Chapter 40 CONTAINMENT and the Hemispheres
Because human life is rarely about states of absolute, we cannot continue our study without first considering these next two words: continuum and spectrum. Continuum is connected to the concept of continuous, so it is there we must first look.
[L continuus, fr. continere to hold together – more at CONTAIN]
1: marked by uninterrupted extension in space, time, or sequence….
syn see CONTINUAL
[ME conteinen, fr. AF cunteign-, cutyen-, stem of cuntenir, fr. L continere to hold together, hold in, contain, fr. com– + tenere to hold – more at THIN]
1: to keep within limits: as a: RESTRAIN, CONTROL b: CHECK, HALT c: to follow successfully a policy of containment toward d: to prevent (as an enemy or opponent) from advancing or from making a successful attack
2 a: to have within: HOLD b: COMPRISE, INCLUDE
3 a: to be divisible by usually without a remainder
[ME, fr. AF continuel, fr. L continuus continuous]
1: continuing indefinitely in time without interruption
2: reoccurring in steady usually rapid succession
syn CONTINUAL, CONTINUOUS, CONSTANT, INCESSANT, PERPETUAL, PERENNIAL mean characterized by continued occurrence or recurrence. CONTINUAL often implies a close prolonged succession or recurrence. CONTINOUS usually implies an uninterrupted flow or spatial extension. CONSTANT implies uniform or persistent occurrence or recurrence. INCESSANT implies ceaseless or uninterrupted activity. PERPETUAL suggests unfailing repetition or lasting duration. PERENNIAL implies enduring existence often through constant renewal.
[L, neutral of continuus]
1: a coherent whole characterized as a collection, sequence, or progression of values or elements varying by minute degrees (“good” and “bad”…stand at opposite ends of a continuum instead of describing the two halves of a line – Wayne Shumaker)
2: the set of real numbers including both the rationals and the irrationals; broadly: a compact set which cannot be separated into two sets neither of which contains a limit point of the other
It is through adequate intoned communications with initial caregivers that infant brains develop the ability not only to REGULATE emotions, but to CONTAIN them. Contain means that we have the power to regulate our emotions, not the other way around. If this ability does not develop properly, a SELF will not develop properly, either. It is a clearly defined SELF that will be able to restrain behaviors related to emotions.
When a pure infant is born, it is a tiny self-contained unit. Yes, it is completely dependent as it continues to grow and develop, but it has intact boundaries that define it in its growing state. As with all abuse, infant abuse is a violation of these boundaries. The most significant impact of infant abuse is that all of it is built right into the infant’s developing brain’s architecture. And because infant abuse goes against natural order of survival an continuation of the species, it creates brains that will not function in a naturally appropriate way.
If we were to call infant abuse by its truest name, we would call it infant brain abuse. It is brain trauma. The three most significant human emotions, rage, fear and grief, are all adversely affected. We could say that infant abuse causes a brain strain regarding anger, a brain drain regarding fear, and a brain stain regarding grief. While these three devastatingly powerful emotions helped the human species to survive and to evolve, when they operate in triune within a developing infant’s brain, they alter the course of its development.
And while some of us who are infant abuse survivors can carry on close-to-appearing normal lives for some time – for me it was as long as it took to raise my children to adulthood – when we begin to see the crack in our facade, it can be devastating. I have always known that I was an abused child, but I have been oblivious to its full effects. As I begin to look more closely, I feel vulnerable, fragile and breakable. I am afraid to find what is broken within me. This is not a simple or an easy task. But too much time has gone by as the brain drain strain stain grew within me. There is nowhere else to go but forward from here.
Within the roots of the word “belong” we find the concept of “to be suitable.” Perhaps more than anything else this is the worst damage as it infects every area of my thought and being. My brain was forced to form itself with and around the fundamental “reality” that I was not suitable. Therefore I did not belong. From that flaw within my brain has grown all kinds of associations that are alterations from what is supposed to be there.
All my first mental representations were formed with this belief at their core. All the further developing abilities to link these associations together were also fundamentally formed around this mis-belief. Siegel states of the stage of infant development where language abilities become present,
“The simultaneous activation of the categorical and linguistic neuronal groups yields a “higher-order consciousness” in which the child is freed from the prison of the remembered present and is able to reflect both backward and forward in time….it is our unique language capacity as humans that allows us to be both historians and actuaries, reflecting on the past and consciously planning for the future (Siegel/tdm/170).”
This stage of development did not happen for me until after I left home at 18. Yet even then, as now, the entire process is not what it should be. If “cross-time representation is a fundamental part of autonoetic consciousness (ibid),” then why is my life story still so hard to tell? The beginning doesn’t start at the beginning. It started with my mother’s beginning. And before that, with her mother’s beginning. I did not separate my consciousness from my mother’s “non-consciousness” when I was a child. She did not have a coherent life narrative of her own, and could not pass on to me any skills in creating one of my own. My mother did not live in the present as most people are able to define it. She lived in a strange blend of time-space where the unremembered past was her unremembered present. But there was no buffer. No filter. Everything was raw, automatic, vicious.
Siegel goes on
“…the developmental acquisition of autonoetic consciousness may be more a function of the child’s developing self-awareness and understanding of perceptual processes that permit experiential awareness than of linguistic abilities alone. In this way, autonoetic consciousness is a function of an individual’s understand- (siegel/tdm/170) ing of minds, linking it…to the integrating processes of the prefrontal regions, including social cognition, response flexibility, and working memory. (siegel/tdm/171).”
I was not aware enough of my experience growing up to be able to reflect on it. I had no autonoetic, or self knowing consciousness, and no understanding of minds. I had, and still do not have a fully functioning of “the integrating processes of the prefrontal regions, including social cognition, response flexibility, and working memory (tdm/171).” My working memory is all but overrun by my inabilities in the area of social cognition and response flexibility. From this new awareness of myself that I am getting as I research and write this book, I know that much of the problem lies in the lack of proper development of the two hemispheres of my brain.
1 a: complete in itself b: BUILT-IN
2 a: showing self-control….
An infant is SELF-CONTAINED when it is born, complete in itself with built-in drives, needs and abilities, built-in potential to become a full grown individual if its needs in infancy are adequately met so that it can have self-control as it gets older.
SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS (about 1680)
1 a: conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself: aware of oneself as an individual b: intensely aware of oneself: CONSCIOUS; also: produced or done with such awareness
2: uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others: ILL AT EASE
It seems to be a difficult idea to grasp that an individual can avoid becoming self-conscious. Yet because of the continual peritrauma of my childhood, I did not achieve this state. I had SOME of it, but is some enough to qualify?
Consciousness must be able to exist on a continuum, or a spectrum – “a continuous sequence or range.” If an infant’s basic brain developmental needs are not adequately met, then consciousness as it is connected to the brain, and to the mind of the infant will not exist in its proper, natural form, either.
“What role the left-hemisphere linguistic processing centers may play in the encoding via left orbitofrontal mediation of episodic memory, or in its retrieval via right-hemisphere processes, has yet to be elucidated. In general, the capacity to reflect on the self across time – with or without linguistic representations – may be considered as extremely evolved, “higher-order” form of consciousness….the development of such a capacity may be intimately influenced by early interpersonal relationships. (siegel/tm/171)”
(How can a person “reflect on the self across time” without linguistic representations? How does one reflect on anything without thoughts that take the form of words?)
How can one’s brain-mind evolve in such a way that self awareness, self consciousness is not contained within it? For years I have believed that part of the reason that I could play basketball like magic when I was in eighth grade had to do with the fact that I was relatively oblivious of my self in relation to others. I could shoot a perfect basket from anywhere on the court up to and just over the half court line, and never miss. Like the autistic boy who received attention from President Bush. I never had to aim or concentrate. And I never missed. This means something…..I just don’t yet know what.
I was aware in the present moment that I was playing basketball, but I did not have to consciously play it. It played me, or we played together. I could only achieve this kind of perfection in one other sport – cross country skiing. But that was an individual and not a team sport. Somehow my body could operate with precision perfection without direction from me. I was just along for the ride.
As seems to be the case for most of what I experienced of my childhood. No one had ever allowed ME to be present, so I wasn’t. Or barely was (self-conscious of bruises all over my body taking gym showers that year….didn’t anybody notice them on the basketball court and at least WONDER?)
According to Siegel:
“Consciousness has two dimensions: access to information, and the sentience or subjective quality of an experience. In both of these realms, information processing and mental representations play a central role in determining the nature of our conscious experience. For example, access consciousness can contain within it the awareness of sensation or perceptions, as well as focal attention to aspects of the internal world, including the experience of emotional processing and our beliefs, wishes, and intentions. The sentience of these representations will depend upon the nature of their integration and the information they encode: whether we associate from memory and with conscious awareness the tones of music, the rough surface of a sheet of sandpaper, or reflections upon the various textures and sensations of memories we have of our early days (for example, learning to swim). But this division of consciousness into access and sentience dimensions doesn’t fully explain the subjective experiences of consciousness. (siegel/tdm/171)”
Abused infants will have formed other-than-the-usual mental representations because the nature of the information they received and the way it was integrated was other-than-the-usual from the beginning. Therefore, their subjective reality will not involve “usual” consciousness: “the sentience or subjective quality…. of these representations will depend upon the nature of their integration and the information they encode.”
“Internal subjective experience may vary, depending upon which systems of representation are activated at a particular time. By definition, subjective experience implies the unique, internal quality of an experience. (siegel/tdm/172)”
And in my mind subjective experience must be grounded both in time and space. Whose time and which space was not clear with my mother. Therefore it wasn’t clear to or in me as I developed my brain-mind from hers, either. And if there is distortion of a sense of the self in time and space, there will be a corresponding disruption in consciousness and subjective experience as it relates to “memory.”
“Like the intricate interconnections within the brain itself, which interrelate the functions of numerous circuits, so too do the mental modules of the mind act interdependently. For example, representations within implicit memory may often act upon us without conscious awareness. The generalizations of implicit memory, our mental models of the past, can directly shape our active perceptions and explicit memory. Here we see two “independent” modes of processing having an influence on each other. Undoubtedly such influences reside in not-yet-determined neural connections between these two complex systems of the brain. (siegel/tdm/173)”
Drain = Fear
Strain = Rage
Stain = Grief, yearning and loneliness
Gain = Belonging
Retrain – train
Can we eliminate the pain? Contain it? Retrain these emotions?
“Train the pain out of the brain.”
Difference between belong “to” and belonging “with”
Normal people disperse their people-needing so they get them met on surface levels with many people in many situations.
Damaged people focus their need on a few people — concentrate it. This leaves us open for “missing” which is not fruitful. It leaves us always in a state of depletion, depleted. Yet we don’t usually recognize it. Great difficulty getting our social needs me because that area of our brain did not develop normally.
Borrowed attachment does not strengthen us. It makes us dependent, afraid and vulnerable. We are at risk for being and feeling lost to and within ourselves. Because we can’t and don’t belong, we are borrowing belonging from others who have it – we so want and hope to belong to them and in their lives.
The core issue, as with all others, is a lack of belonging.
I need an inner platform of security, calm, peacefulness, harmony and a sense of well-being. I need a platform a little higher up that “It’s not humanly possible to be as bad as your mother says you are.”
MISS (bef. 12c)
[ME, fr. OE missan; akin to OHG missan to miss]
1: to fail to hit, reach, or contact
2: to discover or feel the absence of
3: to fail to obtain
4: ESCAPE, AVOID
5: to leave out: OMIT
6: to fail to comprehend, sense, or experience
7: to fail to perform or attend
How can an infant not miss attaching so that it can belong? For all of its efforts on its own behalf, nothing works. It therefore fails to reach its parents. It begins to “feel the absence of” and fails to obtain that which it needs and seeks. I was left out and omitted from the life of my family. And I could not comprehend the experience. I could not make contact, except with my toddler brother, John. (In my baby book my mother said that I spoke my words exactly like John, same tone and intonations – is it true. He is the one that taught me to talk.)
It has created great pain in me, and I do not know how to make it go away.
[F or L; F, fr. L contactus, fr. contingere to have contact with – more at CONTINGENT]
1 a: union or junction of surfaces b: the apparent touching or mutual tangency of the limbs of two celestial bodies or of the disk of one body with the shadow of another during an eclipse, transit, or occultation c (1): the junction of two electrical conductors through which a current passes (2): a special part made for such a junction
2 a: ASSOCIATION, RELATIONSHIP b: CONNECTION, COMMUNICATION c: an establishing of communication with someone or an observing or receiving of a significant signal from a person or object
3: a person serving as a go-between, messenger, connection, or source of special information
When I have these intense feelings it must be that needs are being activated. But I do not specifically know what they are or how to meet them. It is when I most feel a “need” to talk to Ernie when I can’t that I feel the saddest. Yet as adults we are probably not supposed to need other people – this is what I think makes me most vulnerable and unhappy. Like when I yearn for contact with him – but I suspect the need itself is very old (very young), stemming from my infancy.
I think this is the feeling that gets tied up with the “unbearable emotional states” and the “unbearable states of being” that Allen writes about.