Breaking The Cycle of Competitive Detachment

How do many of the crises we face result from the cycle of competitive detachment?

We’ve been told a story that we are selfish, aggressive, rugged individuals. But if that were true, we should have no problem with physical distancing and self isolation. The pandemic showed us that this story is not who we are.

We’ve been told a story that we are selfish, aggressive, rugged individuals. But if that were true, we should have no problem with physical distancing and self isolation.  The pandemic showed us that this story is not who we are.

That’s because we evolved in cooperative bands of kin and nonkin where we were nurtured and welcomed by all members of the community. We lived together, we gathered food together, we sang together, and we danced together.  We knew it would have been impossible to survive on our own. But together, we thrived. 

Today, we are living in a culture that goes against everything it means to be human. Our culture emphasizes toughness over tenderness, isolation instead of togetherness, even for babies. As a result, we are depressed, anxious, chronically ill, and at the bottom of every international indicator for health. 

We are stuck in a cycle of competitive detachment where we feel disconnected from others and even ourselves, while at the same time feeling we have to compete for anything worthwhile.  There is a way, not only to break this cycle, but to create a new cycle, one that reclaims our humanity and helps us heal ourselves and our culture. We can create a cycle of connected, cooperative companionship. 

For most of our existence, we have created culture from the bottom up, from the way we raised children, and from the top down, from the stories we told one another. Children were nested in loving supportive village care, growing deep connections to and respect for the natural world. 

In modern culture, children are raised with disconnection, with little concern for their basic needs and with an almost random set of relational experiences. They still hear stories, conveyed by various media, but they are full of put-downs, egoism and violence. 

Babies require an external womb experience to grow and connect with others. They need calming affectionate care, immediate responses to keep them optimally aroused while rapidly growing brain connections. Without this early care, without meeting our millions-year-old biological needs for our evolved nest, babies learn a pattern of disconnection from the self, others, and the world, manifesting in self-protective mindsets and irritation with people from different backgrounds or with different ideas. We withdraw from social life because it is just too painful, triggering the traumas we experienced early on in life. We constantly seek to fill a void we were never biologically intended to experience.

The good news is that it is possible to break this cycle of competitive detachment and restore the cycles of connected, cooperative companionship. 

We can learn what our basic needs are and find ways to help everyone get them met. We can take steps that open our minds and hearts and build empathy towards others who are different from us. We can become aware and careful about where we put our greatest asset – our attention.  We can build attachment to the natural world by immersing ourselves in its beauty and developing our connection with its aliveness. 

Cultures can and do change. It begins with each one of us realizing our inherent nature to be empathic, flexible, and sovereign beings, and taking steps to heal and restore our core nature.


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