As I sit outside in this morning’s sunshine and look at the huge lump of still-drying adobe that marks where the oleanders are entombed, encased and enshrined (and hopefully approaching their death) I have the strangest sense: “Who put that thing there? Were there ever giant oleanders stretched out over this piece of ground, or were they there only in my imagination?”
If I didn’t know what I now know about myself perhaps I wouldn’t even notice how I FEEL today — along with my thoughts in my mind that accompany how I feel. And I sure wouldn’t have any idea in my mind what these thoughts mean and where they come from.
When I write about what the self-help books never told me, when I write about what I was never told about how and why being in a body in this lifetime has always been difficult for me, I am talking about ‘these kinds of things’.
I woke this morning with a determination that I am NOT going to remain at the dead end ‘nose against the wall’ hope-less state that I found myself in yesterday. I want to move forward. At least during the terror, trauma and deprivation of my 18 year childhood I WAS able to access at least that one idea (although never consciously): “Being alive means that I am moving forward in time, always forward.”
So what does forward mean to me on this glorious, still sunny morning? What thoughts can I access today that might help me keep my terrible underlying-overlying, overwhelming perpetual sadness at bay? What can I tell myself today in my mind that represents something I learned and am able to learn today that did not come from any therapist or self-help book?
Two words appeared in my mind: TRANSITIONAL OBJECTS
So I did a quick Google search, adding ‘child abuse’ along the way. Here are three links I came up with but there are plenty there online for exploration:
Read full article here by clicking on the link provided at this site: Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena
“I believe that transitional objects are indeed very important to a child’s emotional development. These objects help the child deal with transitions such as the transition from wakefulness to sleep and transition from being with parents to being with a baby-sitter. Security objects are usually very soft and warm. They can be items such as a blanket, cloth diaper, stuffed animal, or even a favorite pillowcase. Children’s transitional objects are usually something that reminds them of their parents.”
Read full article online here: Transitional Objects
“Children’s attachment to transitional objects is based on unique identity and not the properties or kind of the object. This reasoning is an early and spontaneous example of the same value that adults place of sentimental possessions.”
Read full abstract here: Children Treat Infant Transitional Objects as Irreplaceable Possessions
As you might take a look for yourself in an online search about this topic, notice words like ‘self soothing’, transition between states and experiences, ‘sentimental’ and of course ATTACHMENT.
Who in God’s Green Acres was there for me to BE ATTACHED TO? Certainly NOT my mother — who was the last person on this green and blue earth that ever did anything but traumatize me.
Looking at Websters online database I see that SENSE and SENTIMENT share the same roots. As I think about how my body formed from birth in a malevolent environment, I know that way before I had the ability to think in literal thoughts my body-self knew without a doubt THROUGH THE SENSES OF MY BODY that I was NOT safe and secure in the world.
So to whom was I EVER going to form a safe and secure attachment to so that any possible physical ‘transitional object’ was going to help me sooth myself?
The conditions of malevolence that my body formed in — as I repeat again — built into the circuitry-wiring-patterns of my brain’s neuronal structures and in my body the ABSENCE of the ability to not only FEEL safe and secure in the world, but also the absence of a PERSON (other than my 14-month-older baby brother) to be safely and securely attached to.
THIS FACT MATTERS!
This fact changes how I am in the world.
When I wake this morning and see that giant lump of drying adobe where the old sprawling oleanders stood a week ago, it is ONLY within my conscious MIND that I can connect not only the fact that the oleanders once existed, that days of work were required to transition those plants into a lump of adobe, but most importantly THAT I, LINDA, MADE THIS CHANGE UPON THE PLANET.
What is this all about? I lack the ability to FEEL in the circuitry of my body-brain that I had a damn thing to do with the changes that happened in my yard — any of them.
This means to me that my entire home and yard are my CURRENT TRANSITIONAL OBJECTS. I walk around outside and as I physically SEE (with my senses) the changes that have happened there and try to physically form a ‘feeling felt’ connection within my own self NOT ONLY that I am in this body, but AM this body doing the walking — and that I have been ‘here’ all along making these changes.
When I write about the consequences especially of infant-toddler abuse as they impact development, I am talking about all of these kinds of experiences of having one’s own life experiences.
I encourage readers of this blog to spend some time with a Google search investigating what I am describing using terms such as ‘attachment feeling felt’, and ‘attachment child abuse feeling felt’.
During early infant developmental stages use of transitional objects is connected to not only the ‘feeling felt’ of SELF to others, but also the ‘feeling felt’ the SELF has TO OTHERS. If an infant never is given what it needs to FEEL FELT in the world so that in response it can ALSO feel other people in the world, an entirely different FEELING pattern is built into the infant’s body-brain.
This does NOT mean such survivors are ‘mentally ill’ because we cannot access this very real kind of FEELING information. We never got it built into us in the first place which gave us a CHANGED and DIFFERENT body.
If we are going to search realistically for the structural underpinnings of dissociation, depersonalization and derealization — along with an over or under active stress response system that feeds into depression and posttraumatic stress disorder, we need to be REALISTIC in our thinking — yes, within our mind.
Dr. Daniel Siegel, in his book The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are, states in the first sentence of his introduction:
“The mind emerges from the activity of the brain, whose structure and function are directly shaped by interpersonal experience.”
How our brain is built, along with the body that feeds information to the brain, are directly guided in their fundamental development by the kinds of early caregiver interactions an infant has.
SO, as I try to understand my ACTUAL experience of being a self with a mind in a body in my lifetime in this world, I MUST go back and learn as much as I can about how what happened to me from birth changed how I am in the world.
Yes, I HATE how I am now. There is NOTHING redeeming whatsoever about what was stolen from me! How can I celebrate that I cannot remember in any ‘feeling felt’ way that I was the person who made ALL the changes not only in my yard, but over the course of my entire adult life?
I can’t FEEL myself transitioning along through moments of time unless I TRY to — which is NOT the same thing as actually being able to FEEL something.
My inability to feel connected to my own self in a body in my life of course impacts all of my human relationships, as well. NO PERSON EVER ACTUALLY FEELS REAL TO ME. How could they? The only version of a human being that I can FEEL FELT with is within the range of early development similar to what my baby brother was when I was born. He was the only human being who consistently looked into my eyes, talked with me directly (when he was old enough to have words), touched me gently with love, and recognized my ACTUAL existence.
Adult Reactive Attachment Disorder. What that means to me is that because the feeling of ‘feeling felt’ and of ‘feeling myself in my own life’ was NOT built into my body-brain, ALL I can do is react to what happens in my life AS THINGS HAPPEN. I can factually remember things (as I could during my childhood) but I could not feel myself as a self having experiences then, and I cannot actually do it now.
Therefore there is no possible way for me to FEEL connected on the most fundamental physiologically-wired way. I have to consciously work toward how I think I imagine experiences MIGHT BE LIKE for nearly all other human beings (the ‘upper 95%) who did not receive the horrendous malevolent treatment I did from birth.
No wonder I fight this sadness! No wonder I have great difficulties when people who are important to me are not within my immediate physical range of experience. I missed the opportunity to experience nearly every single positive early attachment building (body-nervous system-brain-mind-self) experience that would have led to my having an entirely different experience of myself in my life — NOW!
Because I know every day more clearly how right I am about how trauma changes early development, hence changes the body we live in for the rest of our life — I KNOW there is no self-help book out there that tells us what these changes are, how they affect everything we experience in our life, and what it all means to us.
‘They’ can tell us until we are all blue in the face about this self-help clue/tip or another one, but nobody EVER told me I receive different information in the world, in a different way and process it differently — and because my experience was so ‘unique’ in its severity I might be one of the very, very few ‘lay people’ who could POSSIBLY have come to figure this out!
Yet I don’t believe that even all the attachment experts and developmental neuroscientists have figured out either because they are all divisional in what they know according to which separate Ivory Tower they operate from within.
In my particular case I can fit together what these experts have found out together into a single picture because I LIVE what they describe. I do NOT agree with ANY OF THEM that who and how I am in the world is one single bit PATHOLOGICAL.
I (and other survivors like me) am simply a living example of what a trauma altered development changed being is like and how WE experience life!