If I could target this post the way I wish I could I would send it to people who are parenting foster children or adopted children who have a prior history of being abused. What I say here also applies to many teen and adult survivors of severe child abuse — but it is the young survivors who have found their way into loving, caring and nurturing homes AWAY from abuse — and are therefore on their healing journey — that I am thinking about this morning.
I can’t entirely stop my pondering process right now even though I am taking a break until this coming Friday morning from my book writing. In some important ways I am finding myself in the midst of a review related to an earlier post and its comments: +SEVERE CHILD ABUSE AND THE PRESERVED GOOD AND NOBLE SELF
I am also cycling backward and into the present moment about my piano lessons and the multiple levels of effort I am having to put into this new learning. I continue to struggle with the effects of severe verbal abuse I received from birth (and through the following 18 years) from my Borderline mother.
This is cementing into my thinking what a miracle it is that severely abused children can learn anything at all! What a miracle it is they can manage to learn anything in school! What a miracle it is for many of us of all ages as severe child abuse survivors that we find ways to continue to learn throughout the course of our lifetime!
The regions of the human brain that learn semantic, external, objective facts about the world can — and often do — operate without emotion or without any special ‘autobiographical’ involvement of the ‘self’ of a person-child. By the time I was 9 and in 4th grade, as I discovered in my book writing this week, my ability to learn facts — cold, hard factual information about the world OUTSIDE of me began to escalate and burgeon as an ability that had nothing to do with the development of my ‘self’.
I was and am fortunate that way. But now as I struggle to learn to read and play music I find my learning is PAINFUL. Both of my brain hemispheres and the operation of the regions between them that pass information back and forth are being challenged in new ways. By itself, I would say this is a good thing. But it is PAINFUL, painful because I as a SELF am in the middle of this process right along with all the pounded-into-me pain, much of it from Mother’s verbal abuse, that has created deep and lasting wounds that are being powerfully touched in this new learning process.
I would say to ALL who are helping to heal and parent abused children that providing the healing opportunity of learning to play PIANO is one of the best things that can be done to help these children!
I would also say that this new learning is MUSIC THERAPY and that all involved must realize this fact. All must watch the child carefully and be prepared, waiting and ready to help the child on the levels of healing that learning to play piano will create.
In so many ways the younger the child the more flexible and malleable — if not resilient — they are. But these same factors are also the same ones that have been so trampled on, so crushed, and so wounded that at the same time the piano-playing learning is going on the wounds will be touched and the pain will be triggered.
What I am finding is that as I learn, as I practice piano the SELF that I am is in the MIDDLE between what I want to learn and the ME that wants to learn it. That SELF — in ways I never have identified until now — is so full of outright terror about making mistakes, about being a slow learner, about being impossibly and irredeemably stupid, about not trying hard enough, about making mistakes ‘deliberately’ and intentionally, about being bad and hopeless and wrong and evil — and on and on and on — that it is nearly beyond belief!
I have recognized and written on this blog before about the extreme damage that verbal abuse causes to an infant-child’s developing language abilities. I know that this damage, if it begins in infancy, becomes built into changed brain development in the musical regions of the brain because LANGUAGE uses these musical regions.
Learning to play this piano is waking up some of my deepest pain and my worst wounds that were inflicted by my mother from the time of my birth — during my earliest stages of development when I had no possible way of knowing what the words were she screamed at me. I knew the emotions. I had emotional reactions of my own.
And from those earliest SOUND related abuses come the great pain I now feel learning how to let my SELF free toward experiencing my own JOY — in learning to let music move THROUGH my body, through my self — as it comes to life.
The comments at the end of the post I placed at the start of this writing contain reference to other realizations I am having that relate not only to my healing, to adult survivor healing, but to healing for young children who have been removed from abusive environments.
Our body is a WHOLE body that includes all of our senses. As we grow from birth in environments of unsafe and insecure attachment with violent and hurtful caregivers the development of ALL of our senses is impacted — along with the connections in our body-brain that process this information.
In those comments I mention here, and in that information that will have to be moved into the text of the book, I realize that Mother’s abuse interrupted the development of my own sense of humor. The abuses she perpetrated having to do with sleep affect me today. Learning I was doing as a small child about what flavors of food I enjoyed, which ones I didn’t, and how my tastes in food changed as I grew into my older childhood were impacted.
I guess what I am feeling for abused children removed from their environments of abuse is that the adults, teachers included, in their new life need to realize that an abused child needs to heal not only on multiple levels — but on ALL levels.
As I continue to work through the terrible pain of child abuse that is being awakened in my piano playing-learning I am working to heal damage done to me that I have never until now fully recognized — both in my body-brain and in my SELF. Please, if you are helping to heal an abused child GET THEM INVOLVED in piano lessons. At the same time realize that this needs to be done with the most perfect love, encouragement, understanding, acceptance, compassion, healing and hope for healing.
The potential for healing the effects of child abuse through learning piano is, I am coming to realize, probably unparalleled in any other kind of learning a human being can do — especially a child.
THE AMERICAN MUSIC THERAPY ASSOCIATION
NOTE: I also believe that this learning WILL TRIGGER Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and dissociation. Caution is needed. This triggering is NOT a bad thing, but be aware, beware, be wary — be VERY CARE-FUL. This learning creates and provides for deep and profound levels of healing. It has to be done in the RIGHT way. Consult a music therapist if at ALL possible.