There are 5 core needs humans (and all mammals) experience. In this episode I talk about the need for connection. When our need for connection is not met, we can feel shame for 1. simply existing, 2. feeling or 3. connection. Listen in as I explain what that might look like in real life.
What is a core need?
A need from infancy to keep us from dying. As infants we are totally and completely dependent on our caregivers. If they don’t meet our core needs, we literally die. So that’s what I mean by “core need.”
Connection is actually our first core need. If we don’t receive connection, specifically from our mothers, we will die. There have been studies done, I’m thinking particularly of one where baby monkeys were removed from their mothers a few hours after birth and were given two surrogate mothers: one made of terrycloth that gave no food, and another made of wire that would feed from a bottle. Evidence from this study showed that the baby monkeys would go to the wire monkey mama for food, but spent significantly more time with the terrycloth mama. And the babies would become very agitated if the terrycloth mama was ever removed.
There is also a story from the book by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz named The Boy Who Was Raised by a Dog I wanted to mention. A four year old girl, Laura, was brought into the hospital by her mother because she was so tiny. She weighed only 26 lb despite being on a feeding tube for weeks. Dr. Perry eventually realized that Laura’s problem wasn’t physiological, but emotional. Her mother, Virginia, didn’t know how to connect emotionally to Laura. She was a product of the foster care system herself and nobody every taught her, and she never saw mother modeled.
When our core need for connection is not met, shame for existing, feeling, and connecting is created. So what does this look like in real life? Keep in mind, that I am not a therapist, I am not a psychologist; I am basing these examples off of my own life and the lives of people I am privvy to, my family, and limited information from my clients.
Let’s start with same over existing. I am intimately familiar with this kind of shame. My mother was only 17 years and just over a month old when I was born. She had at least one abortion before I was born. Growing up, how young my parents were was always a topic of interest. I grew to learn that I wasn’t actually wanted. Nobody told me that; in fact, I was told the opposite! But humans are smart. And I am smart, and I learned to read through the lines. Having a baby that young is not a planned activity, and it creates a lot of discomfort. I assumed, even if I was never told, that I was a burden, I wasn’t truly wanted, and therefore felt a baseline of shame for simply existing.
- Make ourselves small and or quiet
- Earn our worth
- Be good
- Make others happy
- Self connection? Thumb sucking
What about shame over feeling?
Connection is all about a felt sense of connection. Not about the actual connection itself. Yes, we want physical connection, but it’s because it creates an emotional connection. When we have shame over our feelings we could:
- Be afraid of our emotions
- Buffer from our feelings
- Shove our feelings down. For example, we might want to cry but don’t allow it.
- Have a critical self voice about our feelings
- Experience depression
- Experience anxiety
Lastly, shame over connecting itself. We might feel shame just because we desire connection. Or maybe the shame will come up when we connect. We might experience:
- An internal push-pull at wanting connection.
- A swing of the pendulum: withdrawing and needing connection, back and forth
- Social awkwardness- no eye contact, unease with others around.
- Pleas for connection, but when you get it you push it away.
It is natural and normal to feel shame over one of these things occasionally. But if you notice a chronic pattern, it might be something to think about in a more holistic wellness perspective for yourself.
Journal Questions (Download Here)
- When, if at all, do you feel shame over existing?
- When, if at all, do you feel shame around your feelings?
- When, if at all, do you feel shame around connection with others?
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