I´m talking about the betrayal of disengagement. Of not caring. Of letting the connection go. Of not being willing to devote time and effort to the relationship. The word betrayal evokes experiences of cheating, lying, breaking a confidence, failing to defend us to someone else who´s gossiping about us, and not choosing us over other people. These behaviors are certainly betrayals, but they´re not the only form of betrayal. If I had to choose the form of betrayal that emerged most frequently form my research and that was the most dangerous in terms of corroding the trust connection, I would say disengagement.
When the people we love or with whom we have a deep connection stop caring, stop paying attention, stop investing and stop fighting for the relationship, trust begins to slip away and hurt starts seeping in. Disengagement triggers shame and our greatest fears -the fears of being abandoned, unworthy, and unlovable.
Shame is real pain. The importance of social acceptance and connection is reinforced by our brain chemistry, and the pain that results from social rejection and disconnection is real pain. (…) Neuroscience advances confirm what we´ve known all along: Emotions can hurt and cause pain. And just as we often struggle to define physical pain, describing emotional pain is difficult. Shame is particularly hard because it hates having words wrapped around it. It hates being spoken.
Here´s the painful pattern that emerged from my research with men: We ask them to be vulnerable, we beg them to let us in, and we plead with them to tell us when they´re afraid, but the truth is that most women can´t stomach it. In those moments when real vulnerability happens in men, most of us recoil with fear and that fear manifests as everything from disappointment to disgust. And men are very smart.
Sometimes we´re not even aware that we´re oversharing as armor. We can purge our vulnerability or our shame stories out of total desperation to be heard. We blurt out something that is causing us immense pain because we can´t bear the thought of holding it in for one more second. Our intentions may not be purging or blurting to armor ourselves or push others away, but that´s the exact outcome of our behaviors. Whether we´re on the purging end or the receiving end of this experience, self-compassion is critical. We have to give ourselves a break when we share too much too soon, and we have to practice self-kindness when we feel like we weren´t able to hold space for someone who hit us with the floodlight. Judgment exacerbates disconnection.