This will really be a post that cannot be written because what I am learning about this topic needs to go into my book writing. Yet I want to pass along a discovery I made this week — one that actually came as a gift from the Universe — for your consideration. I visited a dear friend of mine Monday and pulled an May 26, 2011 issue of TIME magazine out of his trash. I took it home and in the evening discovered within its pages this article:
Reading this article has forever and powerfully changed me and my life forever. But it wasn’t only what was written in this article that had this effect on me. The other IMPORTANT half of what severe survivors of infant-child abuse need to know was NEVER mentioned in this article. That information I already had. When I put these two pieces of information together I discovered one of the missing pieces of my life that I needed to know.
As you follow the title link above and read this optimism article, please also immediately go to the Wickipedia article on the amygdala because this is not only one of the prime areas of the brain mentioned in the article within the optimism brain circuit, it is also the seat of operations that may well be the ones that make us human.
The amygdala has a primary role in the fight-flight-freeze survival response ALONG with its role in making sure humans turn always to the positive. This brain region, as you will find when you follow the link by clicking on the word itself, associates parts of our experience together or dissociates them into pieces as it sorts out our experiences and prepares them for long-term memory storage and consolidation.
The stronger an emotion is when we have an experience the more certain the more certain the amygdala is to make sure we never forget the learning included in the experience.
Please also take yourself through an online meander using the Google search terms ‘amygdala child abuse’. Pick some of the links that appear and check them out.
From this very important online article that includes information about how child abuse changes the development and operation of the brain — including the amygdala: SCARS THAT WON’T HEAL: THE NEUROBIOLOGY OF CHILD ABUSE
“Because childhood abuse occurs during the critical formative time when the brain is being physically sculpted by experience, the impact of severe stress can leave an indelible imprint on its structure and function. Such abuse, it seems, induces a cascade of molecular and neurobiological effects that irreversibly alter neural development.”
Most simply put what changed about me and my life yesterday as I allowed the new information presented in the optimism article together with all I know about trauma altered development of the body-brain in abused infants and children to come together, I received an answer to one of the most bothersome and long-term questions of my life:
“Looking back on my 18 years of being brutally abused by my Borderline mother, why do I ONLY have certain very clear and specific memories of this abuse?”
These memories have always stayed the same. I have never ‘received’ another memory other than these same ones I have always had, and always the memories come to me with the same pictures, feelings, information and ‘story’.
Up until I read the optimism article I have always simply told myself that I remembered my memories because they were so clearly a part of my mother’s own memory device, the abuse litany she created of my ‘crimes’ and repeated all through my childhood every time she beat me. These memories were literally beat into me.
That made sense until this week. Now I can see that every single one of the memories of trauma I have — out of the thousands and thousands of memories I DON’ HAVE and that were also certainly a part of my mother’s abuse litany — share one thing in common: Every one of these memories not only comes from ME at the center of experiencing the trauma, but ALSO is a memory where the strong emotional component of GOOD was directly followed by a powerful emotion related to my mother’s abuse intrusion into my experience of BAD.
Hope and promise — fear and threat. This is the kind of emotional experience that the amygdala is best at processing. Our optimism response and our ‘stress response’ are both tied to the information our amygdala processes and how it processes it.
Without saying much more I will add that what my mother’s amygdala did in her childhood during experiences of trauma is NOT what my amygdala did. My mother’s amygdala dissociated the GOOD from the BAD in her experience and stored the memories separately without connecting the GOOD and BAD together in the same memory. In other words, dissociation rather than association happened for her inside her memory of experience.
For whatever reasons that I don’t know (yet?) my amygdala stored inside the memories that I have always kept BOTH the GOOD and the BAD of what happened. These memories are WHOLE! I dissociated between memories of traumatic experience, NOT WITHIN THEM as happened inside my mother’s amygdala.
I needed this new information. The question about why I have always remembered the memories I have of trauma and ONLY remember those memories has been answered. Evidently everything I do NOT remember lacked that special component of BOTH good and bad being present in the experiences. I forgot my experiences that were all bad — which was, of course, most of what my childhood WAS — all bad.
This is true because as my mother separated good from bad in her early memories, she in effect became a split and double-faced person with a bizarre Borderline dividing each of these sides of herself. She made me into her ALL BAD child, the one that represented the broken parts of her memories of ALL BAD.
My sister born 2 years after me was made into the ALL GOOD child. As I mentioned in earlier recent posts, these patterns were already in my mother’s mind when she wrote her Mischievous Bear story when she was 9 years old.
I needed this new information in order to write my story for the book my daughter and I are working on — so back to the ‘drafting table’ I go!!
+RHYTHM, LITANY CHANTING, BRUTAL VIOLENT BEATINGS – TIED TO MY MOTHER’S TRAUMA-CHANGED MUSICAL-LANGUAGE BRAIN