Primal Need One: Connection

There is so much to say, it’s difficult to know where to begin!

This post is Part Three of a series discussing the book, Healing Developmental Trauma, that begins here: Preventing Our Children From Developing Demons (And Healing Our Own).

Connection – A survival style that develops around the need for emotional contact and simultaneously, the fear of it. Lack of proper connection affects our physiology as well as our relationships with ourselves and others.

Connection is fundamental to our ability to manage our world. There are two aspects to this: connection with the sensations in our body and connection with others. When our connection needs have not been appropriately supported we develop a Connection Survival Style. In adults the following aspects of this survival style are key:

1. The Thinking sub-type: Thinking People retreat into intellectual based lives which block any significant emotional contact, computing, laboratory work, time spent in a workshop are examples of the activities in which these people bury themselves. They are often brilliant thinkers but use their intellect to maintain emotional distance.

2. The Spiritualising sub-type: These people do not feel welcome in the world and spritualise their experience in order to cope. They are often very attuned to nature and animals and have a strong sense of God. They feel more connected to these things than to other people. They are extremely sensitive to energy fields less traumatised people are not aware of, but cannot filter environmental stimuli – so are very sensitive to light, sound, pollution, electromagnetic waves, touch etc.

3. Regardless of age, Connection Survival types feel like children in adults’ bodies. As a result they anchor themselves into their roles and seek to deeply understand their roles; being outside their specific role causes stress for them.

4. Many Connection types feel alone and isolated but do not realise how they avoid human contact. They simultaneously have a deep need for emotional connection and an intense fear of it. They break contact when emotional intensity arises in relationships.

5. The core fear of these people is: I will die or fall apart if I feel.

6. Their persona is: based in life role, I am a mother, doctor etc; they have great pride in non-emotionality and are disdainful of open emotional display (intellectual type); they have great pride in their otherworldly orientation (spiritualising type).

7. They are hiding their shame-based identities of: being terrified and feeling inadequate; shame at existing; feeling like they never fit in; feeling like they are always on the outside looking in; feel like they are a burden to others.

8. Reality is: They survived.

9. Their breathing pattern is one of: shallow breathing with frozen thorax, abdomen and diaphragm.

10.  Show some or all of these behaviours: feel shame at needing anything from anyone; communicate intellectual or spiritual superiority; have friends who are similar and who don’t challenge their need for personal space; use interpersonal distancing instead of adequate boundary setting; withdraw in emotionally intense situations; tend to relate in an intellectual rather than feeling manner; seldom aware they are out of touch with their bodies; feel both being alone and overwhelmed by others; do not always know how to deal with their world; exaggerate fears of death and disease; fear their impulses particularly anger; fear groups and crowds; yearn to fulfill emotional emptiness but also fear that fulfillment because they have never experienced it; strongly need to control environment and people who surround them; difficulty tolerating intimacy; want to know ‘why’ – transcendentally or intellectually; drawn to therapies, meditation and spiritual movements that reinforce dissociation. ( I would add in here any busy-ness that keeps them from truly engaging with others: workaholics; fanatic sportspeople or hobbyists; those who are constantly busy – often these people tell others they are living life to the full, when in fact they are living very shallow lives.)

PS, added in a few hours after writing: I also realised today, as I was driving around, how much my connection and need to read compulsively throughout my childhood was a useful strategy for survival when I felt emotionally disconnected.

All of us are on the continuum from complete connection to disconnection – there have certainly been times I have behaved more in line with this survival style than I do at present. (I am a work in progress, afterall !!)

In Neuro-Affective Relational Model it is less important why we are the way we are and more important to recognise how the strategies we developed in order to survive as an infant or child are now preventing us from being fully functioning adults. I’ll look at what Heller and LaPierre say about this in the next post.


About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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20 Responses to Primal Need One: Connection

  1. sarah says:

    Totally awesome post.
    One of the things which interests me is how being separated from mother at birth, such as for children with problems which see them sent off to intensive care immediately after birth, can affect a person’s connectedness for their entire lives. I suspect it is a wound which is very difficult to heal.

    • Hi Sarah,
      Isn’t it great that we are becoming more aware of the effects of this kind of thing? I personally think we can address most of these issues for our children – when we are aware that we need to address them and know how to do so usefully. Our own journey was so hit and miss to begin with… sigh. I guess if we can do better than what was done in the past, we can at least be satisfied that we are making progress. Lovely to hear from you.

  2. Hi Karyn, I’m so glad you are reading our book Healing Developmental Trauma and that you are finding it useful because we did intend it to be healing. Its even more wonderful that you are applying the material in the book to help parents with their children and help prevent further trauma. Sincerely, Aline LaPierre

    • Wow, I am star-struck! Dr LaPierre, it is wonderful to have you stop by and comment on my little blog. I have discovered I have a passion for helping parents to prevent and address developmental trauma for their children and I was very pleased to have found your book to add to my information bank. It has also been extremely useful (although also overwhelming at times) to read for my own benefit. It is certainly a book I shall be referring to many times over the next few months and years. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  3. Wow on several levels.

    • Yep. It’s an awesome and overwhelming book. I think that’s why I’m struggling to get posts up – there is so much to say, and process for myself. Talk about being a work in progress!!

  4. Melissa says:

    I am connecting so much to your posts lately! Last session, my counselor and I discussed some of these topics in-depth, as I feel that connecting with my body, following it’s lead and seeing where sensations take me, is the right path for my healing right now. And I as I start to recognize patterns in myself, I can see how those patterns (survival strategies) are starting to be re-created with my son. By being aware it is happening, I can begin to change things.

    I especially like what you said:
    “In Neuro-Affective Relational Model it is less important why we are the way we are and more important to recognise how the strategies we developed in order to survive as an infant or child are now preventing us from being fully functioning adults.”
    I tend to get lost when I dive deep into the “why” I am the way I am. It is incredibly freeing for me to set that aside and be able to feel real healing without needing to know the “why.”

    Thank you!

    • Good for you, Melissa! I love that you are relating the sensations in your body to patterns of survival and also that you are aware of not replicating your own shadows in your parenting – seeing sadness/anger in our eldest son is what started me on this journey, and while I don’t think I have addressed everything for him, it is awesome to KNOW I am on the right track and see progress with him (and myself). The next post about how to address things might be of use to you… 🙂 I have also been very worried about the ‘why’ in the past and agree, it’s very free-ing to be able to put that aside and just (begin to) undo the strategies so I can move on.

  5. Hi Karyn,
    The work of helping parents is so important. Please feel free, if you have questions in the future, to contact me. I would love to be of support in any way I can.

    • Thankyou, Dr LaPierre, I appreciate your support. I have subscribed to your website and am interested in the books about touch you recommend there, and I will certainly contact you with my questions. Have a great weekend.

  6. Narelle says:

    Hi Karyn

    Thanks for reviewing this book. There are so many books around, it’s difficult to know which ones to purchase. This looks like a “must-have”.

    But I am a bit confused (easily and frequently these days) – the descriptions are very grounding and illuminating, but does the book have recommendations for processing/treatment?

    Kind Regards

    • Yes, there are a few suggestions. I am going to cover them as I go: info about a core need/ideas how to sort things out – is the pattern I intend to follow. You will defiintely enjoy, appreciate and be able to use this book. Great to hear from you, hope all is well in the great sandbox across the water. 🙂

      • Narelle says:

        This book reminds me of society’s drive for increasingly complex ways of describing the most simple and ancient concept of the human need for belonging and connection, and responding to a child’s emotional needs. It’s so simple, but many parents find it so difficult to understand because of its simplicity. “I just meet my child’s needs? That’s it? Won’t I spoil them?” It’s almost as if they need an app for it.

        I came out of my masters degree with three words “meet the need”. After all of that reading and analysing thousands of research studies, and writing essays, and the cost. It’s not that all of the research and writing is unimportant, but I find it amusing and interesting to come full circle.

        I found a simple little thing yesterday. It’s a summary of Resilience Therapy for kids with complex needs. I found it so refreshing, such simple advice for parents

        I will take your advice and purchase this book.

        PS. I’ve never heard the sandbox metaphor, it’s a good one.

        • Narelle, I so agree – “Meet the Need” is a great way to describe what is essential in parenting whether that is good food, nurturing or boundary setting etc. Personally I don’t think it’s the simplicity of the approach that is the problem with many parents, but rather their own shadows over-ride the capability to process into consciousness what has failed in their own upbringing and what actually needs to be done. With their demons in the shade they automatically parent according to their experiences (I did this with our eldest son), with accepting our demons and with good information we can break the patterns which have haunted families for generations. What does my head in, is when children are obviously sad or angry people and their parents refuse to accept they are contributing/have contributed in any way – no matter the age of the children, and/or don’t seek alternative approaches.
          Great that you like the sandbox analogy, there are certainly plenty of worse ones out there in Kiwiland! 😉

          • Narelle says:

            Dr Brene Brown did her PhD on “shame” and her books are a very good read. And Dr Joseph Burgo has just finished his book “Why did I do that?” on defence mechanisms.

            There are more Kiwis over here than there are in Kiwiland aren’t there? Do they mock us before or after they come over here to earn a living?

            • Thanks for the book suggestions, I’ll add them to my list!

              And yes, there are a ton of Kiwis over there and probably most of them mocked Oz before they moved there. Interestingly there are plenty who are finding the grass is not always greener… Rest assured, I’m staying put!

  7. Alexa says:

    I just became aware of ‘Healing Developmental Trauma’ this eve … and from the little I know so far, I’m blown away. I’ve been a longtime student and practitioner of somatic-based psychotherapy … more nowadays a scholar of these things. This approach adds a whole new facet to both principles and practices of trauma therapies, and an entirely new understanding of how to work with people who have experienced trauma very early in life. It’s a perfect complement to Peter Levine’s work 🙂

    About the ‘otherworldly orientation’ that you write of … I certainly understand this, for I have experienced such a ‘neither here nor there’ sense all my life. In my situation that orientation may have been based in three interventions for cardiac arrest in my first three days of life (I was a six-week preemie). Many, many friends (and therapeutic mentors) have commented over the years that I’ve seemed ‘in this world but not of it.’ Interesting …

    Thank you, Karyn, for your blog and these posts! I’m ordering the book right away …

    • It is an incredible book and I really do think you will get a lot from it, Alexa. I am working through the next part (attunement issues) which is one of my major blockages/shadows and this is delaying my posts – but they will come… 🙂 Thanks so much for reading and commenting. 😀

      • Alexa says:

        You’re welcome, Karyn 🙂 Another excellent book that underscores how bonding (or lack thereof) influences every function and system of the body, and all expressions and behaviours — *A General Theory of Love* by Thomas Lewis, MD, et al. Three physician-writers explore the neurobiology of love — and the writing is a superb mix of hard science and a literary, even poetic, sensibility. ~ For a masterpiece of trauma studies, read Peter A. Levine’s *In An Unspoken Voice* — These two books are my ‘gold standard’ for anyone who asks about how to understand our relational capacities, how they can be injured, and how we can restore them …

        • Hi Alexa,
          I own ” In an Unspoken Voice” and absolutely agree with you on that one. I haven’t read the other one though, it’ll have to go on my ‘must read list’
          I am also very impressed by “Why Love Matters” by Sue Gerhardt, have you read that?

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