Whenever we get repelled by someone’s comments and shut down or judge their perspectives, we disconnect ourselves from others. Dr. Gabor Mate describes this ‘disconnect’ as a sign of trauma. He defines trauma as an impact inside the body and the mind and is a disconnect from oneself.
He also talks about trauma being related to two fundamental needs that infants have for their crucial development. One is a need for attachment. It is absolutely essential for a child to attach to caregivers in order for them to survive. But they also have another need, which is for the child to become authentic. Problems emerge when the need to be authentic comes into conflict with an attachment need.
This happens when a child’s need to be authentic threatens attachment. If a child expresses their emotions freely and caretaker can’t properly accept them, the child gets a message that he or she expressing who they are will jeopardize their connection to their caregivers. Then a child is put into a difficult position; they now have to choose between his or her attachment need and the need to be authentic. In this situation, Dr. Mate describes how a child has absolutely no choice because without attachment they can’t survive and as a result, they learn to suppress their authenticity. This creates trauma.
We often see this disconnect happen in our everyday interaction. I see where this trauma shows up the most is in the realm of politics. Disconnect happens in our debate about wars, refugee crisis, racism and economic injustice. We see people triggered and get emotionally charged. We tend to subscribe to a single narrative and close off opportunities to have dialogue, and as a result we shut ourselves off from truth that contains multiple perspectives and contradictions. Many people develop hostility toward one another because of disagreements and failure to acknowledge different views on issues.
I have now begun to see how national politics frames a discourse upon an identity based on nationality and race. This disconnect emerging in this space points us to the fact that perhaps there is trauma at the very core of our identity. What is this disconnect? National identity, such as Japanese, Chinese or Canadian or racial identity as white or black can create conflict of two needs that Dr. Mate described earlier, namely our need to attach and need to be authentic. These identities might put us in conflict with our authenticity –a primal mode of being human.
This happens when a child is born into a particular culture defined by nation-state confinement and goes through enculturalization processes that define them narrowly in their identification with nation and race. A child’s survival depends on them adopting values of their mother culture related to people around them, including family, teachers and caregivers whose identity is tied to that culture. When national identity develops in a way that is disconnected with its larger identity of us being human, it can create a symptom of extreme patriotism and racial and national superiority. Is it possible to think when we adjust ourselves to national identity, we are directly put into conflict with our authentic self that exists as resident of the earth?
I was born and grew up in Japan. Through entering into Japanese culture, my need to attach to people around me who identified themselves as Japanese occasionally came into conflict with my primary identity as human. Whenever people of Japan defend their national identity, it is possible to lose a larger perspective of the earth. In social adaptation of developing my own identity, I experienced conflict within myself. This was a schism between my need to be accepted in Japanese society and my need to be an authentic human being in the world.
The materialistic culture that we live in is based on denial of our connection to nature. I feel the identity promoted through it, our sole identification with body, skin color and language we speak conceals essential parts of our own humanity. As long as society exists with its culture uprooted from the earth, our culturalization process brings tension. We are then placed in a quandary of false choice; either we betray our truth and adjust ourselves to society’s values to be accepted by people or face alienation.
Can we create a culture that grows organically from its own foundation? Civilization has declared war against nature. Growing up in a materialistic culture of global capitalism, we are all perhaps given an ultimatum; either ‘adapt or die’. We adapt to this culture of denial and die to our spiritual identity. Growing up into a culture does not require us to give up our truth. By each starting to live with truth and have courage to be authentic, we can create a new culture of humanity. We can adapt and can live. Culture then can become what it should be, a vehicle to cultivate and nurture our true human nature.