I didn’t realize it when I wrote my post last Sunday, +TRAUMA TELLS THE BODY WHAT TO DO, that I was preparing my own way for the study of Dr. Kerstin Moberg’s book, The Oxytocin Factor: Tapping the Hormone of Calm, Love, and Healing. But then I don’t imagine that Dr. Moberg knew exactly as she was writing her book how much its information can help severe infant-child abuse survivors and other traumatized people.
When I take a look at this next image that I scanned here from her book, I think about how it is for a tiny growing body-brain when it has to develop in adaptation to the environment it was born into when the stress scale has bottomed out and the calm and connection scale (of safe and secure attachment) has completely inadequate weight to it – or is nearly completely empty.
It is important to realize that what this image is showing is a required balance between stress and calmness. Adequate early body-brain forming environments must include this balance for a body-brain to form and operate correctly. Obviously too much stress and the wrong kind of stress for anyone is not a good thing. But too much calmness isn’t good, either. Infant-child neglect often causes such a lack of stimulation during early developmental stages that critical regions of the brain do not receive the stimulation they need to grow hardly at all!
Another point I want to make is that if grave imbalance exists in an infant-child’s developmental environment the set point of the nervous system is NOT set at this central balance point where calm is even possible. For people who survived terrible trauma in their early lives such as I did, the set point for our nervous system is AT the stress reaction point.
As odd as it might seem, looking back at my own infant-childhood with my new neuroscientific and physiological development insights, I can see that the long, long periods of forced isolation that were part of my mother’s patterns of severe abuse of me where probably – and actually – a very good thing. During these periods when she had me ‘out of her sight’, even though during these times I was also out of any kind of loop that would have offered me normal infant-child opportunities to interact with others and with my environment in play and discovery, overall these times offered my developing body-brain opportunities for NOTHING TO HAPPEN.
These periods were actually rest and restoration times when my overwhelmed and over stimulated senses, forced into overload from the beginning of my life through the terrorizing and terrifying actions and presence of my Mean Mother, during which my body could actually calm itself down so that internally the effects of her nearly continual earthquake-tsunami abuse of me could somewhat dissipate before the next attack came.
Of course these patterns of wild, severe, over stimulating and overwhelming abuse paired with long periods of my being forced to endure the silence of remote, isolated aloneness harmed me greatly. This pattern became a most fertile ground for patterns of dissociation to build themselves into my body-brain because nothing but the deprivation of being left completely alone to physiologically try to end my suffering alone (unconsciously, of course), offered me to possible way to connect my ongoing experiences to one another on any level other than the physiological one. Nothing ever made sense, and nobody or nothing ever helped me to make sense of my malevolent experiences, either.
So leading back to the topic at hand, oxytocin and Dr. Moberg’s book, I want to say that importantly I completely TRUST everything this researcher says. Because I have continual problems with trust that happens in relationship to a sense of my feeling safe and secure in the world (and NOT), I hold this trust in high value.
At the time Moberg published this book she had already published over 400 scientific articles. She is considered the world’s leading expert on oxytocin and on the calm-connection half of our autonomic nervous system (ANS) and all the processes that are connected to it. She is talking about what severe infant-child abuse survivors missed most during our earliest growth and developmental stages: The opportunity to experience safe and secure attachments that would have allowed us to experience peaceful calmness and connection to others so that our body-brain could build into us a body-brain-nervous system with the balance depicted in the above image included.
Because my infant-childhood was filled with extreme, chronic, ongoing and severe abuse and trauma, I read Moberg’s book from a perspective that means I want to know how things SHOULD have been so that I can better know what I am MISSING at the same time I hope to find information that can help me to consciously CHANGE this set point within my body-nervous system-brain for the BETTER.
As I read Moberg’s account of current research patterns being weighted at 90% study of the stress response compared to 10% of study on the other half of the system, I understand why I am still searching for help, healing and answers. There is no hope for truly understanding what was so damaging during our early physiological development about being immersed in continual overwhelming trauma if we don’t have the information we need about how things were truly SUPPOSED to be different. I believe the best hope for healing ourselves on every level does not lie in the drugs we might take to override systems in our body. We need to get the true picture of what is REALLY GOING ON.
No matter what we read, no matter what anyone tells us, we cannot fool our body. Our body, the Earth Suit we live in, absolutely knows the truth. When we encounter the truth in research it will resonate inside of us. Our body knows the truth when it-we hear it. Moberg’s book, her work and dedication to research about the calm connection system in the human body as it is designed to operate in counter-weight with our stress response system holds truth that I believe is imperative for us to understand. As we gain these understandings, we will FEEL them in our body and know them in our brain-mind. Once I have completed my reading of this book, I will enter the universe of the internet to look for research related to this topic that has occurred in the 6-7 years since the book was written. I can only hope that the scientific world has taken Moberg’s work seriously enough to pick up this critical study of what contributes to the other half of our well-being as a species: The ability to calm ourselves down and connect to others. This is absolutely the study, in my mind, of safe and secure attachment of ourselves in our body in the world we live in. Again, I will keep you posted.
I wanted to make a little note here today at my sister’s suggestion about my present experiences as I teach myself to read music and play this amazing piano keyboard that I was blessed with being able to bring into my life. As my sister pointed out, as I continue applying myself to this study and practice and as I gradually improve, I will probably not remember the process of learning itself.
I don’t remember learning to tie my shoes, but I do have faint memories of being at the age of trying to learn my right hand from my left. I invented a learning strategy that involved remembering a pattern of freckles on my right wrist where I would have worn a watch if I had one (like the one my father wore). All I had to do was connect the freckles with ‘watch’ with how right in my mind a watch would have looked on my wrist to learn which side of me was right and not left!
I know this music learning experience is similar also to when I learned to ride a bicycle. Once the motor learning has taken place, I expect that I will never have to consciously think about it again. In the meantime, my actual process of learning is fascinating. There’s nobody here to judge my process or progress but myself, and in the clear, plain and good spirit of PLAY I am able to leave all self judgment out of the picture.
What I am left with is the process of literally and consciously experiencing what it is like for ME, in this body, with this brain, to learn something this new and strange. I also know that because of the severe trauma I was immersed in as my brain developed, neither my left nor might right brain hemisphere formed themselves ‘normally’. I also know that the corpus callosum that transfers information between my brain hemispheres did not form correctly, either.
As I teach myself this new language of music and gain the motor skills required that will let me actually PLAY music, I am experiencing what I believe is a true healing in these regions of my brain. Last night I began to practice playing scales with both hands at the same time. I figured there is no way I am going to get my hands to be able to each first play different notes in different ways in different timings if I can’t get them to cooperate and first play the same notes in the same patterns at the same time.
Well, I am here to tell you I can’t remember the last time I experienced such a giggle session! Part of me was directly the physical process complete with the intention of desired result – while another part of me fell into giggling bursts of delight to watch what my hands were ACTUALLY doing! Instead of tangoing they were tangling, each finger with a mind of its own tumbling and fumbling over the keys.
Yet I believe that learning good things is healing. All the healing I have ever done has been about learning. Learning how to let myself learn is a learning itself both about what learning is like AND what healing is like. That process is delightful in itself as I gently and kindly, slowly, patiently and firmly open my own channels for change within myself so that I can let something good and new grow itself into my body-brain-mind-self.
I have hopes, a goal, a direction. I want to play music. I know I can do this. I give myself permission to move forward, to make the mistake-errors, to correct them, to learn-heal at my own pace. As I experience such delight even in this process of learning itself I realize this is just a bonus gift I could not anticipate and did not expect to love and enjoy.
So, needless to say, I have a long long way to go to begin to even get the two hemispheres of my brain to operate harmoniously, cooperatively and well together. But what I look forward to and DO EXPECT TO HAPPEN is that eventually the two hemispheres of my brain will dance on that keyboard in relationship to one another. Sometimes they will follow the same patterns together. Sometimes they will be able to ‘say’ something musically that will be very different, one from the other.
I nearly absolutely and entirely and completely missed the opportunity as an infant-child to be safe, secure, and to play. And I certainly did not get to giggle. So, if at 58 I am finally able to giggle myself into this amazing new skill of reading and playing music, that’s a very good thing indeed! No doubt I am helping myself heal at the center of who I am in this trauma-changed body. I’ll keep you posted on this process, as well!