Why we feel bad - the Trauma of not being loved
We believe that from conception onwards, we need to be loved, accepted and affirmed for who we are. This enables us to develop into a whole person.
Colin Ross's Trauma Model states that self-worth; safety and meaning are basic human needs. In other words, humans need to feel loved from the beginning of their lives (even in the womb) for them to develop into healthy, fully feeling, and loving human beings. This need is deeply ingrained.
Deeper trauma occurs when there is an absence of normal love, affection, attention, care and protection. Lack of healthy, loving parenting early in our life and more specifically in the preverbal stage is devastating and traumatic to the developing system of a child. Intense pain is often the result. The attachment trauma is not being wanted or special to Mum or Dad.
When we are little we automatically shut this emotional pain off, any way we can in order to survive and attach to our caregivers. We establish defences (ways of being and acting in the world) in an attempt to protect ourselves from the pain that was too overwhelming for our little bodies and brain's to handle at the time. We create "symbolic behaviors and false beliefs" that help to make us feel better and keep away the excessive emotional and at times physical pain.
We believe this response to unfulfilled need early in life is an automatic, unconscious, self-protective and intelligent survival strategy. It is essential for survival and is a normal human reaction to stressful and/or traumatic environments. This mechanism is active and automatic even in the womb as an evolutionary adaptation.
It is a way our developing system protects itself from the trauma of being uncared for, or unloved, or unwanted and from feeling these unconscious, uncomfortable, unacceptable and/or frightening feelings.
Thus unfulfilled needs before we were born, when we were babies and when we were growing up are at the core of most of our adult dysfunction and pain.
It is these "symbolic behaviors and false beliefs" that act as defenses against excessive pain.
This process is self-perpetuating, as the relief achieved from the symbolic compensation cannot fulfill real unmet needs. There is always deep inside us some feeling or sensation of emptiness, un-fulfillment or meaninglessness.
For example, compulsive sex or eating cannot fill the empty void that exists from not being held or wanted as a child or baby.
What must be acknowledged is that most of the force of adult dysfunction is unconscious, below our level of awareness and it seems, outside our control.
However allowing ourself to feel our pain can begin to bring what is in the unconscious into our conscious awareness.
As adults this early pain is still within our systems and we work hard at least on some level to avoid feeling that pain. As mentioned we avoid our pain by symbolic behaviors that actively suppress awareness of upsetting thoughts and memories or by numbing our feelings with drugs, alcohol and process addictions, or by separating ourselves from our emotional experience by dissociating.
For some people this works just fine and they are able to get through their life. Whist for others holding down painful feelings from the past is much more difficult and they may find it hard to cope and function.