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Archive for May, 2010

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It still baffles me that my mother wrote her letters and impressions about Alaska ALWAYS planning to write a book about her experiences and hauled them all with her throughout all her MANY moves and wanderings for 45 years – yet she dated nearly nothing.  I found these two separate pieces of her writing and decided to include them with her early writings right after she reached Alaska.

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August 5, 1957

[Linda note:  This is undated – this is approximate date placement, written on my father’s old Los Angeles letterhead paper]

From where do dreams come and can one trace the beginning of a dream to its origin?  Perhaps some can, we can’t.  Bill says he had wanted to go to Alaska for as long as he can remember.  I only know I was not content to remain in California for the rest of my life – it did not answer my needs or the [sic] of our family.  Bill felt the same way – neither of us had come to California from our choice and both had remained because it had seemed impossible to do otherwise.  – I’m afraid we were drifting along discontented, but not enough so to up and do something about it, so we dreamed.  We had both always wanted to travel and even now we still have a dream of traveling over Europe and seeing more of the world we live in.  Perhaps this dream will be fulfilled someday too!

But Bill transferred the idea of his dream to me and it became my dream only after I found out what Alaska was truly like.  [The following is also written on this paper:]

Bill:  [nothing written after his name]

Me Over-emphasis on materialistic living – using juvenile restlessness

Not enough space for growing children [washed out ink/word] themselves – room for boys to hike and explore and discover the wonders of nature.

Such a long distance to travel in order to enjoy winter and summer sports

“A way of life”

Children want to feel a part of their family in play as well as work, they like to feel necessary – more opportunity for this in a new growing land

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possible date August 5, 1957

[Linda note:  This is also undated but perhaps belongs with these last comments.  The words are written in pencil on a restaurant placemat.]

It wasn’t until the other day that I was certain of my own reasons for wanting to go to Alaska.  How many times I have tried to weight the pros and cons but all the while there was some intangible

[Linda note:  last word is crossed out, sentence is not finished, on the lower half of placemat is written the following:]

Up until now it had been a dream of which to dream never knowing whether the dream would become a certainty and not even knowing for sure if we perhaps just wanted it to remain a dream.  Everyone must have something of which to dream – was our dream of going to Alaska – only that.

Today we [sentence not completed, this is all that’s on this side of the folded-in-fourths placemat.  On the other side is her bright red lipstick ‘kiss’ mark with the following words written in ink:]

“What greater happiness can come to a family than the arrival of a baby!  Surely it’s a sign that God has blessed the marriage.  A baby is God’s masterpiece, a wonderful creation of his infinite mind.  He has said, “Suffer little children to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven”…No baby can ever be far from the throne of God, the Source of all life, of all Creation.”  – From the writings of Norman Vincent Peal

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Perhaps I should feel honored that I had such a central and starring role as a player in the trauma drama that was my Borderline mother’s life.  She was, of course, not only the Leading Lady but the writer, producer and director of this trauma drama.  It is a significant problem being raised as the daughter of my mother that because I was born into my role from before the first breath of my lifetime, there was no possible way I could know that I was in a trauma drama at all!

My mother believed this drama was real and I had no choice but to believe this fantastic lie right along with her.

My guess is in severe Borderline Personality Disorder cases like my mother’s was one of the biggest problems for those whose lives are intimately intertwined with such a mother is that her Borderline constantly shifted.  For all the thousands of hours I have spent researching her ‘condition’ in her letters and writings I still have a nearly impossible task of pinpointing exactly where her Borderline actually was.

Her Borderline did not allow her to define other people (her children and mate included) as being individual and autonomous people separate from her.  ALL of us were HER CAPTIVES.  We were FORCED to play our assigned part in the never-ending trauma drama she enveloped everyone within.

Her children were her Prisoners of War.  For all the shady shifting of her Borderline mind, that fact remained consistent along with one other:  Her nearly constant moving created the shifts between the scenes of her drama.

I suspect that just as my mother projected her own mind-psyche out onto the members of her family so that we were all assigned ‘parts to play’ as characters that we could not escape from, her psyche externalized itself in her continual moving around.  The overall primary theme of my mother’s trauma drama seemed to be a ‘search for a home in heaven’.

The secondary theme that involved me as the irredeemable child of the devil was tied to her primary theme of ‘looking for a home in heaven’ – because if all the BAD in her life could be eliminated, ‘heaven’ would appear.  That all that BAD actually existed within her own mind as she then projected it onto me was simply the WAY the play unfolded.

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So, I have decided that I will most likely title the book of my mother’s writings,

The Many Moves of Mildred:  Her Alaskan Homesteading Tale in Letters

or “Mildred’s Many Moves”

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My mother’s physical moves from location to location provide the most obvious single clue that something was terribly wrong ON THE INSIDE of my mother.  The moving around cannot be ignored or rationally explained even though within the family the ‘explanations’ were always built right into the pattern of the moves as they happened.  Nobody could or did ever question her moves – we had no power to do so.

The far less obvious ‘mental moves’ of Mildred are of course much harder to detect because the Borderline that could define what these ‘other moves’ actually were as they were happening constantly moved itself!

I suspect that for every physical move my mother ever made a corresponding shift, no matter how subtle, within her mood and mental state happened along with it.  My mother used moving to regulate her emotions because she lacked the resilient capacity to flexibly adapt, respond, change and ‘move things around’ within her own self.  My mother’s moving was a pattern of dissociating from one ‘place’ to another ‘place’ – externally with an internal echo.

From my point of view, my mother’s life story is probably one of the most profound examples of how an early-forming unsafe and insecure attachment disorder can rob a human being of the ability to EVER feel truly safe or secure.  My mother completely lacked the healthy sense of ‘being at home within’ in a safe and secure way.  As a consequence, the theme of her trauma drama that WAS her life demanded of her that she constantly, constantly, constantly QUEST for her ‘safe and secure home in heaven’ outside of herself.

My mother followed this pattern – alone once her husband divorced her and her children were out of her life – until her lonely dying day in that last pathetic, shabby, run-down, ugly Anchorage, Alaska motel room.

I personally know, even if I do not say a single other word about my mother’s severe ‘mental illness’ within the text of the main body of her own writings, that the title I am assigning to ‘her book’ contains the truth about HOW my mother was in the world because she lacked the capacity to truly be a WHO.  That title describes her Mercurial madness as she blindly followed an invisible Hermes  from place to place to place.

No matter what people might think as they read my mother’s writings, even without my saying one single word to alert readers to the TRUTH about what living with my mother was actually like, my mother’s life was a terrible, terrible tragedy.  From my point of view, my mother didn’t DIE in her infancy and childhood.  She was never actually even born.

And for all the thousands and thousands of words contained in her writings, not one of them names the infant-child abuse, neglect and maltreatment that stole her life away from her as it turned her into a roaring, violent, TERRORIST CAPTOR of a mother.

This is the reason I have chosen the word ‘tale’ rather than ‘story’ for her title.  What is NOT in my mother’s words, or perhaps what barely glimmers a few times here and there, is the true story of her life:  There was early damage done to my mother that meant she never reached any healing no matter how unconsciously and desperately she chased after it.

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This post follows the previous three from earlier today:

(1)  +OWNING THE BURDENS CREATED BY CHILD ABUSE

(2) +TRAUMA AND ABUSE SURVIVORS: TROUBLE WHEN WE ARE ALONE WITH OUR PATIENCE TOO LONG

(3)  +TRAUMA WILL NOT SHUT UP UNTIL SOMEBODY LISTENS (TRAUMA DRAMAS SHOUT MOST LOUDLY)

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While individual survivors of abuse and trauma might remain in their suspended-animation state of patient (silent) endurance that allowed them to survive their trauma(s) in the first place, TRAUMA itself is NEVER silent.

In today’s world where survivors patiently remain suffering ‘patients’ wounded and damaged by abuse and trauma while the non-survivors go live a happier life with more well-being, TRAUMA itself spreads it loud and messy signals all over the place through patterns that we can most clearly name – Trauma Dramas.

Because our species had all kinds of ways to communicate well before we obtained our verbal abilities (about 140,000 years ago) we still have these very ancient preverbal and nonverbal communication abilities built within us.  Trauma acts itself out in survivors’ lives until somebody, somewhere LISTENS to the messages that trauma contains within it.

We seem to have lost our ability to track the ‘un-verbal’ ways trauma continues to communicate its presence and its message to and among us.  My mother, who never in her lifetime could NAME the fact that she was wounded as a child, could never TALK about her abuse and trauma and had no WORDS she could use simply continued to patiently carry the burden of surviving her trauma throughout her lifetime.

But I promise you trauma spread its presence around through my mother’s life in everything she ever did.  If anyone had been able to read trauma’s signals and actually listened to her ‘un-verbal’ messages, something different could have happened in her life and in her family’s.

If we can train ourselves to recognize when trauma is communicating through the ancient human avenue of DRAMATIC reenactments, and what the trauma drama is SAYING, we have a pretty good chance of STOPPING the STORM of the intergenerational transmission of traumas that continue to act themselves out because they have something important to say and will NOT shut up until somebody listens and learns.

Infant-child abuse is clearly one of these trauma drama reenactments – and this abuse will NOT stop until somebody listens and learns what the trauma within and behind the drama has to tell us.  (Clue:  I’ve stated what this message is on this blog MANY TIMES!)

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This is the third post in today’s series about patiently enduring trauma (including trauma from abuse).

(1)  +OWNING THE BURDENS CREATED BY CHILD ABUSE

(2) +TRAUMA AND ABUSE SURVIVORS: TROUBLE WHEN WE ARE ALONE WITH OUR PATIENCE TOO LONG

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In following my previous post, +OWNING THE BURDENS CREATED BY CHILD ABUSE, I find myself thinking about the ancient history of human beings and about how trauma was probably ‘handled back then’.  Everyone is placed equally under the same burden while in the midst of the peritrauma of a traumatic experience.  One way or the other we all participate in one of the only two options as we ‘patiently’ carry the burden that the trauma creates:

(1) We endure the trauma and come out of the experience alive

(2) Or we don’t

But way back in the time of our earlier origins I seriously doubt that we had to patiently carry the burden of traumatic experiences very much past the actual experience of the trauma itself.  Even before humans had spoken language abilities (prior to about 140,000 years ago) we had ways to communicate our experiences to others.  We used facial expressions, gestures, pantomimes, dances and song-music.

‘Back then’ we had no cultural or social reason to postpone our expression of our experience any longer than would have been absolutely essential to ‘the patient survivorship’ of the traumas themselves.  Past that point, communicating about trauma HAD to happen so that others could know what we encountered, faced and survived.  Everyone reaped a benefit from LEARNING about trauma and how to survive it.

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For a long time I have suspected that when trauma survivors cannot learn anything useful from a traumatic experience that will help them and others to avoid a similar trauma in the future or learn something to help better ensure survival of a similar trauma if/when it happens again, we suffer from long term ‘damage’ related to anxiety (i.e. depression, panic, phobias, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), etc.)

In essence, then, no matter what traumatized us – no matter what we patiently endured and survived because there was no alternative – if we cannot express the experience of trauma to our self and to others we are condemned to be FOREVER patient.  If ‘being patient’ means all of the things that I just described in relation to the word itself in my last post, then being forever forced to remain in a state of suspended animation regarding trauma means that being patient too long makes us ALSO have to be ‘patients’ too long.

Being wounded without reprieve or hope of healing keeps us in the state of ‘patient-hood’.  Only most often the ‘patience’ that keeps us being a ‘patient’ is never factually recognized or described.  We simply keep bearing-carrying our burden of suffering – as it destroys us and our lives.

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Again I would say that enduring specific traumas allows those survivors to know the FACTS – in all their minute details – in a way that nonsurvivors of particular traumas will never know.  BUT IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN THAT WAY unless the survivor had the chance, the opportunity, the possibility to absolutely and as nearly completely as possible communicate to others ALL OF THE INFORMATION RELATED TO THE TRAUMA.

How could our species have learned to better prepare for the un-preparable (the hidden dangers in the world we had never experienced before) if we were not able to learn SOMETHING from every trauma that every single person ever experienced?

I imagine way back in our early beginnings – a tribe, a group of people who depended upon one another for their shared and mutual survival, PATIENTLY taking the time – however much time it TOOK – both for a trauma survivor to express what had happened and for the non-trauma survivors to completely UNDERSTAND what the trauma survivor had gone through.

Humans did not win the hominid survival prize because we impatiently ignored traumas.  We did not survive because we ignored what trauma survivors had to communicate about their experience.  Along with the SHARING of the facts and details related to trauma experiences, EVERYONE shared the PATIENCE – EVERYONE shared the burdens created by knowing that ‘trauma is out there’ waiting to kill us.  Learning from trauma to better ensure continued survival for everyone was everyone’s concern.

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Not so with most kinds of abuse humans suffer at one another’s hands today.  Not true for abuse and malevolent treatment suffered by infants and children.  Survivors SURVIVE exactly because of their PATIENCE.  This patience IS the act and the process of enduring trauma in the first place.  That we continue to suffer from and with the burdens created by abuse happens because this state of being patient goes on far, far, far too long.

Trauma has to be shared.  Something useful is SUPPOSED to be learned by traumas by everyone.

I believe that trauma caused by caregiver abuse of infants and children IS NOT NATURAL.  I believe it is always caused in concert with so-called ‘mental illness’.  I’m not going into detail here about this now, but I do want to mention that the state of patience that infant-child abuse survivors were FORCED into in the beginning is often carried forward through their entire lifespan.  When this happens the ‘patient little one’ has become the ‘sick patient’ and will stay in that state (usually deteriorating) for the rest of their lifespan IF THE TRAUMA IS NOT SHARED.

I don’t think there is an alternative.  I think our human species evolved this way.  We cannot find another way out of or around the long term harm that unresolved trauma causes us.  There is no healing alternative because we ARE members of a species that was made this way:  Trauma is NOT meant to be carried patiently ALONE any longer than the amount of time it takes to patiently endure and survive the ACTIVE experience of trauma – as it is actually happening

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I’ve been thinking about my mother all morning as I worked out in the heat adding onto my adobe walkway.  I am trying to define my feelings about her and about her life.  I thought about ‘pity’, ‘compassion’ and ‘regret’.  I can’t become clear about my feelings or define them until I understand more about what these three words actually mean in our language.

I have always shied away from using the word ‘pity’ even in my thinking because, to me, the word has a tinge of a self-righteousness, a stance and perspective that I consider to be connected to a personal shortcoming rather than to an asset.  I looked this word up online and Webster’s defines the word this way:

PITY

Etymology: Middle English pite, from Anglo-French pité, from Latin pietat-, pietas piety, pity, from pius pious

Date: 13th century

1 a : sympathetic sorrow for one suffering, distressed, or unhappy b : capacity to feel pity
2 : something to be regretted <it’s a pity you can’t go>

synonyms pity, compassion, commiseration, condolence, sympathy

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With this clarification I can tell that my concern about taking a ‘self-righteous’ perspective IS tied to how I feel about ‘piety’ and ‘pious’ in general.  I don’t like either of those words for some reason I can’t quite grasp.  Yet words by themselves do not contain either negative or positive.  What is it about this word that causes me to want to shudder and run?

PIOUS

Etymology: Middle English, from Latin pius

Date: 15th century

1 a : marked by or showing reverence for deity and devotion to divine worship b : marked by conspicuous religiosity <a hypocrite—a thing all pious words and uncharitable deeds — Charles Reade>
2 : sacred or devotional as distinct from the profane or secular : religious <a pious opinion>
3 : showing loyal reverence for a person or thing : dutiful
4 a : marked by sham or hypocrisy b : marked by self-conscious virtue : virtuous
5 : deserving commendation : worthy <a pious effort>

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The word ‘pious’ is a young word in our English language, and no doubt directly entered our cultural awareness through the influence of ‘the church’.  Knowing my mother’s focal obsession with ‘good versus evil’ was also tied in some vague yet powerful way with ideas contained in Christian religion does not make me eager to embrace this concept.

Yet while the definition of ‘pity’ does coincide with the thoughts I have been having about my mother and her life today, it is not a word that ‘rings true’ to me about how I feel in response to her and her life today.  So I will look further into this synonym for ‘pity’:

COMPASSION

Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French or Late Latin; Anglo-French, from Late Latin compassion-, compassio, from compati to sympathize, from Latin com- + pati to bear, suffer — more at patient

Date: 14th century

: sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it

synonyms see pity

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This word, ‘patient’ did come into my thoughts as I sloshed wet mud into my adobe mold this morning.  I don’t know which way this word is connected to compassion – as a suffering ‘patient’ or as one who needs to ‘be more patient’?

When this word appeared in my thoughts it was connected to my thinking that nobody who has not suffered infant and/or child abuse can EVER really have a clue what ‘it’ is.  Most people in our culture have some sort of understanding about what ‘child abuse’ is, and yet if anyone had ever asked my mother or my father if there was ‘child abuse’ going on in their home they would have said “NO!”  If anyone had asked my mother’s mother if ‘child abuse’ ever happened to my mother, she would have also said “NO!”

My thinking about how ‘everyone’ assumes that they know what child abuse is at the same time that those who are committing child abuse are mostly NOT EVER going to accept the reality of the abuse they commit led me to the word ‘patient’.

The ONLY way the truth about what child abuse IS will be really KNOWN is if the public LISTENS to what infant-child abuse survivors have to say.  Yet there’s even a very big problem with THIS approach.  Just as child abuse perpetrators are not likely to NAME or OWN the abuse they commit against children, MANY, MANY infant abuse and child abuse survivors are not going to NAME what happened to them, either.

My mother certainly NEVER used ‘child abuse’ in her description of what happened to her in her infancy and childhood.  Do we think if we don’t NAME infant and ‘child abuse’ that IT NEVER REALLY HAPPENED?

This line of thinking led me again to the word ‘patient’ in terms of how ‘patient’ the public needs to be in supportive and affirming ways so that those who have OBVIOUSLY suffered greatly from ‘child abuse’ can be encouraged to KNOW the reality of what happened to them in their childhood, and to speak about it!

Now I wonder about someone who is sick, injured, wounded and is a ‘patient’.  What does this word actually mean?

PATIENT

Adjective

Etymology: Middle English pacient, from Anglo-French, from Latin patient-, patiens, from present participle of pati to suffer; perhaps akin to Greek pēma suffering

Date: 14th century

1 : bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint
2 : manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain
3 : not hasty or impetuous
4 : steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity
5 a : able or willing to bear —used with of b : susceptible, admitting <patient of one interpretation

Noun

Date: 14th century

1 a : an individual awaiting or under medical care and treatment b : the recipient of any of various personal services
2 : one that is acted upon

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WOW!  How many ‘child abuse’ survivors had any choice BUT to bear the pains and trials of their lives ‘calmly’ and ‘without complaint’?  Did we have any choice other than to ‘manifest forbearance under provocation and strain’?  We could not act hastily or impetuously in any way that would have altered the course of our abusive childhoods.  We could not speed our childhood up like fast-forwarding a movie so that we could escape our abuse any sooner.

We had no choice but to be ‘steadfast despite opposition, difficulty and adversity’.  We HAD TO BE ABLE AND WILLING TO BEAR our suffering from what was done to us.  The alterative would have been death.  And, yes, we were turned into ‘patients awaiting care’.  We were wounded, hurt and suffering from the ways that those who had power over us ‘acted upon us’ – in the opposite of a healing way.  And we sure were not ‘recipients of any personal services’ that would have helped us.

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This topic is obviously ABOUT suffering:

SUFFER

Etymology: Middle English suffren, from Anglo-French suffrir, from Vulgar Latin *sufferire, from Latin sufferre, from sub- up + ferre to bear — more at sub-, bear

Date: 13th century

Which goes directly to what we had to ‘bear’:

BEAR

Etymology: Middle English beren to carry, bring forth, from Old English beran; akin to Old High German beran to carry, Latin ferre, Greek pherein

Date: before 12th century

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There’s the old word – ‘bear’ – literally in its roots connected to carrying.  And that IS what we did.  As I have mentioned over time the afflictions caused to us by infant and child abuse actually built themselves into our body as we grew and developed and changed us.

But what I am thinking about today is  the difference between silently carrying what happened to us – often while we don’t even KNOW the truth ourselves about the infant and child abuse we suffered – versus KNOWING the truth, having words for the truth so that we can, as survivors think thoughts in words and communicate our truth about our abuse to others and to our perpetrators if appropriate.

If I think about my mother and her life in terms of ‘patient’, she was patient until her dying breath.  She bore and carried what had happened to her as an infant-child and to my knowledge NEVER was able to KNOW the truth.  This kind of continued patience, a pattern set up early, early in life, does not help a person to heal.  It helps them to become an increasingly ‘sick’ and suffering patient who cannot ask for or receive the healing help they most need to ‘get better’.

As hard as it might sometimes be for me to understand that what my mother did to me was caused by what was done to her, I want to understand that all my mother truly knew in her lifetime was suffering.  Her suffering increased with every breath she ever took, and led to her terrible suffering at death.  As for me, I would rather ‘suffer while I bear the burden of compassion for my mother’ than not.

My personal mission is to KNOW what happened to both her and me – to give this knowledge words – and to encourage every single person who suffers from infant abuse and child abuse and the burden this abuse creates to speak their truth while the rest of us patiently listen.

This process, to me, is where ‘child abuse’ prevention begins.

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REGRET

Etymology: Middle English regretten, from Anglo-French regreter, from re- + -greter (perhaps of Germanic origin; akin to Old Norse grāta to weep) — more at greet

Date: 14th century

transitive verb 1 a : to mourn the loss or death of b : to miss very much
2 : to be very sorry for <regrets his mistakes>intransitive verb : to experience regret

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In its most basic operation, I see a newborn’s attachment system as being like a toilet tank.  When water in the toilet tank reaches the right level, a ‘switch’ is flipped because it is full and no more water comes in until someone again flips the handle so all the tank’s water can rush out again.

A human beings internal, naturally produced opioids act behave for an infant in a similar way.  When the infant is not in need, it’s opioid receptors in its brain are full.  When the infant has a need, the opioids drain out so that the empty receptors stimulate a recognition of a need within the body-brain.  The infant will then do whatever it can, according to its development, to attract the attention of its caregiver so that whatever the need is can be met.  Once the need is met, the opioid receptors are full again (just like a full toilet tank).

Opioids are our body’s own ‘opioid’ production system.  They make us feel good from before we are born.  Opioids are in the placenta.  They are in breast milk.  They are naturally occurring in our body-brain when we do NOT have a need.

From birth, needs attract the body’s attention.  When they are unmet, they hurt.  Another chemical system in our body tells us when we are in pain:

From Webster’s online:

Main Entry: substance P

: a neuropeptide that consists of 11 amino acid residues, that is widely distributed in the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nervous system, and that acts across nerve synapses to produce prolonged postsynaptic excitation

The “P” in substance P comes from the word PAIN.  Pain is a state of prolonged excitation in the body that does NOT feel good.  Opioids, on the other hand, spread themselves around the body-brain when we have no pain at all.

From our first dependency needs being met, our body-brain grows itself in healthy and positive directions.  When our earliest needs are not met by our attachment caregiver in such a way that our discomfort-pain can stop and our opioid system can tell us we are OK, all manner of physiological developmental changes can take place.

I suspect that our immune system receives the ‘red alert’ when our pain-comfort ratio becomes seriously disturbed, thus triggering epigentic and other changes in our development as we adapt to a world that is more harmful to us than not.  I also suspect that when researchers join together with serious intention to understand the roots of addictions and other so-called ‘mental illnesses’ as they exist in changes that happened within the foundation of our attachment system from birth, great good will come from their findings.

From Webster’s online:

Entry: opioid Function: noun Date: 1967

1 : any of a group of endogenous neural polypeptides (as an endorphin or enkephalin) that bind especially to opiate receptors and mimic some of the pharmacological properties of opiates —called also opioid peptide
2 : a synthetic drug possessing narcotic properties similar to opiates but not derived from opium; broadly : opiate

Physician-reviewed articles on opioids on Healthline.1. Opioid intoxication

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Why do the ‘experts’ diagnose an individual while they ‘assess’ a family?  Is the distinguishing factor a cultural assumption-belief that a family is made up of autonomous individuals?  Wrong.  Everyone one of us is formed from our start within an environment that influenced our development, and in severely infant-child abusing families it is obvious to me that the abusing parent is ‘spilling over’ into their child’s ‘personal space’ as the autonomy of the child is left out of the developmental story.  If all children were treated like autonomous people all their universal rights would be respected and met, which is obviously so NOT the case when infant-child abuse happens.

I do not believe healthy autonomy exists within unsafe, insecurely attached abusive human relationships and environments that condone abuse.  If abuse is allowed to happen at all, as far as I am concerned it is being condoned:  Allowed = condone.

I do not believe that when considering and/or dealing with MOST so-called ‘mental illnesses’ that we can have it both ways.  We cannot ‘diagnose’ individuals without ‘diagnosing’ the family that formed that individual.  If we are not willing to accept THIS as reality, then we better ‘assess’ individuals while we ‘assess’ the family that formed them.

In my view, assessment is the direction that offers the most factual and realistic opportunity to affect true HEALING.  All other approaches to most ‘mental illness’ problems — which includes abuse because I believe abuse only happens as an expression of ‘mental illness’  — address ‘symptoms’ without assessing or addressing actual cause.

We can continue to believe the old myth and fallacy that ‘mental illness’ is genetic.  Genes manifest themselves through epigenetic processes that happen when our genetic-expression ‘machinery’ detects a need for a body to adapt to a particular kind of environment.  Our genetic well-being (and therefore our overall well-being) is thus directly tied to the conditions of ill-being or well-being of the environment that forms us – during every instant of our lifetime.

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If we were to listen to the best orchestra in the world play the most complex and beautiful song we can imagine (assuming the piece appeals to our cultural tastes), what we would be listening to in any ongoing instant of time is simply a reflection of what has ‘happened in the past’ as it transfers into ‘what is happening in the present’.  Because we would have no reason to be listening along as a part of this musical experience while at the same time anticipating any abrupt STOP in the music in the middle of the song doesn’t mean that all possibilities for what COULD or MIGHT happen in the future don’t exist.

If we included in our symphony experience a conscious awareness of the nearly unbelievable history that has led up to this moment in time, we would be overwhelmed.  All of the billions of decisions that led to our specific birth as listeners, the decisions that were made back in time that led to the existence of every musician, of everyone who made every instrument we are listening to, who wrote the songs, how this ‘event’ was able to exist because ‘it got put together’ is not something we often include in our conscious awareness.  Our excluding of these thoughts and the information they might relate to does not mean that ALL that information is not a part of what we experience.

If we are going to simply say that so-called ‘mental illness’ is a result of ‘bad genes’ we are excluding vast amounts of information related to what we think we are talking about in a very similar way.

If we think about information in a familiar framework today, we can think about binary code.  Because life as we know it, including our own, actually happens on an atomic and molecular basis where information is transmitted through electrical signals and pulses of information, all we come down to is the equivalent of binary code.

If we think about our entire history as a species, our entire specie’s story of our life here on earth as being contained within our DNA, we only have one part of the story.  Somehow this story is continuing on and we each have our part in it.

While DNA contains the story of our past, it is the DNA’s ‘middle people’ that transform the story of the past into the story of the present.  I don’t know exactly HOW this happens, of course.  In fact, there are probably only a very few researchers alive today who are beginning to detect the truth about how our epigenetic processes work.

Right now it is assumed that epigenetic mechanisms are able to detect conditions within the environment so that these mechanisms can tell our DNA genetic codes how to combine with one another, how to operate, and how to express the DNA information.

Right now it is assumed that even though the epigenetic changes that happen in one generation can be passed down through successive generations (and often are), it is believed that these changes are NOT changing our DNA – or our human story.

BUT it is also becoming known that it is probably true that if the conditions that created patterns of change in DNA expression — as contained in the epigentic changes of DNA communication about the environment and hence in our DNA’s expression — remain in existence long enough, our DNA might very well EVENTUALLY change in adaptation.

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This means to me that unlike my symphony image, being human means that the ongoing song-story that we are a part of CAN and DOES change as it goes along, and these changes can be passed down the generations through epigenetic processes that very well MIGHT and CAN change the very essence of our specie’s story within our DNA.

I am coming to understand that this ENTIRE PROCESS is about attachment.  In a great, safe and secure world full of plenty and without toxicity, our epigenetic ‘middle people’ do not have to instruct our DNA to make extreme changes to adapt to trauma.  This version of the picture happens when attachment can happen within a benevolent world.

On the other hand, when attachment is unsafe and insecure within a malevolent environment, our epigentic ‘middle people’ have a much bigger job to do.  They have to tell our DNA about these hostile and malevolent conditions in our environment so our DNA can change its expression to best ensure ongoing life IN SPITE of the traumas and difficulties present.

Playing in an orchestra with well constructed instruments that do not break to pieces in the middle of a song is one thing.  But if, all of a sudden, every instrument develops some kind of critical ailment, the song is going to CHANGE drastically as a result.

If all the instruments remain intact and fine, but suddenly some mysterious sneezing gas is released into the musical arena, the song that was playing is going to change itself, also.

We cannot afford to pretend that the exact conditions of our earliest developmental environment does not profoundly influence the way our DNA manifests itself.  Just because the potential exists of a beautiful song does not mean that within conditions of some environments that beautiful song will NOT be played.

Serious attachment difficulties in early human relationships are obviously far worse than sneezing gas sneezes.  But we have to realize that the nature and quality of our earliest attachment experiences directly communicate to the growing and developing human body-brain what the condition of the world ACTUALLY is – and what it is going to be like in the future.

Our entire physiological systems are designed to tell us – just as clearly as if they were receiving instructions in binary code – what is to be approached and included as life-sustaining in our lifetime along with what is to be avoided and excluded because it is NOT life-sustaining in our lifetime.

This is ATTACHMENT information:  Attach to the good and healthy, do not attach to the bad and unhealthy.

This all begins to be orchestrated (actually from before our conception) through our earliest HUMAN attachment interactions.  In environments of unsafe and insecure early attachment relationships the growing body-brain is fed the information that the world AS A WHOLE is not a good, healthy place to attach within or to!  Epigenetic changes then happen and development is correspondingly altered.  Our DNA code is told about these difficult conditions by our genetic ‘middle people’ – and VOILA!  Changes happen that are as difficult to live with as was the original environment that caused them to happen in the first place.

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Discovering what the range of these changes is can be done either through what we call ‘diagnosis’ or through what we call ‘assessment’.  In the end, we are talking about the same process of identifying what was WRONG in the earliest attach-to-the-world environment that led to these changes happening in the first place.

But we cannot POSSIBLY talk about either ‘diagnosing’ or ‘assessing’ any individual person while we separate their difficulties from the environment that influenced the entire development of all aspects of their body from the start.

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I went outside to work on my adobe landscaping project after I finished my last post, but here I am back again to capture my next sequence of thoughts:  A family can have a Dissociative Identity Disorder just like an individual person can.

Duh!  That makes perfect sense to me now that I noticed this!  I was thinking outside that if good ‘ole Newton had had to rely on a piece of a seed falling out of an ant’s mouth and hitting the ground to come up with his theory about gravity rather than relying on an apple falling off of the branch of a tree, maybe none of us today would quite understand what keeps us stuck into our shoes other than our laces (or velcro).

It’s no less true that the same forces that bring an ant’s lost scrap of food down to earth is the same force that dropped the apple, but without being able to witness a process within the format of a bigger picture, things can be easy to miss.

My story, my mother’s story, my family’s story is an extreme one.  Therefore it perhaps offers the opportunity to discover something that might happen within many families but is just as easy to miss as the ant’s dropped fleck.

Anyone who ends up in adulthood with an insecure attachment disorder due to inadequate good caregiver interactions from birth forward during critical stages of development simply ‘catches the ball’ that was passed to it by its caregivers and carries that ball forward.

It makes sense to me to say that NOBODY who suffers from major dissociational problems in their adult life could help but ‘catch’ those dissociational patterns from their parents just like offspring can catch AIDS or any of us can catch a contagious disease.

Therefore, if we consider Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) within the larger context, we will know without a doubt that the dis-order came from being raised in a family that ALSO had Dissociative Identity Disorder.

In a culture hep on believing that everyone is born ‘equal’ and therefore equally autonomous, we need to remember that being a fully healthy autonomous person ONLY happens if adequate safe and secure attachment interactions were available to build a truly healthy autonomous body-nervous system-brain-mind-self from the start of life.

It the safe and secure attachment requirements were not met a fully healthy and autonomous person will not be the end result.  Lack of autonomy goes right along with an insecure attachment disorder because they are essentially the exact same thing.

Without the development of autonomy (for reasons just stated) an individual will NOT have a stable, healthy, balanced, fully formed and benevolently functioning IDENTITY.

Humans are not designed in the biological factory of life to hatch from an egg.  We are designed to manifest our genetic potential interactively with the environment we are born into and formed by.  Ours is an adaptive, flexible, and highly purposeful design.  This design is the reason our species is still here.

Our developmental process – which continues to happen during every millisecond of our lifetime in our body as our genetic code continues to form us – happens through feedforward and feedbackward information loops.  If a major piece of information we receive and process is about a malevolent environment, we have no choice in our beginnings but to form our body in adaptation to these malevolent conditions.

That my mother was formed within an environment that was not benevolent enough and was too malevolent so that she formed an insecure attachment disorder meant that she was destined — without intervention or healing — to pass it onto her offspring.  Her attachment disorder included major dissociation due to the malevolent environment she was formed in.

My father also suffered from certain conditions from his birth that created his body-brain-mind-self to be less than autonomous, which made him a perfect match for my mother.  They meshed, enmeshed, and became ‘one person’ as their summer 1957 letters so clearly describe.  They formed a secondary identity based on their mutual interdependence on one another BECAUSE they lacked true safe and secure attachment within their own self.

This secondary identity could ASSUME the ‘outfits’ (like a wardrobe of clothing) of identity from external environmental influences that were NOT representative of WHO each of these persons COULD HAVE BEEN if they each had been raised within a safe and securely attached early environment  or of who they actually were (or could have been).

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This led me to thinking about what a challenge healing and positive change can be for a family just like it can be for an individual.  If the family is made up of insecurely attached people who have no fully formed healthy autonomous identity as separate individuals, the family will have a secondary identity that might as well BE not only the family but the individuals within it.

Family Dissociative Identity Disorder would mean that whatever systems are operating within the family, whatever patterns, actually ARE the family because there is no other autonomous identity present.  It would be not only extremely disorganizing and disorienting for a family to attempt to alter their family DID but also could be a nearly impossible goal if the autonomy of the individual members is not IMPROVED first.

This means to me that addressing the patterns of individual people’s insecure attachment within a family becomes the only reasonable first step that will be effective.  Every other change that is attempted will actually be just a continuation of ‘let’s assume another identity like a new suit of clothes’ patterns and will actually build up and add to the DID problems rather than offer the start of a solution.

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If I am correct, and in looking at the extreme picture of my family I think that I am, any so-called therapy or treatment offered to any member of a family that does not address the lack of autonomy that an unsafe and insecure attachment as the body-brain formed FIRST is actually supporting the Dissociative Identity Disorder of the family because it is feeding it.

Trying to insert ‘recovery’ into a family as if it is an outfit they can add to their repertoire of ‘things to wear’ is NOT addressing the core problem of the insecure attachment patterns within every family members body-brain that WILL be there to some extent.  The only alternative for any individual family member’s health and well-being happens ONLY if and when there is some safe and securely attached (and attachable-to) person in their life.  This is the number ONE resiliency factor.

Outside people (external resources) trying to assist a family to heal are not being representatives of safe and secure attachment if they are feeding the DID within the family rather than offering autonomous support based on the core facts of what caused a family to become so ‘sick’ in the first place and what will truly help them to heal.

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From Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD, your Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder Have trouble articulating who you are, or what you like? Do you find yourself conforming to whatever others in your current setting want you to be, with no real anchor? This week, learn more about identity issues in BPD.

Who Am I? BPD and Identity
Plenty of people without BPD struggle with identity issues, too. But people with BPD often have a very profound lack of sense of self.
Finding Meaning – The First Steps Toward Identity
If you struggle with your identity, you may wonder if there is anything you can do to “find yourself.” There are some things that can help you down the path– finding meaningful moments in your life can get you there.
Does Impulsive Behavior Interfere With Identity Formation?
Some clinicians believe that people with BPD struggle with identity issues because their behavior is so impulsive they have trouble defining “who they are” through their behaviors (which can be erratic and unpredictable). Learn more about impulsive behavior in BPD.
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 still hard at work on the seemingly unending job of transcribing the rest of my mother’s letters.  A title for the book coming out of this collection might be:  Mildred’s Romance with Alaska:  A Homesteading Adventure in Letters.

Here is a short section from the first letter my mother wrote once she arrived in her ‘Promised Land’.  “Transported’ is the word my mother used to describe how her traveling experience felt to her.  Many people know what the experience of rapid travel over great distances to a different place feels like.

What I find so interesting, having just worked my way through the nearly 80,000 words that transpired between my parents in their letters before my mother’s arrival in Alaska is that once she arrived THERE everything seemed to change right along with the change in place, the migration, that had happened for my family.

Reading my mother’s June and July 1957 letters, and then beginning to read her August 1957 letters if I didn’t KNOW the connection I would think an entirely different person was now writing.  Yet because I was a member of this family I know that nothing had REALLY changed – not my mother, not my father, and not our closed-door family dynamics.

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August 1, 1957 Thursday – Eagle River, Alaska

Dearest Mother (Charles and Carolyn)

It’s really hard to believe I am actually in Alaska!  I feel as if I were transported here on the Magic Carpet in Grandma’s stories she told when I was a little girl.

Airplane travel is certainly wonderful – I arrived in Anchorage at 10:45 yesterday morning – a half hour before scheduled, so Bill wasn’t there to greet us.

Really, Mom it was the most thrilling, exciting thing that has ever happened to me.  The trip here was all worth it just to have flown!  I could write you pages and pages just telling you about the flight but there’s so much I have to tell you.  I am bursting with news….

The children loved it, were as calm as could be.  I am still recovering.  It was a thrill, but also quite terrifying to climb 20,000 feet.  John ‘s nose was pressed to the window every minute!  (when he wasn’t sleeping).  Oh Mom, I am so anxious now for you to experience all I have – I know you’d be a wonderful traveler.  On the Northwest Orient Flight there were two Grandmothers coming up to see their daughters who had also migrated to Alaska.  One was in her 80s and the other about your age, was joining her daughter and family for a three week vacation – camping trip.  It was their third visit a piece!!!

(bold type is mine]

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And yet I wonder if the PLACE of suburban southern California had little to offer in terms of emotional resources for my family, especially for my mother, while Alaska did have something to offer her.

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Mother wrote this on a scrap of paper on the same August first day she wrote her first letter to her mother:

Second day in Alaska

We always have wild flowers on our table, picked by anxious to please tiny hands.  What greater pleasure is there then to watch small children discovering the wonder of nature in the woods – streams to watch flow, questions to answer – where does the water come from and where does it go, will it ever dry up?

Mommy are these berries good to eat?  Will this water really freeze and will we really have snow?  Yes, darling, yes darling and isn’t it a bit of heaven for us right here in the woodland and don’t you feel closer to God here as I do?  Yes, Mommy, yes and so our life in Alaska begins.

A Bit of Heaven In the Woods –

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Always” here is obviously a relative term because we had only been in Alaska one single full day.  Mother’s use of this word ‘always’ is like a peep-hole to me through which I can watch in her writings the changes in attitude, mood, feelings, thoughts and hopes that my mother now expresses in her letters at the same time nothing has REALLY changed at all.

Insecure attachments caused my very early neglect, abuse, maltreatment and trauma – as these experiences form and change an infant-child’s growing body-brain, often include an altered experience of time.  Those altered time perceptions are part of what attachment experts can detect through their assessment tool, the Adult Attachment Interview because it is in the telling of one’s life story that these time alterations appear as they represent the underlying incoherency that trauma creates not only in a survivor’s story, but also as that incoherency has built the survivor’s body-brain.

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When I think about dissociation, I think about these altered perceptions of time and the changes in processing information regarding a person in their own life as time passes.  The second sentence my mother wrote in her August first letter makes a direct connection back to her very early childhood when her grandmother came to live in her home with her mother after her parents had divorced and her grandfather had died.

A magic carpet ride.  Being transported in time and space.  Dissociation does this as it ‘magically’ connects experiences from the past to ongoing experience in the present moment.  This connection process is always happening for everyone, but it is for those whose infant-childhoods did not pave a smooth, continuous highway of experience — because the breaks trauma and maltreatment created in their ongoing experience of life did not allow the connections to be made in the body-brain of the survivor in a smooth and continuous way — that dissociation enters the patterns of their thinking, feeling and actions.

Both of my parents chose to create a nearly complete ‘dissociation’ between the experiences of their past in Los Angeles’ suburbia and their new life as migrants to Alaska.  The reality of suburban living that they had previously organized and oriented their lives around disappeared.  They had virtually pulled the plug on most aspects related to their lives.  All the letters following the first of August 1957 include the new organizing and orienting PLACE of Alaska.

Yet for all the opportunities that this new place offered to my parents nothing within the dynamics of our family ACTUALLY changed.  There were just a multitude of different experiences that fed the same people that brought themselves to this new and different place.  My parents created a major dissociation between their old life and their new one, but all the patterns of body-brain-mind-self dissociations that had ALWAYS been inside of the individuals who transported themselves ‘on a magic carpet’ to America’s last frontier were still there.

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As I think about what my parents DID when they moved to Alaska, no matter what their conscious intentions might have been, I realize that at the same time my parents carried their own inner woundedness right on up to Alaska with them, they were at least amputating themselves and their family from the very real pollution and toxicity of life in the Los Angeles area.

If a wound has become so infected that gangrene sets in and beings to eat up all the healthy tissue surrounding the wound (not unlike how cancer metastasizes), and if the wound itself is not healing, the best move possible is to at least address the problems the gangrene is causing so that life can at least continue on.

When my parents amputated their lives from southern California and transported themselves and their children in a migration to the purity of the north land of Alaska, they took a good step in the rupture-and-repair process that IS healing itself.  In that place, from the moment of their arrival, a new definition of identity began.  The Alaskan Lloyds were born.  This identity was soon even further clarified, solidified and defined as we ‘became’ the Alaskan Homesteading Lloyds.

Yes, we traveled a long, long way from being the Los Angeles southern California suburbanite Lloyds.  Because my mother’s Borderline illness was never identified or healed, all we really accomplished was staying alive – not healing.  But this was certainly a giant step in the right direction and I don’t even want to think what the alternative could have been had our family stayed ‘down south’.

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I have completed transcription of my parent’s letters for

I am now working on August 1957 letters from when we first arrived in Alaska.

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