+INFANT-CHILD ABUSE AND FRANTIC PANIC (dissociation, disorganized-disoriented insecure attachment)


For all of the scholarly articles ‘out there’ on the subject of insecure attachment disorders, tonight I turn to what might be the simplest baseline description that can be found online about how early attachment patterns are observed and ‘diagnosed’.  Wikipedia has a page titled Attachment in children. 

Although the basics about attachment are informative and interesting, it is this I post below in italics that matters most to me in the Wikipedia article — (I added the bold type and left in the reference numbers.):


Disorganized attachment

“A fourth category termed disorganized attachment (Main & Solomon, 1990) was subsequently identified and empiricized when a sizeable number of infants defied classification in terms of Ainsworth’s original tripartite classification scheme.[9] It can be conceptualized as the lack of a coherent ‘organized’ behavioral strategy for dealing with the stresses (i.e., the strange room, the stranger, and the comings and goings of the caregiver) of the Strange Situation Procedure.

Evidence from Main et al. has suggested that children with disorganized attachment may experience their caregivers as either frightening or frightened. A frightened caregiver is alarming to the child, who uses social referencing techniques such as checking the adult’s facial expression to ascertain whether a situation is safe.

 A frightening caregiver is usually so via aggressive behaviors towards the child (either mild or direct physical/sexual behaviors) [and/or VERBAL] and puts the child in a dilemma which Main and colleagues have called ‘fear without solution.’

In other words, the caregiver is both the source of the child’s alarm as well as the [supposed-to-be] child’s haven of safety.

Through parental behaviors that are frightening, the caregiver puts the child in an irresolvable paradox of approach-avoidance.

This paradox, in fact, may be one explanation for some of the ‘stilling’ and ‘freezing’ behaviors observed in children judged to be disorganized.

Human interactions are experienced as erratic, thus children cannot form a coherent, organized interactive template.

If the child uses the caregiver as a mirror to understand the self, the disorganized child is looking into a mirror broken into a thousand pieces.

It is more severe than learned helplessness as it is the model of the self rather than of a situation.

There is a growing body of research on the links between abnormal parenting, disorganized attachment and risks for later psychopathologies.[10] Abuse is associated with disorganized attachment.[11][12] The disorganized style is a risk factor for a range of psychological disorders although it is not in itself considered an attachment disorder under the current classification.[13][14]


I absolutely believe that disorganized-disoriented IS an attachment disorder.  I would have to distract myself by running around the www for some info to back myself up – However, I have other things I need to be doing right now…..

“Model of the self rather than of a situation” — I personally find this terminology useless in a discussion of severe early abuse survivorship with its corresponding attachment disorders.  As an adult survivor of 18 years of severe abuse from birth I know more from within myself about what this topic is about than any non-abuse so-called expert will EVER know.  Every time parental abuse disorganizes-disorients the experience of an infant-child, pathways and circuits are created in the brain-nervous system-body accordingly.  This has NOTHING to do with SELF in the beginning!  These patterns DISTORT the victim’s ability to form a self in the first place.  When a little one is forced to remain in a traumatic environment without end the ‘situation’ all but becomes ‘the self’.

Making any distinction between situation/environment and ‘self’ during the most critical brain developmental stages before age one – that FORM the social-emotional brain and the pathways and circuitry that regulate (or dysregulate) social and emotional experiences for a lifetime – cannot be done.  Only when a little one is safe and secure ENOUGH to begin to develop a self that is something OTHER than a ‘survival machine’ can we think about the luxury of the formation of a self.


I sat to write this post because I wanted to TRAP into a text two words that have been periodically appearing in my thoughts over this past week:  FRANTIC PANIC.

As I track ‘anxiety’ in my body I usually do not let myself follow it far enough to its source, which was (and is on some level today at age 60) exactly this state of feeling/being:  FRANTIC PANIC.

I recognize that this feeling state was forced upon me by a TERRIFYING, brutal Mother who did not hesitate to attack me from the time I was born.  Mother attacked me for the following 18 years – and I know especially before the age of 9 or 10, FRANTIC PANIC was my response.

Mother’s attacks usually came at me out of the blue.  She was psychotic.  What she saw either did not happen at all, or did not happen the way Mother said that it did.  I was unable to predict anything about what she did to me, when she did it, or why she did it.

From my child point of view, her attacks DISORGANIZED AND DISORIENTED me.  I believe the disorganizing and disorienting experiences of repeated traumas built dissociation into my body-brain – and just like there is electricity inherent in a bolt of lightning, there was FRANTIC PANIC in my responses to Mother’s attacks.

FRANTIC PANIC is not “fear without resolution” in my thinking, it is a natural, physiological TERROR response to an attack for which a young child has no possible resolution abilities – hence, very often dissociation is the result – not AS attacks happen but BETWEEN the attacks.

Anyone who doesn’t know what this feeling state is like, just think of a giant bigger than your house attacking you right this moment out of the blue – violently, terrifying you, startling you, crashing your world – and you have NO defense, no escape, no understanding of ANYTHING that is happening to you.  There I was, over and over again more times than I could now count, being a little person – and suddenly out of nowhere BOOOMMMM!!!

My FIRST response?  FRANTIC PANIC.  What do the ‘professionals’ want to call that feeling left in the body of infant-child abuse survivors?  Anxiety:  What a paltry, pasty, pathetic, completely inadequate word!


*Attachment Simplified – Disorganized Insecure Attachment – Disorganized-Disoriented

Bonding and Attachment in Maltreated Children:  Consequences of Emotional Neglect in ChildhoodBy Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D.






11 thoughts on “+INFANT-CHILD ABUSE AND FRANTIC PANIC (dissociation, disorganized-disoriented insecure attachment)

  1. Linda,
    Thank you for your thoughtful and considerate reply. I am still unsettled by the entire interaction. Can you perhaps hazard a guess as to what kind of ‘miswiring’ might happen from such tender loving care? What does an infant know other than food, mother and wet diaper? It must have taken some work to get me that fat. I was a normal toddler, teen and adult so it was her, by her own admission even. She has clearly forgotten it but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

  2. Hi, I need to ask some questions and don’t know who else to ask. Please don’t put these in your blog….I can see no use in cluttering your blog up with my….whatever. I wouldn’t bother you except you are the ONLY person I know of who might be able to give me a cogent answer.

    My mother’s birthday was this weekend. I called her yesterday to wish her happy birthday. She has not remembered my birthday…ever. We won’t go there right now. I asked her if she ever sent the photo of me as an infant that I asked for (my father died in 2006 and this is the ONLY infant photo of me known to exist – he carried it in his wallet). She claimed not to know the photo I talked about. So she went and got the wallet and said “I left it exactly as he had it” and started going through the pictures. I finally cut her off and told her the proper one. She didn’t remember it. Finally finds one she said was hidden behind another picture…..
    “But I don’t think this is you”.
    “Is it a yellow dress with super short, buzz cut hair?”
    “Yesss….but I don’t think this is you”
    “You don’t recognize my only baby picture?”
    “Well, this is one FAT baby – ha ha ha” (Wanda Sikes couldn’t have delivered the line better)

    I cut her off there and asked her how she was going to send it, etc. I’m not only floored that a mother could not recognize the baby picture of her last child but the fact that she seems to not remember either how I got so….fat. Her reaction to the picture was as if it did not relate to her – at all, either the child or the state of the child. In middle school I found that picture and asked why I was so fat as a baby. Her response was that I WOULDN’T sleep at night so she FORCE FED ME!!!! [“force fed” were her words – not mine] To the point that I had what appeared to be strings tied around my joints! I to this day can remember how she chortled over that, was pleased by how fat I was. I’ve looked up how to force feed a baby. I don’t understand how that could even be done, but it clearly was done over and over to me. And the results pleased her greatly. I asked if it made me sleep at night and she told me no. But she kept doing it. She cannot tell me any information about my birth….AT ALL. It was as if I were found under a cabbage leaf. The only story she has is that my father almost ran a red light getting to the hospital (interpreted as he was concerned for HER). Period. Was I born vaginally? Was the cord wrapped around my neck? Was I breathing? Did I do well? Did someone drop me on my head? NOTHING. SILENCE. It was as it it didn’t happen. But I am hers. There is no question about it. The resemblence cannot be missed. So I guess the point of this is what the hell was going on? What would force feeding a baby do to the child? The biggest story she ever had about my infanthood was that one night she had to get up – AGAIN – to feed me. She was downstairs with the lights on and looked up and a man was staring into the window watching her. She screamed…etc. Must have been extra terrifying to me but thankfully I don’t remember it. Her. Story about her. Again. I only existed as the servant extension of her.

    “If the child uses the caregiver as a mirror to understand the self, the disorganized child is looking into a mirror broken into a thousand pieces.” – the single most resonant statement, for me, on your entire site.

    She went on to give me to her brothers for their ‘fun’. She would adamantly deny that, but turning a blind eye is the same thing in my book. Was the force feeding about her wanting more out of her life or about torturing me? Dieting was a continual topic with her that eventually spilled over on to me. In high school after the bi-weekly forced house cleaning that my half siblings never participated in we would go shopping for clothes [I was never allowed to chose my own clothes…we would go, she would choose them, I would try them on and she would say yes or no…] and as a treat she would stop and buy a dozen chocolate covered donuts and eat half of them before we got home. And always, always, always our “exploits” were to be hidden from my father. He wasn’t to know we went shopping, had donuts, etc………

    Can you shed any light on this for me? I feel sure you will refer me to the disorganized attachment things but I already know I my attachment is screwed. How the hell could I attach to someone who was force feeding me? This feels like whining but I feel also that I need to understand this to get past it. I thought I had until the Twilight Zone conversation yesterday. My husband has no insight. He always looks like I’ve smacked him in the mouth with a decomposing herring when I bring stuff like this up so……..thanks for humoring me.

    • Hi dear Cinderella — and thank you for this IMPORTANT comment. First I will say there is another ‘wing’ to the bird of this information: “If the child uses the caregiver as a mirror to understand the self, the disorganized child is looking into a mirror broken into a thousand pieces.” – the single most resonant statement, for me, on your entire site.

      ALL infants are born looking to their mother for the ‘definition’ of their own emerging self. We have evolved to do this. So infants like you and I were are in BIG trouble if we cannot find a way both to survive physically AND as an independent self because nature’s intent in how to form a human being gave us WORSE THAN NOTHING TO DO THIS WITH.


      I have emailed you with my question to you about whether or not you believe in God and soul. No matter what your answer might be, I am still under the obligation of my own integrity to state this. There is an answer I found and included here — *NO MATTER WHAT – HAVE NO ENEMY at


      We could not be raised correctly (what an understatement!) by our mothers because they were so sick they were not THERE!! (My mother is dead physically, yours alive physically — but NOT THERE!)


      Our concerns the opposite of whining. We have survived the impossible. To not question our reality would mean we are as sick as our mothers! NOPE!


      Now, after MUCH investigation, research, pondering, questioning, thinking, wondering and writing about my own 18-year horrendous abuse story, I am only now beginning to come to some still-tentative conclusions.

      (1) All that is truly important to us about anything and everything that happened to us by our abusers IS WHAT LIES WITHIN OUR OWN SELF!

      The wonderful fact in this statement is that knowing our own self is exactly how God created us to fulfill our true potential.

      Humans have been created with a dual nature which means we are unique among all of creation. We have a nature-animal side and a God-spiritual-soul side. If the mirror of our soul-self-mind is not polished from all the many temptations on the nature side that we encounter in this world, we will reflect evil rather than goodness into the world.

      We are SUPPOSED to have free will and free choice in this plane of existence about who we become and how we live.

      (2) There are very real sickness in the BODY that interfere with the development of this free will and free choice. Those sicknesses, as referred to in the link above, PREVENT the natural process of being human from happening at all.

      Your mother and my mother had this kind of sickness.

      (3) To the best of our ability each of us alive who do not have a physical sickness that prevents our minds from being able to work correctly have the SPIRITUAL obligation to investigate TRUTH for our own self.

      This investigation ability is a quality of the soul God made to be us — each of us loved and special. Those people who have a sickness that interferes with the mental powers of their soul are still children of the one Creator. Other people do not have the power to comprehend what God knows about those who so hurt us.

      Nor, in my opinion, do we need to worry about our abusers in any way except as it helps us further comprehend what happened to us!!

      My job is to know my own self. Writing in one single line the story of my childhood has given me powers now to look upon what happened to me and upon my experience of enduring it in new and beautiful ways!

      I just realized last night that my first book is only going to cover my birth to age 10 segment of my ‘childhood’. People like you and I never had a childhood as most anyone would consider it. But we DID get born into this world and we DID survive every single second in hell to get through it.

      THAT is our story! We need to WRITE IT if we CAN! I mean go back to the very beginning as you have been even doing in this comment and write the ENTIRE story from OUR point of view as clearly and as carefully IN A LINEAR-TIME ORDER. Non-abuse survivors can NEVER know what a difficult task this is for us to accomplish! NEVER!


      As I actually ‘closed the covers’ last night about my own writing — see this post — +MY CHILDHOOD WAS THE 1ST DECADE OF MY LIFE — BOOK ONE ENDS HERE at


      I am beginning today to think about two of my experiences 0-10 that I know belong in that first decade of my life — but I have not written these into the story yet. There is a reason they had to wait to appear!

      One of them involves white butterflies. I put this message out this morning to everyone I know who might be able to answer it:

      I need to ask you something. Have you ever seen in Alaska a small white butterfly or moth that has different colors around the edges of its wings? I remember seeing these on the mountain when I was a child. They were about 1 1/2″ across the wings. I remember watching them flutter around me and thinking they looked like someone took the tip of a paintbrush and painted all the way around their wing edges with the different colors from a watercolor box.

      Some had edges that were bright clear yellow. Some dark purple. Some indigo blue. Some red, some green, some orange, some red.

      I have looked online and see nothing that resembles these little visitors that came to me as a child. Have you ever seen them? THANKS!!


      Only NOW, this morning, at age 60 am I ready to receive the answer about these butterflies if in fact what I suspect about them TODAY is true.

      I bet nobody else has EVER seen those butterflies!

      I know for a FACT as sure as I know my fingers are flying over these keyboard keys at this moment that I DID see them — over many years of my Alaskan mountain homesteading summers. They were REAL. And it may very well be that they were a SPIRITUAL gift to me from God’s heavenly world that came to me to help me endure the intolerable pain and sorrow of my abusive childhood.


      I hope you begin a blog, Cinderella, if you haven’t one yet. That is a perfect place to put your story as you create it, as you lived it, as you live it today. You can publish privately if you wish! I am deeply sorrowed that your mother is so SICK! Rather than comment now about the specifics regarding food — and the tragedy it will be IF SHE DOES NOT SEND YOU THAT PICTURE — I can only say that when we look outside of our self in any way “into the eyes of our abusers” we are placing ourselves to stare straight into the gates of HELL.

      We will get nothing but an evil answer if that is where we look. We have to look within our own self where all goodness lies. Again, this evil that exists does NOT come from the devil. In our mothers’ case it came/comes from a blocked soul within a diseased body that does NOT allow the truth to exist.

      Ours is a difficult journey as we investigate our truth for our own self — but every step of the way we are growing as a human being, and that includes spiritually. In addition God tells us we can pray for the progress of the souls of our parents, both while they are in this world and in the next.

      I hope you will post back here again! And I hope you will create a blog to begin writing your story in one place, in one line. Go here: https://en.wordpress.com/signup/ — This journey is an agonizing one. It was agony while we lived thru it, it will always be agonizing — but there IS BEAUTY in our story because there IS BEAUTY IN US! We all have our own version of those white butterflies!! sending much love and thanking you for your words — someone else besides us NEEDS THEM, needs all we have to say! Blessings! Linda – alchemynow

    • And – I have to say this also: We are looking FOR OUR OWN GIFTS! If nobody can tell me a single thing about those little white butterflies that came to visit me on the mountain in my childhood — i am finally ready to accept that they came from the world of God to comfort me — they came from the world of angels.

      I believe you have gifts like this, too, that you will ONLY be able to find by searching inside yourself for YOU as a child, YOU now, for that blessed and gifted gloriously beautiful soul who, like me, has been spared the devastation of the diseases that devoured and destroyed our mothers!! xoxox

  3. frantic panic…

    I have felt that too often to remember with my mother. And the feeling still lives sometimes trying to show its ugly head when things gets a little sticky.
    I hate that feelings and will avoid it at all costs because its sooooooooooo
    uncomfortable and scary as….

    I dont take risks in fear of it.
    unpredictability from our mother…the one we are suppose to feel safe with. From her we recieve disorganization of the whole self.

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