Through a very pleasant conversation I had today I was reminded of something so important to me that I wish every book I publish to address this concern:
Life is always a risky business. Many very difficult traumas can pop up in anyone’s life that must be lived through and processed in the best way a person can.
(I was also reminded that researchers know human-caused traumas are always harder for people to experience and get through well – compared to non-human caused ones.)
But the important point that was refreshed for me and moved yet again squarely onto the most forefront burner of my writing stove is that NOTHING is the same in life for people who came out of their infancy with serious insecure attachment disorders as it is for people who DID have safe and secure early attachments.
Most simply put, as I seem to repeat so many, many times, as Dr. Martin Teicher’s research group so succinctly describes, early trauma and abuse changes physiological development. Readers of this blog know this point well by now. (See in the Teicher links in this recent post: +TEETH. ATTACHMENT. SELF-CARE.)
As I stated in conversation today, if someone experienced serious insecure attachment in the first 33 months of life (conception to age 2) – any later severe trauma that happens to them will likely have a profoundly different and far more serious impact on the insecure attachment abuse/trauma survivor than what a person who has a safe and secure attachment-built body and brain will ever experience.
I see it in image-idea as being like this: Those of us who were abused from birth, with our evolutionarily altered physiological development in response to these insecure and unsafe attachment conditions, exist on one side of a great divide, an abyss — separated forever from those who did NOT suffer severe trauma-altered development.
Those who DID have benevolent earliest years have a different foundation in their body than we do. They are on the other side of this divide. THIS MATTERS! Fortunately we are the minority while those on the other side are the majority.
Some kind of translation between these two realities has to begin to happen. Who will translate? Who CAN translate?
Certainly serious neuroscientific developmental experts, and very knowledgeable attachment experts, have the LANGUAGE and the information that is needed for an entirely new kind of dialog to begin between these ‘two kinds of people’ – the trauma-altered development people and the non-trauma-altered development people.
We need to build bridges. But from my perspective our language needs to be CLEANED UP!
I do not consider PTSD or even depression – and in many cases not even anxiety disorders (PTSD and depression ARE anxiety disorders – so why be redundant?) – are NOT, in my universe – remotely MENTAL ILLNESSES! They are a physiological response to stress and trauma – a NATURAL and naturally INTENDED response under certain circumstances (that we have not yet matured as a species enough to understand – because we don’t yet want to).
Just because we do not know enough to understand facts like this – does not mean that ‘mental illness’ is remotely a meaningful description!
The issue is the mismatch that Teicher’s article describes between those on one side built for a malevolent world and those on the other side who were not. But readers who truly understand what I write on this blog are finding ‘their own kind named’. We are different. Humans have a long, long way to go to get the important information correct!
Just because any person has a complex, ongoing response to any trauma – at any stage of their life — for any reason — does NOT mean they are sick – least of all mean they are mentally ill. For crying out loud!
As I have probably said on this blog a thousand times: Trauma remains problematic only when it is not resolved. Trauma is only resolved when the information contained in a person’s experience of trauma has been learned.
Most (I believe) of ongoing problematic responses to trauma remain unresolved because NOBODY is willing to learn what trauma has to teach us. Most unresolved trauma is actually connected to if not deeply embedded within problems that belong to our entire species. Individuals are not ‘big enough’ to take the full job of resolving so many of the big traumas alone!
Being alive, being human, is a shared experience. As long as we remain so out-of-touch with how all actions – cultural and social MOST assuredly so — belong not to individuals but to our much larger group, and remain so disconnected (unattached) to the concerns of individuals as they ACTUALLY exist in the world of our species — many individuals that have gone through horrific traumas will remain unable to heal them IN THEIR BODY – because they cannot resolve these traumas by learning ALONE what is meant to be learned BY US ALL!!
We need to honor ourselves and one another by TALKING about traumas. We need to absolutely understand the super-high risk that especially INFANT ABUSE survivors (whose physiological development was altered due to traumas of insecure attachment) will most often experience far worse complications from all traumas. Infant abuse survivors have a DIFFERENT kind of body in profoundly significant ways.
We know this. We really do. We need to talk about these things. And we need to know who and how we are as infant abuse (early insecure and unsafe-attached) beings. We cannot let ANYONE undermine our reality by dumping (!!) their reality onto us.
Early abuse survivors do stand on one side of an abyss – alone with one another. But it also a great opportunity for non-insecurely attached people, once they have undergone severe trauma later in their lives who STILL suffer physiological problems and who cannot “resolve the trauma and get their old life back” — to be a kind of bridge of translation between the worlds of the evolutionarily altered and the not evolutionarily altered (again, as determined by nature of attachments in the first 33 months of life).
Maybe with humility, compassion and willingness we can build a common ground between these two realities. We cannot continue to pretend that infant abuse (again, which IS what not providing a safe and secure attachment environment is always about) does not exist. It does. Infant abuse. It changes who we are in ways and through means that SO FEW comprehend!
(For as profoundly important as this subject is — I am equally pitiful in describing it. Obviously, I need more practice!! )
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6 thoughts on “+WORLDS OF TRAUMA – SO BOGGLING TO ME TO TRY TO EXPLAIN IT”
[…] condition’ – so it hardly matters except as a ‘diagnosis’ is needed to let those on one side of the abyss I mentioned communicate with those on their own side about how they might understand […]
When I check my email I’m always delighted to see one of your blog notices, and read what you have to say immediately – that’s how unique and important I believe your contribution is.
I feel honored that you would want me to contribute to your books. I’ve been wishing for some time that I’d meet someone, somewhere, that’s working on the kinds of issues you write about with such insight…so this is serendipity indeed! I’d love to work with you in whatever way would support your writing.
I think I have some idea what you mean when you say you’re: “peripherally astounded at how complex and important what I know and what I try to say – what you know – actually is.” I often feel overwhelmed when I consider trying to get the kind of ideas you and I are working on out to a wider audience…
It’s been years since I looked at the Marsha Linehan book you referenced. But I’m sure it would strike me now in the way you describe: that something essential is missing. I’m hoping I run across a copy of it in a used bookstore, as my book-buying budget is already stretched pretty tight…I’d love to be able to read the same passages you are and playing ‘detective,’ looking for the missing clues, at the same time you are…
(I find myself saying ‘something essential is missing’ about a LOT of psychological & self-help books that I read or scan these days. I find myself muttering while reading, or listening to lectures, interviews, webinars, etc.: “Well…I guess what you say here is true…AS FAR AS IT GOES…but I don’t think you go nearly far enough. You’re ignoring some really important stuff.”)
Your last paragraph in this post – where you say about reading Linehan: “it’s like listening to an entire symphony play a musical masterpiece that is off key,” puts it beautifully…
(I’m going to post this comment now and respond to your next post in a bit…great conversation! The sort of conversation I live for!)
Hello with great appreciation and gratitude, Sandy!
I took off soaring into words in a post response to Lee’s comment and just now am reading yours. I ended up in that post continuing our conversation just the same….
I am thrilled to hear you say you would like to collaborate with me as these books progress! So shall it hopefully be.
I parted with my old scanner when I got my new one. I don’t know how to use the new one, which I got specifically to scan slides, pics and negatives (a tedious task required of me before I publish – but I plan to finish the text first)
I have written so many notes on the pages of Linehan’s writings that her words are hard to even read now.
Interestingly the thought sprung into my mind just now that both my mother’s mother and her grandmother read tea leaves. My trying to distinguish the ‘truth from the lie’ in reading Linehan’s work must be a little like trying to read someone’s fortune in tea leaves.
I am also reminded of the fact that nowhere in my mother’s writings does the truth about her abuse of me appear. The entire truth about Mother’s mental illness lies in the patterns of her thoughts – and between the lines she did write. The truth is like a shadow – or like a photographic negative. We must go through a very complex translation process to find it among the words that ‘the masses’ currently use to describe that which they are not truly comprehending.
Did you ever read “People of the Lie” by M. Scott Peck?
I realize this week that at no time did any therapist ever tell me my mother was mentally ill! The last therapist I consulted in 1988 did at least recommend this book to me, which I read and which directly led to my ability to finally disown Mother.
This last therapist named what Mother did to me as ‘evil’. I saw this as a great helpful step toward the truth of my reality. But she never even insinuated that Mother was mentally ill. (I need to write a post about this – I do believe mental illness does exist – I accept that designation in SOME very specific cases – more on this later. Mother’s mental illness happened because her Trauma Altered Development was forced to take, and was ABLE to (genetically) take a very specific turn in that direction to ensure Mother’s continued survival.)
btw, Peck describes a sort of squirmy wormy feeling in the gut that tells us when something is ‘evil’ – I agree with him, but that same kind of feeling also tells you and I and others like us that something critical is being misrepresented or missed all together…..
Over the years of my study (this productive line began in 2003) and of my writing I have circled around in great spirals of understanding. As the time of book publication approaches I need to tap into the concepts that seem most helpful and solid in truth to me that I can find. This term, Trauma Altered Development, seems to be the most useful comprehensive term (these current days) I have discovered. There is nothing about my life as I consider the entire 61 years I have lived that I cannot see as having been either contaminated or tainted with my own TAD.
I cannot find justification for placing a value judgment on the facts of TAD. They are real. They happened to me, and I cannot see how TAD isn’t a reality for anyone and for everyone that suffered the depth and breadth of early trauma that I know happened to me.
Most of what seems to be missing from and is wrong with the current mass commonsense related to all areas of concern you and I are expressing happens, I suspect, because of the inability or unwillingness to recognize that the first 33 months of our life set in motion all the factors that end up creating the difficulties the mass commonsense is referring to.
We HAVE to back up what we are willing to consider. We have to move past the taboo against infant abuse. We have to confront our societal belief that parents own children and are free without consequence (expect in the most obvious cases of breach) to do exactly to and with their infants and children what they ‘want’ to.
We also HAVE to move into commonsense that what happens to us during the months of our life we do NOT remember consciously has the most power to determine the trajectory and the course of our life.
You wrote: ‘for as profoundly important as this subject is – I am equally pitiful in describing it.’
Au contraire! Where you see ‘pitifulness’ I see remarkable insight, and eloquence of expression. I think you’re doing a marvelous job of putting into words a profound distinction that few writers have addressed (or even identified) in the way you have.
In fact, I haven’t seen the ideas you’ve expressed here described in quite this way by anyone in the field of psychology. And I think your descriptions are more useful and accurate than those found in conventional psychological writing.
I am excited to find a kindred soul who is tilling the same ground I am. You and I appear to have independently come to almost identical conclusions about the effects of growing up in the condition of insecure attachment. I suspect you figured it out before I did!
And I think that a HUGE amount of what has passed for ‘answers’ or ‘therapy’ in the world of psychology/psychotherapy (and even in ‘spiritual teaching’) is damn near USELESS for anyone who’s grown up with insecure attachment…
…because those well-intentioned souls who offer up all that ‘good advice’ about things like “making different choices, blah blah blah” were fortunate enough to live with SECURE attachment – and have no clue about the difference, except perhaps as theory. They lack the lived experience, and for most it hasn’t dawned on them how lucky and privileged they are…
…what bothers me most about their ‘good advice’ and exhortations is that they often seem clueless about how they might actually be adding to the burdens of those struggling to overcome the deficits in emotional safety and the lack of ability to trust. It blows my mind how much faith some people have; that if you ‘just make different choices’ (or some variation on that theme), when you lack the internalized safety to do so…and find yourself (quite predictably) shaming and blaming yourself for lacking what you never got in the first place…
Arrrgh! Don’t even get me started….!
Oh, Sandy, I would love to have you write a piece or several to include in these two books!! Yesterday after publishing this post I was – I would say – peripherally astounded at how complex and important what I know and what I try to say – what you know – actually is. I say peripherally because I cannot often look these concepts squarely in the face. It’s too big.
The implications for what you are affirming mean that most of the ‘mental health’ profession is completely off target regarding those of us who lived through the worst of the worst that life can offer.
At the same time that I held in my arms my tiny delicate perfect 6-week old grandson I knew that by the time I was his age I had already experienced terror and pain from Mother’s abuse and maltreatment that is beyond human comprehension!! Except those memories remain in my body — along with how that trauma changed my physiological development!
I have written for my own book a very comprehensive commentary about the only tangible reference that exists to my beginning reality. What is here on the blog is not that comprehensive
*1951 – October 15 – Linda’s 6-week Checkup (and brother John)
Mother’s mental illness as it operated with me at the center of it is obvious to me as I read her words – but as with the problem of our culture owning infant abuse AT ALL – allowing oneself to FEEL and to KNOW the truth of what my infant reality truly was is beyond most people’s capacity.
Infant abuse takes many forms – it does exist – and certainly in all kinds of ways that were not as severe as what I experienced. But what happened to me is what led me to pass beyond that so-powerful taboo in human existence against infant abuse. Very few people can cross that barrier, and that includes nearly all mental health professionals.
And infant abuse DOES alter physiological development on every single important level including how our genes manifest.
I am trying to again read ‘Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder’ by Marsha M. Linehan
I struggle with myself that I still struggle to delineate and NAME what is so wrong with what she is saying – this wrongness being couched among every word of what she says that is right!!
Strikes me at this moment – it’s like listening to an entire symphony play a musical masterpiece that is off key — only a very few can detect this — nobody wants to admit the truth, or talk about it, or admit that without the clear new knowledge that technological advancement has let developmental neuroscientists discover about what early attachment is actually DOING everything being said about and told to the most troubled of the troubled is an inaccurate, misguided, useless, dangerous lie.
Sandy – my problem is that this entire area of awareness is agonizingly intense for me. The wholeness of my entire being now knows the wholeness of what happened to me from right before I took my first breath. My entire being includes all my body remembers – what my entire DNA has to say about how I was forced to change my entire development post-birth in order to adapt to and survive in a malevolent world.
My daughter sat beside the author of this book in the state capitol of North Dakota last week at a professional luncheon and was able to speak with her intimately about the work that I do – and about her own involvement with it.
Scared Sick: The Role of Childhood Trauma in Adult Disease by Robin Karr-Morse and Meredith S. Wiley (Jan 3, 2012)
I don’t know what has led to Robin’s work – but she is very probably an important resource for us as we publish – a fact that I am beyond grateful for.
I suspect it is because I personally have such deep and profound personal experience not only with severe child abuse, but most importantly with infant abuse, that all I learn, all I know, all I write and try to write, is so intense and nearly overwhelming to me — like I have to find nearly superhuman strength to face these truths.
I suspect, Sandy, that some people – like Robin and others on the professional level, and like you and I on the personal level, have taken a quantum leap and now exist in another paradigm reality.
Some part of me wants to let it alone, let it all go, knowing that this shift will spread itself out into the bigger world in time, certainly with or without my contributions to this work.
Yet another part of me says the only reason I experienced what I did – and survived it with my mind perfectly intact – was to do this work.
I find the greatest comfort in having you present here on this blog. I can’t begin to put how I feel in words — other than THANK YOU!!