In anticipation of my upcoming workshop, Root Cause, I’ve been reflecting these past few weeks on the Root Chakra. Of all the chakras, the Root Chakra is the most primal: linked to our survival, security and safety. It relates very strongly to our early life and even our existence in utero, back when we were swimming around in amniotic fluid.
Both attachment theory and the chakra system agree that security is learned at an early age. Our relationships with our primary caregiver within the first year of life can determine whether we have secure or insecure attachment. (Echoing Tolstoy’s observation that “happy families are all alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” insecure attachment is more finely parsed: you can be insecure-anxious, insecure-avoidant, or insecure-disorganized.) How we attach sets the stage for our future relationships.
Of course, security has many dimensions. In addition to the emotional security established (or not) in early childhood, you also have physical security, material security, and so on. It’s hard to feel entirely at ease when you’re lacking in one department. Security is something we all wrestle with on a daily basis and at times it can feel like we're working at cross-purposes with ourselves and the people to whom we feel a responsibility.
Women are taught to provide emotional and physical security for others often at the expense of their own financial security. They are more likely to be primary caretakers, not only of children but also of sick or elderly relatives. In part because of this women—and, consequently, children—are more likely than men to live in poverty. They are also more likely to stay in abusive relationships and potentially perpetuate a cycle of insecure attachment if they have children.
Abuse is a direct hit to the root chakra—an assault on our right to exist. Harassment, too, is an attempt to put women in their place, as though their place was something other than the world itself. That’s why even the things we’re supposed “lighten up” about are so enervating.
Academics and cultural critics sometimes talk about “decolonizing” our minds and behavior. The vocabulary of colonization seems apt here, as though we are fighting for the very ground we stand on.
Examining our roots can be raw but fascinating work. For better or worse, many of our above-ground behaviors are fed from a buried tangle of roots that we ourselves scarcely understand. Our roots feel so fundamental to who we are: they often precede our conscious awareness and lay the groundwork for who we will become. We weren’t consulted when our roots were planted; rather, they are our inheritance.
That doesn’t mean that we’re simply stuck with the hand that we’re dealt or that our lives are predetermined. Rather, we have the option and the ability to uproot our unhelpful patterns and nurture our healthy ones. It’s a gritty undertaking but one we can’t afford to put off if we want to flourish to our fullest potential.