April 11, 2009
Recovery and healing are not the same thing. Recovery is only possible for us when things happened right in the first place and then went wrong. If things were truly bad from before the beginning there is nothing there for us to go back and get. We are a different kind of ‘people’, as I explain below.
Healing is possible for all of us even if recovery is not much of an option. The work of such people as Diana Fosha affirm this in a more extensive way. When we talk about the damage done to an infant’s developing brain and the alterations it is forced to make in circumstances of critical harm, abuse and neglect, Fosha’s ‘school of thought’ suggests that the brain’s attachment circuitry is in place prior to birth and can be accessed at any later point during the healing process. Only from this point of view would I agree that recovery would be possible for those of us abused from birth. It does, however, still not address the situation clearly for infants that were harmed prior to birth.
This website contains information on Diana Fosha’s work. It is my understanding that she believes each of us knows within ourselves what the damage is that we need to heal and what ‘tools’ (inner and outer) we need to accomplish this healing – and that it is as instinctive for us as knowing which way to tilt a picture hanging crooked on a wall to straighten it.
If a person places each of their pointer fingers inside the loop of a rubber band, and then puts tension on the rubber band by pulling their finger to the right, I would say that this action represents to me the status of most mental health mentality. The stay-in-place left finger in this model represents what professionals and most of the public have understood about abusive childhoods.
Thus the pulling to the right would include those who had exceptionally good childhoods with no traumas that caused them any lasting harm.
I know from experience and research that this model is incorrect. The worst of the abusive childhoods extend back – as in pulling the left finger to the left in your rubber band while keeping tension still to the right. This action would then more accurately reflect the tension created in anyone who experienced abuse from birth in contrast to those who suffered abuse in the ‘middle’ area – and demonstrates the contrast with those who had their needs met in their early years.
This middle range represents hardship in children who have or had both inner and outer resources available that allowed them to cope satisfactorily with their abuse. Such resources include genetics and very importantly, caregivers who were appropriate in their care of the child from birth. Those children who suffered early abuse and neglect of a severe nature especially during the years from birth to age 2 (I am excluding damage done before birth here because it is primarily outside of the scope of my work) – if they survive – will never be ‘normal’.
I will be describing conditions of life, both early and ongoing, for those who were harmed since they were born. I believe that we have such a species-wide taboo against harm to tiny babies and children that most people will not even ‘go there’ in their minds or imaginations and are thus themselves contributing to the problem of abuse to tiny children rather than being a part of the solution. We must overcome our revulsion at the thought of harm to precious, beautiful, fragile little babies so that we can become educated about the facts and begin to more fully participate in finding and implementing solutions. This kind of abuse affects a person SERIOUSLY for the rest of their lives, and is very easily passed down to the offspring, certainly in the form of ‘attachment disorders’ (covered in this blog’s “Attachment” section) and many other lifelong difficulties. SEE:
I will introduce here the very important work of Dr. Martin Teicher, who I refer to as a member of the Harvard medical group.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez – search the pubmed site with ‘teicher abuse’ and it will list his articles
I consider this article the best starter for understanding the real impact of infant abuse:
Scars that won’t heal: the neurobiology of child abuse.
Teicher MH. Sci Am. 2002 Mar;286(3):68-75. No abstract available. PMID: 11857902 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
(You can use this formation to call this article in at your nearest public or university library.)
In essence I will say that the discovery of this article entirely changed my life. It was one of those ‘bifurcation points’ I mention under this blog’s heading “Brain Development.” Prior to finding the work of these researchers I had been studying infant brain development including an extensive look at the work of Dr. Allan N. Schore.
I found that while Schore intimately describes the alterations an infant’s developing brain endures from abuse and neglect certainly from birth to age 2 and the lifelong consequences, the changes to the brain did not come together for me as a whole big picture until I discovered Teicher’s work.
In this above mentioned article Teicher essentially describes what I believe is a most important fact. People who have their basic needs met from birth (and before), have ‘good enough’ (http://www.amazon.com/Good-Enough-Parent-Child-Rearing/dp/0394757769 ) parenting get to develop a ‘normal brain’, or a benevolent brain formed in, by and for a benevolent world.
Children who suffer abuse and neglect from birth develop what Teicher calls an evolutionarily altered brain. These brains (and I recognized instantly that I have one of these brains) were developed in, by and for a malevolent world. The overall operating ‘system’ of these brains cannot – and Schore’s work affirms this – be made into benevolent brains “down the road” of a person’s life.
These altered brains (and I will go into much more detail on the pages under “Brain Development”) are not really the problem. The problem is that these brains, nervous systems, immune systems, reaction patterns, etc. were designed in interaction with a malevolent world and in preparation for living a lifetime in the same kind of world.
This preparation, as I mention elsewhere, can happen at conception if a fetus receives stress hormone signals from its mother’s body that tell it to develop for a stressful, dangerous, deprivation filled, traumatic world. Genetics come into play including epigenetic factors that can themselves not only alter the way genes are expressed for a single individual but can pass this ‘expression’ information down the generations.
I tell you this all now in way of introduction to the truest purpose of this blog and of my work and writing. Those of us who suffered trauma continually from birth are not the same as those who did not. We are, in effect, evolutionarily altered individuals. Do the research. I am right. And once I found this information the light went on in my life – truly for the first time.
Under this blog’s section, “The Power of Stories,” you will be able to read some of mine. From my perspective there has always been something missing in every recovery, self help and therapeutic book I have ever read. I won’t say that these venues don’t have much to offer ALL of us, but it is the information that has been withheld due to ignorance of the facts that I have and do most need.
This new information comes to us compliments of a rapidly growing technical ability to study the structure and operation of the brain visually and in real time. And it is in real time that we who have these ‘malevolently formed brains’ need to know the truth about ourselves. To a large extent we have a different psychology. We have lived in the darkness with nobody to reach us and nobody to teach us – let alone heal us.
Our scars will not show on the outside, but they will also never go away. We share this with all people who have been overwhelmed by trauma no matter what their age. But it is the developing brain of the infant and young child that is essentially most vulnerable to the worst of the consequences possible by exposure to overwhelming trauma. That trauma impedes the development of a ‘normal’, benevolent brain designed to live in a ‘good enough’ world. We are outsiders because our situation has been hidden until the light of this marvelous new technological world unfolded itself with its extremely important new information about what happened to us, how it happened to us, and what that means not only to us, but to the entire society we all share.