be safe.

When this is continued over time our biological need for proximity overpowers our basic birthright and natural impulse to be ourselves.

We change ourselves into the pattern of 'survival adaptive response', with the help of our built-in survival intelligence, and react according to the environmental demands. This is because our brain thinks, if we don’t adapt, if we choose authenticity over attachment and fight back, we can be seen as:

Unreasonable, etc.

And we can be emotionally or even physically threatened...

...and when we feel threatened we armour ourselves.

Dr.Gabor Mate says: "When authenticity threatens attachment
Attachment trumps authenticity."

One out of three individuals have experienced trauma in their life and it is these traumas, which determines our present responses in many different situations and circumstances. It also influences the way we perceive our:

Organisations or Workplace
Friends or Families
Relationships or Society

You may remember a time you were confronted by a senior member in your organisation, let's say your boss. Standing at the door of your cubicle, he had cold, stern eyes and you knew you were going to get a 'talking to'. But you also knew that you didn’t do anything wrong, or that his reactions tended to be disproportionate to your apparent “misbehaviour”. By the intensity of his sheer presence, you had little choice but to stay in the uncomfortable conversation, when really, you wanted to run. You had words to say, your side of things. You knew the truth of the matter. But, in his familiar angry impatience, he would not hear them. Trembling with anxiety, overwhelm, anger or sadness, and keeping it all in check, you were forced, once again, to give up your feelings, needs and voice for his unwavering authority. You had to give up your authenticity 'once again' to remain in some semblance of connection. To get through to the other side of the tension. To remain safe.

There is almost more than 10 million cases a year of ADHD in India and considerably more if we see worldwide.

It is very important for us to consider these statistics seriously in order to identify the root cause of all the problems. We are looking for a solution everywhere, but not inside ourselves, and this is a major issue especially how society has stilted our brain development.

Though no one can say at what age one would experience trauma generally, this starts right from the age of inception and follows us throughout our lives. Indeed, there is a tremendous impact on a growing child’s neurophysiology and if as a child we are forced to sacrifice our authenticity, again and again, in our formative years and beyond. When we take a clear and honest look at how much children choose attachment over authenticity, at home, school, and elsewhere, we can fully understand why so many suffer with mental illness.

As Dr. Gabor Mate states in one of his presentations,

“When our attachment needs are not met, this is the source of all pathology, whether physical or mental.”

...because attachment is inextricably connected to authenticity.

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