Monday, March 3, 2014. There is nothing fun about waking into tears as I did this morning when my alarm went off, or with the need to make an instantaneous choice not to let those tears escape the body that holds them – mine — or to let that sadness completely control my day.
My next thoughts came from a conversation I had with a friend yesterday who also suffers from the lifelong effects of trauma altered physiological development from infant and child abuse: The set point of our entire body (nervous systems-brain, etc.) is NOT set at peaceful calm as it should have been had early trauma not happened to us. Mine is set at sorrow.
So this morning I went on a hunt for what I remember from my thorough reading of the works of Dr. Allan N. Schore 8-10 years ago about what is said about abused infants’ “set point of balanced equilibrium.”
I didn’t know enough in the beginning of my studies to take issue with anything of Schore’s I read, yet today when I read a statement like “Dissociation is a very early appearing survival mechanisms for coping with traumatic affects, and it plays a critical role in the mechanism of projective identification” I can clearly separate the operation of “dissociation” from “the mechanism of projective identification.” In my thinking they are NOT the same thing even though when I first read this text I didn’t realize that.
Both my mother and I were forced to form a brain-nervous system with dissociation built into it. But while Mother continued her development in the direction of massive use of projective identification I do not believe that I did.
As a result of my having been so abused by my (mentally ill-psychotic) dysregulated Mother I also had my infant (and therefore adult) “homeostatic equilibrium” massively disorganized. However, dissociation is, for me, in no way ONLY tied to “interactive forces that induce intensely stressful states.” My body processes most information it receives in this fashion, not “just” interactive forces with people. My body (as readers have mentioned in regard to Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)) receives nearly all information as intensely stressful – and this has gotten significantly worse the older I have gotten.
While no doubt this is true regarding projective identification, “Dissociation is a very early appearing survival mechanisms for coping with traumatic affects, and it plays a critical role in the mechanism of projective identification,” I believe that for myself dissociation NOW simply reflects my baseline state based upon how my body-brain was designed to operate as it changed in its developmental trajectory in an environment of massive ongoing trauma from birth.
Affect Regulation and the Repair of the Self (2003) by Dr. Allan N. Schore – page 62 – (if this link does not take you to this page do a Google Books search for “allan n schore equilibrium” and follow the first link shown). Scroll up from page 62 in the book online – very important reading as well.
“There is a great deal of interest amongst clinicians in intense, primitive affects, such as terror and rage. But in recent work I have suggested that we must also deepen our understanding of the early etiology of the primitive defenses that are used to cope with – to autoregulate – traumatic, overwhelming affective states. An interdisciplinary approach can thus model how developing systems organize primitive defense mechanisms, such as projective identification and dissociation, to cope with interactive forces that induce intensely stressful states that massively disorganize the infant’s homeostatic equilibrium (Schore, 2001a). Dissociation is a very early appearing survival mechanisms for coping with traumatic affects, and it plays a critical role in the mechanism of projective identification (Schore, 1998c, 2000g, 2002d). Since these early events are imprinted into the maturing brain (Matsuzawa et al., 2001), where states becomes traits (Perry et al., 1995), they endure as primitive defense mechanisms. It has been observed that patients who utilize projective identification have “dissociatively cleansed” themselves of traumatic affects in order to maintain some form of relationship with narcissistically vulnerable others (Sands, 1994. 1997b).”
“In two seminal papers, Kelein conjectured that defensive projective identification is associated with the massive invasion of someone else’s personality (1955/1975) and represents an evacuation of unwanted parts of the self (1946). The use of a unique and restricted set of defenses in severely disturbed personalities has been long noted in the clinical literature. Indeed, a primary goal of treatment of such patients is to help them replace excessive used of projective identification with more mature defensive operations. Boyer described a group of patients who experienced an early defective relationship with the m other that resulted in a grossly deficient ego structure. Their excessive use of projective identification “very heavily influences their relationships with others as well as their psychic equilibrium. Their principal conscious goal in therapy is to relieve themselves immediately of tension. Often they greatly fear that the experience of discomfort is intolerable and believe that failure to rid themselves of it will lead to physical or mental fragmentation or dissolution” (Boyer, 1990, p. 304).
“In writings on the “costs” of the characterological use of projective identification, Stark described, “Those patients who do n ot have the capacity to sit with internal conflicts will be in the position of forever giving important parts of themselves away, leaving themselves feeling internally impoverished and excessively dependent upon others” (1999, -. 269).”
It does not take much searching (using the same terms I mentioned above) to find Schore stating on pages 289-290 in his book, Affect Dysregulation and Disorders of the Self, the following:
“The brain of an infant who experiences frequent intense attachment disruptions and little interactive repair is chronically exposed to states of impaired homeostasis which he or she shifts into in order to maintain basic metabolic processes for survival. If the caregiver does not participate in reparative functions that reduce stress and reestablish psychobiological equilibrium, the limbic connections that are in the process of developing are exposed to a toxic chemistry that negatively impacts a developing brain. Developmental pscyobiological studies indicate that hyperaroused attachment stressors are correlated with elevated levels of the arousal-regulating catecholamines and hyperactivation of the excitotoxic N-methyl-D-asparate (NMDA)-sensitive glutamate receptor, a critical site of neurotoxicity and synapse-elimination in eraly development (McDonald et al., 1988; Guilarte, 1998). Research now indicates that apoptotic degeneration is intensifiec in the immature brain during the NMDA receptor hypersensitivity period (Johnston, 2001), and that the neonatal brain is more prone to excitotoxicity than the adult brain (Bittigua et al., 1999). High levels of glutamate and cortisol are known to specifically alter the growth of the developing limbic system. During critical periods, dendritic spines, potential points of connection with other neurons, are particularly vulnerable to long pulses of glutamate (Segal et al., 2000) that trigger severely altered calcium metabolism and therefore “oxidative stress” and cellular damage (Park et al., 1996; Schore, 1994, 1997a, 2001c).
“Furthermore, basic research shows that adverse social experiences during early critical periods result in permanent alterations in opiate, corticosteroid, corticotropin releasing factor, dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin receptors (Coplan et al., 1996; Ladd et al., 1996; Lewis et al., 1990; Martin et al., 1991; Meerlo et al., 2001; Rosenblum et al., 1994; van der Kolk, 1987). Such receptor alterations are a central mechanism by which “early adverse developmental experiences may leave behind a permanent physiological reactivity in limbic areas of the brain” (Post et al., 1994, p. 800). Impairments in the limbic system, and in dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin receptors have all been implicated in aggression dysregulation (Dolan, Deakin, Roberts, & Anderson, 2002; Oquendo & Mann, 2000; Siever & Trestman, 1993).
“Because the early maturing (Geschwind & Galaburda, 1987; Schore, 1994) right hemisphere is more deeply connected into the limbic system than the left (Borod, 2000; Gainotti, 2000; Tucker, 1992), this enduring reactivity is “burnt” into corticolimbic circuits of the right brain, the hemisphere dominant for the regulation of stress hormones cortisol and corticotropin releasing factor….” READ MORE HERE – or go to the 2nd link following the term search I mentioned above)
So how’s this for light early Monday morning reading? You can Google search for any term you don’t recognize in order to get a clearer picture of what Schore is saying. Personally I find myself wondering if in my situation the “aggression” circuits were not allowed to develop due to my exposure to SUCH abusive rage in Mother.
When I wake as I did today finding myself “on the verge of tears” I can now look for, find and use my mental aggression toward THE HUNT for supportive information about why it is NOT MY FAULT in any way that the set point of my entire being is set at sorrow rather than at peaceful calm.
This means that I must use massive amounts of my waking energy to fight against a state that is completely natural for my body’s resting state.
Notice also in the above text Schore’s use of the word PERMANENT – and he means what he writes. This is the kind of information that Dr. Daniel Siegel is NOT talking about – although I am open to the understanding that research in the past 10 years may have opened up areas of new knowledge about this kind of “permanence” that Schore is mentioning. However, I would not take new concepts of brain plasticity to mean that we can change what happened to us on the level of permanent during the brain developmental stages Schore is talking about.
It is also important to remember that the entire body is effected by this kind of traumatic stress in its development – certainly not “just” the brain.
As I have mentioned many times I felt so hopelessly damaged as I read Schore’s work! It was when I finally found the work of Dr. Martin Teicher that I realized all of what Schore describes of trauma-caused developmental changes actually means in the bigger picture that we become “evolutionarily altered” beings made within and to endure within a malevolent world. It is the mismatch between our natural state and life in a more benign world that causes us the most trouble.
Who chooses to cross the morning’s threshold from sleep to wakefulness being forced to find such ways to cope with the icy threat of heated tears?
Who chooses to have to plow through the facts of developmental neuroscience to discover what changes create this kind of “resting state” within one’s body?
None of US, that’s for sure!
But here we find ourselves, none-the-less. I would rather KNOW what’s “wrong=changed” within me as I fight every moment of the day to be “happier” than my body tells me I am than to NOT know. And if you continue to study this kind of information you will recognize yourself AND most probably the reality of your abuser, as well.
It helps me to remember that for all else I need to cope with in my everyday life I will ALWAYS have a trauma altered body to cope with life with – and coping with the conditions within my trauma changed body is a life’s work all by itself!
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