The Biology of Not Enough

The Biology of Not Enough

European Bee-Eater by Luiz Lapa
European Bee-Eater by Luiz Lapa

In a recent article, Kavitha Chinnaiyan made some interesting observations around early childhood development. She noted that our mental narrative-making has biological roots. That every childhood has trauma simply because our caregivers couldn’t be there 24-7. Our survival fears have been triggered. Of course, some children have much nastier trauma than others, but we all have subconscious fears to soothe.

For safety, we prioritize remembering things that have an emotional charge. Yet many things happened before we had words or context. We felt without knowing how to process it. And then no one came when we called out. Or when they came, they didn’t always soothe our unspoken fears.

Layered on top of those fears are our stories about the world. What is safe and not safe, good or bad, and so forth?

The fear impressions remain steady within while the narratives we have about them change as we do. Kavitha observes that as we learn new life skills, the narrative may shift with that, giving newer and better meanings to our experience. Yet often the primitive stories behind the new narratives remain, as well as the charge behind them. They can still trigger us. She reminds us emotions can’t be resolved with logic, aka the higher brain.

Our senses are a limited view of the world. However, we don’t really experience the world through those senses. There is a big overlay of the personal narrative “based on ‘safe or unsafe’ neurohormonal pathways” before any experience becomes conscious. Our conscious experience of the world is through this massive mental and emotional filter. We see the world as we are, not as it is. It is only in transcendence or moments of awe that we experience as it is, before the narrative.

“Whatever our internal sense of self (I’m unlovable, unwanted, unworthy, not good enough, etc), it arises from the biologically wired primal fear that serves a very good purpose – it will make us seek safety for the rest of our lives.

However, the very thing that keeps us safe – fear – becomes our self-fulfilling prophecy. The sense of lack colors the choices we make throughout our lives. The choices we make, in turn, reinforce the neural and hormonal pathways that validate the sense of lack. It’s a vicious cycle.

Importantly, this vicious cycle remains subconscious, held in place by the mammalian [limbic] brain through memory and emotions that are concerned with survival [reptilian brain].”

We can see the choices but not what’s motivating them.

However, we can notice those fears by our behaviours and by fear narratives our mind regurgitates whenever anything even slightly related comes up. This leads to suffering, aka unintentional self-created pain.

Relationships are often a hotbed because of conflicting narratives being triggered. As we’re often not conscious of our triggers, we blame the other for triggering us when it was our stuff all along. Taking ownership can be hard.

Kavitha observes that if we have concordant narratives with another, the conflict shifts to us vs them. We see this dynamic all over the media.

Because our narratives are so closely tied to our sense of self-safety, we defend them, sometimes irrationally.
Awakening brings us a steady, absolute state of being. We also shed identification with the body-mind. This combination can bring a sense of safety and peace that washes away our old fears. As these drive the narratives, the stories lose their energy.

In my experience, many stories became conscious once triggered, after I woke up and had cleared a lot of shoulds and musts. They were often very simple “x = bad” narratives that made little sense as an adult. Once seen, they were seen through and discarded. This considerably settles the monkey mind, bringing an inner quiet. However, it’s also clear there are others in there that have not become conscious yet. They just rumble occasionally.

Natural safety responses, like jumping away from a moving car or a hot stove remain. But the narrative overlays gradually dissolve. Those stories were never bad; they simply no longer serve us.

We see the world more and more as it is. And that can be a much nicer place than fear and false conflict would have suggested. Heaven and hell are not some place else but lived wherever we are now.

If this topic is of interest, you’ll enjoy Kavitha’s full article.

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