Most of us were born into a tribe. We were loved and loved ourselves. We clearly communicated our needs (typically through crying) and happily accepted the love and care we received because we instinctively knew we deserved it.
But just for a moment, imagine if that wasn’t the case? That you were not born into a tribe and your cries were not responded to? That you imprinted the feeling (whether in the womb or after birth) you were not enough. Spiritual psychologist, Candace van Dell, calls this “tribal injury:” when you don’t know who you are or where you fit because you did not receive mirroring or confirmation from the person who was supposed to be attuned to you.
Therapist Marisa Peer tells us that early imprints of exclusion or rejection can leave us scarred and damaged as they offer proof that we are not liked, not good enough, not like everyone else. “Our need to connect, to belong is primal…so we feel we will die if our relationship breaks up, die if things don’t work out, die if we are rejected or humiliated,” she says.
This all may sound a bit extreme, except it is not. In a landmark experiment in 2003, psychologist Naomi Eisenberger placed volunteers in functional MRI machines and asked them to recall a recent rejection. What she and her colleagues found was that the brain makes no distinction between a broken bone and an aching heart. This takes us back to evolution.
We were designed to live in tribes, and for most of human history we depended on those groups for our lives. In the past, these were walled, enclosed communities. Safety came from being part of a group whose numbers mattered and being alone was basically a death sentence. This is hard-wired into our brain!
Thanks to recent developments in attachment theory and neuroscience, we know fear of rejection is the biggest hurdle to healing children with early trauma wounds. And it is also the emotion responsible for the development of false (self-limiting) beliefs.
Peer shares an example of what she calls the “crazy loop” and how it works:
- Thought: I am not good enough
- Feeling: Angry, helpless, hopeless, blocked
- Action of thought: I push people away, I am inadequate
- Outcome of thought: I feel lonely and unfulfilled
- Re-enforced thought: I am not good enough
James Allen (1864-1912) summed it up rather nicely: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
Peer suggests that breaking the loop can be relatively easy. It’s a matter of telling your mind, “that’s not me, because [add in reason].” For example, “that’s not me, because I am no longer alone” “that’s not me, because I am surrounded by love.” You have changed the thoughts that you now recognize belong to a child with unmet needs and you have stopped the looping thoughts in a powerful way.
Author of Conversations with God, Neale Donald Walsch, agrees. He describes our minds as the equivalent of a fun-house mirror, distorting and contorting and blurring our lives and our potential. It’s all about perception: interpretation, misunderstandings, automatic behaviours and opinions, and cultural and familial programming all laid on top of our lives like designs on a giant sheet of tracing paper. The mismatch between how life is and how we think life is, is often the black hole in which we fruitlessly labour.
Walsch instructs his readers to drop the “story” (past data – refer above) and focus on nothing in the moment, other than what is going on. “The moment you bring your awareness to just what is happening now, you realize that everything ‘bad’ that you think about this ‘now’ is stuff you have added. It’s stuff that’s not really there. You’re placing it there, with your thought.”
Like Peer, Walsch advises taking a different approach when you are hit with a stressor or trigger. His advice is to simply detach and say: “it’s all good.” By doing so, you pull the plug on the crazy loop and hand up whatever is occurring in the moment to a higher level.
“Has your life not shown you that everything works out for your highest evolutionary purpose? Of course it has. The proof of this is that you’re still here.”Neale Donald Walsch
© Felicia Stewart, 2020