January 19, 2013

Having never traveled there I have no idea what London is like, or Britain, or anywhere outside of the U.S.A.  I do think at age 61 that it is telling that I contemplate this morning these ideas not in response to some tantalizing leisure vacation but rather in response to an internet search serendipity  through which I discovered something about the work of Dr. Paul Renn.  “Oh, Gee!”  We severe infant and child abuse and trauma survivors might say, “I want to travel to London to access some high quality therapy for what nobody I have ever found in my country in my lifetime has ever even spoken to me about.”

Well, somewhere between “Oh, JOY” and “Oh, SHIT” there is another part of reality that really matters most to me.  The truth is that nobody alive could begin to turn me into an ordinary person no matter how much skill, care, effort and expertise was applied to “my case.”  The most anyone could do – can do – is to explain to me how the severe traumas of my early life vastly altered the way my entire body developed.  No quality therapist would ever begin to assume or suggest they could FIX me or that (if I wanted to, if I try hard enough) I could fix myself.  They would not dig around searching for sealed-off trauma memories. 

An excellent therapist would establish a trust relationship with me ASAP, but they would never try to change the level of trust I am capable of achieving inside my own self.  The only card that would be in play in the trust game for me would be the one that shows how worthy of my trust would the therapist be?

 I’ve never met a therapist yet who didn’t have a power play of some kind in play.  I have no time for this, nor would I ever again choose to continue to participate when such a power play was in play. 

I’ve never met a therapist yet who wasn’t human.  Humans are not perfect.  They do not have all the answers and most often for trauma-development changed survivors, therapists don’t even vaguely have the answers we need because they’ve never been inwardly motivated (as we are) to ask the right questions that could lead to – asking the right questions.

I don’t think I am bitter.  I think I am realistic.  I woke up this morning thinking there’s not enough time in my lifetime – if I had multiple high quality therapy for the rest of my life – to FIX what is different about me.  There wouldn’t have been enough time – or enough ‘good’ therapy to turn me from a trauma-changed person into an ordinary person if high quality therapy had started when I first sought help in my 20s.

So what would I want therapy-wise if I could access the best therapy on earth – which all of us deserve?  Best would of course first mean that the therapist be trustworthy.  This means to me that such an individual would first be able to listen and HEAR me.  The little ‘theory and technique’ wheels and gears  in their own mind would have to be absolutely SILENT until I asked a question for which I seek an answer.

I would know where I get my information.  I would want to know where the therapist got theirs.  My hope with someone like Dr. Paul Renn would lie in the fact he has combined the BIG THREE areas of study in his thinking and therapy work:  Attachment, developmental neuroscience and trauma.  However, even though I am thousands of miles away from London, through the powers of the internet I have already found a RED FLAG concerning the work this man does.  I scanned the reference pages of his 2012 book — The Silent Past and the Invisible Present: Memory, Trauma, and Representation in Psychotherapy – and did not find the one name there that I know I most needed to see.  There is no mention of Dr. Martin Teicher.

If I were to consider (ha!) being able to work with (rather than ‘have therapy with’) such a dedicated, knowledgeable, skilled and experienced capable practitioner such as Dr. Paul Renn is, I would next need to know if he would honestly and truthfully be willing and able to listen to me about why I believe the work of Dr. Teicher and those he works with is so vitally important to severe early trauma survivors.

I look at the still photograph of Renn’s face on his website.  He does look like an open-minded compassionate man.  But it would only take one question from me about what Teicher’s group knows about how we survivors have been changed through early trauma and abuse into “evolutionarily altered” people for me to know the truth about this man’s work – where it matters most to me.

No truth = No go.

I suppose I could imagine scenarios where I could access therapy through Mclean’s Hospital where Teicher’s ‘Harvard research group’ studies.  They should know what I need to know.  They coined that phrase “evolutionarily altered,” but so what?

How could anyone actually determine what I most need to know?  I don’t want to be compared to anyone else.  I want to be compared to someone who does not exist – because that person was not given what they needed at the start of their life to ever grow into this world in the first place.

THAT person I most need to have information about in every possible way would be my OWN sole self that had never been exposed to any horrific debilitating trauma in my development in the first place.

The question would never be “Who would that person be?”  The only question that matters is, “HOW would that person be in her body in her lifetime?”  Me is Me.  I have always been me since the instant I was conceived and my soul was made and attached to this body I live in.

Well – once this correct question is asked in therapy or out of it the pathway to exploration is presented that would bear fruit.

I am left answering the correct question on my own.  I do believe Renn’s book has some of the answers I seek because he does apparently concern himself with a study of what is currently known about memory processes.  I am a huge fan of the idea that if we could understand the bigger picture of how early trauma changes every aspect of our physiological development on every level of our body, this (it seems to me) is exactly where to look for the correct answer to every correct question we as a species are learning to ask.

If we were raised in a dangerous malevolently harmful early attachment world, natural processes made sure not only that we remember absolutely everything we experienced so our body could continually prepare itself to survive in that kind of a world.  Natural processes at the same time made equally sure that the only way to improve our personal condition would be that other people in the world learn to listen to everything we survivors have to say about trauma.

The very processes that built our body built trauma right into us.  We are living testimonies that all is NOT well in this world.  We will never be able to forget this fact.  Our very body on every level keeps this memory.  What trauma wants us to do as a species is to learn what traumas are so we can prevent them from happening again.

It is on the level of learning all that trauma has to say so it can be prevented that all therapy must first begin.  Yes, as individuals we suffer.  We suffer from a CAUSE – and therefore we suffer for a reason.

We need to be heard.  We have within us information — vast bodies of critically important, relevant information — about what trauma is, about what it took for us to survive it, about what surviving trauma does to people, and about what needs to be done to prevent the same kind of traumas from happening to somebody else.

All of this is, from my point of view, about memory.  Trauma changed our body so that we could survive long enough to – yes – reproduce.  But for most trauma-changed people the best we can expect to do is to pass trauma-related information (in memory form) down to succeeding generations as life itself continues to put it into the BODY of survivors – like a message is put into a bottle – to be carried along within the current of the life of our species until someone – someday – can decode the trauma messages, understand what ongoing trauma has to say about conditions in the world – so that those conditions can be FIXED so that these traumas will never happen to anyone else again – EVER.

This is why at this point in the advancement of the civilizations of our species that I believe Teicher’s work presents the correct imperative for all efforts toward healing change.  The difficulties severe early trauma survivors live with exist because of changes our body-brain made to keep us alive long enough for someone to ‘catch the signals’ that can give our species information about preventing trauma.  Not so anyone continues to suffer in the ways that we do.  NO!  The truth lies in the opposite direction.

We suffer so in the bigger picture nobody else will ever have to suffer what we did and do – EVER AGAIN!

Therapies that begin from this point of understanding can do two important things at the same time:  (1) They can inform us about how trauma changed us so that we can hopefully find ways in our personal lives to identify how those trauma change patterns operate within us.  This allows us to make conscious efforts to diminish the negative impacts these changes create in our lives.  (2) At the same time the information contained in the ‘messages’ we convey in our body and hence in our life will be heard.  Because we are living memory of trauma the information our shared traumas contain will be used – TO END IT.


In important ways my way of thinking about trauma tells me that those of us who have survived the un-survivable are the smartest members of our species.  What we know about in our very body matters.  What we know (as our body reminds us with every breath we take) has great power to change the world.  But we are left with a continuing problem.

Nobody is willing to listen to us.  We are members of a social species.  The truth is that what concerns one of us in reality concerns all of us.  The suffering of one is the suffering of all.  The lesson learned by one improves the life of all.

It seems to me that humanity has not yet matured far enough past the selfish conditions of our own collective childhood to yet grasp this fact.  We therefore are missing the most important point.  We are designed physiologically to respond to our environment.  We are designed to remember and display in our body and life what the conditions of our environment are.  We all pass through this life carrying messages about what these conditions are truthfully like.  Who is paying attention to these messages?

Trauma survivors – we are.

We have not been given any other choice.  We know and we remember the truth.


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  1. Reply just in to email mentioned in previous post to Dr. Renn:

    Dear Linda,

    I would be very happy to read Story Without Words once you have completed it, but, because of my busy work schedule and family commitments, I’m afraid that I’m not in a position to assist you with the project in the ways the you suggest.

    I do hope that you understand.

    Kind regards,


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