There’s something within each of us that senses disconnection. It’s painful, and can feel like rejection. Rejection registers in our brains in the same area as physical pain.
You will ‘read’ invisible messages—accurately or not—depending upon your past experiences and the filter through which your sensory system is operating. That filter is coloured by your past attachment history—especially with your primary caregiver.
The ‘reader’, that thing that interprets the invisible messages, is your autonomic nervous system.
The Cambridge Dictionary describes disconnection as “the feeling or fact of being separate from someone or something else, and not fitting well together or understanding each other.”
You can be in the same room with someone, be actively involved in conversation with them, and still feel disconnected. Many say the feeling of disconnection is even more painful when the other person is in the same physical proximity. I certainly know that feeling. Do you?
Why is this so?
As a human you’re wired for connection. That means your nervous system is designed to be linking up, fairly often, with another nervous system that you trust and feel safe being around. That’s part of being in a relationship, and if you’re not experiencing this your nervous system could go into a state of activation, prepared to take protective action because it perceives you are less than safe.
Then along comes that dreaded feeling of disconnection. Meaning you’re not feeling at ease within yourself because you’re not experiencing the kind of emotional or physical exchange which signals to your nervous system that you’re safely connected.
The things I’ve shared in this post are viewed through the lense of attachment and polyvagal theory, which pertains to the role of the vagus nerve in emotion regulation, social connection, and fear response. There are other things that can contribute to feeling disconnected, including trauma, PTSD, and inflammation.
The main thing I want you to understand is that disconnection is perceived through your nervous system. It hurts, and it doesn’t depend on physical distance. It’s triggered by emotional distance because emotional connection usually means safety.
You’re human, so you’re a social creature. It’s not needy or weak to value connection.