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Posts Tagged ‘violence’

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While I certainly can’t say that I understand either the information presented in this selection I am posting today from the book I am reading, Ghosts from the Nursery: Tracing the Roots of Violence - (1998) by Robin Karr-Morse, Meredith S. Wiley, I can say that I find this passage intriguing.  I am not familiar with “the role of the neurotransmitter serotonin in aggressive behavior” as I usually come across it in reference to the ‘montage’ of pharmaceutical concoctions that are prescribed to treat ‘depression’ by increasing/enhancing available serotonin in a ‘depressed’ person’s body.

I am reading this book thinking about my mother.  Nobody will ever know the exact combinations of early infant and childhood distress, neglect, trauma and otherwise malevolent treatment she received that turned her into such a violent, vicious, and chronic infant-child abuser (with me being her target).  I do suspect, however, that much of the information the authors present in this book do apply to her.

Even though I am not a violent person, the trauma my mother inflicted upon me from birth through age 18 affected the development of all the systems in my body, as well.

The following comes from a subsection titled PEASE PORRIDGE HOT, PEASE PORRIDGE COLD that is contained in chapter two from Ghosts from the Nursery: Tracing the Roots of Violence (I added bold type within text below for emphasis):

It was only a game.  Even though it was for science – it was only a game.  The first person who hit the button after the lights flashed got to zap his partner with an electric current.  The winner could pick a charge ranging from one, a light twinge, to eight, a jolt of pain.  These were college students at McGill University in Montreal.  They usually picked low dosages of electricity, giving what they got, exchanging only level of pain they received.  That was before the drink.  Scientists deliberately raised the aggression level of participants by giving them a dose of amino acids that lowered their levels of the brain chemical serotonin.  Soon the game changed.  Volunteers began zapping their partners with higher and higher numbers in spite of receiving lower charges themselves.  Next, the students were given another snack, this time a dose of tryptophan, an essential ingredient for the brain to produce serotonin.  As the serotonin levels rose, the choice of painful jolts diminished.  An Orwellian experiment, perhaps, but proof positive that the manipulation of neurochemicals can alter levels of aggression. [see work of Ron Kotulak)

Serotonin reducing chemicals such as certain amino acids lower the threshold [meaning ‘they let more aggression in’] for aggressive tendencies.  In rodents, serotonin-reducing drugs were first viewed as aphrodisiacs because the rats became very sexually active under their influence.  But aggression soon followed.  Handlers were bitten and other rats were attacked just for coming close – behaviors previously unseen in the animals.

The role of the neurotransmitter serotonin in aggressive behavior has been under study since the mid 1970s when Marie Asberg, at the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, observed the linkage between low serotonin and violent suicides, suicides involving guns, knives, ropes, or jumping from high places.  Soon criminals with a history of violence were discovered to also have low levels of serotonin.  But the effect of serotonin can only be understood in relation to a counter-balancing neurotransmitter, noradrenaline [norepinephrine].

While serotonin is known to be key to modulating impulsive behaviors at the neocortical level of the brain, noradrenaline is the alarm hormone designed to alert the system to respond to danger.  Together they have a teeter-totter type of relationship:  in normal people, serotonin is higher during sleep and decreases during wakefulness, while noradrenaline is higher during wakefulness and lower during sleep.  The balance between the two is the key to normal function.  For most of us, there is a balance, enabling us to react in reasonable ways.  But, as with the McGill students, our functional levels can be altered, at least temporarily.  Alcohol and extremely stressful environments can have similar effects to the students’ initial drink of amino acids.  When these exposures occur to a developing fetus or infant, the levels of serotonin and noradrenaline are just being built, shaping lifetime patterns.

Violent behavior is roughly of two types:  impulsive and premeditated.  Most acts of violence are impulsive.  “Cold-blooded” pr premeditated acts are far less common and are typically enacted by a very different personality than the “hot-blooded” crime.  When environmental experiences early in life cause noradrenaline levels to be too high and serotonin levels too low, the result, in the presence of later emotional triggers, may be impulsive violenceConversely, very low levels of noradrenaline together with low levels of serotonin result in underarousal, which may generate an appetite for high-risk behaviors to achieve arousal, setting the stage for predatory violence or premeditated crimes.  Interestingly, very high levels of serotonin are not a means of counteracting this effect.  Excessively high serotonin levels result not in well-being, but in rigidity or obsessive-compulsive behavior, like Lady MacBeth’s repetitive hand washing.  The balance of neurochemicals in either scenario is thought to be set primarily by early experience [Google search:  ‘Perry incubated in terror’ for the author’s reference here – first link on Google is the document]When babies develop in an atmosphere of terror or trauma, these neurochemicals can be called upon to enable them to survive.  But that which enables survival may also create permanent and lethal imbalances.

Low levels of serotonin may be the result of a genetic error.  A single gene inherited by some people from their fathers results in an inability to adequately convert tryptophan from common foods into serotonin.  The individual inheriting this gene may have no problem unless there is an additional stressor, primarily alcohol.  In affected individuals, alcohol briefly raises, then drastically lowers, serotonin levels.  At the latter point, the individual is prone to acting out aggressively.  This gene is common – affecting 40 percent of the Swedish population tested at random [see same Perry reference above].  With 48 percent of the homicides in the United States committed under the influence of alcohol, the role of this interaction is clearly of concern.

Normal serotonin and noradrenaline levels are extremely important to balanced functioning.  Without realizing it, our culture is creating more and more individuals with an imbalance in this delicate equation in the brain.  Alcohol, drugs, and other toxic exposures such as lead are being implicated in damage to the genes responsible for these neurochemicals.  So are conditions after birth such as abusive, terrifying, or war-torn environments, in which impulsive or reactive behaviors are essential to survival.  Researchers suspect that conditions of child neglect, child abuse, gang warfare, and domestic violence are – without our awareness – biologically, as well as socially, feeding the cycle of violent crime.  As Ron Kotulak stated in his series on the brain:

“Underlying the scientific quest, which has revealed genetic and environmental links to abnormal brain chemistry, is the growing suspicion that society may unwittingly be feeding the nation’s epidemic of murder, rape and other criminal acts by making childhood more dangerous than ever.”

Abuse and neglect in the first years of life have a particularly pervasive impact.  Prenatal development and the first two years are the time when the genetic, organic, and neurochemical foundations for impulse control are being created [the first 33 months of life].  It is also the time when the capacities for rational thinking and sensitivity to other people are being rooted – or not – in the child’s personality.”  (pages 42-45, Ghosts from the Nursery: Tracing the Roots of Violence)

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OTHER RELATED TOPIC LINKS:

How Trauma Affects the Brain

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See study here:  Difference in serotonergic and noradrenergic regulation of human social behaviours

Noradrenaline was related to increased social engagement and cooperation and a reduction in self-focus….serotonin may be associated with protection of the self from the negative consequences of social interaction.”

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Functional coupling of serotonin and noradrenaline transporters.

On serotonin and noradrenaline:  “Re-uptake of the neurotransmitters serotonin and noradrenaline out of the synaptic cleft is mediated by selective transporter proteins, the serotonin transporter and the noradrenaline transporter respectively. Both are integral membrane proteins that are have a high degree of homology and represent members of a larger neurotransmitter transporter superfamily.

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BOOK:  Balancing Serotonin and Norepinephrine Levels

By John Allocca

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Mechanisms underlying the long-term behavioral effects of traumatic experience in rats: the role of serotonin/noradrenaline balance and NMDA receptors. (2007)

Traumatic stressors induce long-lasting changes in behavior. It is believed that all three glutamatergic, serotonergic and noradrenergic neurotransmission play a role in the development of such behavioral changes, but their relative importance and relationship is poorly understood. We have shown previously that a single exposure of rats to electric shocks induces social avoidance for about 10 days….  Noteworthy, the brain noradrenaline/serotonin ratio correlated negatively with shock-induced social avoidance, suggesting that the ratio rather than absolute levels are important in this respect.”

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Why Some Kids Turn Violent

For millions of American children, the world they encounter is relentlessly menacing and hostile. So, with astounding speed and efficiency, their brains adapt and prepare for battle. Cells form trillions of new connections that create the chemical pathways of aggression; some chemicals are produced in overabundance, some are repressed.

In studies with children and adolescents with disruptive behavior disorders, low serotonin levels was the single most accurate predictor of which youngsters would go on to commit more violent crimes or suicide. Conversely, high levels of noradrenaline were the chemical signature of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The rising tide of abuse and neglect of children occurs during the critical period when children are developing what is called “moral emotions.” These are emotions that are rooted in brain chemistry and are established in the first three years of life. The development of impulse control occurs at a time when sensitivity toward others is also being rooted in a child’s personality.

The brain’s alarm network, called the locus coeruleus, sits at the base of the brain and sends out noradrenaline pathways to other brain centers that control heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, emotions, and motivation.

When the locus coeruleus finds itself in an uncontrollable, threatening environment, it sets its noradrenaline gauge on high. Over the pathways come surges of the stress hormone that keep the body in a constant state of readiness—heart racing, blood pressure high, easy to startle, quick to blow up. These are the PTSD children.”

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HOW STRESS AND POOR NUTRITION CAN CAUSE POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION by Dean Raffelock

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From the International Guide to the World of Alternative Mental Health

Guidebook for Preventing Migraine Headaches, Depression, Insomnia, and Bipolar Syndrome by Dr. John A. Allocca

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GUT HEALTH – Our Second Brain

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Seratonin: The chemistry of Well-Being

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Neurological Control — Neurotransmitters

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Pediatric Bipolar Disorder: A Brain Illness

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DEVELOPING A SOCIAL NEUROSCIENTIFIC UNDERSTANDING OF YOUTH by E. Koller

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SEE ALSO:

+LOOKING AT THE NURSERY AS THE SEAT OF VIOLENT CRIME

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All survivors of infant-toddler-child violent trauma and maltreatment share a common ground.  Although the information I am presenting here might be difficult for some to read, what is being said here is extremely important.  When I say that it isn’t the exact memories of what specifically happened to any one of us that matters most, it is to the kind of information that follows that I am referring to that DOES matter most.

We survivors have always struggled.

Please spend a little time at least skimming through the rest of this post – if you are a survivor of a chaotic, unstable, violent early life I believe you will feel reverberations in your BODY to this topic.  I don’t believe we can truly follow our pathway through healing if we don’t truly comprehend the impact of the violent trauma and maltreatment we experienced – and what it did to us on all the levels of our development.

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What follows comes from this book:

Handbook of infant mental health By Dr. Charles H. Zeanah, Jr.

Publisher: The Guilford Press; Third Edition (July 15, 2009)

From Chapter 12 – The Effects of Violent Experience

(I present this copyrighted material here for educational purposes only – please refer to the actual book article for exact references to research noted)

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Neurobiology

“We noted earlier in this chapter that violent trauma early in life – particularly when involving repeated and severe exposure – impacts the central nervous system, brain development, and the overall health of the individual (McEwen, 2003).  We now review in greater depth the underlying neurobiology of the sequelae of violence exposure in a developmental and relational context.

“Preclinical studies have shown that areas of the brain that are particularly prone to the adverse effects of maltreatment and violent trauma during the first 3-5 years of life include (1) those that have a prolonged postnatal developmental period, (2) those with a high density of glucocorticoid receptors, and (3) those that have the potential for postnatal neurogenesis (Teicher et al., 2003).  These areas include, most prominently, the hippocampus, amygdala, corpus callosum, cerebellar vermis, and the cerebral cortex.

“When a rat infant undergoes severe stress, such as repeated foot shocks, the hippocampus fails to form the expected density of synaptic connections.  Normative pruning of these connections nonetheless occurs later in the prepubertal period, so adult animals who were repeatedly stressed in infancy end up with far fewer synaptic connections in this region (Andersen & Teicher, 2004).  These results support Carrion et al.’s (2007) findings that differences in hippocampal volume in patients with PTSD are more likely due to the neurotoxicity of stress hormones than to a constitutional size difference.  Clinical implications of hippocampal and amygdalar damage due to stress hormones may include increased propensity for confusion of past and present, flashbacks, and dissociative symptoms (Sakamoto et al., 2005).

“The corpus callosum is a heavily myelinated region of the brain that is associated with hemispheric integration.  High levels of stress hormones during infancy and early childhood have been associated with suppressed glial cell division, which is critical for myelination (Berrebi et al., 1988).  DeBellis et al. (2002) observed that reduced corpus callosum size was the most significant structural finding noted in children with a history of maltreatment and PTSD.  Disturbances in the myelination of the corpus callosum and cortex due to excessive exposure to glucocorticoids during the first 3 years of life may explain some of the difficulties that maltreated preschool-age children have in integrating cognitive and emotional information and in taking others’ perspective, in comparison to nonmaltreated age-matched controls (Pears & Fisher, 2005).

“Among the most exciting research that illustrates the interaction of development and traumatic experience is that regarding the differential effects of specific types of maltreatment and violent trauma on the brain at critical periods of development through early adulthood in both animal and human models (Hall, 1998; Teicher, Tomoda, & Andersen, 2006).  For example, repeated episodes of sexual and physical abuse were associated in the same group of subjects with reduced hippocampal volume if the abuse was reported to occur in early childhood, but with reduced prefrontal cortex volume if the abuse occurred during adolescence (Teicher, 2005).  Similar exposure during different, temporally discrete windows of development may have very different clinical implications.

Effects on Memory

The psychological and neurobiological implications of exposure to traumatic events also involve the infant and young child’s developmentally determined capacity to encode, remember, and recall those events in order to subsequently make meaning of their experience.  Recent evidence suggests that even prior to 1 year of age, infants’ capacity to recall events is well underway.  By the end of the second year of life, long-term memory is reliably and clearly present, especially when there have been reinforcing memories (i.e., repeated exposures or explicit reminders), which are unfortunately all too common in cases of maltreatment and family violence (Bauer, 2006; Hartshorn & Rovee-Collier, 2003).  Based on her review of the literature, Fivush (1998) has noted that traumatic events perceived before the age of 18 months are frequently not verbally accessible, whereas events experienced between 18 and 36 months can often be coherently recounted and retained as long-term memories.

“Early chronic and/or severe exposure to violence and/or maltreatment has also been noted to lead to greater pervasive insult to memory functions and to promote dissociative processes that can interfere with memory retrieval (Howe, Cicchetti, & Toth, 2006; Nelson & Carver, 1998).  One mechanism for this biological insult to memory function is thought to be primarily the effect of excessive glucocorticoids, which damage the developing structures involved in memory contextualization and storage, such as the hippocampus (Sapolsky, 2000; Sapolsky, Uno, Rebert, & Finch, 1990).  It is clear that over the course of formative development, exposure to violent trauma and maltreatment can affect the degree and nature of changes in the neurobiology of the brain.

(Pages 203 – 205)

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The Relational Context

“The violent traumatization of an infant or very young child, whether due to maltreatment or exposure to familial, community, war, or terrorist violence, is most significantly a breach in safety.  Unlike older children or adults, very young children experience their world contextually, from within the embrace of the primary attachment relationship (Scheeringa & Zeanah, 2001).  Their sense and expectation of safety are therefore inherently bound to the caregiver.  To appreciate the effects of violence on young children requires an understanding of the goals and mechanisms involved in the attachment relationship as well as the ways in which trauma impacts attachment.”

Attachment, Safety, and Violence

“In the anchoring concept of attachment theory, the ethological wisdom of a caregiver-infant behavioral system is seen as ensuring species’ survival (Bowlby, 1969).  The infant’s drive to maintain safety is paramount and is expressed in attachment behaviors that may phenotypically change over time but that serve the same purposeful goal of achieving “felt security” (Bretherton, 1990).  Perturbations in the infant’s ability to achieve felt security necessarily result in adaptations that may be more or less pernicious, depending on the quality and degree of frustration.  In response to the primary attachment figure’s track record of providing “felt” security, the infant constructs an “internal working model” of self and other.  This internal representation consolidates over the first 3 years of life and guides the infant’s expectations and behaviors in times of stress.

“The experience of violence, with its attendant physiological “felt anxiety” might therefore be conceptualized as the exact affective opposite of felt security.  The young child does not yet have the cognitive ability to mediate feelings of fear that result when exposed to violence, either as a victim or witness.  For young children, the caregiver’s role is to function as external regulator of negative or overwhelming internal affect and sensation.  Several violence scenarios may be imagined in which the caregiver is unavailable to soothe infant anxiety:  when the caregiver is being victimized, when the caregiver is a witness to violence and becomes too hyperaroused or too dissociated/avoidant to provide safety, or when the caregiver is the source of the violence – as in the case of parental child abuse (Carlson, 2000).  A toddler who has internalized a working model in which he or she is unprotected and repeatedly left subject to overwhelming fear – one of the definitional criterion for trauma – may develop what has been termed distortions in secure-base behavior (Lieberman & Pawl, 1990).  Such distortions are, in fact, attempts by the child to manage unmanageable anxiety without the actual or “real time” mentally represented assistance of the caregiver.

“If early childhood is characterized by a relational context in which the child’s ability to manage stress is determined by caregiver response, then the mental health status of the caregiver becomes a vital concern.  Fraiberg, Adelson, and Shapiro (1975) called attention to the profound effects of maternal mental health on the developing child.  The “ghosts in the nursery” that Fraiberg et al. described were malevolent internalized attachment figures who had subjected the caregiver to various forms of maltreatment during his or her own childhood.  Fraiberg et. al. observed that caregiver traumatization in the past resulted in (1) his or her present-day inability to respond appropriately to infant anxiety, or (2) his or her engagement in behavior that actually induced anxiety.  From an attachment perspective, the infant’s working model of self and other is thereby shaped by the caregiver’s disturbed attachment representations.

“Exploring representational models, Fonagy et. al. (Fonagy, Moran, Steele, Steele, & Higgitt, 1991; Fonagy, Steele, Moran, Steele, & Higgitt, 1993) identified the capacity for “reflective functioning” as an awareness of a meaningful relationship between underlying mental states (feelings, thoughts, motivations, intentions) and behavior in and between both self and others.  Fonagy’s group found that caregiver reflective functioning was significantly predictive of infant attachment classification.  The caregiver’s capacity to “read” infant mental states accurately, and with inference of meaning, allows for sensitively attuned responses that create a subjective experience of security/safety and support the infant’s developing capacity for self-regulation (Bretherton & Munholland, 1999).  However, when engaging in reflective functioning leads to the experiencing of highly negative affect, certain aspects of mental functioning may be defensively inhibited (Fonagy, Steele, Steele, Higgitt, & Target, 1994) or excluded (Bretherton, 1990).  A caregiver in a state of defensive inhibition will be incapable of accurately responding to and reflecting the child’s mental state, leaving the child to manage states of arousal and anxiety on his or her own.  Consistent with this formulation is the finding that young children assessed as having a disorganized attachment have caregivers who are often unresolved with respect to past traumatic experience (Lyons-Ruth & Jacobvitz, 1999).  In short, caregiver history of attachment relationships and of trauma exposure determines not only the dyad’s quality of attachment, via reflective functioning, but additionally the manner in which trauma exposure will be processed by both child and caregiver.

“Thus, traumatic violence can interfere with the initial development of a secure and organized attachment or derail a previously secure attachment if the caregiver is sufficiently adversely affected.  Disturbances in attachment, in turn, confer increased [sic] for (1) recovery from trauma exposure by the child and/or caregiver (Fisher, Gunnar, Dozier, Bruce, & Pears, 2006), (2) enactment of maltreatment by the traumatized caregiver (Cicchetti, Rogosch, & Toth, 2006), (3) child exposure to trauma via inadequate caregiver monitoring (Schechter, 2006; Schechter, Brunelli, Cunningham, Brown, & Baca, 2002; Schechter et al., 2005), and (4) subsequent repetition and transmission of risk by the traumatized child and/or caregiver (Weinfield, Whaley, & Egeland, 2004).  Such evidence supports the contention that we must view infant mental health disturbances through the dual conceptual lenses of attachment theory and trauma theory (Lieberman, 2004).”  (pages 205 – 206)

Relational Neurobiology

Like all psychological functions, the child’s expectations in relation to attachment figures have neurobiological correlates.  In addition to the effects of cortisol noted earlier, physical abuse, compounding its clear effects on emotion regulation and separation anxiety within the context of attachment, has been found to be associated with attentional dysregulation and selective biases to angry and negative affect (Pollak & Torrey-Schell, 2003).

“Moreover, from early infancy, children are dependent on their attachment figures to reflect back to them how they are feeling and to make sense of their experience.  Expectation of the contingent responsiveness during early infancy has been described empirically in the work of Gergely and Watson (1996), who also first described the “marking” of the infant’s affect by the primary caregiver – the processing and modulation of that affect, which feeds back a sense of empathy as well as serving a modulatory function for the baby, beginning in the period of the second to fifth months of life.  Subsequently, Gergely (2001) noted that lack of marking and overidentification with the child’s perspective may interfere with affect regulation, particularly around crises and trauma.

“We now know that specific neural circuits in the developing brain, among which the mirror neuron system figures prominently, are crucial to the development of social cognition, self-awareness, affect regulation, and learning (Jacoboni & Dapretto, 2006).  The functional implications of these cortical pre-motor planning and parietal structures in the context of early development are only just beginning to be understood.  The impact of violence exposure on the development of these circuits with respect to expression of aggression remains to be studied.

Myron Hofer (1984) has described multiple “hidden regulators” embedded within the attachment system across mammalian species.  The need for mutual regulation of emotion and arousal in humans lasts approximately as long as it takes for integrative structures in the brain to myelinate and prefrontal cortical areas to develop, all of which serve to assist the child in self-regulation in the face of stress and fear.  In other words, the primary caregiver is, during the first 5 years of life, crucial to the infant’s developing self-regulation.  The hidden regulators embedded within the attachment system include those of sleep, feeding, digestion, and excretion as well as higher functions of emotion, arousal, and attention.  The literature contains many examples of how the sequelae of a caregiver’s experience of violent trauma and maltreatment, PTSD, affective disorders, severe personality disorders, and substance abuse can impair this fundamental regulatory function during formative stages of development, both at the representational and behavioral levels of attachment.  (Lyons-Ruth & Block, 1996; Schechter et al., 2005; Theran, Levendosky, Bogat, & Huth-Bocks, 2005), and contribute to intergenerational transmission of violent trauma and maltreatment.

“Neurobiologically based studies of primates, specifically, macaque monkeys, have helped to elucidate the role of attachment in interrupting versus promoting intergenerational transmission of maltreatment (Barr et al., 2004; Maestripieri, 2005; Shannon et al., 2005).  In Shannon et al.’s study (2005), maternal absence (i.e., neglect) was associated with decreased serotonin replenishment, a finding associated with mood and impulse disorders, as well as with increased alcohol consumption (in Barr e al.’s study, 2004).

“Recent research has also supported transgenerational transmission of biological response to trauma.  Whether this finding proves ultimately to be a risk or resilience factor remains a question.  An affected mother’s exposure to violent trauma during pregnancy (i.e., the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City) and her glucocorticoid stress response were linked to the glucocorticoid levels, upregulation of the receptor setpoint, and behavior of her infant by 9 months of life (Yehuda et al., 2005)….  Could this transmission of response to shared stress during pregnancy be one example at the very beginning of the organism’s life of adaptation in the service of evolution?  Is the mother’s biology preparing the offspring for expectation of threat?  If so, can one say that the development of PTSD (and/or other posttraumatic psychopathology) is a form of risk if no further threat actually exists, or resilience in the form of potentially beneficial hypervigilance to actual subsequent threat?  [bold type is mine]

“As the hypothalamic-midbrain-limbic-paralimbic-cortical circuits in the caregiver respond jointly to infant stimuli, as has been found in recent neuroimaging studies among normative mother-infant dyads (Swain, Lorberbaum, Kose, & Strathearn, 2007), one can imagine a cycle of dysregulation in which unquelled infant distress becomes a stressor particularly for a traumatized parent.  Indeed, while watching video clips of their children during separation and other stressful moments, group differences between violence-exposed mothers of toddlers and nonexposed mothers have been noted with respect to measures of integrative behavior, autonomic nervous system activity, and brain activation (Schechter, 2006).

“We know that an important determinant of the effects of traumatic exposure (e.g., how long they endure) is the primary caregiver’s ability to help restore a sense of safety via regulation of infant emotion, sleep, arousal, and attention (Laor, Wolmer, & Cohen, 2001; Scheeringa & Zeanah, 2001).  These emerging findings may illuminate the ways in which the experience of violent trauma and its sequelae interfere with this primary caregiving function.  On a positive note, we have also begun to understand how new relationships, most dramatically that of foster care, can curb if not reverse at least some of the effects of early violent trauma exposure (Fisher et al., 2006; Zeanah et al., 2001).

(Pages 206 – 208)

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My sister just sent this link to me – check it out!

A Neuroscientist Uncovers A Dark Secret

by Barbara Bradley Hagerty

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On The Scale Of Evil, Where Do Murderers Rate?

A forensic psychologist has come up with a 22-point scale to rate evil, complete with examples of murderers from the 20th century.

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I cannot move forward in my current writing process right now if I don’t stop right here and now to write a post that will clear a pile of mental obstacles out of my way that have been accumulating over these past few days of working with my mother’s letters.

The image came to me a few days ago that I feel like a bowling ball right now sailing down a lane toward a neatly arranged collection of pins that represent the end goal I am working for at this stage of my writing process.  I have been trying to stay on track and not get sidetracked, distracted or bogged down as I go through what is the first edit of the body of my mother’s letters.  I am stuck.

It’s like the lane I have been rolling down has suddenly ended.  Broken, it has disappeared into space.  No, I am not going to let this stop me.  I am going to look at this current blockage (I just wrote ‘blackage’ here) as something I can tackle in words and eliminate.

Where do I start, though?  What is it I ‘have to say’?

As so often happens, I will only know for certain as I write the words that follow next.

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First of all I want to say something about two little, common, seemingly insignificant words in the English language that my mother found a way to leave out of her letters without losing the meaning of what she writes about:  “a” and “the.”

The online Webster’s dictionary lists 99 separate entries for the word, “a.”  It lists 43 for the word, “the.”  My mother’s style of writing did not require either of these words to communicate her meaning in her letters.  Yet now that I have bowled my way through a first edit of her letters covering 1958 through half of 1963, I realize that it is only NOW that I am seeing that I missed – until now – the significance not of her having left these two words out of her letters, but the significance of me blindly choosing to drop them into her text during my editing process.

The English patterns of usage for “the” follow most commonly along pathways related to its use as a ‘definite article’, an ‘adverb’ or as a ‘preposition.’  Patterns of common usage for “a” include ‘noun’, ‘indefinite article’, ‘preposition’, or ‘verb’.

In my commitment to myself to allow the main body of my mother’s writings to remain as a chronicle (the way she wrote them without adding ‘analysis’ or ‘interpretation’) I have tried to be very careful as I roll along down my lane of first edit NOT to alter her text.  By adding “the” and “a” occasionally I have merely been attempting to clarify for ‘outside’ readers the meaning of some of my mother’s phrases.

It has only now finally struck me how stunningly accomplished my mother was in writing without including these two small English words into her letters.  Because very occasionally she DID include them, I am not going to be able NOW to go back and ‘edit backwards’ and remove “the” and “a” where I have inserted and included those words.  Nor do I think I need to or have any desire to do so.

Yet at the same time this morning I am finding myself marveling at the skill my mother had as she wrote in her own shorthand without using these words.  Today, 50 years after my mother wrote these letters, many readers are familiar and comfortable with modern skills in text messaging that certainly have followed similar communication patterns.

For the sake of attaining consistency for ‘outside’ readers of my mother’s words in published format, I have to make some decision of my own about what I am going to DO with “the” and “a” in the body of her verbal text.  Do I let reference to ‘homestead’ stand?  Or do I consistently alter sentences to read ‘the homestead’, or ‘the log house’, or ‘the mountain’?

How am I going to reach a point where I can trust my own writing ‘flow’ ability to overlay-insert occasional word changes within her text without feeling I am compromising my intention to allow my mother’s words to stand as HER chronicle?

This is one of my mental quandaries right now.  Once I have ‘bowled my way through’ this first edit of her work, I will need to return back to the beginning and set myself yet again to rolling down the ‘bowling lane’ toward yet another edit of the entire body of her writings.

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If I were working with a collection of writing under different circumstances this ‘issue’ about “the” and “a” would not have the importance I believe it does to me at this moment.  I suspect that in line with what experts might talk about as ‘object relations’ difficulties, my mother’s early forming brain-mind-self never grew to understand in normal ways what a PERSON actually was.

When the brain pathways that form in early infant-child developmental stages do not have the necessary information to build the early forming right limbic social-emotional brain correctly, all sorts of later appearing confusions about who a person is, including the self, appear.

‘Splitting” and ‘projections’ are aspects of these early brain forming changes that appear in my mother’s ‘mental illness’.  She did not, for example, have the ability to recognize that I was a PERSON because of her ‘splitting’ and ‘projections’ onto me.

As I work with her writings I am beginning to see more of what I hope to confidently name at some point as clearly repeating patterns and themes of her disorganized-disoriented insecure attachment disorder and its symptom – her mental illness (most likely Borderline).

So when my mother neglects to add “the” to “the homestead” I cannot instantly assume that ‘homestead’ wasn’t real to her as if it was a PERSON in her psyche and/or a projection of her mind.  “The log house,” or “log house” or simply “house,” or “mountain” (“the mountain?”) in my mother’s written lingo very well might have represented externalized projections from her mind, just as “ALASKA” itself probably did.

People do not speak-write about “the Alaska.”  We refer to Alaska by its name.  I am also questioning how to ‘handle’ my mother’s use of capitalizations in her writings.  Sometimes ‘Mountain’, sometimes ‘mountain’.  Sometimes ‘Homestead’, sometimes ‘homestead’.  Sometimes ‘Log House’, sometimes ‘log house’.

Even though we don’t often think about it, established rules we use for capitalization always reflect relationships and values.  In my mother’s dichotomous thinking, sometimes places were just as closely connected to the ‘friend-or-foe’ dichotomy as people in her life were.

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When ‘normally’ considering a ‘normal’ person with a ‘normal’ brain-mind-self, we can assume that seriously considering the words “a” and “the” (their inclusion or deletion) in sentences is a trite and trivial affair – perhaps a silly waste of time and mental energy.

I am working in ‘a twilight zone’ here.  I believe my Borderline mother existed in ‘a twilight zone’.  In fact, I probably share this belief with many others who still have serious questions about exactly what kind of a reality the Borderline brain-mind-self actually operates within.

Personification of mental projections IS a problem!  In the same way that I was ‘personified evil’ to my mother, not a child, not a human being – I suspect that ‘the log house’ and ‘the homestead’ and ‘the mountain’ and even Alaska itself represented something not ordinary to my mother.  In fact, I suspect that I will eventually be able to clarify that even ‘the dream’ that my mother seemed to organize and orient her entire being in relationship to was as much a literal THING to my mother as her own body was.

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When we consider the terrible reality of severe child abuse I believe we are actually looking at actions committed by human beings whose earliest forming emotional-social brain did not include the necessary information that would have allowed them to KNOW what a person was as clearly differentiated from an object.

This entire area of thought is one that I think about continually, though I am not ready yet to explore my thoughts in words other than to say that the human mirror neuron system, as it is connected to the motor neuron regions of the brain, has been designed from it origins to help humans use TOOLS to better ensure survival.

Whether or not the mirror neuron is ACTUALLY involved as part of the human empathy experience seems to be a matter that is open to great debate in scientific thinking.  I am not going to perpetuate any myth in this area.  I am also not ready to thoroughly explore the scientific facts in this debate, either.

I tend to agree with research I have read that states that the human mirror neuron is NOT actually involved in the brain region activational patterns that operate during the experience of true empathy.  In other words, empathy DOES NOT use the mirror neuron system.  Empathy is ‘something else’.

If this is true, then it seems entirely possible to me that someone like my mother with her Borderline brain had problems with circuits and pathways that ordinary, normal people do not – but that at the same time ALL of us experience a ‘borderline’ just at the interface between empathy and the mirror neuron system.  My guess would be that this ‘borderline’ exists just at the interface where our social-emotional brain understands the difference between human beings as being something MORE than, DIFFERENT than being object-tools.

If this distinction between humans as BEINGS versus humans as object-tools does not form right as the body-brain is forming in the beginning – a developmental process that is entirely dependent upon the quality and kind of earliest caregiver interactions that we have for its formation – then never will this person EVER be able to ‘normally’ know what a person is, including their own self.

As I understand it, the process that is supposed to normally occur that allows us to KNOW the difference between a person and an object-tool HAS to include emotional FEELING FELT, mirroring early infant-caregiver interactions.  If these resonating, mirroring interactions do NOT allow the feeling felt experience to happen for an infant-child, the ‘borderline’ between human-as-human or human-as-tool-object never forms correctly.

Without ‘proper’ formation of this ‘boundary’, true empathy (and we could say corresponding conscience) will not exist.  Such was my mother.  And as readers of this blog already know, these changes in early development also completely affect-direct the infant-child’s development of their entire nervous system, including their brain, their autonomic nervous system (vagus nerve system, stress response system, calm and connection system), and their immune system.  As Dr. Martin Teicher states, an evolutionarily altered being comes out – basically at the far end of the baby-human being assembly line!

Looking backwards in time at human evolutionary development, these evolutionarily altered beings are, in my thinking, simply ones like those who existed before the period in our specie’s development when having the luxury of knowing the ‘boundary’ between human and tool, human and other, or even what a HUMAN even was, existed.  (Way back before we had spoken verbal language).

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Of course as often happens, this post is becoming lengthy.  That doesn’t matter to me.  I need to clear this blockage, this ‘wreckage’ out of my ‘bowling lane’ so that I can return to my task of accomplishing the first ‘once completely through’ edit of my mother’s writings.

Considering all that’s being dumped into this post, that’s a lot of blockage-wreckage!

Tied to these thoughts I am having is the miracle that happened last Friday.  I just happened to be on the telephone with my daughter as she was holding her son (my first grandchild who was born premature and is now three months old) as he did something so important most everyone actually MISSES its significance.

He saw his own hand for the very first time, and recognized what he was seeing!

My daughter had noticed over the previous 48 hours that her son had loosened the tight fists he has waved around since he was born, and had begun to spread out his fingers.  Then, suddenly, within a single infitesimally minute segment of time – he SAW his own hand, and from there began to move it around while following it with his vision.

There you have it, folks!  The beginning moment of the conscious development and recognition of the individual human self with, “OH, MY!  Look at THIS!  There is a hand and that hand is connected to ME and I can move it around and determine what it does!  How COOL is THIS?  Here I AM!

In a normal safe and secure, loving attachment environment, which my grandson has in super abundance, this developmental stage is taking place as just another stage in the ongoing emotional-social body-brain’s formation.  All those nerve cells and neurons, circuits and pathways and connections being made one tiny instant at a time – that form a human being.  But without these developmental stages occurring within a loving, adequate, safe and secure attachment environment, the inclusion of BEING A FULLY FUNCTIONING EMOTIONAL-SOCIAL HUMAN BEING will NOT be included in the final product!

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My grandson’s mirror neuron system is already developing, but because he is growing in a ‘feeling felt’ attachment environment, his feelings will be involved as a separate PERSON as he grows, as he watches and ‘learns’.  At the same time the invisible ‘boundary’ between person-as-person, not person-as-object-tool will be appropriately forming all his other physiological development will be properly forming in relationship to this fundamental fact.

Most every person, my mother and my self included, can say, “Of course I know what a person is,” and “Of course I know a person is not an object-tool,” we do not FEEL it.  We report this fact as a SEMANTIC piece of information.  This is NOT the same thing as feeling the difference on the ‘AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL’ level.  It is a difference in the way memory operation has formed in the beginning.

This being said, I will simply add here that in my mother’s June 17, 1963 letter to her mother, when she wrote, “I figured the other day we’ve moved 17 times in six years – no wonder we’re sick and tired of moving,” she is not aware that she has no more of an idea how her children (or her husband) felt through all of these chaotic place-changes than she did how the household items felt.

My mother’s brain did not have the capacity to ACTUALLY tell the difference between how a fork or a piece of carpet FELT and how her living, breathing children FELT.  She dragged every-THING around with her equally oblivious of consequence.

My mother could have no empathy for a couch differently than for a person.  Her own ‘feeling felt’ brain-mind-self ‘boundary’ had never formed correctly in her infant-childhood that would have meant that on a FEELING level she could tell the difference between a person-as-a-person and a person-as-an-object.

Without having formed this fundamental ‘point of referencing’ my mother could not appropriately organize and orient herself – PERIOD.  The changes that happened to her as a result of no ‘feeling felt’ experiences as her body-brain developed also left her with a disturbed, disoriented and disorganized sense of time-distance-space, a fact that is noticeably splashed throughout the chronicle of her life journey that I am working with in her letters.

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I will make one more point here and then hope that I have accomplished the ‘bowling lane clearance’ that I was hoping for by writing here this morning.  Over and over again in my mother’s letters she says to her own mother that all she ever wanted was to recreate for her own children (us) ‘the wonderfully happy childhood’ that my mother’s mother had (supposedly – and NOT) created for my mother.

In the end, that attempt to recreate her own nonexistent happy childhood was the DREAM that drove my mother’s homesteading, Alaskan pursuits.  That my mother lacked the capacity to actually differentiate her children from her self meant that what she was doing was attempting to recreate her own ‘happy childhood’ for her OWN self.

Several months ago I realized that along with ‘playing baby dolls’ with her own children as the projected ‘doll babies’, my mother was at the same time ‘playing house’.  Over and over and over again in these letters my mother describes her homemaking efforts as if she was talking about setting up a doll house.

Until this parallel struck me, I had never thought about whether or not my mother actually had a DOLL HOUSE in her young childhood nursery where she played in solitaire for unending hours, days, months and years.  I bet that she DID!  This would have been in addition to all the trappings of ‘housedom’ she DID have for the bigger dolls such as beds and bedding, rocking chairs, dish sets, etc.

So it was not ONLY a recreation of her doll play that manifested itself in her distorted mental projections upon her adult life that I can see in the patterns of her activities.  It was ALSO the recreation of the perfect doll house that appears repeatedly with ever one of the moves my mother did.  (Seventeen moves in six years by her count is a lot of moves, although I believe once I get to that level of detail analysis within my mothers writings I will count far more than that.)

Add to this confusion the fact that my mother didn’t know the difference between her attempts to ‘recreate her own perfect childhood for her children (for herself)’ and the actual hell she created for her own children – especially for me – I realize that working with my mother’s ‘story’ is a bit like trying to calming read a book while spinning around inside a blender at top speed.

My!  How ‘Twilight Zonesque’ is THAT image?  There we all were, husband, children, animals, props, homestead, log house, etc. — along with the past, present and future combined — all tossed together into the blender of my mother’s deeply disturbed ‘dream’ mind and held captive while she pushed the ‘go fast’ button.  Off we would all go over and over again, spinning around and around and around, up and down, in and out, here and there, willy-nilly without end.

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What can I possibly say in response to or in rebuttal against my mother’s words as posted earlier in +ANOTHER ‘NASTY GRAM’ FROM MY MOTHER TO HER MOTHER RE: 6 YEAR OLD ME:

November 26, 1957 Tuesday

Dear Mother,

I am glad I wrote my recent letter and hope you fully understand so I won’t have to repeat myself in the future.  You’ve always been far overly concerned with LINDA’S actions anyways.  I am not nearly as concerned with ‘tom boyishness’ which is not as prevalent now anyways as with poor behavior in school and traits and personality.  It takes far more anyways than ‘a pretty dress and a pretty face’ to be nice. “

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Because I actually FOUND these words written in my mother’s handwriting across a 50+ year old piece of paper the other night, they are now visibly lodged in my waking mind rather than ONLY being carved into my ‘invisible being’.

What these words reflect is my mother’s HATE for me.  They reflect the fact that I was born DOOMED as her daughter to a life in hell.  What these words reflect is the fact that my grandmother was the ONLY person in the universe who knew that fact.  Our move to Alaska effectively removed my grandmother’s influence from my life as I have mentioned before, yet his letter my mother wrote  even further banished Grandmother into the remotest distance away from me.

There is no place far enough away in the universe that I can run to or hide in to make these words go away, as much as I might wish to or think I SHOULD be able to escape them now.  It is the echo of these words within every fiber of my being that bothers me now.  I want to ignore them.  I want to pretend that things were somehow ‘different’ for me from the time I was born – but 18 years in hell, as I tried to grow and develop my body-brain-mind-self is a long, long, long time.

Every time during those 18 years that I tried to grow even the tiniest part of who Linda is – into my self and into the world – SHE was there to bash me, to crash me, to smash me.  HATE is a destructive power nearly beyond imagination, especially when an infant-child is hated by its own mother (and father, in my case).

The fact that I was at least able to access a little tiny bit of my Grandmother’s concern and affection (even though she must have had a major influence on creating the monster my mother was from the start) before I turned six when we left Los Angeles and moved to Alaska was the only life preserver I ever had except for the love my 14-month-older than me brother radiated upon me.

My body-brain internalized my grandmother’s influence on my behalf, but it clear as day that my mother HATED the fact that my grandmother loved me.  How could she NOT, given the fact that much of my mother’s demise was rooted in the ways and times that her mother despised her as she grew and formed.

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I don’t feel like I am standing at the gates of hell gazing at the devouring inferno’s flames as I try to write something in response to these words of my mother’s I just found in her letter.  I feel like I am standing in hell’s inferno itself, and there is nothing I can do to stop that fact because I have the first years’ of my life experience being exactly in that place.

But what about today?  I have a thought about burls growing on some trees in some forests.  I remember seeing those burls carved into bowls.  Those burls hold the most interesting and beautiful patterns of wandering wood grain within them.  I didn’t know as a child what formed those burls.  I guess I don’t really even know now.  But at least I have a glimmer of a grasp on the process.

As some trees grow in the forest, and send out their tiny new branches, sometimes something happens that causes the branch to turn around so that instead of it growing freely in its extension out into the air freely, it turns around and begins to grow back into itself.  That’s where those wandering lines of grain within the burls come from.

I feel like one of those burls this morning.  I can see that the resiliency of who I am and how I am in the world (and have been since I ‘got made’) – coupled with what little support I could glean from my brother and my grandmother – kept me alive so that I could endure and survive my mother.  But I had to grow my branches inward where my mother could not get to them-me – as best as I could.

Knowing that fact, and knowing my growing process was probably very similar to any other severe infant-child abuse survivor’s – I can see that within us is held the most beautiful patterns and lines, colors and swirls, the most spectacular wonder in the tracks of our survival that appear in the ‘burl’ that is us – that anyone could imagine.

A tree branch that turns around and grows into itself cannot be as easily seen as a fully stretched and reaching branch.  It is compact, and less vulnerable.  We (survivors) grew closest to the trunk that contains our very life force within it.  We grew closest to the root source that fed us life then and feeds us life now.  We must ACTUALLY have the very shortest route to take to find out who we truly as are separate, unique and wonderful individuals because we did not get to grow ourselves in any extended far reach into ‘that world out there’.

We perhaps did not lose ourselves in that outside world the way others who could romp and play, grow and thrive while being loved, cherished, supported, encouraged from the time they were born.  We are tough.  The wood grain of a burl is dense and hard, being close to a rock than any vegetable matter.  We had to be that strong, that tough, that endurable, that unbreakable, that self- and inwardly-protected – – and THIS special, unique and beautiful.

Which brings me back in my thoughts to my mother’s few brief words in her letter to her mother about me and my relationship both to my mother and to my grandmother.  There is an unbelievable universe of terrible abuse contained in those few words – as if they contain the terrible dark and destructive seed that was my mother’s hatred.  At the same time I read them, at the same time I can feel all the echoing and resonance within this body-brain-mind-self that formed itself within THAT hell, I also know that nothing my mother ever did to me – or ever could possibly do – could in any way remove from me ANY portion of who I AM as a human being.

My mother’s treatment of me DID change HOW I am in my lifetime because her treatment of me changed the way I physiologically grew and developed.  But she did not change ME.  I just grew into a different kind of branch, one with most of its health and beauty held close within me on the inside – exactly where she could never actually reach me.

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Well, at least I slept last night, though I woke numerous times with odd thoughts in my head!  One of them is related to parenting and eggs.  How?  Think:  Pickled Eggs.

If I picture the early caregiving environment an infant-child is born into as being ‘trauma-toxic’, and then think about pickling eggs, I can better picture how the effects of early trauma changes a little tiny developing body-brain in parallel ways to how soaking an egg in vinegar (with or without spices) will completely change an egg!

Not the same kind of eggs!

When I woke up from whatever odd dream about parents and eggs that I was having last night, I also ‘saw’ one of those nifty hardboiled egg slicers.  If I were to peel a pickled egg and an unpickled egg, and then submit their nice oval shape to the effects of an egg slicer, I would find that what the environment did to the egg completely permeates its constitution.  While the eggs would still equally be eggs, they would be very much changed from one another through and through.

How early maltreatment, trauma, neglect, abuse can stimulate trauma-altered early development is very much like this process.  In cases like my mother’s was, the changes that her body went through in her earliest development (certainly from birth through the age of six) completely changed her through and through.  By the end, nothing was left of her original egg-self.  Influences from her early environment, which also affected the way her genetic code manifested itself, resulted in an entirely different egg-self – through and through.

When I refer to MY mother as ‘My Borderline Mother’ I am referring to this fact.  I had a trauma-changed mother.  If I look at what I know about her very, very closely, I can see the true-egg part of my mother present in her love of the natural world.  That part of who she was born as was not lost.  That part of who she was, I believe, existed so close to the core of who she was that nothing (no one) could change that, in the same way that all the maltreatment my mother did to me never took away from me my love of nature, of plants, of beauty, or of artistic expression through creative use of my hands.

Trauma in infant-childhood CAN and DOES create body-brain changes in development that last a lifetime!

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My mother certainly made it undeniably clear that she hated me.  On the topic of HATE in regards to how I feel (or have ever felt or will ever feel) about my mother, I went looking this morning for the Webster definition of HATE.   The root origins of the word are connected to CARE.  Maybe I don’t, and don’t seem able to hate my mother because I just don’t care enough about HER to achieve that level of investment.

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HATE (noun)

Etymology: Middle English, from Old English hete; akin to Old High German haz hate, Greek kēdos care

Date: before 12th century

1 a : intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury b : extreme dislike or antipathy : loathing
2 : an object of hatred

HATE (verb)

Date: before 12th century

transitive verb 1 : to feel extreme enmity toward
2 : to have a strong aversion to : find very distasteful: to express or feel extreme enmity or active hostility

hat·er noun

hate one’s guts : to hate someone with great intensity

synonyms hate, detest, abhor, abominate, loathe mean to feel strong aversion or intense dislike for. hate implies an emotional aversion often coupled with enmity or malice <hated the enemy with a passion>. detest suggests violent antipathy <detests cowards>. abhor implies a deep often shuddering repugnance <a crime abhorred by all>. abominate suggests strong detestation and often moral condemnation <abominates all forms of violence>. loathe implies utter disgust and intolerance <loathed the mere sight of them>.

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About a month ago I had a conversation with a young man who was finishing a painting job on the wood-faced mall complex that contains the laundromat café where I go most Saturday’s morning to visit with my friend while she does her weekly washing.  This Hispanic young man explained to me that his entire family, including his girl friend and young daughter were still living in San Diego.  He had left the area searching for a new place to live and for a better life.  He hopes to eventually convince all the people he cares about to join him once he solidly locates employment.

This young man told me that in the two months that had passed since he left San Diego six of his friends had been shot to death.  He explained how all the homes where his family lives have barred windows and doors.

“It doesn’t do any good to replace windows once the haters have shot them out,” he told me matter of factly.  “Once they see the windows are back, they drive by and shoot them out again.  No place is safe there.  The haters cannot be stopped.  I do not want my family there.  I have to find a new place for us all to live in peace and safety.  Let the haters have it out there.  They already do.”

When I first heard this young man use that word ‘haters’ I wasn’t sure I heard him right.  I asked him about it.  He told me that there used to be a reason for the haters to hate, but there isn’t anymore.  Now they hate simply because that is who they have become.  It is who they are.

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I have spent hours thinking about the comment made to yesterday’s post about hate and my mother, trying to find my own truth about the topic.  I’m not sure that truth even exists where I will be able to consciously find it in my lifetime.

I cannot find a place within myself to stand on from which I can hate my mother.  Maybe that means “I cannot stand to hate my mother.”  Maybe it means “I cannot understand hating my mother.”  I am not at all sure, thinking about it, that I have the physiological capacity or ability to hate my mother – and I mean this exactly literally.

Differentiation of emotions from birth happens as the brain is built in the earliest caregiver interactions an infant has with its primary caregiver, most often its mother.  Because my mother (and her psychosis and mental illness) meant that she began to hate me while she was in labor with me, her hate for me met me at the door when I entered this world.

Obviously, her hatred completely overwhelmed little tiny me, and it influenced every interaction she had with me and (again, obviously) influenced the way my body-brain developed.

Differentiation of emotions happens at the same time and through the same process-interactions that the ‘jelling’ of the self happens.  As our earliest caregivers resonate with our infant (and childhood) emotional states, they mirror back to us our self.

My mother was not capable of doing this for me.  As a result, I never went through anything like a normal process of developing either a self or of recognizing, discriminating, identifying, discovering, defining or naming my feelings.  Because The Monster made me in interaction with her, there is no possible way that I could have even began to form an emotional space within my own physiology (brain-body-nervous system-mind-self) where any hate could have existed – most certainly, not toward her.

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Through all my thinking about my response to the comment made that I just mentioned, I feel like I have turned my inner house upside-down and inside-out, just as I would if I were searching and looking for something necessary, vital and needed.  I have combed and sifted, moved things around, hunted for it, and I cannot find even a glimmer inside me – nowhere – of hatred toward my mother for what she did to me.

True, as this commenter pointed out, I was nearly 30 years old before I was even able to recognize that I had been abused.  It was only 6 years ago that I began my neurologically-based own research about what damage that abuse TRULY did to me.  At that point I began to understand dissociation, disorganized-disoriented insecure attachment disorders, and I began to understand that the level of abuse, trauma, isolation and deprivation I had experienced from birth until age 18 had changed my physiological development and changed how my genetic potential had manifested itself in my body – and still does.

As I processed what I know about myself and the abuse my mother did to me, I also began to understand that my mother had a different, ‘evolutionarily altered’ body-brain-mind-self herself.  I realized that the minimum sentence my mother COULD and SHOULD have received for what she did to me would have to have been a 14,500-year sentence.  I realized that what I experienced, what I have to consider in my healing, and what was done to me is so far past normal, so far out of the range of normal or ordinary, that it barely, just barely fits anywhere on the map of modern life’s ‘being a human being’.

Even so, perhaps if my capacity for emotion had not been so pervasively, and evidently permanently altered by my mother, maybe I would have the capacity to hate her.  But – reality is reality and it appears that I simply don’t have that ability in the same way that I don’t have brown eyes.

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Even when I reached the point of disowning my mother, there was no emotion involved in that process.  As the Webster definition of ‘hate’ mentions, whatever hate is it ‘usually derived from fear, anger, or a sense of injury’.  I felt none of those feelings, nor was I in any related state of mind.

What I recognized through my experience of (unintentionally) abusing my own little son was that my mother never felt remorse for anything she ever did to me.  If there is anything that might be useful for me to examine and understand, it has nothing to do with hate.

Maybe there is something HERE that I can eventually sink my teeth into in some useful way.  What actually WAS it about realizing so profoundly, fundamentally and absolutely that my mother never felt remorse for anything she ever did to me that created such clarity within me at the instant that realization hit me?

If that momentary instant of abusing my son had never happened, I’m not sure I would ever have reached that instant of clarity about my mother and her relationship with me.

At the instant I ‘snapped’ with my son and lashed out at him in blind rage that I NEVER saw coming, that I never knew I was capable of feeling or acting out in such a way, it was like crossing a line where I – for the first time and I think the ONLY time in my life – FELT like I was sharing in the experience of how my mother acted toward me.

As soon as ‘I came to my senses’ and realized what I had done to my son, an entirely new experience consumed me:  remorse.  I felt so completely shocked at what I had done, and so profoundly SORRY for what I had done to him that I have no words to express it.

What HAD to happen at that point is that ACTION needed to follow the experience.

(1) Fully recognizing the WRONG I had done and that this WRONG was WRONG.

(2) Apologizing to my little son the best that I could in my attempts to REPAIR this horrible and horrifying RUPTURE that I had created in his life.

(3) Vowing from the essence of my being that nothing like this would EVER happen again in my lifetime.

(4) Disowning my mother.

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I think I instinctively realized at this moment that something was terribly, terribly WRONG WITH MY MOTHER that she never once, for all the thousands and thousands and thousands of instances of abuse of one kind or another that she perpetrated against me, not one single time felt remorse.

Looking at this word I find it fascinating that the word is fundamentally tied in its roots to BITING:

REMORSE

Main Entry: re·morse

Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French remors, from Medieval Latin remorsus, from Late Latin, act of biting again, from Latin remordēre to bite again, from re- + mordēre to bite — more at mordant

Date: 14th century

1 : a gnawing distress arising from a sense of guilt for past wrongs : self-reproach
2 obsolete : compassion

synonyms see penitence

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On the most profound and REAL level I was my mother’s PREY.  She was a predator, and her hate of me gave her full permission to BITE me.  She exercised her predator instinct as fully as she could without actually risking consequence from ‘the outside’.  She was profoundly self-centered (a physiological brain-based reality) and did not kill me, I believe, because of the consequences she would have had to endure if she had.  She was not stupid.

My mother did not feel any guilt for wrongs done against me, no ‘gnawing distress’, no self-reproach, no compassion.

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This leads me to the most important word of all, and that word is WRONG, not hate:

WRONG

Etymology: Middle English, from Old English wrang, from *wrang, adjective, wrong

Date: before 12th century

1 a : an injurious, unfair, or unjust act : action or conduct inflicting harm without due provocation or just cause b : a violation or invasion of the legal rights of another; especially : tort
2 : something wrong, immoral, or unethical; especially : principles, practices, or conduct contrary to justice, goodness, equity, or law
3 : the state, position, or fact of being or doing wrong: as a : the state of being mistaken or incorrect b : the state of being guilty

synonyms see injustice

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WRONG is just what it is – WRONG.

I knew what I had done to my son was WRONG.

My realization about my mother coincided at the same instant as I realized she felt no remorse and evidently did not (for whatever reason) EVER consider what she did to me was WRONG.  Not wrong = no remorse.

At this same instant I realized that I had done WRONG, and realized how WRONG my mother had been, how WRONG what she had done to me was, I in effect came face-to-face with the reality of a VOID within my mother where this ‘knowing I did something WRONG in hurting my child’ did not exist within her.  It was at this instant that I realized down to the bottom of my soul that “something was terribly WRONG with my mother.”

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I find it interesting that is the exact word my youngest sister had used on what was the very first time anyone in my family had ever talked with me about the abuse I endured as a child.  My sister had come to visit me I believe in 1980, and had said to me, “Linda, if you are not very, very mad for what our mother did to you while you were growing up there is something terrible wrong with you.”

I had nothing inside of me at that time (I was 29) to connect her words to.

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I am left here with the thought that this entire hunt about why I don’t hate my mother reminds me of reducing numbers contained in fractions to their lowest common denominator.

I don’t believe (evidently) that the important point for me has anything whatsoever to do with HATE.  Reducing all the terror and trauma, the pain and suffering and torment of my childhood of being hated and abused by my mother reduces down to just that one simple word for me:  WRONG.

I have never in my life personally felt so WRONG as I did the instant after I abused my little son.  At that instant I not only DID the WRONG, but recognized the WRONG, I knew without any possible room for doubt what WRONG really and actually was.

At that instant I finally knew what my sister had tried to tell me.  I finally knew how WRONG my mother was because I finally FELT what WRONG felt like within my own self.  That was the end of any denial I might have felt about my childhood and the end of any foggy inability I had up until that instant to know the truth about my mother and her treatment of me.

I could not ‘ignore’ or ‘pretend’ any more.  I had, for that instant I abused my son, fully become The Monster my mother had always been toward me.  I had become the predator who ‘bit’ my son.

I might not ever really know what HATE is, but I know now what WRONG is.  My WRONG was intimately connected to REMORSE.  My mother’s wasn’t.  Evidently it has never been important for me to hate my mother.  It was important that I learn this single fact:  WRONG and REMORSE belong together.  When they are dissociated from one another it means that something so much bigger is so terribly WRONG that unless some fundamental repair can be made at this level there is no hope for health, wellness or for healing.

I also know in my reality that that none of this has anything to do with HATE toward either of my parents.  Perhaps because I spent 18 years being ‘bitten’ and eaten alive by the hatred my mother had toward me, I see hatred as a predatory state of being I wish to avoid in any way that I can.  I believe I see hatred as being an attribute of The Monster.  I believe it is an endangering state.

Even looking at it physiologically, hate (a stress response)  does not promote compassionate operation of our calmness, caring and connection vagus nerve system.  I would ask, “Why entertain an unwelcome guest?  What goodness does hatred bring to the betterment of life?  Who does hate benefit?  What grows and what dies as a result of its presence?”

In my thinking, if we care enough about something to hate, we can care enough to care in some other, better way.

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Read Full Post »

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see also:

+MY ABUSIVE BPD MOTHER LOST HER WINGS – AND NEVER GREW UP

How expert are you at being able to detect the twisted reality presented by a severely abusive Borderline?  The clues to the truth do not lie with the Borderline, they exist within the empathic abilities of outside observers to know the truth from a lie.  This ability to know true reality from the lies of a deceptive reality so marginally exits within an abusive Borderline that I would say it does not exist at all.

++

For example:

Brain Scans Clarify Borderline Personality Disorder

By Rick Nauert PhD

Using real-time brain imaging, a team of researchers have discovered that patients with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are physically unable to regulate emotion.

The findings, by Harold W. Koenigsberg, MD, professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine suggest individuals with BPD are unable to activate neurological networks that would help to control feelings.   READ ARTICLE HERE

(NOTE:  In later posts I will write about my father’s participation in my mother’s distorted reality.  I believe he had an avoidant-dismissive insecure attachment that meant his brain could regulate emotion to the extreme — but not in a normal way.  His brain, which could overly activate ‘neurological networks’ that helped him overly control his feelings, was the perfect compliment to my mother’s Borderline brain.)

++

WHAT HAPPENS WITHIN THE BORDERLINE BRAIN?

++

Perhaps the most important piece of information those of us who were severely abused and traumatized by a Borderline Personality Disordered mother need to understand is that our mothers had/have a completely different kind of brain.  These severe Borderline brains are expertly created through completely natural (and possible) processes of distortions in early childhood that in the end make the brain differences most difficult to detect unless and until we know what we are looking at when we consider the Borderline behaviors that manifest themselves as a result of early brain developmental changes.

We also need to understand that as a consequence of early traumatizing experiences a Borderline’s entire nervous system development (the brain is ‘just’ one component of the Central Nervous System) were changed and altered as well.  This means that my mothers Autonomic Nervous System, which regulates both stress-defense responses through its ‘GO’ sympathetic arm and the connecting, compassionate, caregiving and seeking responses through the calming arm of the ‘STOP’ parasympathetic branch (think ‘pair-a-brakes’) were changes, as well.

I now understand that everything about who and how my severe Borderline mother was in the world was different from ‘normal’.  What is harder to understand is why it took me so long to figure this out, and why nobody – not one single person including my father and grandmother – was able to detect the incredibly severe, consistent, perpetual, and horrible trauma and abuse my mother perpetrated against me for 18 long years.

What makes an abusive Borderline mother’s violence and horrible treatment of her offspring (most often, I suspect, of a ‘chosen child’) so nearly impossible to detect?

++++

I am presenting here a letter my mother wrote to her mother just prior to the first visit to Alaska to see us that my grandmother made after we left Alaska in August 1957 a month before my sixth birthday.

The distortion in my mother’s thinking about me that really shows how subtle and pervasive her psychosis was is present in this letter as I describe it in my comments within the text.  My mother’s Borderline reality, and her psychosis regarding me (age six at the time this letter was written) would be impossible for an outside reader to detect.

The same processes that make her psychosis (and the abuse it engendered toward me) impossible to detect are the same ones, I suggest, that made her abuse of me undetectable to others all during the 18 years of terrible suffering my mother caused me.  If readers think ‘undetectable deadly toxins’ as they read this, perhaps they will be able to twist their own thinking back to a normal-reality perspective as the proceed through the following words.

The biggest problem contact with a severe Borderline psychosis creates is that people with Borderline brains are so complete in their distortions of reality.  They spin such a believable story, weave such a believable lie, that nobody but the most trained observers can possibly begin to detect the deceptions the psychosis contains.  When a person encounters a Borderline such as my mother was, all rules of human decency are suspended, and the outsider does not have a clue – not a single solitary clue – that these rules have been changed.  Everyone outside of the Borderline’s skin becomes instantaneously consumed within the distorted reality.

I can say here that I don’t give a solitary damn myself about anything I write here.  My concern is for those poor, pitiful, unbelievably tortured other people who grew up being the victim of a twisted Borderline’s reality – and with all those helpless, powerless suffering children who are trying to endure a Borderline parent’s torture at this present moment in time.

I know what I am talking about here.  My mother was probably among the best of the best of the best of abusive Borderlines.  Her web of deceptions was as impeccable as it was sinister and destructive.  And it was invisible, evidently, to all but her single chosen prey – me – and my poor siblings who had to live within the darkened home she controlled and ruined.

Because I was born into my mother’s hate-filled psychosis – and I mean this literally because the core of the psychosis formed during her labor with me – I had no possible way to begin to understand that my mother’s reality was not real.  The discoveries of REAL reality I uncover as I work with her 50-year-old-letters only come to me because I have found a way to take a safe stance as I read them.  That safe stance is ONLY possible now because I have enough information, finally, about Borderline brain changes to detect the clues that show me the presence of my mother’s invisible psychosis when I encounter them.

I am able to make the invisible visible.  There is no action more empowering for a severe early infant-child abuse survivor than this.  As you read the following you will be a part of experiencing this process in action.  Turn up the volume of your sensitivities here – turn it WAY up.  The truth contained in the deceptions of an abusive Borderline’s lies – that create the reality they BELIEVE – are so subtle as to actually exist exactly at that BORDERLINE the name of their disorder suggests.

The BORDERLINE appears, like a line drawn in invisible ink, exactly at the place where the observer can detect THEIR OWN INTERNAL EMOTIONAL CLUES that a deception of such grand proportions actually exists that it seems beyond belief.  It is at this BORDERLINE where what does not possibly seem believable is in fact BELIEVABLE that the expert Borderline brain’s creation of distorted reality becomes no longer invisible.

A Borderline such as my mother was does not possess within the operation of their brain or entire nervous system-body the capacity to detect the deceptions that form their reality.

The detection of the deceptions can ONLY come from those aware observers from the outside who have the capacity to – actually – experience the near outer-limits of EMPATHIC ability.  Observers have to know their own self, be able to sense with exquisite, accurate sensitivity what they are themselves feeling – within their own body – as they interact with an expert, professional Borderline like my mother was.

My mother’s Borderline deception-reality was NOT ACCURATE, but it was profoundly presented as such, as it is in this letter.  The clues to the truth do not lie here within my mother’s words.  They lie within the body-brain-mind of the outsiders who read them.

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An example of the pervasively subtle psychosis my mother had about me — along with my comments.  My grandmother was soon to come for her first visit since we had left Los Angeles and moved to Alaska in August of 1957 a month before my sixth birthday:

June 4, 1958

Dear Mother,

Imagine – 10 more days and you’ll be here!!  Does it seem possible?  Yesterday morning I looked at the calendar and was amazed to see that the happy day falls one week from this Saturday.  But then I became concerned.  It’s the best day for you to come but also the day I planned John’s party for the boys.

This is going to be a business letter as I’ll see you to chat in no time at all now.  I do feel he needs a party.  I wrote you about his shyness and Jo Anne’s remarks etc. and I’ve had quite a time overcoming this.

Then this summer I knew he had to have boys to play with and yet he didn’t want to go to Vanovers.  They’re big boys for their age, bossy and dominating – like her and he’s too young to understand their talk and sarcasm – and far too sweet and sensitive.  I knew he needed self-confidence this summer.

Well, I encouraged him to go to Headlows who I found out that they have 3 girls and one boy – perfect match?  He’s a darling boy6 and John and he hit it off from the first.

Then another boy Johnny Johnson moved to the hill.  His Mom owns the Department store at the shopping center.  She’s nice and so is he – I like the Headlow boy better but they’re both nice.

Now yesterday Gerry Vanover came over but he’s loud, bossy etc. but I was nice and John was happy but still prefers others.

Now his party will be perfect.  He needs it and I’ve promised.  I want it late afternoon and a BBQ – hot dogs and rolls so it won’t interfere with your arriving except this:  it will be an all boy party out doors and I don’t want the girls here. [She drew a little sketch for invitations that ‘John can draw’ showing person at BBQ.]

So last nite Bill and I talked it over and arrived at the conclusion if it suits you.  At first I was afraid it would be too much for you to arrive midst a child’s party but you could rest indoors.  Your plane is due to arrive around noon – give or take one hour!  We’ll take girls over to Le Verne’s house.  Her mom takes care of children anyway and I adore Le Verne.  I’ll talk it up to girls – give them new color books and some ‘party food’.  They’ve never been to her house and they’ll enjoy it.

I’d rather we all met you but plane could be one hour late or early so this way Bill and John will meet you – OK?  And I’ll wait home.  We’ll take you sight seeing Sunday and have family party Sunday too.

You’ll be here for that and meet boys too!  Then after party we’ll all go get girls!!

Oh Mom, I get so excited!  I’ve missed you so!  Won’t it be wonderful?  I’m working like mad to get house all clean, waxed and fixed so we won’t have a thing to do.

Bible School starts 9th through 20th and 3 older ones will go so you can rest and we’ll visit first week – only Sharon will be home.  Even she knows you’re coming and talks about it constantly.

Now does this plan meet with your approval.  I could go too if I was sure plane wouldn’t be late – we’ll see.  I’ll have his party at 3:00 – 7:00 or could be 4:00 – 7:00.  I’ll have house clean and food ready, potato salad, cake, etc.  He’ll be in 7th heaven and deserves it.  Will give him our gifts on Sunday.

Now I haven’t asked Le Verne yet.  Let me know your reaction right away!!

We’re planning lots of things to do on week-ends and Bill is going to buy a jeep truck today – good buy, only $600 and he needs it to get back to homestead – then I’ll have the car!!

First week relax.  2nd week-end trip to Girdwood Road and Portage Glacier and visit gold mines and pan for gold!!!  This is road will connect with our Eagle River Road when put through.  [Linda note:  2010, the road was never ‘put through’.]  We’ve never been to these places but have saved them for when you get here!!

Next week = you and I and children to Palmer and Valley.  Nice ride, paved road and we’ll take picnic and visit Rusty Dow – a character and painter.  I want to get some for art shop.  Fun?  Bill’s been to Palmer so we’ll go during week.

Week-end trip and stay over night – to Homer, Alaska.  Colorful, interesting beautiful scenery but rough, dirt road and long trip but FUN.  Another week-end to Seward.  A long day trip and picnic!!

Evening – Fire Lake Lodge and Spring Creek Lodge for dinner at nearby places.  Chart Room in town at Hotel.  Music Festival in Anchorage.  We’re going first Monday to visit gift shops with Alaska Woodcrafts – Mr. Bockstahler’s new wife – you’ll like her.  We want ideas and you’ll enjoy it.

So much to do and see.  Weather is coolish in 60s and 70s – I think you’ll need sweaters and blouses with sleeves.  Nights are light and cool!

We have beds all planned.  Children go to bed as usual and when we all turn in – we transfer Cindy to cot in John’s and Linda’s room and you sleep in Sharon’s room on folding bed.  It’s full size and comfortable – roll-a-way OK?  There that’s settled!

I’m not planning on having neighbors over – you and I will visit them!  I want to enjoy your visit and not plan parties OK?

One Saturday or Sunday we’ll drive in to see country back in but no need to hike

Remember, I wrote you I was to be Brownie Leader’s Assistant – sounds funny.  I hate not to keep my promises (like a Good Brownie) and had hoped to do it with Linda but I got so worried.  Kathy P. was to watch children.  She’s nice but just turned 14 and a flitter budget.  I got worried and this morning wrote a note saying I couldn’t help.  I feel terrible but better!!  Creek has risen so it’s not recognizable as same gentle stream.  It’s overflowed and is fast, dangerous and deep.  They never go there without us but might.  At night you can hear water rushing even in house.  The rapids and current is so strong – a child could never stand up and would be washed to river immediately.  Makes me shudder!!  I couldn’t leave Cindy and Sharon with her.  I told her I could help after 14th.  She’s expecting and wanted me to take troop while she had baby in July.  Also I’d be gone 4 hours and that adds up in baby sitting $ and I don’t trust neighbors.  What a worrier I am!!

++

[Linda note 2010:  Doesn’t surprise me she would find major reasons not to do something with me – and not to admit that she hated doing anything with me.  I am really surprised she let me go – but having there would NOT have been good for me at all, either, of course.  Her tone here is completely different than when she just wrote about doing a birthday party for John, even though at least here she is not ‘slamming’ me directly (at least).

My mother very rarely writes such a single long paragraph, either – confirming my suspicion that her unconscious would in no way allow her to participate as a loving mother in anything that had to do with me.  Very cunning, sounds so legitimate.

Another side to this is that no doubt it SEEMED like something a GOOD mother would do, help with a Brownie troop.  I putting together her Borderline public façade, her public persona, being seen as THIS KIND of mother would have been a good thing – like a prop in her pretend mother play.

Yet at the same time my mother lacked the capacity to ever concern herself, truly, with someone else’s needs.  It became apparent to my mother that this would not have been a pretend activity.  She would REALLY have had to take over this troop, REALLY and actually HELP, do something real outside of her own kingdom, her own range of control and influence.  She knew she would not have been allowed to be her own true controlling self in this outside environment.  The light of day would have shown up both her true intentions (that she did not see or comprehend) and her actions.

In addition, she certainly would not have been allowed to act toward me as she always did.  She would not have been able to control and overrun me in the public setting of a Brownie troop group.  At the same time, if she were away from her home, she could not have controlled what happened there, either.  That faintly, perhaps, her precious doll-baby-children MIGHT have gone too near the creek and MIGHT have been endangered was NOT a concern for her children’s safety.  It was a concern based on her obsession that her children were not only her possessions; they were extended parts of her self – her mind, her psyche and her sickness.

It is never the sign of a healthy, normal safe and secure parent-child attachment when the truth that lies within the attachment is that the parent’s deep psychological needs are involved in ‘getting met’ in the relationship.  When this happens it is an activated parental insecure attachment disorder that is operating.  When this happens, true caregiving for others is not possible.  My mother was, as my sister recently noted, her children’s and her husband’s ‘puppet master’.  She could not be in true relationship with anyone, not even with her own self.

These altered patterns of relationship are so subtle, at least within a very disturbed Borderline, that they are nearly impossible to detect unless the observer KNOWS what they are looking at.  Because I have spent the past six years carefully observing my mother’s thinking and behavior as it appeared in her letters, all constructed with few exceptions for an outside ‘public’ audience that I can begin to notice where the deceptions in her thinking appear.

Even though my mother was purportedly writing to her mother privately, these letters, preserved as they have been for over 50 years, were written by my mother with the intention that someday they would be used to write ‘an Alaskan book’.  On those very few occasions where I can see, touch, taste, smell my mother’s distorted thinking within these letters, I cannot ignore what I know.  This small description of why my mother suddenly could concoct a completely believable (to her or to anyone else) reason why she could not assist as a Brownie scout leader in a troop with her daughter in it is one of those times I can see how pervasive her psychosis truly was.

My mother mentioned the creek to her mother in a letter written the day before this letter was, and she mentions nothing risky or sinister about it:  “The creek is full and deep now as glacier and snow melts.”  But the presence of too much water in the creek gave her the perfect alibi when she needed it.  I don’t for one instant believe any of her children, especially Cindy who was extremely responsible as she approached 5 years of age, especially with John in the house when my mother was gone as he approached 9 years of age, would ever have gone near this creek alone – nor let sister Sharon approaching age 3.  That my mother is saying she could not trust a 14-year-old sitter to watch her children safely is hog wash.  Just plain Borderline-psychosis-constructed nonsense.

A Borderline does not have the capacity to conceive either of self or of others in a normal way.  Everyone outside of my mother was an extension of herself, a living prop in her drama-play at life.  That she – and everyone else – did not see or know what was going on in our home, in her life, or in her psyche did not take away from the fact that her psychosis touched and influenced everything she ever did.

My mother evidently somehow decided for this one year of my young life that it served her purposes to let me participate in Brownies.  I have no reason to believe that this one experience would have been her single exception to her rule of making Linda’s life perpetually miserable.  Somehow my being a Brownie made my mother look good in the public eye.  This was my only childhood experience that let me get away from her influence and be around something meaningful and positive, and to interact as a child (age 6 here) with adults who treated me as the child I was.

For anyone reading these words who doubts the accuracy of what I am describing here in regard to my mother’s sickness, let me mention that one of the hallmarks of the Borderline mother is that NOBODY is supposed to ever detect the presence of the abuse these mothers so expertly enact upon a child.  A Borderline like my mother was is an absolute professional at deception.

Part of the reason why deception like is being presented her in my mother’s account is so effective is that it comes from a completely constructed invisible, unconscious reality that exists BECAUSE the ‘owner’s’ psyche is completely contaminated by their disease.  This pervasive contamination is like a highly effective contagion.  It contaminates the growing mind’s of such a parent’s children, and it contaminates the psyche (unconsciously) of everyone who comes in contact with a professional-psychotic Borderline.

I encourage any reader who disagrees with my hard-earned ability to decipher my mother’s mental mess to take a look at how this kind of deception, so carefully constructed that it legitimizes whatever the Borderline mother turns her thinking toward no matter how insane, how out-of-touch with actual reality it might be.  If you doubt me here, you believe my mother’s version of reality.

It is for the same reason you might doubt me (and my reality) while believing my mother’s lies that nobody ever detected the 18 years of severe abuse my mother perpetrated against me.  My mother was very, very, very good at what she did – creating an alternate reality based upon her distorted brain’s operation that seemed to make sense to everyone, her own self included.

I am the only one alive who knows the truth about how this Linda-being-a-Brownie scout chapter of this story progressed, and more importantly, how it ended.  Our family moved out of the Log House by the end of the summer of 1958, eventually into an apartment in Anchorage for the winter, and back to the Log House in 1959 by which time the homesteading saga consumed our lives in earnest.  By fall 1959 I was back in Brownies, and had sold the essential Brownie Scout Cookies.

The afternoon I collected the money for the cookie sales, put it into a Milk Dud box, and then had it all fall out through the faulty bottom of the box without my noticing this was happening, before I returned home, marked the ending of this story with unspeakable, and unbelievable distortion and violence.  My mother accused me of stealing the money, and because after hours in the evening twilight of retracing my every step through the neighborhood of Eagle River searching for the fallen coins I could not find them, I was accused of being a thief and a liar and was beaten afterwards severely – not once, but every time my mother brought up my ‘crime’ until I left home at 18.  ]

++

Now John for first time is old enough to come and go and is so good about coming back in one hour – etc.

Children need me at home and I can spread myself too thin.

I trust you and Bill in day time and Le Verne at night and 3rd choice days.

Golly so much to write.  I only earned 1.75 imagine – Sunday!  People looked but didn’t buy.  Tell you more later!!

Children still asleep.  I’ve been writing this in bed.  Got Bill’s breakfast and got back in.  They sleep late mornings til 9:00 or 10:00!  So you’ll rest too – of course Bible School starts at 9:30 so will have to get them up early.

Guess what?  Methodist bought Briggs new 30,000 house for the new parson for the new full time Methodist Chugiak Minister.  Now what do you think of that and new church to be built!!

Mrs. Pottle wants me to help with tea for him Sunday?  Probably will take children here if improves as never get to [words washed out here] visit both while you’re here.  Must close!  Love, Mildred.  PS.  Can hardly wait – you know me.

June 4, 1958

Dear Mother,

Imagine – 10 more days and you’ll be here!!  Does it seem possible?  Yesterday morning I looked at the calendar and was amazed to see that the happy day falls one week from this Saturday.  But then I became concerned.  It’s the best day for you to come but also the day I planned John’s party for the boys.

This is going to be a business letter as I’ll see you to chat in no time at all now.  I do feel he needs a party.  I wrote you about his shyness and Jo Anne’s remarks etc. and I’ve had quite a time overcoming this.

Then this summer I knew he had to have boys to play with and yet he didn’t want to go to Vanovers.  They’re big boys for their age, bossy and dominating – like her and he’s too young to understand their talk and sarcasm – and far too sweet and sensitive.  I knew he needed self-confidence this summer.

Well, I encouraged him to go to Headlows who I found out that they have 3 girls and one boy – perfect match?  He’s a darling boy6 and John and he hit it off from the first.

Then another boy Johnny Johnson moved to the hill.  His Mom owns the Department store at the shopping center.  She’s nice and so is he – I like the Headlow boy better but they’re both nice.

Now yesterday Gerry Vanover came over but he’s loud, bossy etc. but I was nice and John was happy but still prefers others.

Now his party will be perfect.  He needs it and I’ve promised.  I want it late afternoon and a BBQ – hot dogs and rolls so it won’t interfere with your arriving except this:  it will be an all boy party out doors and I don’t want the girls here. [She drew a little sketch for invitations that ‘John can draw’ showing person at BBQ.]

So last nite Bill and I talked it over and arrived at the conclusion if it suits you.  At first I was afraid it would be too much for you to arrive midst a child’s party but you could rest indoors.  Your plane is due to arrive around noon – give or take one hour!  We’ll take girls over to Le Verne’s house.  Her mom takes care of children anyway and I adore Le Verne.  I’ll talk it up to girls – give them new color books and some ‘party food’.  They’ve never been to her house and they’ll enjoy it.

I’d rather we all met you but plane could be one hour late or early so this way Bill and John will meet you – OK?  And I’ll wait home.  We’ll take you sight seeing Sunday and have family party Sunday too.

You’ll be here for that and meet boys too!  Then after party we’ll all go get girls!!

Oh Mom, I get so excited!  I’ve missed you so!  Won’t it be wonderful?  I’m working like mad to get house all clean, waxed and fixed so we won’t have a thing to do.

Bible School starts 9th through 20th and 3 older ones will go so you can rest and we’ll visit first week – only Sharon will be home.  Even she knows you’re coming and talks about it constantly.

Now does this plan meet with your approval.  I could go too if I was sure plane wouldn’t be late – we’ll see.  I’ll have his party at 3:00 – 7:00 or could be 4:00 – 7:00.  I’ll have house clean and food ready, potato salad, cake, etc.  He’ll be in 7th heaven and deserves it.  Will give him our gifts on Sunday.

Now I haven’t asked Le Verne yet.  Let me know your reaction right away!!

We’re planning lots of things to do on week-ends and Bill is going to buy a jeep truck today – good buy, only $600 and he needs it to get back to homestead – then I’ll have the car!!

First week relax.  2nd week-end trip to Girdwood Road and Portage Glacier and visit gold mines and pan for gold!!!  This is road will connect with our Eagle River Road when put through.  [Linda note:  2010, the road was never ‘put through’.]  We’ve never been to these places but have saved them for when you get here!!

Next week = you and I and children to Palmer and Valley.  Nice ride, paved road and we’ll take picnic and visit Rusty Dow – a character and painter.  I want to get some for art shop.  Fun?  Bill’s been to Palmer so we’ll go during week.

Week-end trip and stay over night – to Homer, Alaska.  Colorful, interesting beautiful scenery but rough, dirt road and long trip but FUN.  Another week-end to Seward.  A long day trip and picnic!!

Evening – Fire Lake Lodge and Spring Creek Lodge for dinner at nearby places.  Chart Room in town at Hotel.  Music Festival in Anchorage.  We’re going first Monday to visit gift shops with Alaska Woodcrafts – Mr. Bockstahler’s new wife – you’ll like her.  We want ideas and you’ll enjoy it.

So much to do and see.  Weather is coolish in 60s and 70s – I think you’ll need sweaters and blouses with sleeves.  Nights are light and cool!

We have beds all planned.  Children go to bed as usual and when we all turn in – we transfer Cindy to cot in John’s and Linda’s room and you sleep in Sharon’s room on folding bed.  It’s full size and comfortable – roll-a-way OK?  There that’s settled!

I’m not planning on having neighbors over – you and I will visit them!  I want to enjoy your visit and not plan parties OK?

One Saturday or Sunday we’ll drive in to see country back in but no need to hike

Remember, I wrote you I was to be Brownie Leader’s Assistant – sounds funny.  I hate not to keep my promises (like a Good Brownie) and had hoped to do it with Linda but I got so worried.  Kathy P. was to watch children.  She’s nice but just turned 14 and a flitter budget.  I got worried and this morning wrote a note saying I couldn’t help.  I feel terrible but better!!  Creek has risen so it’s not recognizable as same gentle stream.  It’s overflowed and is fast, dangerous and deep.  They never go there without us but might.  At night you can hear water rushing even in house.  The rapids and current is so strong – a child could never stand up and would be washed to river immediately.  Makes me shudder!!  I couldn’t leave Cindy and Sharon with her.  I told her I could help after 14th.  She’s expecting and wanted me to take troop while she had baby in July.  Also I’d be gone 4 hours and that adds up in baby sitting $ and I don’t trust neighbors.  What a worrier I am!!

[Linda note 2010:  Doesn’t surprise me she would find major reasons not to do something with me – and not to admit that she hated doing anything with me.  I am really surprised she let me go – but having there would NOT have been good for me at all, either, of course.  Her tone here is completely different than when she just wrote about doing a birthday party for John, even though at least here she is not ‘slamming’ me directly (at least).

My mother very rarely writes such a single long paragraph, either – confirming my suspicion that her unconscious would in no way allow her to participate as a loving mother in anything that had to do with me.  Very cunning, sounds so legitimate.

Another side to this is that no doubt it SEEMED like something a GOOD mother would do, help with a Brownie troop.  I putting together her Borderline public façade, her public persona, being seen as THIS KIND of mother would have been a good thing – like a prop in her pretend mother play.

Yet at the same time my mother lacked the capacity to ever concern herself, truly, with someone else’s needs.  It became apparent to my mother that this would not have been a pretend activity.  She would REALLY have had to take over this troop, REALLY and actually HELP, do something real outside of her own kingdom, her own range of control and influence.  She knew she would not have been allowed to be her own true controlling self in this outside environment.  The light of day would have shown up both her true intentions (that she did not see or comprehend) and her actions.

In addition, she certainly would not have been allowed to act toward me as she always did.  She would not have been able to control and overrun me in the public setting of a Brownie troop group.  At the same time, if she were away from her home, she could not have controlled what happened there, either.  That faintly, perhaps, her precious doll-baby-children MIGHT have gone too near the creek and MIGHT have been endangered was NOT a concern for her children’s safety.  It was a concern based on her obsession that her children were not only her possessions; they were extended parts of her self – her mind, her psyche and her sickness.

It is never the sign of a healthy, normal safe and secure parent-child attachment when the truth that lies within the attachment is that the parent’s deep psychological needs are involved in ‘getting met’ in the relationship.  When this happens it is an activated parental insecure attachment disorder that is operating.  When this happens, true caregiving for others is not possible.  My mother was, as my sister recently noted, her children’s and her husband’s ‘puppet master’.  She could not be in true relationship with anyone, not even with her own self.

These altered patterns of relationship are so subtle, at least within a very disturbed Borderline, that they are nearly impossible to detect unless the observer KNOWS what they are looking at.  Because I have spent the past six years carefully observing my mother’s thinking and behavior as it appeared in her letters, all constructed with few exceptions for an outside ‘public’ audience that I can begin to notice where the deceptions in her thinking appear.

Even though my mother was purportedly writing to her mother privately, these letters, preserved as they have been for over 50 years, were written by my mother with the intention that someday they would be used to write ‘an Alaskan book’.  On those very few occasions where I can see, touch, taste, smell my mother’s distorted thinking within these letters, I cannot ignore what I know.  This small description of why my mother suddenly could concoct a completely believable (to her or to anyone else) reason why she could not assist as a Brownie scout leader in a troop with her daughter in it is one of those times I can see how pervasive her psychosis truly was.

My mother mentioned the creek to her mother in a letter written the day before this letter was, and she mentions nothing risky or sinister about it:  “The creek is full and deep now as glacier and snow melts.”  But the presence of too much water in the creek gave her the perfect alibi when she needed it.  I don’t for one instant believe any of her children, especially Cindy who was extremely responsible as she approached 5 years of age, especially with John in the house when my mother was gone as he approached 9 years of age, would ever have gone near this creek alone – nor let sister Sharon approaching age 3.  That my mother is saying she could not trust a 14-year-old sitter to watch her children safely is hog wash.  Just plain Borderline-psychosis-constructed nonsense.

A Borderline does not have the capacity to conceive either of self or of others in a normal way.  Everyone outside of my mother was an extension of herself, a living prop in her drama-play at life.  That she – and everyone else – did not see or know what was going on in our home, in her life, or in her psyche did not take away from the fact that her psychosis touched and influenced everything she ever did.

My mother evidently somehow decided for this one year of my young life that it served her purposes to let me participate in Brownies.  I have no reason to believe that this one experience would have been her single exception to her rule of making Linda’s life perpetually miserable.  Somehow my being a Brownie made my mother look good in the public eye.  This was my only childhood experience that let me get away from her influence and be around something meaningful and positive, and to interact as a child (age 6 here) with adults who treated me as the child I was.

For anyone reading these words who doubts the accuracy of what I am describing here in regard to my mother’s sickness, let me mention that one of the hallmarks of the Borderline mother is that NOBODY is supposed to ever detect the presence of the abuse these mothers so expertly enact upon a child.  A Borderline like my mother was is an absolute professional at deception.

Part of the reason why deception like is being presented her in my mother’s account is so effective is that it comes from a completely constructed invisible, unconscious reality that exists BECAUSE the ‘owner’s’ psyche is completely contaminated by their disease.  This pervasive contamination is like a highly effective contagion.  It contaminates the growing mind’s of such a parent’s children, and it contaminates the psyche (unconsciously) of everyone who comes in contact with a professional-psychotic Borderline.

I encourage any reader who disagrees with my hard-earned ability to decipher my mother’s mental mess to take a look at how this kind of deception, so carefully constructed that it legitimizes whatever the Borderline mother turns her thinking toward no matter how insane, how out-of-touch with actual reality it might be.  If you doubt me here, you believe my mother’s version of reality.

It is for the same reason you might doubt me (and my reality) while believing my mother’s lies that nobody ever detected the 18 years of severe abuse my mother perpetrated against me.  My mother was very, very, very good at what she did – creating an alternate reality based upon her distorted brain’s operation that seemed to make sense to everyone, her own self included.

I am the only one alive who knows the truth about how this Linda-being-a-Brownie scout chapter of this story progressed, and more importantly, how it ended.  Our family moved out of the Log House by the end of the summer of 1958, eventually into an apartment in Anchorage for the winter, and back to the Log House in 1959 by which time the homesteading saga consumed our lives in earnest.  By fall 1959 I was back in Brownies, and had sold the essential Brownie Scout Cookies.

The afternoon I collected the money for the cookie sales, put it into a Milk Dud box, and then had it all fall out through the faulty bottom of the box without my noticing this was happening, before I returned home, marked the ending of this story with unspeakable, and unbelievable distortion and violence.  My mother accused me of stealing the money, and because after hours in the evening twilight of retracing my every step through the neighborhood of Eagle River searching for the fallen coins I could not find them, I was accused of being a thief and a liar and was beaten afterwards severely – not once, but every time my mother brought up my ‘crime’ until I left home at 18.  ]

Now John for first time is old enough to come and go and is so good about coming back in one hour – etc.

Children need me at home and I can spread myself too thin.

I trust you and Bill in day time and Le Verne at night and 3rd choice days.

Golly so much to write.  I only earned 1.75 imagine – Sunday!  People looked but didn’t buy.  Tell you more later!!

Children still asleep.  I’ve been writing this in bed.  Got Bill’s breakfast and got back in.  They sleep late mornings til 9:00 or 10:00!  So you’ll rest too – of course Bible School starts at 9:30 so will have to get them up early.

Guess what?  Methodist bought Briggs new 30,000 house for the new parson for the new full time Methodist Chugiak Minister.  Now what do you think of that and new church to be built!!

Mrs. Pottle wants me to help with tea for him Sunday?  Probably will take children here if improves as never get to [words washed out here] visit both while you’re here.  Must close!  Love, Mildred.  PS.  Can hardly wait – you know me.

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If you have reason to question the kinds and amount of trauma-drama that is present in your life or present in the life of others you care about, beginning at the beginning by reading, studying and acknowledging the information at this link is of utmost importance:

EFFECTS OF A SECURE ATTACHMENT RELATIONSHIP ON RIGHT BRAIN DEVELOPMENT, AFFECT REGULATION, AND INFANT MENTAL HEALTH

By Dr. ALLAN N. SCHORE

SEE ALSO:

+WHY DID MY SIBLINGS NOT BELIEVE MY ABUSIVE BPD MOTHER?

+CHILD ABUSE AND BPD: TRACKING THE TRAUMA IN THE FAMILY TREE

+RATIONAL THOUGHT: POWER OF THE HUMAN SOUL BPD STEALS AWAY TO ENSURE SURVIVAL

+A NOTE TO CHILD ABUSERS WHO FIND THEIR WAY TO THIS BLOG

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In memory of my mother, and of the monster that ate her, here are some links I am behind on (catching up!) on information about Borderline Personality Disorder.

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But — First This, with gratitude to the person who sent me this link:

Eavesdropping on Happiness

Well-Being Is Related to Having Less Small Talk and More Substantive Conversations

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From Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD

Your Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder.

It is not uncommon for people with BPD to be misdiagnosed with another disorder before getting the correct diagnosis. Many clinicians who are less familiar with BPD might assign someone a diagnosis of chronic depression, or bipolar disorder, or even an anxiety disorder. Learn more about diagnosis of BPD.

BPD and Violence – The Facts, Not the Stigma Do men and women who have BPD commit more violent acts that the general population? Are all people with BPD violent? To what kinds of violence are people with BPD most prone?

Understanding the Cluster B Personality Disorders While BPD is associated with impulsive violence, there are other personality disorders that are associated with premeditated violence. Learn more about the Cluster B personality disorders.

What is Phone Coaching and How Can It Help You? One important aspect of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) for borderline personality disorder is phone coaching. What is phone coaching, and how can it help you cope with symptoms?

Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder Learn more about the symptoms and associated features of borderline personality disorder, including emotional and relationship instability, impulsivity, suicidality, self-harm, and more.

Proposed Revisions to the DSM – Are Big Changes on the Way? The American Psychiatric Association (APA) recently posted the proposed changes to the upcoming edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (fifth edition). Find links to the relevant changes and share your reaction.

The Current BPD Diagnostic Criteria If you want to see just how big the changes are, here are the DSM diagnostic criteria for BPD as they currently stand.
What’s In a Name? Many are surprised that the term “borderline” is not being replaced in the DSM-V. Learn more about the history of the name controversy here.
Stigma and BPD For years, in the United States and abroad, public information campaigns have tried to combat the stigma associated with mental illness. Unfortunately, these campaigns don’t seem to have been successful.

BPD versus Bipolar Disorder – How to Tell the Difference The primary reason that some clinicians confuse BPD and bipolar disorder is that they share the common feature of mood instability.

Learn how to tell the difference between BPD and bipolar symptoms.

How is a BPD Diagnosis Made? How is BPD diagnosed? What symptoms contribute to a BPD diagnosis? And who made up these diagnostic criteria anyway? Learn all about BPD diagnosis.

What to Expect from a Good BPD Assessment Many people have been misdiagnosed after an inadequate or incomplete assessment. What should an assessment look like? How do you know you’ve been thoroughly assessed? These guidelines will help you understand how to get a good BPD assessment and what to expect.

Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder Learn more about the symptoms and associated features of borderline personality disorder, including emotional and relationship instability, impulsivity, suicidality, self-harm, and more.

How to Create a Safety Plan This article covers the steps in making a clear and comprehensive safety plan. This is not something that can be done when you are already in the midst of a mental health emergency.

If you don’t already have a safety plan, bring this article to your therapist!

The Pros and Cons Tool This is a great tool to add to your safety plan – at lower levels of crisis, the pros and cons tool helps you make decisions about high risk behaviors.

Build a Social Support Network A key to a good safety plan is to have many sources of social support to rely on so that someone is always available (and so that you don’t burn-out existing supports). But how do you find support when you need it?

For Family and Friends of Individuals with BPD Does someone you care about have BPD? BPD can affect all types of relationships, including friends, family members, and romantic partners. Learn more about how BPD may be affecting your relationship, how to cope when a loved one has BPD, and how you can help..

Must Reads

What is BPD?
Symptoms of BPD
Diagnosis of BPD
Treatment of BPD
Living with BPD

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I am getting way behind on posting information links on child abuse prevention and Child Rights.   Here’s a post for catching up!!  Just click, roll and scan – follow any links that appeal to your interests.

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New Site about Kids’ Health for Parents

Posted: 10 Mar 2010 08:40 AM PST on Prevent Child Abuse New York’s Blog

Many parents, upon discovering their child’s stuffy nose, rising fever or latest injury, retreat to the computer to do some research. Other parents may consult Google to find answers about developmental questions, potty training or sleeping difficulties. While this can be helpful, the sheer volume of information available on the internet can be overwhelming and at times inaccurate. Good news, parents. The search for reliable information about child health and development just got easier.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently launched a website that’s backed by 60,000 pediatricians. Healthychildren.org offers detailed answers to questions that parents have about their child’s well being. This website encourages parents to be proactive about their children’s health, providing reliable, up-to-date information.

Healthychildren.org is divided into multiple, easy to use sections, which include Ages and Stages, Healthy Living, Safety and Prevention, and Health Issues.

Although Healthychildren.org is an easy and convenient way to receive the up-to-date information, parents should always consult with their own pediatrician as well.

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Excellence in Child Abuse Prevention Awards

Posted: 15 Mar 2010 12:19 PM PDT on Prevent Child Abuse New York’s Blog

Do you know someone who has made an exceptional difference in the lives of New York’s children and families? Who works tirelessly to see that children live in families that love, nurture and protect them? Who has made their community a better, more supportive place for parents and kids? If so, we want to hear about them!

Prevent Child Abuse New York and New York’s Children and Family Trust Fund are proud to announce the 15th annual award recognition of excellence in the field of child abuse prevention in New York State.
Qualified nominees will have had an impact on any of four levels:

  • Societal issues, such as social norms or public policies.
  • Community issues, such as community development.
  • Personal relationships, such as family or peer-to-peer interactions.
  • Individual knowledge, attitudes, skill, or behavior about children or maltreatment.

The awards will be presented at the 15th Annual Child Abuse Prevention Conference, Education, Inspiration & Solutions , being held at the Marriott Hotel in Albany, New York, April 26-28, 2010.

Individuals, organizations and companies are all eligible for nomination.

For more information about the NYS Child Abuse Prevention Conference and the Excellence Awards, please call 518-445-1273.

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From CRIN – Child Rights Information Network

9 March 2010 – Child Rights at the Human Rights Council 58

Side event on national violence strategies [news]

A side event at the 13th Council session tackled the issue of violence against children, with delegates discussing the publication and implementation of the Council of Europe’s new Council of Europe Policy guidelines on integrated national strategies for the protection of children from violence.

Hannu Himanen, Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations Office, began the event by quoting the 2006 UN Study on Violence Against Children, which emphasised that action on violence requires an integrated plan. He said: “A piecemeal approach does not do the job.”

“For example”, he said, “in Finland, my country, the governement banned corporal punishment in 1984. This was an important step, but still it occurs. A recent study showed that one quarter of Finish adults accept the notion of corporal punishment.”

Mr Himanen said that a quote from Thomas Hammerberg, Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, at the 20th CRC anniversary conference, had stayed with him. Mr Hammerberg said: “It is paradoxical and an affront to humanity that the smallest and most vulnerable people should have less protection from assault than adults.”

Lothar Friedrich Krappmann, of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, said: “The adoption of these guidelines is a significant step in the protection of violence against children.”

He went on to emphasise that: “No violence against children is acceptable. All violence against children is preventable.” Mr Krappmann said this was not limited to physical violence, but also mental abuse.

He said there had not been enough coordination between different initiatives, programmes and policies. “These guidelines affect more than 200 million children,” he added.

Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative to the Secretary General on Violence Against Children, also presented at the event. She said: “Regional organisations such as the Council of Europe can have a huge influence in regional implementation of standards, and aid cross fertilisation.”

The Council has been very influential in promoting a regional platform, she continued. In 2010, many countries have not adopted a violence strategy, even though the UN Study on Violence Against Children stated all countries should adopt a strategy by 2007. This should also include laying down markers for implementation. These European guidelines help to address some of these requirements and are relevant everywhere, she added.

She said: “I believe that promoting the dissemination of these guidelines will help us move forward on implementing the UN Study’s recommendations, and could provide a good framework in countries all over the world.”

Lioubov Samokhina, Head of the Children’s Rights Policies Division at the Council of Europe, spoke about the development of the guidelines, and the approach taken in the drafting process. “The main objective of the guideline is to promote a culture of respect for the rights of children, and to stimulate change in the attitude towards children and childhood,” she said. The main aim of the guidelines, she added, was to encourage States to develop a multi-faceted and systematic framework.

Idália Moniz, Secretary of State for Disability, Portugal, spoke of her country’s efforts to adopt an integrated and model strategy. She emphasised the importance of redefining budgets. Portuguese criminal law was changed in 2007 to outlaw all forms of corporal punishment. Cooperation is needed on all levels, from local researchers to policy and decision makers, she said.

NGO role

Peter Newell, of the NGO Advisory Council on Violence Against Children, spoke of the role of the non-governmental sector.

He said: “We are speaking about all violence, however slight. There is an adult tendency to draw a line between so-called softer forms of violence.”

He said the biggest role for NGOs was advocacy. “I think these guidelines are an advocacy tool of great value,” he added.

Mr Newell said there is still a long way to go, within the Council of Europe, and everywhere else. Mechanisms are still not being used to promote an end to all violence against children, and no country can claim to have an effective strategy against violence against children when some forms of punishment are still legally endorsed.

Twenty seven of the 47 Member States have still not prohibited all forms of violence against children, and in many countries corporal punishment is still permitted in institutions such as care homes. It is inconceivable that States would defend legalised violence towards any other groups, such as women, people with disabilities or elderly people, Mr Newell said.

Retrospective research studies interviewing young adults about their childhood show many had experienced sexual assault and other forms of violence, but they did not report it, in part because of a mistrust of social services. He said: “Proper child protection systems must involve children being systematically invited to give their views on such systems.”

Mr Newell said it was important that, while it is usually NGOs that facilitate child participation for government programmes and policy, it should really be governments themselves that are involving children directly.

“It is fine for NGOs to provide demonstration and pilot projects, but in doing so it is important we are not colluding with governments in their failure to fulfil their obligations,” he said.

A change in attitudes requries long-term campaigning. Mr Newell also mentioned how some church and faith groups were embracing an approach against violence, while evidence of abuse in such institutions is becoming more publicly acknowledged.

He said he felt conspiracy laws should be used against those groups that attempt to cover up evidence of sexual exploitation and other forms of violence towards children.

During the discussion following the presentations, a delegate asked if there had been any positive examples of the international dissemination of the guidelines. Ms Samokhina spoke of plans to organise events on the guidelines, inviting international representatives from a range of countries and organisations.

Mr Krappmann said it is “such a hard job” to eradicate violence against children, and that it is “not just the job of European States, but of all States.”

Ms Santos Pais noted that international cooperation was also essential in respect of the migration of children.

About the guidelines

In line with the recommendations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child and of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children, these guidelines were developed to promote the development and implementation of a holistic national framework to safeguard the rights of the child and to eradicate violence against children.

The guidelines are based on eight general principles (protection against violence, the right to life and maximum survival and development, non-discrimination, gender equality, child participation, a state’s obligations, other actors’ obligations and participation, best interests of the child) and four operative principles (multidimensional nature of violence, integrated approach, cross- sectoral co-operation, multi stakeholder approach). These have been mainstreamed throughout, including into sections on integrated national, regional and local action; education and awareness-raising measures; legal, policy and institutional frameworks; research and data collection.

Further information

For more information, contact:
Council of Europe
Building a Europe for and with children, DG III- Social Cohesion / Council of Europe, B Building – Office B137, F – 67075 Strasbourg Cedex
Tel: +33 3 88 41 22 62; Fax: +33 3 90 21 52 85
Email: children@coe.int
Website: www.coe.int/children

Visit: http://www.crin.org/resources/infoDetail.asp?ID=22119

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NGO statements

OMCT: Violence against children in detention

ECPAT : Children’s right to protection from sexual violence

Defence for Children International: Statement on Prosecution of children in military courts

Women’s World Summit Foundation: Statement on violence against children

Further information

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COUNCIL OF EUROPE: Call for papers on ending sexual violence
[news]

This call for papers is addressed to legal, health, social, research and education professionals wishing to contribute to a Council of Europe study on sexual violence against children. The study will serve as a background for the Council of Europe awareness raising campaign to stop sexual violence against children.

The Council of Europe campaign

The Council of Europe Strategy on the Rights of the Child (2009-2011) has amongst its major focuses that of eradicating all forms of violence against children. In particular, it calls for launching comprehensive awareness-raising actions to prevent and combat sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children.

In response to this mandate, in autumn 2010, the Council of Europe will launch a pan-European campaign to stop sexual violence against children. The campaign’s overall objective will be to raise European societies’ awareness of the full extent of sexual violence against children and to equip them with knowledge and tools to prevent it. The campaign will address the various forms of sexual violence including child pornography, child prostitution, online grooming, child sex tourism and child sexual abuse.

The future study

Given the complexity and sensitivity of the issue at stake, the Council of Europe wishes to prepare a study to inform and guide the campaign. The study should cover inter alia the following dimensions:

  • Overview of the extent of sexual violence (sexual exploitation and sexual abuse) in Europe;
  • Overview of the legal framework (global and European) to combat sexual violence against children;
  • Sexual violence reporting and referral mechanisms;
  • Rehabilitation services for child victims of sexual violence;
  • The range of services available for children exhibiting sexually harmful behaviour;
  • Training of professionals to identify and report sexual violence;
  • Internet dimensions of sexual violence against children;
  • Support services for potential and actual adult perpetrators of sexual violence;
  • Data collection on violence against children;Communication and awareness raising campaigns against sexual violence in Council of Europe member States.
  • Sexual education and prevention of sexual violence

The proposed length for research articles addressing one of the aforementioned issues should be no more than 8,000 words (about 15 to 16 A4 pages, normal spacing) and should be submitted in one of the official languages of the Council of Europe, i.e. English or French.

Following the selection procedure, a limited number of experts will be invited to work with the Council of Europe on a contractual basis, during the period between April and June 2010.

Building a network of professionals

The experts who will contact us will be also invited to express their interest in cooperating with the Council of Europe in the various projects and activities to be launched during the campaign, the objective being to build a network of professionals wishing to bring their expertise and the results of their work to a community of practice at European level.

How to contact us

Please fill the document enclosed and send it, accompanied by your CV to Ms Marie-Francoise GLATZ (marie-francoise.glatz@coe.int) by 31 March 2010 at the latest.

For more information, contact:
Council of Europe
Building a Europe for and with children
DG III- Social Cohesion / Council of Europe
B Building – Office B137
F – 67075 Strasbourg Cedex, France
Tel: +33 3 88 41 22 62; Fax: +33 3 90 21 52 85
Email: children@coe.int
Website: www.coe.int/children

Visit: http://www.crin.org/resources/infoDetail.asp?ID=22165

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Further information

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