Connection – The Antithesis of Pursuing Self-esteem

posted in: Recent, Stage 3, Stage 3: Step 4


  • The “C”quence of healing is connection, confidence, and creativity.
  • You must first become aware of and connect with all aspects of your past in order to move forward.
  • Confidence originates from being deeply connected to it.
  • It is the antithesis of pursuing self-esteem where your efforts are spent trying to outrun your past.
  • Ironically, as you allow yourself to be with your unpleasant aspects of your past, self-esteem will grow.

In our efforts to feel better about the intentionally unpleasant feelings generated by our flight or fight physiology, we pursue self-esteem. It is mismatch of the powerful unconscious brain and your conscious part of it. You can’t win and the harder you try, the deeper you’ll sink into despair. It is also a universal problem. The opposite energy emanates from being with every aspect of your past instead of trying to outrun or mask it.

Going Deep

Consider a tree as a metaphor for your life. The soil represents your entire past and is the source for learning and future growth. There is one major root in any tree that is called the taproot. It grows straight down in search of water and nutrients. The trees with deepest ones are found in harsh dry environments. A tree may initially show little growth for a few years until the taproot is more mature. Roots grow relentlessly and will even grow through rock. The more developed and complex the root system, the better the chances for survival and growth.



All humans have some level of trauma. Our needs are not always immediately met even in the best of circumstance and adversity never stops coming at us. Many people have suffered severe, even extreme childhood trauma and there is plenty more to be had in adulthood. We don’t feel good about it and might feel ashamed of it. So, a lot of time and energy is spent on analyzing, fixing, covering up, whitewashing, or suppressing the past. Why wouldn’t we? Somehow, we feel that by spending a lot of time dealing with past, we’ll have a better life. The problem is that your attention is focused on the problems and not the solutions. It is where your brain will develop. It also requires a lot of energy that could be used in dealing with the present and thriving.

 Awareness – “C’ing”

The first step in problem solving is seeing ALL aspects of a given problem AND then having choices how to respond. To be creative, the “C/see” needs to be first. All of us know that certain phrases, behaviors, situations, people, etc. will elicit a fairly predictable and rapid reaction. You are reacting before you have even absorbed or comprehended the full scope of the problem. Consequently, you may make a flawed decision. Unfortunately, these learned reactions strengthen with age and repetition. The phrase, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is an accurate phrase. It is not that the dog cannot be taught. Embedded reactive patterns of thinking must be broken up first.


The first step in cultivating deeper awareness is recognizing when you are unaware. Awareness is the opposite of projecting your perception of the world onto others and situations.

Clues include feeling anxious or angry, being critical or judgmental, holding onto rigid belief systems in any domain, gossiping, complaining, “being right”, not fully listening to other’s opinions, intolerance, labeling others, and creating an identity based on ideals. All of us engage in some of these actions every day. It is inherent in being human and having language. Suppressing these traits is even worse, in that you’ll have no hope for change if you don’t know where you are starting from. The key is nurturing awareness of these actions, observing them, and then deciding what to do next.

Without knowing you are unaware, you’ll continue to reinforce your current life outlook (self-image/esteem) with “input” that supports it. What is more problematic is that if you receive conflicting data, you’ll reject it. This is an even more powerful force in strengthening your outlook and “life filter.” How can you really learn and change? Continually projecting your views eventually becomes tedious and you’ll become more “set in your ways.” It is the way your brain works. The marketing world calls this phenomenon, “reactance”, and they use it to their advantage.1

What are you connecting to?

The basic awareness that must be cultivated is understanding what are you connecting to? By default, you are connected to your past programming. Much of it is unpleasant and  you may be reinforcing the same trajectory deeper into the abyss. Or you may be trying to outrun it by pursuing pleasure. But since you cannot outrun your subconscious mind, it can’t and doesn’t work. A common approach is to achieve, acquire, and accomplish and create a life that appears wonderful to others but is not based on solid ground. The same adrenalized  energy that takes you up the mountain of “success” may cause you to fall down the other side. For example, consider the problem of “imposter syndrome.”

The connection that is necessary for growth is allowing yourself to feel regardless of how uncomfortable it may be. “You have to feel to heal,” has been said in almost every domain of mental health. Being OK with uncomfortable emotions is at the core of healing. This has been around well before modern neuroscience. As you resist unpleasant thoughts and emotions, you are inadvertently placing more attention to them, and they will flourish. That is not what you want.

Are you connecting to you or your ideals? It is common to pursue better self-esteem, which consists of the “stories” in our minds that we create in order to understand our place in the world. Unfortunately, most of these arise from who everyone else thinks we should be and by the time we are old enough to make our own way, our life lens is embedded in our nervous system. Many of these stories are cognitive distortions and have little to do with the reality right in front of us. As they become more repetitive thought patterns, they occupy a lot of our consciousness and push out our capacity for enjoyment.



There are many ways to train yourself to tolerate difficult and intrusive thoughts and emotions. Learning these skills to process stress is much different than trying to avoid it, suppress it, or remaining a victim.


Anytime you are anxious or frustrated, you are reacting to something in the past that you perceived as dangerous or was dangerous. It can be a mental or physical threat. Digging in and being with your past is the opposite of seeking self-esteem.

The “soil” of your past is the source of “neuroshment” (2) for future growth. The ongoing question is, “what can I learn?” Be with the past, increase your awareness of your history, reactions, and be present with it all. Watch your self-esteem flourish.


  1. Berger, Jonah. The Catalyst. Simon and Schuster, New York, NY, 2020.
  2. Word invented and conceptualised by Rita Salvador who broke free after suffering for over 50 years.


Confidence emerges from being solidly anchored in every aspect of your past. Much of it is uncomfortable, but it is what is there. Suppressing or running from your past can’t work and consumes a tremendous amount of life energy. You also cannot make good decisions without knowing where you are starting from. You may require professional help to assimilate your past. Also understand that the “stories” you create can anchor you in it. Immerse yourself and use tools to break free. BTW, if you can connect and be with the “bottom” there is nowhere to go but up.

Questions and considerations

  1. Your ego consists of the “stories” you create to present a confident front to the world. Why wouldn’t you? Being vulnerable is often punished.
  2. Consider that when you are upset, it is often about defending your ego.
  3. Are you able to tolerate unpleasant feelings? Do you avoid them?
  4. Emotional pain shares similar brain circuits as physical pain. Why would you want to hurt? But where is the escape from these thoughts?
  5. First learn to be with the pain and learn the strategies to move forward.