Chapter 34

Survival choice

Time link to self – consciousness, time and the self


I believe that I was able to create private sanctuaries in my mind.  One example is that of the paper dolls I made for myself during class time when I was in the seventh grade.

School was always a sanctuary for me.  In seventh grade, when I was bored, I drew a collection of paper dolls and cut them out carefully.  Their sanctuary was within the pages of my schoolbooks.  I don’t remember if I had anything other than lined notebook paper to make them from, or if I had colored pencils or crayons.  I evidently had scissors at my disposal.

I made the dolls wigs so that I could change their hairstyles.  I made them detailed and ornate outfits.  I went to the library and found books with pictures of costumes from the old royal days, and made little dresses that were long, full of folds and gathers and lace.  I used lots of bright colors and entertained myself for hours.  Nobody ever noticed and I showed them to nobody.

But they were “mine.”  Yet I never “pretended” anything with them.  I never imagined a context for them, or created any kind of a “place or time” for them.  They were just two-dimensional images that lived nowhere and did nothing.  We had been given paper dolls when we were children.  Like the little sewing cards we used to have, with the tiny holes punched around the edges of pictures that we sewed the colored yarn in and out and around.  Yarn with tiny plastic ends on them like you would find on shoe laces.

This was a sort of entertainment I created for myself.  It passed time, though I had no conscious connection to either the product or the process of making this complex assortment of little figures of my limited imagination.


I liked school.  It offered a place of comfort and solace to me.  My brain had potential.  My mind did not belong to me, so I did not use it.  Not that I can yet recollect.  My brain could accumulate facts about information.  But these facts had no personal meaning to me.

I was numb inside, as far as I can tell as I look back.  I am looking for, searching for, seeking for any tiny sparks of my SELF that might have glimmered in that darkened period of my life – birth to 18.  I believe that my mother also had tiny sparks and glimmers of her SELF during her childhood.  But where those sparks settled, and where they caught fire, were to remain within the realm of fantasy and imagination fostered by a childhood enveloped in stories, nursery rhymes and fairy tales.

I think that my mother and I shared this barren landscape of a childhood without interactions with other people that come to ground a child’s ability to see the world as a “magical” place with the world of facts and genuine experience.  I remember well the day I took my little bag of marbles out of the log house in Alaska shortly after my sixth birthday, and took them to that “magic” spot of soft damp moss and buried them in a hole in the rich soil among the gnarled roots of a decaying stump in the yard.  I was “pretending” they were my treasure.  In my alone world, not in the context of any story that I had evolved.  They were just mine, they were just a treasure, they were just pretty and special and beautiful.  They were just precious to me, and I had found a place for them.

I have never forgotten this event, not in the almost 50 years that have passed since I hid those marbles away and then had to suffer the consequences for that “game” I played alone.  Did I correspondingly have to hide away my SELF?  Not consciously, certainly, but did that happen?  How otherwise could I have survived her?  And did I do so with anything close to intactness?

Until my mother discovered that I had taken them and demanded to know what I had done with them.  She screamed and raged at me, dragging me across the yard by the hair, “What a selfish, selfish child you are!  Hiding your marbles so your brother and sisters can’t play with them!  Burying them like the selfish miser you are, you horrible child!  You don’t want to share them!  You want to hide them away like a dog would hide its bone!  I hate you, you evil child!”  She dug them all out of their little sanctuary and took them all away from me.

  1. At least not if she could ever discern or discover that it existed.

Yet I could run through the birch woods behind the log house.  There were times I could do that by myself.  When somehow I got out of the house, and out of her sight.  She used to say that, “I can’t ever even let you out of my sight!”  That statement being paired with, “Get out of my sight!  I can’t stand the sight of you!”

How can a small child ever come to delight in her SELF, or to develop a SELF if nobody ever delights in her first?  When a negative value is placed on every aspect of the child.  The child doesn’t just magically separate herself from that dark suspiciousness, that dark implication with evil, and suddenly wake up one day to say, “Gee!  Here I am with this life of my own, and both my SELF and this LIFE are a good thing!  What can I do with either or both of them that will delight me today?”


I was a silent, morose and dismal little child.  Anything like cheerfulness or spontaneity was beaten out of me from birth.  I know that somewhere there are my report cards that came from school with little notes on the back where the teacher reported to my parents that I whispered in class.  So after I had been beaten, terrorized and punished my parents could write little notes back to the teacher and tell her that the “problem with Linda” had been taken care of, and that she had promised to be “good” now.  My sister remembers that mother would march into the principal’s office when I was in grade school and deliver a wooden paddle with admonishments that they could use it to keep me in line because I was so much trouble to handle and was such a bad child.  That the school never used it doesn’t matter.  That they never questioned such behavior on the part of a parent certainly does.


I remember the day I walked down the driveway at the log house and met the neighbor boy from across the highway coming down it.  I had little petal pushers on.  He told me he would give me a nickel if I showed him my belly button.  I did and he did.  But mother was watching me from the kitchen window, and then and for years after I was beaten for pulling my pants down in front of that boy.  Which I didn’t.  But it didn’t matter.

My reality never mattered.  Her distortions of all reality having to do with me are the only thing that mattered.  I could never PROVE anything to her.  I could not summon any proof, or ever any witnesses to testify on my behalf for anything that ever happened – or happened differently than my mother made things out to be.

My world was a world of distortion.  Everything that had to do with me was distorted by my mother.  There was no external focus or interruption or interference with her reality.  Nobody “dared.”  My grandmother, prior to the move to Alaska, had at least been able to intervene on occasion with mother’s perceptions about me.  Mother took care of that by hauling us all thousands of miles away from grandmother.

Once we were in Alaska, the circle of mother’s reality closed around me like a noose tightened around my throat.  One end of the rope was there to choke the life right out of me, and the other end was used by her to beat me into line and into constant submission.  Suffocate and strangle me.  I had no right to be alive.

Submission.  She intercepted me at every possible turn.  She intercepted the blossoming of my SELF.  On some small level, I had to hide any part of ME that was to become ME from her.  Like I couldn’t do the day she beat me for the fox.  She watched me so closely for any manifestation of a SELF.  She intercepted the growth of my mind by controlling the growth first of my brain itself.

She took away from me some part of the gift of the ability to wonder.  Or did I “split” it somehow, or only be able to experience certain aspects of it?  Is the ability to wonder one of the gifts of being human, tied directly to the drive or ability to seek with curiosity what is novel and new in our environments around us?  Is this a gift that I somehow not only retained, but specifically honed?  And certainly BEING IN Alaska fostered this for me, or allowed me to keep it alive.  But I did not CONSCIOUSLY wonder in any active way.  It was like an experience of awe.  I did have the ability to MARVEL at beauty.  (Did I hone some inner ability to sense “essences” of things?)

WONDER (bef. 12c)

[ME, fr. OE wunder; akin to OHG wuntar wonder]


1 a: a cause of astonishment or admiration:  MARVEL  b: MIRACLE

2: the quality of exciting amazed admiration

3 a: rapt attention or astonishment at something awesomely mysterious or new to one’s experience  b: a feeling of doubt or uncertainty


1 a: to be in a state of wonder  b:  to feel surprise

2: to feel curiosity or doubt


: to be curious or in doubt about


: WONDROUS, WONDERFUL:  as  a: exciting amazement or admiration  b: effective or efficient far beyond anything previously known or anticipated


1: an imaginary place of delicate beauty or magical charm

2: a place that excites admiration or wonder


: that is to be marveled at:  EXTRAORDINARY

Alaska was a wonderland.  That was a fact like the sun coming up and going down.  A fact like the fact that it snowed in the wintertime.  It was a fact EVERYONE knew.  I am not at all sure that had we stayed in Los Angeles that I would have retained my love of beauty or my ability to wonder with it.

It was maybe more of an ability to WONDER WITH than to WONDER AT.  Maybe tied to the feeling of surprise that I had every time she hauled her hand back and slapped me across the face.  Which she did a thousand times.  A thousand times she beat me, a thousand times she “took me by surprise.”

And today I wonder about this!  It is like some sort of clue to me about something important.  Like a road sign marking the way in my searching.

Curiosity and doubt are not the same thing to me.


If I have honed the ability to determine essences, then I am applying it with the discriminations I am doing with the word attachment.  I want to become and be perfectly clear on this.

The process of development is so that we reach the goal of becoming our SELF.  This is belonging.  We belong to and with our SELF so that we can join the human race, belong to and with the human race – belong to and with our species.

We are designed to use human interactions to build our brains and therefore our minds toward this end result.  We are therefore biologically driven to SEEK that which we NEED.  We seek belonging and we seek our SELF.  The self is the invisible body we will use to “get around” during our life.  It is the vehicle we must have to negotiate a lifetime with our species and with our environment.

It is a process as natural and necessary as breathing, drinking liquids, consuming food.  We USE attachment to fulfill this need like we use getting a drink of water to quench our thirst.

It is a way to access resources.

Just like going to the sink with a glass, filling it with water, and drinking it.

How to make this analogy or this metaphor perfectly clear?  So it clicks within me?  When it clicks, I will know I HAVE IT!  I have to find the correct and exact words and put them in the correct and exact order to “give birth and form” to what I need to know.  And when I do I will then know what I know about this, because it is ESSENTIAL!


This is an essential but invisible process that parallels essential physical processes that we MUST have to be alive as human beings.

Over and over again, like a rehearsal to learn a complete new song.  A new thought.

Go to the sink with a glass, fill it with water, and drink it.

We don’t even need the glass, we could put our face into or under the water and drink.  So it is finding water and drinking it.

The process of knowing we are thirsty – which is on an instinctual and survival level, finding water, and consuming it.

Knowing we MUST belong.  Needing attachment to do this.  To form our brain.  To organize, order, and pattern it in necessary ways —  to form the necessary circuits and pathways in our brains that we will utilize to “get around” and to find our SELF and our species..

Seeking the water.  Seeking is an essential drive.  Seeking new experiences.  Seeking to discover the nature of things:  will they bring us life or will they doom us to death?

Some new things, some novel things that we come across simply fascinate us!  (austism?)  This is a process we begin from birth as we use our senses, or as they use us, to bring us information about the environment around us, and to give us information about our relationship to and in this environment.

I don’t think new infants are initially searching for PEOPLE or for ATTACHMENT.  They are searching for what they instinctively need to stay alive.  And yet if infants’ physical needs ONLY are being met, but not their social needs, they can die.  Is this because of the stimulation for their brains that they require?  That sooner or later something/someone has to give them some FEEDBACK?  And that the physical, material world doesn’t do that?  What if a human child did not necessarily have human interactions or feedback, but DID have that coming from animals?  Of course I don’t mean animals that would harm it, but animals that would touch the infant, look at it eye to eye, express and interest in it, remain close to it?

Is the need just for TOUCH and interaction, for feedback?  Assuming that the infant’s biological needs for food, warmth, etc. were being met.  This I wonder about, am curious about.

(wonder as an action, wonder as a state of being, wonder as a state of RELATIONSHIP)


Go back some thousands of years.  Imagine perhaps a cave tribe.  A small group of young women left in camp with small children while the men went out hunting.  The women know there are harmful enemies and dangerous beasts “out there.”  Their very survival depends on the men’s return, both for food and for their own protection.

Based upon what they know of the situation, they will anticipate the return of the hunters at some point in the future.  But when the men do not return at the anticipated or expected time, perhaps the women begin to wonder what is holding them up!  After more time goes by, the wonder moves into doubt, and then into fear.  Perhaps they will move through a stage of anger after a longer time of absence goes by.  But when it finally becomes obvious that these men are not coming back, for whatever reason, something else to ensure their own survival has to kick in.

(Where would the sadness or grief come into the experience?)

(Reminds me of my chickens.  I cannot attribute grief to them, but they sure paid attention (noticed) to that dead chicken in that process I watched that day!

When an infant is about 9 months old their brains have matured and developed a capacity to begin to form mental representations – virtual others – of their caregivers.  A rather complex set of mental processes would need to be in place already by this time for the infant to be able to connect for the first time a sense of what happened to the past to a sense of what might be happening in the present.

My question is this:  Is there a capacity for the introduction at this point of a sense of wondering if this caregiver is coming back?  And might there be a sense of doubt that this caregiver might not come back?

Not consciously, obviously.  But are wonder and doubt tied and connected at all in this crucial process and this crucial time in the infant’s development?

And how do wonder and doubt connect to the seeking drive?  Isn’t it seeking that drives this process?

When our infantile physical needs are met it is a testimony to the fact that we belong.  Our needs are met because we belong.  The needs of our brain’s developmental process are met through belonging.

We are born into a physical world of actions and interactions.  We use our given senses to orient ourselves in this world.  Our bodies!  We feel both our needs and our drives to get these needs met in our bodies.

At these early stages, would we wonder when our caregivers would return to meet our physical needs even if we had no “attachment” to them?  Isn’t the essential message something like, “I am hungry, food belongs in my body?”  And, “This person better come here because they belong in my world to bring me this food that belongs in my body?”

An infant is not going to have the sense at this point that “This person better come back because I am alone and I am fond of them and they are fond of me and I miss them!”  It isn’t about fondness, it’s about hungry.

But is “feeling lonely” a motivator for an infant, a need?  If it is, then is it a manifestation of the need to belong coupled with some realization that there has to be a physical presence in their vicinity?

Some infants are in the “care” of people who do not ever respond to them in an attuned fashion.  The parent’s SELF is not there, and the child’s SELF is not developing in relation to them because there is no interaction brain to brain between them.

But in essence, this is not possible.  Every infant must have some BODY show up at least to meet their basic physical needs or the infant would die.  Even if the encounters are always peritraumatic, they still must in some way take place.

If a caregiver shows up to feed the infant and at the same time terrorizes the infant, a different-than-normal interaction is taking place.  The infant would only on some deep physiological level of “being given food to stay alive” level have anything like a positive feeling in relationship to this abusive caregiver.

And only on this essential biological level would the sense of “I wonder if this monster will show up so I can get something to eat so I can survive” level would WONDER stay alive.  This is on the approach and avoid level.  Approach food, avoid food giver.  Wonder when food is coming, dread food bringer. Wonder would be tied to doubt and positive anticipation = approach.  Dread would be tied to wonder and negative anticipation = avoid.

Belonging encompasses approach, avoid, wonder, doubt, and anticipation.

Anticipation encompasses wonder and doubt.

Attachment is the playing field.

Wonder and doubt can be tied to a million possibilities, but over time a pattern will emerge that is the actuality – the given.  Here comes prediction.  With prediction, doubt and wonder begin to change face, begin to change color.  Differentiation is formalizing.

Pretty soon an infant can predict that the food will come, and it comes with the monster.  When the infant is alone, the monster is gone.  Alone is better than the monster.  But the drive is “to belong.”  A huge conflict enters the picture between instinctual drive to belong and instinctual drive to stay alive.  These two drives are meant to operate in tandem.  We belong so that we can stay alive.

But when not being alone means that the infant is with the monster, the drive to belong becomes thwarted.  Herein lies the crux of the solution to the “unsolvable problem” these abuse infants are facing.

Such an infant must finely discriminate on a level that is not “normal” between the instinct to “belong to survive” and the fact that one must “be alone to survive.”  The needs of the body become separated from the needs of the brain-mind-self.  What is supposed to operate in tandem, i.e. belong to survive, must now REMAIN a one thing, but must be split into a “two thing.”

This split is fundamental and essential.  It happens as a result of an infant in peritrauma having to divide into, in essence, two individual “people.”  On the one hand they have a body programmed in the DNA to have biological needs to stay alive.  On the other hand, the needs of the part of the body that is the brain and developing mind and developing self have needs that will not be met.  ARE not being met, which is why the split must occur in the first place.

Such a split will not result in a WHOLE human being at the end of the developmental process.  The body belongs to the mammalian order, and the body will survive.  But what makes a person a human being is the highly complex ordering of the intricately complex evolved human brain.  The body will develop in a “normal” mammalian fashion, but the functioning of the higher “human” brain will not.

And if this is not exactly the way the story pans out, then what we must realize is that the infant will grow up into adulthood with higher brain dysfunction – brain damage.

The brain will not achieve its full human potential because it was not allowed to order, organize, and pattern itself or its operating functions properly.  In addition, the brain was exposed to toxic stress hormonal chemicals that also damaged the development of the physical brain through their poisonous effects.  That we may be ignorant of these facts does not make them any less factual!

If we go back to early infancy and look for the point where this split occurred, and then move forward in developmental time, we will find the angle of trajection that the body took away from the SELF of the infant.  The body, in effect, ends up in one place down the road and the SELF ends up in another.  Usually these two are far apart at the end of the story.  Usually, I suspect, the body develops because it is alive, and the SELF doesn’t because it isn’t “alive.”  What we see, then, is a split image.  Or just “a half a person.”

And because our species evolved to include the higher functions of the human brain-mind-self, we in effect do not truly have “humans” at the end.  We have humans who were not allowed to develop their potential as humans.  It is a scary thought!


A the time this splitting occurred, a corresponding split also occurred in the area of prediction that results normally in an understanding of cause and effect.

The approach-avoid dichotomy is also unnaturally split.  When the instinctual drive to belong is thwarted, the ability to determine cause and effect as well as approach-avoid, good-bad is damaged and altered.

Right brain avoid feelings of terror and rage become over stimulated and exercised.  The left brain positive feelings of approach, if they exist consciously at all in adulthood, are directly connected to physical drives and appetites.  All necessary feedback loops within the brain are altered and damaged.  The brain is mis-wired with faulty and inadequate connections.

The best we can say is that this person, though we THINK they have both legs and feet, are really hopping through life on one of them, and they are constantly teetering on the brink of losing what balance they have managed to obtain.  Their brains and their minds have not been organized or ordered properly.

Several factors, of course, influence and moderate the angle of the split in infancy that occurs between the body and the self, and will also influence the degree spread at the end of the road – adulthood – genetics including intelligence, stamina, drive, temperament, as well as the environment and other resources available to the infant/child, as well as the intensity, duration, severity, extent and nature of the abuse.

But the infant DOES solve what the experts call the “unsolvable problem” when faced with the “paradoxical injunction.”  They solve it because they can.  They can because they are wise.  They are wise because evolutionary development of the human species programmed this wisdom into their DNA.  It is in human DNA because we evolved because we have the capacity to be flexible.  Flexibility means that we do what we MUST do to survive.  And if surviving means that we have to make a choice between our SELF and our body, we will choose our body.  There is no hope if we don’t make it far enough down the road of life to find another solution.  Infants take the only choice they have, go down the only road they can.

What we need to be able to do is find that juncture, that place where the SELF is hinged to the body of the person – child or adult – that is at a point where the split can be healed so the person can become whole.  Yes, and that does mean if it is not too late.

Development of the SELF is a biological imperative.  Just not quite a strong a one as is the development of the body if one must make that choice.

WISDOM (bef. 12c)

[ME, fr. OE wisdom, fr. wis wise]

1 a: accumulated philosophic or scientific learning:  KNOWLEDGE   b: ability to discern inner qualities and relationships:  INSIGHT  c: good sense:  JUDGMENT  d: generally accepted belief

2: a wise attitude, belief, or course of action

3: the teachings of the ancient wise men

syn see SENSE

SENSE (14c)

[ME, fr. AF or L; AF sens, sens sensation, feeling, mechanism of perception, meaning fr. L sesus, fr. sentire perceive, feel; perhaps akin to OHG sinnan to go, strive, OE sith journey – more at SEND]

1: a meaning conveyed or intended:  IMPORT, SIGNFICATION, especially:  one of a set of meanings a word or phrase may bear especially as segregated in a dictionary entry

2 a: the faculty of perceiving by means of sense organs  b: a specialized function or mechanism (as sight, hearing, smell, taste, or touch) by which an animal receives and responds to exernal or internal stimuli  c: the sensory mechanisms constituting a unit distinct from other functions (as movement or thought)

3: conscious awareness or rationality – usually used in plural

4 a: a particular sensation or kind or quality of sensation  b: a definite but often vague awareness or impression  c:  a motivating awareness  d:  a discerning awareness


6 a: capacity for effective application of the powers of the mind as a basis for action or response:  INTELLIGENCE  b: sound mental capacity and understanding typically marked by shrewdness and practicality; also:  agreement with or satisfaction of such per

7: one of two opposite directions especially of motion (as of a point, line, or surface)

syn SENSE, COMMON SENSE, JUDGMENT, WISDOM usually mean ability to reach intelligent conclusions.  SENSE implies a reliable ability to judge and decide with soundness, prudence, and intelligence.  COMMON SENSE suggests an average degree of such ability without sophistication or special knowledge.  JUDGMENT implies sense tempered and refined by experience, training, and maturity.  WISDOM implies sense and judgment far above average

(vt)  (ca. 1531)

1 a: to perceive by the senses  b:  to be or become conscious of


3: to detect automatically especially in response to a physical stimulus (as light or movement)


An infant will certainly be able to sense extreme danger when in the presence of a severely abusing caregiver and will have the evolutionary sense to react.  Maybe this is a fundamental, instinctual disassociation.  Maybe this is the essence of the whole thing, and my thinking has been wrong.  Peritrauma may cause an initial disassociation of the senses.  Maybe, on the other hand, disassociation is the fundamental state of the infant and its chaotic brain at birth, and developmental stages are supposed to cause association to happen – that this is a natural process – but in infantile peritrauma the progression never happens.




[L fascinatus, pp. of fascinare, fr. fascinum evil spell]

1 obs: BEWITCH

2 a: to transfix and hold spellbound by an irresistible power  b: to command the interest of:  ALLURE

syn see ATTRACT


Well now!  Doesn’t that word have a pleasant origin!  Was I fascinated by the pattern on the ceiling of my bedroom of the sunlight on the water outside in the pool?  Not like I had a whole lot else going on to pay attention to!

But she tried to away and annihilate my ability to wonder, and would have if she had been able.  But she wasn’t, no matter how vicious she was to me, and she was vicious like the worst rabid animal.

I have to even search for the words as I search for the reality of my existence with her as a child.  The reality is still there within me.  It hasn’t been “seen” yet, and it hasn’t been “named.”  By rights it is my right to do that – to know and name that reality that was me and mine back then, and is still so today.

It was such a pervasive reality that it is still equally elusive to me.  It was a horrible, horrifying reality, so stark and wicked that nobody would want to look at it head on.  Not even sideways.  Nobody would want to look at it at all.  Not even me.  But there are keys back there, central to the story.  That “narrative” that can’t be told directly or cohesively because it is there only in shards and fragments.  I would have to look between the millions of screams that hang suspended there in frozen stillness and silence.  After all, nobody can HEAR silence.

Me, the one that stood accused from birth.  Guilty from birth, guilty of my birth.  She invalidated me.



[ME, fr. AF vicios, fr. L vitiosus full of faults, corrupt, fr. vitium vice]

1: having the nature or quality of vice or immorality:  DEPRAVED



4 a: dangerously aggressive:  SAVAGE  b: marked by violence or ferocity:  FIERCE


6: worsened by internal causes that reciprocally augment each other

syn VICIOUS, VILLAINOUS, INIQUITOUS, NEFARIOUS, CORRUPT, DEGENERATE mean highly reprehensible or offensive in character, nature, or conduct.  VICIOUS may directly oppose virtuous in implying moral depravity, or may connote malignancy, cruelty, or destructive violence.  VILLAINOUS applies to any evil, depraved, or vile conduct or characteristic.  INIQUITOUS implies absence of all signs of justice or fairness.  NEFARIOUS suggests flagrant breaching of time-honored laws and traditions of conduct.  CORRUPT stresses a loss of moral integrity or probity causing betrayal of principle or sworn obligations.  DENEGRATE suggests having sunk to an especially vicious or enervated condition.

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