Divine Autonomy: Childhood and the Loss of Authenticity – Part 1Dec 19, 2022
The disconnection from our autonomy, strength and power is often layered within our psyche as an individual, cultural, generational and collective pattern.
We are often expected to disown our own intuitive guidance for the sake of others, to disconnect and ignore our gut feelings and internal guidance to meet a general consensus of how we should behave, act and feel in any particular situation.
I read an example of this recently where they outlined a common example within families where a child is forced to hug, kiss or pretend to love a family member with whom they feel uncomfortable.
Imagine a little girl getting a gut feeling that her uncle is unsafe but being forced to sit at the same table as him, hug and kiss him hello and goodbye and pretend her gut feeling is not there. This situation can cause a child to disconnect from the felt sense of their body and compensate for that disconnection by creating a superficial reality in the mind of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”.
This is a form of dissociation where we disconnect from our authenticity, intuition and the feelings in our body in order to receive approval.
We learn from our parents and culture that our boundaries don't matter and that approval from others is more important than our own intuition and needs. We learn to adapt, disconnect and contort our authenticity to fit in and maintain attachment to those around us.
Essentially, we shut down healthy autonomy and authenticity and split ourselves into fragments as we live from an inauthentic yet socially acceptable place. This can create a level of functionality within social structures but can have drastic consequences for the individual.
Autonomy has become taboo, a scary thing that is often behind much of the arguments we have in culture, politics and families. At its core, the whole vaccine debate was actually about autonomy.
So why have autonomy and authenticity become things experienced as threatening? To understand this, we must look at our own psychic structures and belief systems. At the centre of these structures and systems is our need to feel safe and in control.
When we feel unsafe and out of control, we often over-compensate by becoming controlling. We will grasp at controlling others, attempting to change their behaviour. We will shame and ridicule them, attempting to bend them into doing what we deem acceptable.
All of this is an attempt to help keep our feelings of helplessness out of consciousness, providing us with disembodied and superficial feelings of safety and control, a kind of mask or compensation for the lack of true empowerment.
An over-controlling parent is not coming from a place of love but an unconscious fear and helplessness. The shutting down of a child’s authenticity and autonomy is done to mould the child into what the parent considers an “acceptable” human being.
The parent projects their unconscious insecurities and fears onto the child to adapt and pacify their own uncomfortable and often cold feelings.
This can be an effective strategy in creating obedient humans — people who do not think for themselves, have no sense of true uniqueness and individuality and will conform to social norms to keep the peace, even if the social norms are dysfunctional and damaging.
This striving to create feelings of control and a sense of safety by manipulating the behaviour of our environment is a pseudo-attempt. The desire to force others to bend to our will comes from our own helplessness, and as we engage in this behaviour, we pass on the pattern from generation to generation.
Every child who is forced to disconnect from their own true power and autonomy loses agency over their Being. Within the child, this then creates the same feelings of helplessness and the same feelings of having no control. In time, they learn to compensate by exerting those same insecurities onto their environment.
Quite often, well-behaved children are not self-regulated or emotionally healthy. They are not empowered. They are not kind to others or following the rules because that is the expression of their authentic self. Rather, they are terrified and frozen into “shoulds” and “shouldn'ts”.
The nervous system becomes a ball of tension, and their reality is dominated by walking a tightrope and trying not to step on the imagined eggshells beneath their feet.
As a result, they develop adaptive patterns of inner control. This is a very stressful place to be as the nervous system can be stuck in states of hyper or hypo arousal to maintain this internal cage.The child’s Self which is natural, authentic and spontaneous, is felt as threatening.
In turn, they build walls, placing their body and Being in a state of chronic muscular tension to keep this accurate, autonomous and authentic Self at bay.
The other extreme end of this unhealthy form of control is the free for all, which is the complete lack of containment where a child is not held within the safe and secure space of internal and external boundaries.
This opposite extreme is where the child can do what they want when they want, even if the behaviours are harmful or at the expense of others. This is not the same as forcing a child to adapt to our insecurities by controlling every movement they make.
Instead, this kind of parenting is undertaken as a disconnection and avoidance strategy. The complete disconnect from any form of control is exercised in an attempt for the parent to feel in control. This is also a parent's way to compensate and disengage from their own feelings of disempowerment and helplessness.
When a parent feels empowered and can set appropriate boundaries, it creates a stable container for the child to thrive in. This does not look like over-controlling and does not look like a free for all.
The stability created by healthy boundaries is an essential ingredient for a child's development; it’s like the edges of a garden bed, which keeps external threats out. A place where the soil is rich in minerals and the plants can thrive and grow.
So, what is the difference between establishing healthy boundaries and creating an essential container and being over-controlling and shutting down autonomy or letting go of all boundaries and containers?
While one creates empowerment, stability, strength, autonomy and authenticity, the other creates feelings of disempowerment, a lack of safety, inauthenticity, disconnection, overcompensation and helplessness. As a parent, I understand it can be difficult to navigate this territory and that, for many of us, this way of parenting was never modelled for us.
We never saw what true, authentic and empowered action looks like. We never experienced a “no” that wasn't from a place of insecurity, shame and blame.
Boundaries were often experienced as walls where love was withdrawn, and we were forced to adapt to the situation.
I can’t describe the difference using language. I can only adequately explain the difference in the felt sense of the moment.
We can only step into our own autonomy by working through our own disconnection and disempowerment. When we have reconnected to the felt sense of our own stable and empowered presence, our actions become spontaneous, clean and contained.
When we feel empowered, insecurity ceases to exist. So, the action we’re taking is not a projection of our own fears. In reality, it’s never so much about what we do but rather the place we do it from.
Peace & Blessing,
Matt Kay (Co-Creator of Embodied Processing)