Connection and Authenticity

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“Healthy Attachment is the interactive regulation of emotions and the ability to go to others to experience and share joy. It is the emotional availability of the caregiver in infancy.” Dr. Allan N. Schore (the link is active for an exquisite introduction to the physiology of connection and authenticity).

1912. Кормилица с ребенком
Artist: Zinaida Serebriakova (1884–1967) Russia


In healthy attachment we are invited to authentic connection. Our desires for connection are responded to positively, rather than being perceived as a threat. Our attachment experiences lay down (or fail to lay down) the neurological structures and strategies which will become the foundation of our relational reality for life.

What is your experience?: Connection AND Authenticity? or Connection OR Authenticity?

Many of us learned to negotiate our desire for connection with parents often reluctant or unskillful at connecting with us, in terms of  welcoming and encouraging us in our “ability to go to others to experience and share joy,” and often lacking a support structure which nourishes them, as well.

We are going to explore what’s at play here at a very deep level, biologically, in relationships and in terms of our lifelong health.

If we not only ask “why?” but also track out these “why’s” as they have played out in our personal, family and ancestral lives, we might find a way to rediscover and reconnect in a way that doesn’t leave authenticity at the wayside, starting with putting a priority on the authentic needs for connection and competent parenting of children.

Jacob Smits Lente
By Jacob Smits, Dutch Painter, 1855-1928

“Attachment” means being connected to others. As mammals, and as humans, we require profound connection to develop fully and in the continuum of our evolutionary design for profound, joyful engagement with each other and our world.

Authenticity, means actually speaking, expressing, choosing, doing, being and interacting in ways which we choose. It comes from the Greek authentes “one acting on one’s own authority,” from autos “self” + hentes “doer, being,” from Proto-Indo-European *sene- “to accomplish, achieve.” To live authentically is precisely what a fully developed human, living in a fully developed community of human beings, does.

Bundesarchiv Bild 135-KB-12-087, Tibetexpedition, Tibeterin in Tracht mit Kind
This young boy, already several years old, connects with his mother in which they experience and share joy.

Our first authentic desire, as human beings, is for the deep, sustained and mutually attuned connection with our mothers which psychoneurologists, like Dr. Allan N. Schore, call attachment.

Attachment and authenticity are commonly an either/or proposition in cultures of de-indigenized peoples where ancestral traumas get passed on intergenerationally as culturally-normalized misattunement.  Expressing our authentic desire for connection can lead to rejection and further isolation and withdrawal.

Attachment without authenticity lies at the very heart of almost-all health problems, in ways which we will discover more clearly and coherently, today.

This is not about blaming. It is about appreciating clearly the dynamics at play in our development. We are Coherent, Living Systems. We cannot subject infants and children to one experience and expect them to display the behaviors of someone adapted to something entirely different, even when they, in turn, become parents.We are also incredibly adaptive and potentially resilient.

I spent much of my life convinced that somehow I had escaped scot-free from the physical and emotional abuse and cultural turmoil of my childhood. I elicited the admiration, friendship and approval of the few therapists I saw, who were amazed at how effectively I had “overcome” childhood trauma. Neither they, nor I, realized precisely the strategies which I had mastered in doing so. Yes, I have lived an amazing life and developed surprising skills. But, to quote Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk’s book, The Body Keeps the Score.

Many of us have overcome adverse situations remarkably well… until several decades go by and we find ourselves with health problems. Without actually integrating,rather than avoiding, the impact of abuse in our lives, we develop remarkable strategies of ignoring what is going on deeply inside of us. This allows us to negotiate our “adult” lives successfully. It also has a tremendous physiological cost, which eventually catches up with us, typically in our forties and fifties – or young.

Many of us overcome adverse situations without even realizing that we lived through them. As we’ll discover from Dr. Allan N. Schore’s talk below, our requirements for developing into our full capacity for deeply fulfilling relationships and engagement with life are not being met by common, modern family dynamics. Developmental trauma and incompletion don’t necessarily require anything as graphic as what typically gets called emotional or physical abuse. Simply leaving newborns and infants alone for hours a day, or in the care of strangers, is abandonment, as far as what that infant requires to develop fully: sustained and mutually-attuned connection with his mother.

In my case, I adapted to my adverse childhood by doing my best managing everybody else’s crises and also “staying out of the way.” Recovering authenticity required looking at how I spent most of my life protecting others, and myself, from my felt truth, my authentic desires and how many times I sacrificed authenticity with my felt experience, in order to maintain very tenuous connections.

Like all learning, leading ourselves to inner reconnection requires practicing new skills and growing ourselves into new ways of being.  This takes time, patience and self-nurturance. It is the adventure of a lifetime and one which reconnects us profoundly.

I invite you to listen to a talk by Dr. Gabor Mate, M.D.. His work surprises me with its parallels to my own learning and discoveries.He invites us to a coherent appreciation of how our biology, relationships and culture are interconnected, what Dr. Mate calls a bio-psycho-social perspective. He illuminates how our biology is profoundly impacted by our psychological condition and our social environment.

Human beings are not ideas. We are living beings, shaped in aliveness and by the shapes of aliveness who shape us. We have shapes. Not just a face and body type, but our shape is also liquid, including the components of our blood stream, like stress hormones, neurotransmitters, sugar, insulin and many other components. Our shape isn’t just “ours,” nor is it mechanically “genetic” as so much mechanistically reductive and poor research, often being touted by the mainstream media, suggests.

We grow in relationship and our relationships invite us to thrive authentically, or to negotiate and suppress our deepest desires in order to not suffer in relationships where our profound desires for sustained connection are not welcome. Who we are today grows out of our experience, out of our shaping and the ways we subsequently learned to shape our relationship to ourselves, others and the world.

This talk is entitled When the Body Says No- Caring for Ourselves While Caring for Others. I found it profound, concise, scientifically grounded and it makes connections in ways which I have come to appreciate through my own research Dr. Mate’s  talks and books are sources of profound human wisdom.

To explore the actual physiology and relational dynamics in further depth, Dr. Allan N. Schore’s presentation on how we develop in relationship is superb:

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4 Responses

  1. Paul Tryba

    Enjoyed seeing the videos.
    A real game changer of how I look at my life
    And those around me.

    • Journeyman O

      Thank you for being the Game Changer in your Living and Loving,and for Gathering Seeds, Sowing them, and helping the Aliveness to Flourish, Paul!

    • Journeyman O

      Paul, FYI, I changed the Dr. Gabor Mate video in this post to another which you will also enjoy.The previous one is in the next post.

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