Friday, April 29, 2016.  Well, it’s been nearly 24 hours since I wrote the post below.  I am not saying it’s a wise one to post live!  I’ve thought quite about the Devil’s Advocate stance much of what I put down is taking.  Do I agree with myself?

I doubt it.  Not 100%, that’s for sure!  The topic of ACEs is too new and too vast for me to comprehend!  Are any of my voiced concerns valid?  I have no idea.

What I long for is an ACEs Think Tank!

So the only real reason I am posting what I wrote last night is to preserve my own words for my own considerations at some later date.  Otherwise I will lose these thoughts.  Would losing them be preferable to posting them?  Very possibly so!

What all of this leads me to realize is that just as surviving early severe trauma is itself a paradox – in that we have survived the unsurvivable – so, too, does any serious effort to comprehend what healing AND stopping severe trauma entails is a face-on exercise in diving into such a paradox whether one can swim or not.

Are we talking about a paradox that might exist in that we are trying to consider healing WHAT CANNOT TRULY BE HEALED?  After all, altered physiological development in response to severe early trauma CANNOT all be undone – or redone – once early critical stages of body-brain development have passed.  This isn’t doleful thinking.  This is fact.

Many of us developed to endure and survive within, as Dr. Martin Teicher reports, a malevolent world and in many important ways we will NEVER truly be able to adapt to a more benign world.

Anyway – please feel free to express any response you might have to what I have written lower down in this post in a comment!  I have a LOT of questions and I claim no answers!


Thursday, April 28, 2016.  I have a dear friend I first met in 1971 when I arrived in Fargo for the first time that comes faithfully to fetch me once a week (I remain unable to drive in this city) and spends three hours helping me with errands as we visit.  Today we were fortunately able to locate an essential oil that has been recommended to me for the increasing problems I am having with anxiety especially as it is devastating my digestive system.

This is, I see tonight as I read more about it, quite the healing agent!  I had never heard of Vetimer Essential Oil before.  I believe it is already helping my (traumatized) nervous system calm down.  If this helps me, I doubt I will be without it for the rest of my life.


I have been thinking of my father’s mother lately as I struggle with ‘my stuff’.  I met her very few times in my childhood.  My mother hated her (no surprise there) and ‘made’ my father disown her and all the rest of his family.

After nearly 40 years of horrific marriage to Mother, my father divorced her and then so regretted that he had let his family go.  His father and only brother had died of alcoholism by that time and his sister was dying of it.  His mother and father were long dead – and it was all these years later that my dad finally grieved.

We have known always that there were “sensitives” on Mother’s side of the family; one of my brothers believes all the way back to Druids.  Yet I am remembering that after his divorce Dad came to visit me and among the things he told me was the fact that, as he put it, “My mother never left the house unless she HAD to shop for food.”

I have since thought (he told me this in 1985) that his mother was probably depressed.  This week it has struck me that, yes, she may well have been depressed but it is also very possible she suffered from anxiety and “tummy problems” herself.  This is AWFUL (IBS) to cope with – and to live with – if one ever wants to leave home!

This train of thinking has led me to understand that the super sensitive nature of my existence has very probably come from BOTH sides of my family tree!  Yes, I would no doubt have had this super sensitive nature even if I had been provided with a civilized adequate infancy and childhood.

Given the fact that my experience was HELL for the first 18 years of my life, leading to all kinds of trauma altered changes to my developing physiology, my super sensitive DNA has taken epigenetic detours into problemville.

Making this two-sides-of-the-family connection seems important to me.  One of my sisters has the only pictures of my paternal grandmother.  I am going to ask her to scan them for me.  SOON!


Now, I want to mention again the book — The ACEs Revolution!: The Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (Jan 25, 2016) by John Richard Trayser.

Because there is little ease about my life right now I cannot actually dive in and devour the text of this book.  However, I can chip away at it bit by bit.

I am not intending to TRASH the author or his book.  But I AM going to note my reactions which are entirely valid (and important) TO ME!

On page 6 of the book’s introduction, after a brief description of the CDC ACE study and its findings, the author moves on to “The Impact of ACEs” where he writes words that are NOT comforting to me as an informed severe early trauma survivor.  I cannot say I DISAGREE with what Trayser is saying.  But neither can I ignore that very familiar sort of twinge-within that always acts as a warning signal to alert me to the very strong possibility that there is a HUGE part of MY reality missing in this author’s perspective – and therefore it will be missing in connection to most other early severe abuse and neglect trauma survivors.

This is a very subtle kind of detection system within.  It began for me a decade ago when I was reading books written by Dr. Alan N. Schore and others who – at the end of very few chapters – now and then referred to ABUSED and TERRORIZED infants within the Disorganized-Disoriented Insecure category.  Almost ALWAYS the prognosis for these victims was inevitable lifelong pathology.  (I encourage serious students of trauma altered development to read the books that will appear when you click on Schore’s name here.  They have sure gone down in price, I note!)

I came up with a very simple image that described the discrepancies I encountered:  People could have all kinds of rotten childhoods, even some pretty scary infancies (I described them as at least being “on the table”) and at least they would be given considered page-space.  But when it came to those who, like me, had lived through HELL ITSELF from birth, we fall to the floor and NOBODY sees us there.  There was barely even a mention of a possibility that true INFANT ABUSE DOES EXIST in these scientific WRITING even among the most influential of developmental neurobiologists.

Then I at least discovered Dr. Martin Teicher’s work (this article is a must read – CLICK HERE), but I STILL did not feel that he understood the totally different kind of experience a truly harmed infant-child has or the full seriousness of the physiological changes that result.  (Dr. Bruce Perry at least does!)

I in no way ever diminish anyone’s suffering!!  What I do know is that there is another level of MORE harm than most people can ever imagine.  And it is to this possibility of realness that I KNOW for a fact and also KNOW is true for many who have visited this blog that my inner caution mechanism responds when I sense in somebody’s writing that they have no real idea what this other level of reality could possibly be like.

And, even given THIS concern, beginning with what I am going to present below, I am already wondering why this author and so many others start right off with MONETARY-related social concerns rather than concerns of the heart, as I would call them.

What of the SUFFERING and BROKEN HEARTS of the children Trayser is alluding to?  Doesn’t that COME FIRST above ALL OTHER CONSIDERATIONS – that these children are being HARMED AND HURT?  They are HURTING people!!  That matters a whole lot more to me than if they are “ready to learn” for HEAVEN’S SAKE!

I bet most authors would say in their own defense, “Of course I care about their personal pain and suffering!”  Well then, SAY THAT FROM YOUR HEART!


As in:  So, you had Cherrios for breakfast!  OK.  Count that as a yes.  But did this you eat two little Os – a box of little Os – or 42 SEMIS full of little Os?  How many days, weeks, months, years did you eat (how many of) these little Os?

Degrees of harm DO matter and I am concerned they get left out of consideration within ACEs discussions as if they DO NOT matter because they cannot be easily measured statistically in ACEs research.

This is a very important and valid concern.  The more “press” ACEs get the more danger there is in inadvertently and ignorantly harming those who have already suffered the most and are most likely do so for the duration of their lifetime.  Innocently harming anyone for any reason does NOT invalidate responsibility – even when accountability is absent.

We cannot afford to depersonalize the EXPERIENCES of those with high ACE scores by ignoring the context and specificity of harm to individuals (which includes degrees of brutality, duration of threat, terror and torture, age of victim, etc.) if we wish to move forward to change the world for the better with related findings.

As this positive ACEs related work continues we cannot leave out anyone.  We must include in ALL of our thinking the worst of the worst possible scenarios we don’t WANT to imagine.  They are real.  They happen.  And COSTS MUST include all matters of HEART and not only what conveniently can be recognized by distanced minds.

Everyone matters.  EVERYONE!  Because we are all HUMAN BEINGS, not statistics to be measured, generalized about, categorized or summed up as being “ready to learn” – or as anything else.  We cannot be measured by dollar signs on any level – ever.

Now, let’s see if I stick to my own words by the time I finish including this small segment from Trayser’s book written (pages 6-7) under a subheading “Healthcare” — (The period-dot sequences in text are the author’s, not mine.)

Here is where I need to use the word REVOLUTION.  I believe the greatest possible impact for using the ACE Study to improve the lives of our entire world today lies in the Pediatric segment.  There have been some breakthroughs in this arena…but to my way of thinking…not quick enough.  And no, it’s not the ACE score of the children I am referencing, but the use of the ACE questionnaire with the parents…ALL parents!

The only way to change the direction of our society that continues to pass on dysfunction and simply throw more resources at future social services is to suck up our courage and find the understanding to give every incoming pediatric parent the ACE test.  Then and only then will we pierce the veil of shame and vulnerability that prevents us from facing the rising epidemic of lost and lonely children that are dropped off at our schools…not ready to learn because of their ACE issues.  I reference the Children’s Clinic of Portland, Oregon as the test case for the new wave of caring put into Healthcare.  Doctors Teri Pettersen and RJ Gillespie initially used ACE testing on parents and now all 37 doctors follow their regimen.  Their practice is not just about sore throats and fevers…they are there to support families!  They found that instead of feeling a sense of invasion of privacy with the parents, they found a sense of relief.  There are few parents who have a child with the sole intention of harming that child physically or emotionally.  But if that is the only childhood that you knew, who, how and where are you supposed to go for help in changing that behavior?  The caring manner that is used in this approach is the most important issue in parenting and healthcare in our country today.  I challenge every single pediatric practice to look into the success of the children’s Clinic of Portland.  There are lives in the balance today of our newborn children who are in need of proper guidance, love and support.  Once we find a way to let each child grow up comfortable in their own skin, we will find that the teachers of our country will have the opportunity to teach children who are ready to learn.

Secondarily, as the original ACE Study found, it is imperative to have a full view of the patient sitting in front of you.  Only seeing the physical person leaves a great deal of emotional data out of the picture.  I believe that every single phase of healthcare, from pediatrics to cancer to dietary counseling needs to utilize the holistic approach that the ACE Study allows.  It is no different than buying a new laptop computer, having it get a virus and expecting it to perform well.  I see in the near future that the ACEs REVOLUTION will become a standard in our world and healthcare can benefit from it in the most significant ways.  There is no denying the data is helping to treat the whole patient and not just the symptoms that get treated without knowing the whole picture of the patient’s life.


OK – where do I stand with my own thoughts now?


PLEASE take the time to read this article about the ACEs work being done at Portland’s Children’s Clinic, which includes the following:

Pediatricians screen parents for ACEs to improve health of babies

The most important question, of course, is: Has asking these questions…does having this conversation…make a difference in children’s health?

It’s too soon to have any quantifiable data, but all the pediatricians have been able to offer parents guidance and resources that the parents would not have received if the ACE questions had not been asked.”

I absolutely DO believe that the work being done at this clinic is CRITICALLY IMPORTANT!  I do not believe that this work is harming anyone.  Dare I add “Not yet?”

Good information is being offered to these parents.  How will the impact of these efforts be measured?  Is this more than a tiny drop in Dear Liza’s proverbial bucket when it comes to improving very many infants’ and children’s lives?

We have to start somewhere!

And we have to keep the dialogues completely open to include and consider every point of view.  We are redefining Quality of Life as the ACEs Study gives us new ways to look at who gets what kind of life based on the basics of ACE questions.

For the first time these kinds of discussions are going widely public.  It’s an important place we can start to widen the fields of change.


Is it the same thing to say “We have to be realistic” as it is to say “We have to face reality” when it comes to making sense of ACEs?

Take this information, for example:

How do we heal trauma suffered by Native communities?


How does ANYONE who is not a community described in this article begin to comprehend THAT reality?  How does someone such as Trayser is with ZERO ACEs begin to comprehend such a reality?

I do wonder….


I also want to draw attention to this short posting by Trayser:

The ACEs Revolution!

Which states:

My new book “The ACEs Revolution” was just published here in Nashville. It is up on CreateSpace and Amazon and is available as a Kindle as well.  Would love your opinion…

Given that there is so much about The ACE Study as science, I have focused more on the impact on ALL of our lives…even those who are ZEROs, and predominately on HOPE and what a Caring family looks like, feels like, talks about and does their children.

Without HOPE for the future…ACE scores are simply a scorecard of sadness.  My adopted 18 year old granddaughter has made this VERY PERSONAL for me.  She is a 7…but says she feels like a ZERO since my son adopted her and her brother 9 years ago.  Fact not Fate is a reality for her.

Hearing so much about resilience these days, as she and I talked about coming out of the shadows, we decided to create a website called NoACEs.CLUB. It is a very secure site where people can tell their story…and make the first step toward Resilience.  I guide students there when I speak and JohnTrayser.com gives them connections to the state of Tennessee ACE report and also a link to take the ACE test.

We posted a song I wrote for her to sing on NoACEs.CLUB…after my wife told me what they talked about at lunch one day. As a junior in High School she was trying to decide how badly she needed to be with the “cool kids” who were starting to drink and smoke.  The song is called Right is Right!  The words are something every middle school thru College student should hear.  Her voice will knock your heart for a loop…still makes me cry.  It is free.  She wants to start a club at the University of Illinois call NoACES.CLUB to reach out to those who have not found someone to care…YET. The site also has a link to take the ACE Test.  Any thoughts about that?  Would love to start NoACEs.CLUB at ALL schools so students wouldn’t feel so alone….


(There are comments to read at this link, also.)

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Here is our first book out in ebook format.  Click here to view or purchase–

Story Without Words:  How Did Child Abuse Break My Mother?

It lists for $2.99 and can be read by Amazon Prime customers without charge.  A daring book – for daring readers – about a really tough subject.

Story Without Words is a forensic biography/autobiography in which the author, Linda Danielson, explores three generations of her family history to help understand the horrific abuse she was subjected to from birth at her mother’s hands. Her mother Mildred had a psychotic break while delivering Linda, her second of six children and the only one of whom she targeted directly for abuse. The delivery culminated in Mildred being convinced that Linda had been sent by the devil to kill her, and until Linda left home at age 18 for boot camp, she was subjected to unrelenting abuse.

Story Without Words is a creative and compassionate exploration of early factors that may have contributed to Mildred’s abusive trajectory. The author seeks to give words to her experiences as a child abuse survivor; Story Without Words is unique in providing the words of the abuser and the abused in one volume. The author seeks to provide insight for others who were themselves abused, professionals who wish to learn more about the inner world of survivors, and concerned individuals who wish to help stop the storm of child abuse in our society.


Tags: adult attachment disordersadult reactive attachment disorderanxiety disorders,borderline motherborderline personality disorderbrain developmentchild abuse,depression,derealizationdisorganized disoriented insecure attachment disorder,dissociation,dissociative identity disorderempathyinfant abusePosttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),protective factorsPTSDresiliencyresiliency factorsrisk factorsshame

33 thoughts on “+IS THERE ROOM FOR AN ACEs DEBATE? (Long post)

  1. There is more to this discussion that I thought about. There are 2 properties of the nervous system that relate to this discussion. (1) The nervous tissue is unique from all other tissue in that neurons are assigned a role to represent something, much like the statement in a computer code, “let x = [some number].” The location of the neuron is probably more important than its physical properties in determining its function.

    (2) Another property of the nervous system is the way efficiency in functioning of the nervous tissue, as representative of something else (as in 1 above), is achieved–by associating all neurons with something in common. Thus, every memory is associated with one from earlier in life, when it has anything in common. Since “a” memory is, in reality, a sum of all of its parts, each of which is represented by neurons in different places in the brain, there will happen to be many associations across the memory catalog. This leads to a memory of a memory of a memory…, etc. In this way, traumatic memory only gets amplified with age, even if all we consciously remember is the fact that something bad happened. But the unconscious mind remembers all these bits and pieces.

    The efficiency comes from the unconscious connections that allow us to react physiologically extremely fast. Some may say that isn’t good for us, but it definitely contributes to our surviving when we should not. It just makes it that much harder to change course when others think we should, especially those whose mothers/fathers accepted them at birth, reducing the likelihood of accumulating ACE points. Only those with Zero points can afford to ignore the survival factor.

    There are the psychologists who claim we can re-wire the brain. That may be true, but it is clearly impossible to do if it means establishing circuits that should have been there already. At least it is impossible if we do not know what is needed to establish that circuitry to begin with, which we don’t.

    There is an “archeology” to the brain’s circuitry. It is much like trying to put in new copper wiring in an old house with aluminum core wires, and the people still live there, needing electricity to carry on life in any reasonable way. You can get by with suggesting changes to circuits established later in life, even though it generally means not pulling out the old circuitry but just developing another pathway to getting something done. It pretty much describes what the brain does anyway, block one pathway that proves to not be a good idea, and force the brain to use another one which doesn’t have such horrible consequences. Until it does, again.

    This pretty much describes the accumulation of “fixes” that defines the house of cards that falls apart as we enter our last years of life. The more emotional trauma we had earlier in life, the harder later in life will be on us (the accumulation of memories of memories of memories…). I have a theory that those who develop Alzheimers’ do so because of the traumatic “overuse” of emotional circuits. (Although there is increasing evidence of its association with the accumulation of aluminum in the brain, too).

    • Have you read Dr. Alan N. Schore’s books? I believe an Amazon.com search for those will bring up at the top his critically important ones to the discussion you are presenting. It is critically important for all of us to understand what he describes about the brain/nervous system processes especially prior to age one where attachment interactions determine WHERE neurons end up in response to the quality of those interactions.


      I would essentially state that I believe based on my so-limited comprehensions that DNA is memory. I also believe essentially that when push-comes-to-shove and hard times are upon “us” as a species that we need to stop “anthropomorphising” humans. In the very big picture we are each essentially (I guess my word of the moment) linked together. We each are representations of our species. “Nature” cares not a twit about us (at “these times”) about us as sentient, personal selves. The ultimate goal is to keep our species alive.

      ALL interactions we have in our lifetime with our environment are ultimately (another of my words-for-today!) reflections of the ENVIRONMENT, meaning the CONDITIONS of life within the environment within which humanity exists.

      It is, again ultimately AND essentially, the CONDITIONS OF OUR ENVIRONMENT as a species that MATTER! We all SPEAK of those conditions.

      Yes, we individually experience either degrees of “success or failure” by the standard of true quality of life, but life isn’t about how happy or sad any of us are individually. Because humanity is only NOW maturing, as a species, to the point where we are able to become united in all kinds of gloriously good ways (Peace on Earth, the Kingdom of God is now here on the planet with its full potential to manifest), we will increasingly be able to discriminate between what will IMPROVE the whole environment from that which is causing harm.

      What will motivate us to take the steps of growth into maturity that we are DESTINED to take? WHEN will we take these steps? How?

      The answers are available to our species now and we are moving in this direction. This is an ORGANIC process through which we will leave behind in the pile of rubble of our past that which does not serve us in the new world we are moving into.


      “But the unconscious mind remembers all these bits and pieces.” — All videos that appear using these search terms are a MUST-WATCH when it comes to MIND — “youtube dan siegel mind”

      Siegel has for the first time in human history defined what mind is!

      I do not personally ever use the term “unconscious mind” just as I do not use “dysfunctional” when it comes to human beings.

      We ARE, as Siegel describes, UNIFIED – there is no separation between mind and body. (Huge topic by itself, to be sure!)

      I think as I age (will be 65 soon) what has happened is that the construct I was able to build from my first breath about how to go on surviving in a world that did not enable me to thrive in any way and was deadly dangerous every day of the first 18 years of my life — has so changed as to now prevent me from accessing that “way of being” that worked for me for so long.

      I am ALL OF ME now – and what my body KNOWS – because “memories” ARE me – can no longer be ignored. Every day of my life now I am directly faced with the reality of the traumas that I endured and it is, for me, only through my “spiritual discipline” that I can continue living IN SPITE of what happened to me then as those traumas became a part of who I am as a human being so are — of course and inevitably — a part of who I am now.


      There are several major neuroscientists who study and write about what you are speaking of here

      “There are the psychologists who claim we can re-wire the brain. That may be true, but it is clearly impossible to do if it means establishing circuits that should have been there already. At least it is impossible if we do not know what is needed to establish that circuitry to begin with, which we don’t.”

      Schore’s books remove any fantasy that the brain can be FUNDAMENTALLY rewired – another huge topic! I think we do live in a kind of Disney-inspired world in America that still does believe in magic. Magical thinking is really my essential definition of denial.

      Truth is available – but as truths matter in weighty ways — they are not understandable through handy “sound bites” (which have degenerated into flippant flea-bites in much social media exchanges).

      We have to actually put for effort as a species, WORK to learn so we can understand the TRUTH about important aspects of being alive. Are we a lazy species? Perhaps so. I think humans like to be lulled, placated, at the same time we DO wish to be hopeful. We are tempted to grab at things that taste good and things that SOUND GOOD! This, too, is part of our maturing process as a species.

      (Dr. Martin Teicher also describes critical parts of our development that can not be done over!!)


      Interestingly to me, I DO agree with this: “unconscious connections” — I believe in it, I suspect, by default in a way because I believe in the reality of CONSCIOUSNESS — a precious gift our species has been given. CONSCIOUSNESS exists = it is real. UNCONSCIOUSNESS exists “as the absence of consciousness” in the same way that darkness (and evil) exist “only” as the absence of light and goodness – which ARE real. Disease exists as the absence of health.

      For a consideration of this subject I ponder this:

      Some Answered Questions
      On Good and Evil
      ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá / 74. On Good and Evil



      We need to develop the research tools to do this – and I can see no way to begin to move in this direction without using, as I mentioned, some scale/questionnaire proven to reflect degrees of safe/unsafe and secure attachment:

      “I think when we really examine the effects of very early child maltreatment, compare them to effects from later child maltreatment, and then to the zero ACE scorers, we will see a continuum, where the bad effects of part-time parenting will become obvious.”


      Regarding your last 2 paragraphs here, I agree with you absolutely! The picture is certainly not of doom – but we need the TRUTH, the right information about the WHOLE picture across the lifespan. I do believe there are many people in many cultures in many nations other than America who are FAR FAR ahead of us in creating and sustaining healthy humans. I do believe that the “archaeology” of our physical patterns cannot be ignored. Those patterns are a part of who we are as a species. We cannot, through any stubborn refusal to accept the truth about “what works and what does not work” just because we might rather BE machines than organic beings! (A topic that is very interesting in light of the rise in autism.)

      • You gave an extremely thoughtful response, and I am grateful for it. I have read Allen Schore’s papers, along with Dan Siegel’s and Martin Teicher’s. Yes, there is research showing that those earliest years are the most difficult to make up for later in life. I do not think they are impossible. However, we have to re-think what the triggers are for the development that does occur during those years. The key to “making up” for the absence of baseline circuitry lies there. Researchers have not gotten there yet, but there are some who are beginning to understand the incredible detail we have to look for, e.g. when do people blink, look away, re-connect to the eyes of someone with whom they are speaking. All of these signals are important for others to recognize that we are engaged with them. They only become part of our body language when we have the chance to engage with a parent who is interested in us from day 1. Not everyone who lacks these cues ends up completely unattached to anyone later in life, but that attachment is not capable of what one can do if they had those cues (among others not built into their repertoire).

        Schore & Teicher, and others are extremely convincing that changing the baseline circuitry in the brain is unlikely, but I think it is only because we do not fully understand how it is established. Since it occurs during the first three years after birth, when the most critical steps toward socialization occur, when parental involvement is so important, it stands to reason that it is far easier to study than what happens before birth. We use possums for the latter because most of in utero brain development in mammals, occurs “in pouch” in possums.

        There is so much new stuff out about DNA that I do not think of DNA as memory. It is just a blueprint. Because the sampling of DNA is fraught with problems (much research is based upon cheek swabs when those cells in particular are susceptible to mutation by toxins) that it is difficult to tell what research is based on good sampling. Then there is the new stuff on epigenetics, which many people equate with anything that happens outside of the cell. Environment is always the ultimate determination of what a gene does because it supplies the trigger for turning on and off a gene. Sometimes it is difficult NOT to trigger a gene because we can’t control the environment that well. But the meaning of epigenetics is still restricted to chemical reactions involving methylation of DNA, activity of histones and non-coding RNA. Period. And much of epigenetics research has to prove that effects are transferrable from one generation to more than two or three of the next generations (because of stripping of epigenetic influences during two windows of development). And we also have to remember that an epigenetic propensity doesn’t make the change permanent. It may just make it harder to change. If that stripping is “inefficient” as some claim, it may not stay “inefficient” in later generations.

        I, too, like Dan Siegel, think that mind and body are truly intertwined. But he does think that present-day methods of therapy can help even those people who suffered early childhood trauma from birth. I disagree, since most psychotherapists cannot determine if their patient suffered that kind of trauma because most people cannot remember those years.

        However, I strongly suspect that human development of language has undermined the connection between conscious and unconscious brain (the mind and body), because we appear to depend upon language so much that it often makes us less “mindful” of what our unconscious brain does. That unconscious part of the brain is what people have called “instinct” for too long. Our conscious brain analyzes things differently from the unconscious brain, for many reasons. That makes it difficult to understand what unconscious thoughts mean, but not impossible. Other vertebrates have that integration and so can respond very quickly to danger, when we usually cannot without processing something cognitively.

  2. You are so right about how the ACE score does not really measure all the effects of early childhood trauma. There is a reason why it is so difficult to treat. All the therapists using various techniques to help those who were traumatized in childhood do not recognize how different those kids who were abused before the age of 3 are from those who were not.

    There is a reason why the period of most extensive development of the brain happens after birth and not before. Humans rely so heavily on a social world that kids under 3 who are abandoned die rather than survive. The extensive brain development during that time happens to coincide with a period when a baby needs to interact with its parent the most. It stands to reason that the interaction is as important to brain development as having been born. Those pathways formed during the first 3 years of life are those we need to interact with other humans.

    In fact, the circuits developed during that time help to form “step one” in life, whenever we have to make a decision about anything. The problem with those with low or zero ACE scores, the ones without early childhood trauma, the ones who were accepted by a parent at birth, is that they cannot imagine what that “step one” is. They think “step one” occurs at some other point in the processing chain. So they keep thinking that those who just can’t get “started” need some other help when they actually need the baseline for making decisions. I describe the dilemma in my blog post, “Special Case of Type I PTSD–Rejected Children” at http://marthalhyde.wordpress.com/2011/04/23/special-case-of-type-i-ptsd-rejected-children/ in the section, “What Rejected Children Feel”.

    • In responding briefly right now to your so-welcome comment I will say that I have learned in these past months that there is an entirely different level of potential for damage in thinking that “to age 3” is the magical segment of early life that significantly determines “output” in quality of life for a lifespan.

      Reading your comment here brought my thinking about this post-age-3 into clearer focus. Perhaps it is not as specifically neurobiological developmental trajectories that are set off so harmfully into trauma altered directions post-3 when a little one is signaled by primary caregivers that they are not wanted — and I am writing directly about 10-11 hour 5-days a week abandonment in large daycares of these little ones (never mind what happens to these precious little ones if they are abandoned into these conditions at birth which is VERY often the usual case in America) — but pre-age-3 the neurobiology of self CAN be well established – BUT if then at age 3 thrown to the “wolves” such a little person is greatly harmed in their ability to develop a strong RELATIONSHIP with their own very young, fragile, as yet not strongly developed self.

      FORMING a self in close and loving intimate attachment relationships pre-age-3 is necessary in all the ways we understand the developmental needs and processes 0-3. But what good, HONESTLY, is BEING a self if nobody assists a little person to KNOW and love and relate to and from this self?

      Yet my immediate response to this of your comments is that THESE terrible problems may well end up showing as PSYCHOLOGICAL difficulties in significant ways across the lifespan and MAY STILL EXIST no matter how adequate the attachment/developmental processes were prior to age 3.

      I continue to believe that in America the half-day kindergarten at age 5 was AT MINIMUM what a securely attached child “could handle” without suffering serious developmental harm.

      Is psychological damage “as bad” as neurobiological developmental trajectorial (!!) harm is through abaondonment (obvious or not) to a little one birth-3?

      I would ask, “What the HELL is wrong with us that we could, as members of our glorious-potential species, make such a MESS of our job of bringing offspring up in this world?”

      I am talking about NEGLECT, I suppose – when it comes to mothers bringing babies into the world who know they are going to abandon their offspring into the care of strangers from or very close to birth. Such socially condoned harm to our offspring is RAMPANT (and often encouraged in our materialistic madness), and yes, I do fear that grabbing “the ACEs info” and running with it as if this will solve our “social problems” – is, well, WRONG! And if we have, as a society, totally lost our ability to separate right from wrong — then WHAT?

      (I will be reading your post at link you included later today – and thank you!)

      • You and I are in complete agreement about the effect of handing one’s child over to strangers for large amounts of time. People who say that “quality time” is better than “quantity time” are greatly disillusioned. I have figured out that often, to develop the right circuitry in the brain, “quantity” is more important than “quality.” The number of times your mother responds to your cries, early in infancy, may well determine whether or not a center for a specific function ever develops (I take that conclusion from understanding how a computer program works in artificial intelligence. It is no accident that our brains came up with the concept of computer programming). When I discovered that, I could direct my dreams better to start the process of making some of those long-missing baseline circuits. (I think dreams are a way to test circuits that have been repaired in earlier stages of sleep).

        I think when we really examine the effects of very early child maltreatment, compare them to effects from later child maltreatment, and then to the zero ACE scorers, we will see a continuum, where the bad effects of part-time parenting will become obvious.

        In fact, in thinking about how heros are made, I realized that the “heros” (broadly defined as extremely successful people who are completely comfortable with themselves, can draw up the self-esteem whenever needed to handle things in enormously admirable ways) probably had mothers who so wanted them at birth, that the mothers often anticipated their needs long before the child was ever aware of them. The mothers would show up at the cribside, knowing when their babies awoke before the first signs, knowing when the baby was going to pee before the baby would do so (making toilet training incredibly easy), would know before the baby was even aware of being hungry, ready with food, bottle or breast before the initial whimpers. How many mothers today have the luxury of being able to anticipate their baby’s needs like that? With the advent of “social” media (which seems to be the epitomy of “asocial” because it lacks face-to-face and voice communication), the problem with lack of social development will only get worse in the next generation.

        • YES! My dear friend Sandy says the need is to “invite them (the little ones) to exist in our presence”

          This is what I simply call the INTIMACY of safe and secure attachment and YES it HAS to exist OVER TIME!!!!! And I now know clearly that when a little one turns 3 and THEN is put into a “day orphanage” so MUCH will still be missing in them – existing as an powerful ABSENCE (yes, abandonment) – a loss of completion of that very early attachment growth/development process that MUST happen before the age of 5 (at which time needs then change)


          I watched an online video a couple of years ago on the TWO stages of dreaming – wish I knew what that was called. I came away with a new basic awareness – as I tend to simplify things so I can then chew them over and integrate them — that one stage is to integrate our experiences of the day – and the other is basically to rehearse for the future. The fast paced and so “un-grounded artificial” life so many in America lead is greatly harming the essential health of sleep and dreaming.


          I have sideline currents of thought (that are dormant right now in my life) about how to make assessment tools for measuring/assessing adult insecure/secure attachment available.

          The long interview is unwieldly at best — last year I did track down one short questionnaire online that seemed hopeful. I will get back to these thoughts eventually, I hope. I think there is great potential in being able to give such a scale along with basic ACEs one.

          In many cases the ACE scale is down to 8 questions – I think Laura Porter speaks of that — because neglect is too hard to nail down. Problems here, as well — and the daycare mess is NEGLECT — communicating to young body/brain that resources are scarce (always true when mothering is less than perfect, or less than good enough) — which then IS a malevolent world — even by degrees to which epigentic and other developmental processes on profoundly deep levels with adjust to = trauma altered development


          “mothers often anticipated their needs long before the child was ever aware of them.” — education, sadly, really, is going to need to be re-injected into our materialistic society to rectify so much of what is going wrong now that NEED NOT HAPPEN. In “the old days” diseases, for example, wiped out families – it’s a different kind of disease doing so now….

          Such mothering you are describing takes focused attention over TIME, as you mention. It takes putting the needs of little ones first and foremost – and, yes, it might require – and often does – sacrifices on the part of MOTHERS – (not saying fathers are not involved, another topic) — all very complex with issues so intertwined!! But ignoring problems does not make them nonexistent.

          • The discussion has to occur in many venues, but it may finally be so possible today. We will just have to wait and see. Since men are becoming involved in the very early years of infancy in increasing numbers, this discussion may well catch fire in the broader population. This next generation wants the truth badly. They want transparency. And they care about even complex topics such as what we discuss here (despite what our present day election has produced in some cases).

            • My daughter is approaching formation of her doctorate dissertation topic and procedures and I am doing everything in my power to encourage her to design a study using a valid adult attachment measurement scale and the ACE questionnaire (some validity concerns in some circles suggest a variance on 10 questions….). I need to go hunting adult attachment scales for her.

              I think the power of ACEs will be enhanced greatly if it can be connected solidly to attachment theory and research.


              Just a mention – I often consider the uniqueness of my own early history of trauma and abuse in that I know what happened to me — no, not every detail but certainly enough to know it began with my first breath, was extreme and unremitting for 18 years. This gives me plenty of opportunity to consider a range of possibilities that few can really imagine.

              Meanwhile this is the first glorious day we have had here since September – I am heading back out there!

              I so appreciate every word you have written – thank you! Much to ponder – and to anticipate as time moves forward!

              • I appreciate where you are coming from. I had to use extraordinary techniques to figure out what happened, and when I did, I was amazed at how so many pieces of the puzzle fell into place. The only thing I remembered before discovering these techniques was that when in my teens I figured out that earlier in my life I was extremely unhappy. When I went away to college, I discovered that others did not treat me as badly as my own family did and went into deep depression. I knew I would have to return to that family in the future.

                The answers I got with these techniques even made sense of what I saw others do in the past that stuck in my mind, no matter how minor that behavior was (e.g. my mother deliberately making a move to step onto a baby doll, how she hid the fact that she was listening to me talk to my younger siblings and their friends by “cleaning up” the front porch. How the words “kicking herself” came to mind just as this memory came to my awareness). I suddenly could reinterpret what I saw in a very different light, and even more was understood. How I was so right when I asked my mother about my sister who was a year older than me, because I had come to the conclusion that something very bad happened to her at a very young age, based upon her difficulty in interpreting the behaviors she saw in others. My mother said that nothing had happened. She was not ever going to tell me about it, her behavior was so shameful. It finally explained to me why my siblings never considered me part of the family, why they would attack me over anything I said. They had learned to do it to me from my mother when they were young. Even though she changed her mind about me later, it was too late. She could not change their minds without revealing what she had done.

                The power of a mother over her children is truly great (despite the total powerlessness they have over their own bodies in many states). Ask the many men who divorced, only to lose touch with their own children, despite many attempts to keep in contact. When you grow up with only one side of the story, you can hold it with such ferocity that it is impossible to negate any details of it without causing real mental trauma. It is normal to resist that risk, even to the detriment of others.

                • In my case the bizarre twist of fate that I would end up with all my mother’s letters after here death completely confirmed what I knew I knew. In beginning my adult attachment scale hunt, came across this scale


                  The Adult Attachment Scale (AAS) was officially developed in 1990 but built on the earlier work of Hazen & Shaver (1987) and Levy & Davis (1988). The scale was developed by decomposing the original three prototypical descriptions (Hazen & Shaver, 1987) into a series of 18 items.

                  The scale consists of 18 items scored on a 5 point likert-type scale. It measures adult attachment styles named “Secure”, “Anxious” and “Avoidant”, defined as:

                  • Secure = high scores on Close and Depend subscales, low score on Anxiety subscale
                  • Anxious = high score on Anxiety subscale, moderate scores on Close and Depend subscales
                  • Avoidant = low scores on Close, Depend, and Anxiety subscales

                  The 18 items that compromise the measure are as follows:

                  I find it difficult to allow myself to depend on others (Av)
                  People are never there when you need them (Av)
                  I am comfortable depending on others (S)
                  I know that others will be there when I need them (S)
                  I find it difficult to trust others completely (Av)
                  I am not sure that I can always depend on others to be there when I need them (Ax)
                  I do not often worry about being abandoned (S)
                  I often worry that my partner does not really love me (Ax)
                  I find others are reluctant to get as close as I would like (Ax)
                  I often worry my partner will not want to stay with me (Ax)
                  I want to merge completely with another person (Ax)
                  My desire to merge sometimes scares people away (Ax)
                  I find it relatively easy to get close to others (S)
                  I do not often worry about someone getting close to me (S)
                  I am somewhat uncomfortable being close to others (Av)
                  I am nervous when anyone gets too close (Av)
                  I am comfortable having others depend on me (S)
                  Often, love partners want me to be more intimate than I feel comfortable being (Av)
                  Note: (S)= Secure, (Av)= Avoidant, (Ax)= Anxious/Ambivalent

                  • Fascinating! I am sure that there needs to be a combination of attachment scales with ACE scores, but I strongly suspect that will not be enough. There are some nitty gritty details not being addressed by either. It would be great if your daughter were to figure out something that most of us who suffered so badly could not.

                    • Just beginning to think again about these things sure leaves me with SO MANY questions!! Infant abuse and neglect, child abuse and neglect, “child maltreatment” – there are now thousands of articles written about the consequences of these malevolent treatments – and then comes ACEs which I fear might do nothing more than obliterate the realities of the most harmful impacts – which are what? Now boiled down into one ACE question? Might this all end up making such a mess of things that it’s no better than an oil slick obliterating the surface of the water?

                      I need – when it’s time – to go all the way back to the beginning of ACEs to read from the first published word what this “movement” started out to express.

                      It became very obvious to me immediately scanning around online last evening that “attachment relationship” is now being used interchangeably with “social support.” This makes me SHUDDER!!!

                      There is so much work to be done, but work for the sake of best intentions will not create clarity of thought or even support logical thinking about horrific problems underlying the lifelong misery of so many.

                    • Can you think of a single question for a scale that would allow you to mark YES in consideration of your 0-3 experience as it would screen out those who would have to answer NO?

                    • Yes, did your mother try to kill you during those years? However, most of us will never know that. Most people would not be able to remember anything, happy or sad from those years. Just 8 years ago, a chiropractor found that the neural spine to C3 was not attached to the vertebral body. He was the first one (of around 3 I had visited) to notice it. It explained the sensitivity I had in the area when I pressed there (tingling in the neck and shoulders). But I certainly did not catch the significance at all back then, before I had developed my skills in mindfulness and muscle reflex/response testing. However, when the memory of my mother strangling me as a baby on day two of my life came to me five years later, it vividly explained the lack of fusion. I had no visual memory, but I had a very strong response when my little brother slipped a rope over my neck and started to pull. I was 10 and he was 7. I freaked out and he really was apologetic, not realizing how potent the trigger to that baby memory was, long before I was able to find out about it, or even recognize its significance.

                      In a recent NPR newscast, I heard one author say she remembered the feel of the bottle on her lips from babyood when she watched her son suckling. I suspect anyone would have to be particularly mindful about things to recognize that the fleeting image, feel, sound or sight that comes to mind is from babyhood.

                    • The special psychotic nature of Mother’s mental illness meant she HAD to keep me alive. My book Story Without Words explains this. However I know for a fact that I learned to “participate” in beatings to protect myself the best I could from death and broken bones. I believe ultimately it was not my destiny to deny. Therefore, I didn’t.

                      The body remembers EVERYTHING. It is who we are!!

                      I am so sorry for your suffering!!!! I had a lot of thoughts today about healing – just not the time to write them!

                    • People have written to me of their stories. Some were the only ones in their families to be rejected. One had an older brother who constantly tried to protect her, so not all families respond as mind did. Others told of how all the kids were rejected. When that happens, they tend to band together and offer some support to each other. So the outcome of rejection will be different, if only in degrees.

                    • I would always wonder in how many of these situations could a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder be made. I have written over the years of aspects of that disorder as it relates basically to annihilation or the deep urge to do so – triggered somewhere/somehow by some kind of an assessment/perception of scarcity of resources in a malevolent world

                    • Have you ever read this play?

                      Medea (Ancient Greek: Μήδεια, Mēdeia) is an ancient Greek tragedy written by Euripides, based upon the myth of Jason and Medea and first produced in 431 BCE. The plot centers on the actions of Medea, a former princess of the “barbarian” kingdom of Colchis, and the wife of Jason; she finds her position in the Greek world threatened as Jason leaves her for a Greek princess of Corinth. Medea takes vengeance on Jason by killing Jason’s new wife as well as her own children with him, after which she escapes to Athens to start a new life.


                      read here

                      Click to access EuripidesMedeaLuschnig.pdf


                      This is, to me, an example of the “Borderline Mother” as a kind of prototype or archetype re: destroy her children. For whatever the “obvious” reasons might seem to be, I look at this as a kind of desperate response in times of scarce resources to survival.

                      When (“ancient”) times were toughest – mothers needed to survive so that they could immediately reproduce more offspring when times got better. It would, under harshest of circumstances, take too long to raise up children to accomplish this reproduction.

                      This is an example of a kind of logic, to me, that does not anthropomorphize humans. It’s a kind of biological common sense. In today’s lingo “epigenetics” might be intertwined with how “this” could happen – mothers destroying their children — even in cases where the destruction is “psychological” rather than actual physical murder.

                      We used to talk about these things as genotype and phenotype – the later no doubt being under epigenetic influence in many cases.

                    • I read Medea in high school, so the story brings back memories. I talk about the biological imperative in one of my blog posts (https://marthalhyde.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/the-four-pillars-of-support-affect-mothers-decisions/ ), where the woman decides if it is worthwhile to continue a pregnancy if she lacks the resources. With 60% of all households being headed by a single woman, it is quite obvious that the biological imperative belongs as a choice for the woman.

                    • In rock bottom cases as I am mentioning I do not so much hold these destructive mothers responsible as I do members of the social “village” within which these women procreate and destroy. This was part of my motivation for writing this blog in an effort to educate not only the survivors of insecure attachment and early severe trauma but also to inform members of “the public-audience” (as in a play, such as Medea where these patterns are made obvious – not even the father responded to the clear destruction that was inevitably going to kill those children….) who NEED TO KNOW when to help a suffering child and how.

                    • only book I recommend personally on Borderline is

                      Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder Paperback – January 2, 2010
                      by Paul Mason MS (Author), Randi Kreger (Author)

                    • I attended therapy of one kind or another for the decade of the 80s. The closest any therapist came to nailing what was wrong with Mother was one who told me to read People of the Lie by by M. Scott Peck as it talks about evil.

                      NOBODY ever even suggested to me that Mother was mentally ill, let alone that she was severely mentally ill – and while the diagnostic category of Borderline was not in existence while I was growing up SOMEBODY needed to tell me she was that sick.

                      It was only 4 years ago that it became clear to me, through my own studies, that Mother was PSYCHOTIC. Roughly 35%-50% of Borderlines are psychotic. I suspect your mother is/was of this category.

                    • Boy, do I agree. No one wanted to blame the mother because, at that time, in many states, the children were always property of the father, and everyone was aware of the powerlessness of the mother over her own body. I am not sure my mother was psychotic, since she was a threat to my existence, and also possibly, to my brother’s existence. It is difficult to say, since she did not display this behavior when I was a teenager, nor to any of the younger children. There was something going on, no doubt, but she did not display a borderline personality later when she still had young children to take care of. I am picking up memories of her trying to kill my younger brother, and abortion was a very tough topic in my family, since my father was a very firm Catholic. However, I am not getting any memories suggesting that she was as bad toward my brother as she was toward me. He clearly shows the effects of that treatment, though.

                    • Trying to murder one’s children is a serious sign of mental illness, but only occurring at very early childhood may be different from constantly trying to do so throughout the life of the child is another. I had a letter from one person whose mother taught the other kids to also try to murder her, even after she got married and had kids of her own. The terror she felt was from real circumstances and not just from memories of memories of memories…

                    • Maybe like “Do you have any indication that you often felt scared, alone and/or unwanted before the age of 4?”

                      I would say “indication” rather than memory because we can certainly garner than sense thru other means as we get older.

                      I say “age of 4” because it covers the whole year of being 3.

                    • As I had said before, when I was around 10, and later when a teenager, I remembered that I was extremely unhappy, earlier in life, and often attributed it to how my older sisters treated me. That was an “indication,” certainly, and not a real memory. Most of my life I had felt that all families did this to each other. It was only when I was able to grab those images/sensations that came to me, and as a result of questioning with MRT, that a full memory of those years came to me. Yes, from those retrieved memories, I could answer that I was left behind many times as an infant, toddler, juvenile, pre-teen, and teenager, alone in a dark house (I had to find them all to disconnect the panic attacks from them, thus stopping the toxins inside my bones from coming out before they were diluted enough). When I was 4 I could not reach the switches to turn on, so when I awoke from a nap one day, and discovered no one was in the house at all, I was extremely frightened. I walked up and down the stairs to all flights of the house, in the dark, repeatedly, just trying to find someone. I checked beds to see if they all had gone to sleep. Then I went to the front bay windows, pulled up a chair and looked out to see if there was our car parked there. I did the same to see if anyone was in the back yard. Mom always acted surprised to see me when they came home, but the siblings just walked past me as if to say, “same as usual.” No wonder they felt I was the interloper and did not belong with them!

                    • Someone SHOULD HAVE HELPED YOU!! I hold those someones responsible – but ultimately, in my universe, it is God and not I Who manages those aspects of life.

        • Mothering = a PERSONAL investment of LIFE – that kind of sharing and caring – “professional” daycare providers will NEVER be able to replace optimal mothering. If “we” are fine with substandard – and therefore inadequate in so many critically important ways — then we need to ADMIT it!

          • Totally in agreement with you there. Our society doesn’t seem to value it that much, but that lack of value may be more because it has been the job of women for so long.

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