The Great Disconnect
by David Brown
As a professional clinician, I have been ruminating on the possibility that as therapists and other forms of helpers, we often deny our own embedded emotional pain, trauma, shame and vulnerability. I think we often will use our professional role as a basis for deciding that our best course of action is to keep burying that pain because if we allowed others access to it, they might think less of us or view us as having less credibility or professional authority which in turn would leave us experiencing even more shame. That has certainly been true in my life. I find myself too often remaining aloof and distant in relationships as a means of hiding from being more fully seen, even by those I love and supposedly trust. Fear and shame so easily takes root and are very difficult to extract, once they have gone deep into the soil of our identity.
I wonder sometimes, what fruit would be produced if we took more time within the scope of our professional and interpersonal lives, to inquire into the degree that our and the other care givers (like foster/adoptive parents) own past trauma and emotional injuries effect our functioning and decision making. It is a well-known fact that many counsellors and other care providers are drawn to our professions as an effort to remedy the experiences of feeling abandoned ourselves by those that should have protected and cared for us. How much of our difficulty with such things as boundary setting, assertiveness and saying no to requests to “do more” have, at their root, a never ending need to prove ourselves and show that we really are “worthy”? I think we could bring much needed relief and improved functioning to ourselves if we paid more attention to how attachment and trauma theory have relevance in our own lives.
I have been struck by a book I am making my way through called Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression — and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari (2018). Recently, Isabel Hardman, who is assistant editor of The Spectator wrote a book review on this and I wanted to share some excerpts with you to ponder with me:
Johann Hari is a journalist whose life fell apart when he was discovered in 2011 to be passing off quotes from books and other interviews as his own. He has been taking antidepressants since his late teens, and believed for years that they were helping to treat what doctors had explained was a lack of serotonin in his brain.
In this book, he makes the case that not only might the drugs not work, but also that the entire industry, and many parts of the medical profession, are wrong in their diagnosis of the causes of anxiety and depression.
His book doesn’t just seek to expose what he sees as the poor science behind modern antidepressants, but also makes a bold call for a complete re-evaluation of what is causing the western epidemic of mental illness.
Hari begins with a series of interviews with doctors and scientists who have conducted research on depression and the medicines used to treat it. One professor, Irving Kirsch of the Harvard Medical School, has investigated the placebo effect of antidepressants and the body of research backing their use, and has come to the conclusion that many scientists have abandoned the theory that low serotonin causes anxiety and depression. The drugs often seem to be working, he suggests, because the people taking them believe they are being given a solution.
The second half of Hari’s book seeks to address the problems with society that he now believes affect depression. Hari is convinced that depression is caused by a series of environmental “disconnections”, rather than random problems with brain chemistry.
This has given me hope. Medical research has endorsed the importance of attachment and its fundamental basis for forming and maintaining relationships in our lives. That initial sense of ‘connection’ that provides the safety, warmth, and building blocks is not only suggestive of the keys to overcome hopelessness and futility but helps me to realize that this could really be the answer. Babies learning to walk engage in a process of continual failure. They fall but they get up. Repeatedly. Obnoxiously. It’s as if they refuse to give up? Why? I wonder if it is connected to the soldiering voices behind them that cheer for those steps and falls, and continue to clap, smile, laugh and tell them ‘Well done’ despite the many ‘failures’ they engage in. How many of us have soldiering voices behind us that know us? That are willing to help us find the good despite all the unworthiness and shame we see within ourselves? Honestly, how many of us take the courage to connect, to be known, to find a community, that join a support group, that engage in formative, purposeful and meaningful relationships? This is my challenge. Not only as a clinician, but also as a fellow human being. Brene Brown is a modern day voice that has propelled our society into daring greatly:
We can be the connection and the gift of healing, not only for ourselves but to others. As she so eloquently states, “We don’t have to do it all alone. We were never meant to.”
For more information on attachment, ACEs and support available, please navigate through our resource section:
Hari, Johan (2018, January 28).The Real Causes Of Depression Have Been Discovered, And
They’re Not What You Think. The Huff Post. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/opinion-hari-depression causes_us_5a6a144de4b0ddb658c46a21
Hari, Johann (2018). Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression — and the Unexpected Solutions. New York, USA: Bloomsberry.