I am trying to think of another word other than ‘renaissance’, or rebirth, to describe what I wish was happening now among those of us ordinary people who are trying to live the best lives we can without necessarily having the kind of safe and secure attachment background we needed to get along better in life.
I am thinking especially about what little information we really have about our bodies and how they operate. Sometime in our first year of life people begin to teach infants about their body — and most of us never progress much past that point! We are taught to point to our eyes, nose, mouth, ears, limbs, etc.
Eventually we learn through our public education and then through osmosis over time about the major organs of our body, and make little progress past that point unless we get sick and then learn the minimum we need to in order to understand what is happening to us. We seem to prefer to use only one syllable words to think about the only body we will ever have to live in for the rest of our lives.
Yet while we would rather leave anything more complicated than what we consider essential to the ‘experts’, at the same time I do believe our platform of information concerning our bodies is making advancements. We hear about things through the general media and that information will eventually ‘stick’ if we hear it enough and somehow we begin to understand it is important because it applies to us.
As we are doing this learning, as unintentionally as it might be, we are at the same time expanding our vocabulary. It’s no different than teaching an infant the word for their nose. We are learning to name what is going on inside of us. Yet at the same time we are learning meanings for words like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, allergies, arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer, learning disabilities, addiction, anxiety, depression, serotonin, dopamine, reward system, we less likely to learn how these kinds of ‘events’ are all connected within us to who we are within our own body.
We all know we are dependent upon and would rather support a medical model that prefers to respond only to symptoms, prescribe every kind of expensive test to diagnosis illness, dish out every imaginable kind of drug to treat sickness than we are to put forth the effort ourselves to learn any more complicated information about our body than we have to.
Why is that? When and how did we learn to accept that we don’t need to learn anything more than a 5th grader could learn about how our body operates? Did someone tell us we are too dumb to learn anything more complicated? Looking backward, maybe this kind of thinking has worked for all of the generations that have gone before us.
Today there are more of us living longer than ever before in history. But taking material goods out of the equation, what is our quality of life? Particularly, what is the quality of our human attachments — our own attachment with our self included? As a social species, it matters. We have the desire to live our years better, last longer, and suffer less. Understanding how our attachment system operates, what has hurt it and what can help it can help us live a better life on every level because it operates on every single level of who we are.
Those of us who suffered from extra-ordinary trauma and abuse during our developmental stages especially need to learn the words that will let us be able to understand how that abuse changed our bodies. I see it as being no different than any healing process of disclosure. Any improvement we can make to talk about the effects our traumas had on us is empowering. Trauma changed our bodies, and we don’t even know — on the most vital and profound levels — what that means.
We need the words. We need them badly. A securely-attached-from-birth person has all that good-safe information built right into their body-brain-mind. They don’t have to think about it. They don’t even need to talk about it. They just live it.
Those of us who were so abused that we are the insecurely-attached-from-birth, however, have to learn NOW what these ‘others’ learned when they were supposed to learn it — as infants and young children. Our communication signals between our body, brain, mind and self are all scrambled up. We have to learn NOW what those ‘others’ learned from the time they were born. We cannot efficiently and effectively learn NOW what we have no words to talk about.
I think at this moment how strange it seems that I, of all people, would be writing about attachment. Looking back at the strangeness, the unpredictable, escalating, irrational violence and abuse, looking back at the extreme isolation I was forced to endure through my childhood, I can’t help but say that of all the people I can imagine writing about attachment, I can be good at it because I am so bad at it.
Suffering from the long term consequences of an extremely abusive childhood can make us feel so alienated from what ‘ordinary’ people seem to now about living ‘ordinary’ lives that we might be tempted to simply throw in the towel, give up and quit. Yet as I work my way through the volumes of technical, even molecular research information about our own internal cannabinoid (‘cannabis’) (and opioid) attachment systems, I realize that by my just being alive I HAVE to know there are things about my attachment system that went right from the beginning or I most simply — would not be here.
I was attached enough to life from the beginning that I was conceived in the first place, implanted onto my mother’s uterine wall, received nourishment from her body, and made it through a difficult birth — just to GET here and to BE here. Through all the terrible traumas, through all the pain, suffering, sorrows and sadness of my childhood I was still attached enough between my inner, true self and the world to STILL be able to find, recognize, appreciate and value beauty — wherever I found it as a very small child – even in bubble shadows reflected on the bottom of a toilet bowl, even in the shimmering reflection of water on my bedroom ceiling when I was so punished for doing nothing but being alive.
I am amazed as I work on the endocannabinoid file regarding human reproduction. Perhaps because I cannot take any kind of safe and secure attachment either lightly or for granted I marvel at the very essence of the miracle of life that was each of our beginnings. How can such a perfectly ordered system like our attachment system is, be sent off into such difficult directions through insufficient if not outright malevolent circumstances of traumatic early childhood experiences?
I understand that given the requirements of staying alive — if at all possible, in the very worst of situations –that we could not make the adjustments we had to make to survive THEN and necessarily be ‘ordinary’ NOW. Yet at the same time I also understand that all of it was and is about signals of communication on the molecular and genetic level between the environment we live in and the self we live in it with.
That is the same process that happened when I was conceived, the same process that is happening in each present moment I am alive, the same process that connects every moment of my life together with me in the center of it.
If I did not have a disorganized-disoriented insecure attachment disorder I doubt that I would have ever been motivated to go looking for the big multiple-syllable words that I know I now need to understand the ‘extra-ordinary’ way my body-brain-mind was forced to adapt, develop, and the way it works now. It is not by looking at all the ways I am dissociated, fragmented and disconnected that will make me feel more safe and secure in my own body in this world. It is by looking at the ways I am associated, connected and organized that helps me to know that things can never be all that bad! After all, I am a participant in some kind of miracle here! We all call that — LIFE!
So maybe ‘renaissance’, or rebirth, is the word I need. Maybe as I go back all the way to my very first beginnings I can bring a new kind of understanding about my own place in my own body in my own life into my present. I find I need to know new things and I need to know new words to know these new things. I am sitting in the middle of a tragic relationship breakup, not far into a new future of cancer recovery, completely unsure of who I really am, of what I want, or of what is even possible for my future.
But maybe I do not know because I cannot know. I have to wait for the signals. The ones I need are not going to come from anywhere else other than from within my own body. On the most tiny, minute level of who I am — right where my own molecules are constantly interacting with my genetics — something interesting is ALWAYS occurring. It is that inner world that guides what happens to me as I interact with this great, big wide outer world.
I want to be amazed. I want to be more attached. Safely. Securely. Peacefully. Whatever it takes for me to get there I will try to do. This isn’t about whatever the Buddhist concept of detachment is. I have been forced to be detached from my own self in my own body all of my life. Terrible, terrifying, insane abuse put me in THAT place. I want something new and different, something I think non-abused ‘ordinary’ people can take for granted all of their lives.
I want to know, without a single shadow of any kind of doubt, that I have a right to be here and do so willingly, if not eventually happily. That was the destiny of the fertilized egg that was me in my beginnings. How could it be anything but my destiny today? I did not become lost to the path of that good journey on purpose (I had a great deal of help through a great deal of harm), and while it is taking the better part of my life to find my way back, it is not a journey I am making alone!