I began my independent research in 2004 after my last child of three entered the Air Force and left home.  I needed to understand where the depths of my sadness came from and why I could not ease it or make it go away.  I could find no other way to begin to meet my needs that to tackle my problems on my own.

The first book I read was about a man imprisoned in the 1950s by Communist Chinese who exerted every effort over years to control their prisoner’s mind.  As I read this man’s survival account I instantly recognized that this man could not be broken because he had  strength within his inner core-self that had been put there through loving interactions he experienced with others – especially with his mother – from the beginning of his life.  At the same time I this fact I understood that I had never been given the gift that this man had.  I also understood that not only did this man not recognize the source of his survival but also that very few if any others reading his account would recognize this fact, either.  (Unfortunately I do not remember the name of this man or of his book.)

I found the exact same pattern present in the writings of Dave J. Pelzer in his book A Child Called “It”: One Child’s Courage to Survive (1995).  Pelzer (and I suggest, also his readers) seemed to be oblivious to the power that his relationship with his mother before her horrific treatment of him began when he as nearing school age had to form the foundation within his body-brain that allowed him to endure and to survive all that came upon him later.  The movie, Buck, about the child-abused horse whisperer also completely misses this same critically important point.  In his narration for this movie Buck Brannaman states clearly more than once what a wonderful, loving mother his was before she died when he was in his middle childhood, at which he was left with his brother in the care of his severely abusive drunk of a father.  (Why had the mother remained with this man when she knew he was abusing her boys?  Nobody addresses this point in that movie.)

I was only a little ways behind the curve when I found in 2004 a book that began to profoundly change my thinking that had been published in 2001 (there is a new edition out now):  The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are by  Daniel J. Siegel M.D.

I carefully sifted my way word by word through this book, and then discovered my next stairway to truth in this 2001 book:  Traumatic Relationships and Serious Mental Disorders by Dr. Jon G. Allen.  There was no stopping me then, and on I moved into additional serious readings of Dr. Allan Schore and other developmental neuroscientists.  The 2007 book by Dr. Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook–What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing, gave me the first opportunity to see this critically important information about what happens to ‘Babies Under Fire’ © translated into lay language those of us in the grass-root trenches can understand.

While there are many books and many theories about how to supposedly heal trauma in personal lives, I have learned that for those of us who were indeed one of the ‘Babies Under Fire’ there is not really going to be a single useful piece of information for us to be found in any so-called healing approaches that do NOT clearly, truthfully and accurately give us the knowledge we need about how the lack of safety and security in our earliest attachment relationships — primarily with our mother — permanently altered the way our body-brain developed during the most ‘Critical Windows’ of formative growth in our lifetime.

While ‘Babies Under Fire’ does not give us a pleasant image to hold in our minds, it does give us an accurate place to begin to look for the origin of the widest array of difficulties humans face when we don’t get MOTHERING right.


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  1. Hi alchemynow,
    Great post. I wonder if the book about the Chinese man imprisoned in the 50s was called ‘the Heavenly Man’
    About Brother Yun who converted to Christianity and had both terrible things done to him and amazingly uplifting
    Things happen to him?
    I’ve been thinking a lot about my mother and grandmother and their bonds too and definitely attest to these traumatic
    Relationships changing their and my brain – even tho what happened was on the very other end of the scale that you

    I’m sad today – I took my beloved ginger to the vet and he has a throat growth – I HOPE it is benign… 😦

    • Oh, Gingercat, I am so sorry to hear of your sadness and of the sickness of your beloved friend!!! My daughter has developed incredible bonds to her kitties — and they often do not have very long lives. Some 10 years, a few 16-20 — which is SAD because they are so special! I hope to hear good news – and send warm love in your waiting!!!!

      I looked up this book – thanks!! But I remember the author being anglo and not Chinese and the internment being earlier in the 50s – perhaps a Catholic priest?

      Please stay in touch!!! xoxoxoxox !!!!

      • Thanks alchemynow!
        Its so comforting to read words like that!! I was so sad and worried.
        I took my kitty in for the biopsy of this suspicious growth on his throat
        And then called to see if it was over. Two vets had looked at the growth
        And said it looked bad and was big. Well they were totally stumped because
        The growth had completely disappeared overnight! So there was nothing
        To biopsy. There was a reddish patch and they think it was overgrown tissue
        That had dislodged and gone down, which means it wasn’t cancerous. So
        Huge relief. I don’t know if Ramona’s cats have ever had polyps – this could
        Have been the problem for my cat. They grow back so will see. He developed
        A snore – that’s how I knew something was wrong. Your kids sound lovely, which
        Shows how you parented them!

        I haven’t read Peltzer’s book so I wondered how come his mother suddenly began
        Abusing him having been fine before. But yes, that would make all the difference
        And by then he was old enough have a separate sense of self to enable him not to
        Succumb his self to the abuse?

        Thanks for the support!

        • Good morning dear Gingercat! I was just thinking about you and your Kitty and am happy to find such wonderful needs in my email box! Oh, such relief! Such a power love is! I am so GLAD! so glad….

          The way Pelzner’s book reads his mother ‘became an alcoholic’ when he was around five and that’s when ‘the abuse’ began. I haven’t invested time in following his writings – I do know they remained bestsellers for years, perhaps they still are. In many cases I believe they were adopted into high school classroom reading materials.

          I always have to clarify the parameters of my own experience when I write – and this reminds me that the exclusion for me does not only apply to ‘no sexual abuse that I know of’, but also to no alcohol or drug abuse that I know of.

          I do know that early troubles in the mother-infant relationship are what destroys the power of the body-brain to deal with all later stress and trauma in ordinary ways.

          I believe there is more we don’t know currently about human beings than what we do know — because at least in American culture we are far too materialistic to put our energy into learning about what matters most — LIFE.

          I hope your day goes smoothly and peacefully, friend! I am always so glad to hear from you! xoxoxox!!!! me

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