Children naturally try to protect themselves from the pain of inadequate love as best they can. They learn to separate and distance themselves from what causes them pain by contracting and shutting down. The technical term for this is dissociation.
Dissociation is our mind’s way of saying no to and turning away from our pain, our sensitivity, our need for love, our grief and anger about not getting enough of it, and from our body as well, where these feelings reside. This is one of the most basic and effective of all the defensive strategies in the child’s repertoire. Yet it also has a major downside: It constricts or shuts off access to two main areas of our body: the vital center in the belly – the source of desire energy, eros, vital power, and instinctual knowing – and the heart center – where we respond to love and feel things most deeply. In saying no to the pain of unlove, we block the pathways through which love flows in the body and thus deprive ourselves of the very nutrient that would allow our whole life to flourish. And so we wind up severing our connection to life itself."