This article is about agency as it relates to dissociation, depersonalization, and derealization.
Agency = I can go after the things that I want, and have the impacts I desire on the world and others.
For the appreciation of ‘meditation-derived experiences of non-agency’ to be non-threatening it’s best that there first be a developed sense of agency in the mundane sense, paradoxically.
I view mundane mental health as hinging, appreciably, on a sense of agency and or the belief in one’s sense of agency.
Trauma can be seen as feeling like you are in a situation beyond your control, and thus have no agency. (Those experiences are stored in emotional memory and keep coloring life well after it’s all over.)
My Opinions about Agency and the Attachment Styles
Secure Attachment = I go out and can get the things that I want within reason. I have agency. No problem connecting with others or with going after worldly things that interest me (exploration). (So seeing emptiness, non-agency, etc doesn’t reinforce negative experiences with non-agency of the traumatic type.)
Dismissing Attachment = I can’t get the connection/attachment I want because I predict rejection (sense of loss of agency around ability to connect) so I’ll hyper focus on exploration where I do feel like I can have an impact (and use that to fill up the hole of desiring connection).
Preoccupied Attachment = I can’t explore (lack of agency around worldly exploration). However, I can connect with others. But it’s fraught with anxiety and I feel a constant pressure to present in a way to prevent abandonment (also agency undermined).
Disorganized Attachment = I will be hurt if I reach out and try to connect. However, I long for connection like everyone else. I feel drawn to connection/attachment (because I am a mammal which I associate with a lack of safety and fear) (no agency as there is no solution to this horrible situation). Moreover, I don’t have the external interpersonal support or emotional self regulation skills to explore (also no agency). (Developmental trauma (experiences of loss of agency) is what causes disorganized attachment.)
So, I view mundane agency as relating to whether or not I feel like I elicit the desired responses from the world (exploration) and from others (attachment/connection).
My view is that when we meditate we see weird stuff. Control and agency seem different/distorted/non-contiguous (lots of words we can put on these experiences). The story that I am in control and an agent in my own life is undermined/seen as a mental event/awareness/space/empty, etc.
Basically it comes down to ‘do you experience the weirdness of meditation from a place of fear or from a place of ease, safety, and curiosity?’
The non-agency experiences of meditation (which are good, all things being equal) seem to play off of and have a ‘multiplication effect’ on the negative experiences of the loss of agency of trauma (this applies, albeit less so, to other lower grade negative emotional schemas, not as pernicious as trauma/fear/mistrust/abuse). This is where things go bad for the people with trauma on the spiritual path. It can even take on the flavor of the whole universe being in on disempowering you in a similar way to earlier traumatic experiences. I could see this contributing to experiencing psychosis.
Improving agency is a large part of developing Earned Secure Attachment, and is one of the criteria you can filter our courses by.