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Archive for May, 2011

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Interesting article on music, memory and the brain:
Study Finds Brain Hub That Links Music, Memory, and Emotion

A lifelong music buff, Janata had earlier created a model for “mapping” the tones of a piece of music as it moves from chord to chord and into and out of major and minor keys. By making tonal maps of each musical excerpt and comparing them to their corresponding brain scans, he discovered that the brain was tracking these tonal progressions in the same region as it was experiencing the memories: in the dorsal part of the medial pre-frontal cortex, as well as in regions immediately adjacent to it. And in this case, too, the stronger the autobiographical memory, the greater the “tracking” activity.”

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Yet again I must remind myself about the special characteristics of my life, my infancy and childhood, my story and of my body as it had to change in its development within an 18-year environment of trauma as these characteristics are unique and extraordinary (out-of-the-ordinary).  As I begin today to allow words about ‘my relationship with my father’ to take form on paper and digitalized screen I am coming around full circle to thoughts that came to me in 2006 when I first began my ‘developmental neuroscience’ research into my experience of life – and how it got to be the way that it is.

I started then and I am back there today thinking about brainwashing, mind-control and thought-control that was first formerly identified in 1950 related to techniques the Chinese used to alter the lives of people in drastic ways through trauma, torture, terror and imprisonment.  In 2006 I read stories written by survivors of these Chinese brainwashing efforts, but even as I did so I found not ONLY the similarity between what was done to these survivors (and their experience of surviving them) but also began to understand at the core of my being that every one of these survivors seemed to have had access to a tool that saved them.  I understood that I never had this tool.

What allowed these survivors to retain deep within their brain-mind-self at least a tiny corner of resistance and self-identity that the brainwashing could never touch was a sense of having BEEN a self prior to their torture experiences.  That self was directly tied to memories, very often of deep love and secure attachment to others, from their life prior to these terrible times.  I never had the opportunity to experience anything before my mother’s torture of me began because I had suffered from the same kinds of brainwashing patterns the Chinese used on their prisoners from the moment I was born.

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These thoughts are tied to my beginning response to Question #4 about my father that is a part of the book my daughter and I are writing about my infant-childhood.  I have no reason to believe that my mother wasn’t able to brainwash my father.  But at the moment that is not my concern.  What I am thinking about still is my response to the snake on my door yesterday.

I just did a Google search of the terms “child abuse startle response,” and encourage readers to do the same and spend some time poking around with the information that appears on the screen.  The single word that pops out to me on this search page is this one:  “obligatory.”  Everyone’s body is ‘obliged’ to respond one way or the other to perceived threat to well-being and life, but if a body has been built within environments of severe trauma from infancy the entire process of obliged-to-response will have been changed during earliest development.

I believe it pays all abuse survivors to become familiar with some of the information presented in the Google search I mention because we LIVE in and with a body that has been changed in development and will ALWAYS respond differently to the stress of trauma (real or perceived).

I suspect nearly everyone would experience a startle response to suddenly finding a great big snake wrapped around their doorknob of a door they just approach.  But for someone like me the reverberations from my initial startle reaction lasted for hours and hours, long past the actual experience with the snake.  Unlike what a nonabused person’s reaction would have been, mine involved and included a reawakening of many of my body’s old traumas along with my body’s ‘obligatory’ reactions and responses to them.

I doubt that I will ever look at or touch my front security door again without having the thought (and the image) of that snake’s body wrapping and twisting and slithering itself all over it.  I also know that my body-brain-mind-self never formed any procedures to release trauma from the present moment so that it doesn’t become added onto the entire massive collection of trauma that I have physiologically been ‘obliged’ to remember.

At the same time I understand that I am certainly not in any exclusive club when it comes to reactions to snakes, I also understand that the startle response I had yesterday and all the feelings I am STILL feeling in my body as a result are the SAME ONES I was forced to have in response to my OWN MOTHER on most occasions I was forced to endure my encounters with her – in one way or the other.

These patterns of startle, trauma and pain built themselves into me in such a way from the moment I was born that I most often experience some degree of ‘startle’ and resonating discomfort when I am in the company of nearly ANY human being other than those people, like my children, with whom I share my closest love-attachments.

These are the kinds of lifelong difficult consequence that infant abuse in particular creates.

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I forgot that today was a holiday.  There’s nobody around me to celebrate it with.  So I was dumbly going out my front door to run over to the post office to check my mail (too small a town for door delivery).  I opened my solid wood inner door, reached for the knob of my outer security door (wrought iron bars with steel mesh) and turned it.

Because the holes in the mesh are quite small and have been painted several times, with the way the sun was hitting it I couldn’t see outside except to notice from where I stood on the inside heading out that there seemed to be a new and additional CURVED piece of rod visible at the height of the knob.

It wasn’t until I had the door opened about six inches that the loops of a large snake with diamond patterns on its back came into my view as it enclosed my outer door knob completely with its wrapped body as it slid itself across, up and down my screen door!

Panic.

Not a reasonable thought in my head as I stepped backwards and slammed shut my wooden door without shutting the outer door, reaching into my pocket for my cell phone.  My friend, no doubt alarmed by my alarm, told me to call the sheriff’s office.  I did.  Waiting for the deputy to arrive I watched with prehistoric revulsion from my picture window as the snake undulated its way all over that door.  It began to drop itself through the air and I knew it would be on the ground and gone before help arrived.

In my state of alarm I didn’t see its head or its tail clearly.  I did see it taking off in a straight line across my yard (after it obviously negotiated the five steps that lead up to my front door).  I watched it crossing the road.  I now gingerly stepped from my door and kept my distance so I could see where the snake was once the deputy arrived.

This man didn’t like snakes any more than I do, but he relaxed when he spotted the narrow rather than arrowhead shaped head – and eventually saw the tail that he already knew would not have rattles.

I only felt very mildly stupid.

Growing up in Alaska where there are no snakes, I will NEVER respond to them like a south-of-the-snake line native.  The deputy assured me I could “leave now and have a nice day” while he and his soon to appear buddy would snare the snake and relocate it.  I didn’t watch.

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I am STILL not OK – many hours and much reasoning later.  My body, having spent 18 years living in an extremely abusive home, does not tolerate a full-blown stress response well.  Not well at all.  But the warning to watch ALL OF THE time for hazardous creatures came with today’s experience at the same time the reminder came that my nervous system and stress response system had to develop from infancy with a super overload that means today that trauma affects me differently than it does ‘ordinary’ people.

Which brings me to the second experience of my day I wish to write about.  I am getting to know my neighbor L, a woman I liked and trusted instantly from the moment I met her.  L grew up in a stable and loving home and did not suffer from abuse or trauma.  I can tell that about her – really just read it in her body language.  Her easy smile, her natural confidence that shows in her relaxed movements — she just feels HEALTHY to me.

Today when I stopped by to tell her about the snake that came a’knocking (L HATES snakes and has a true phobia about them) we ended up visiting for quite awhile.  L lost her husband of 25 years to cancer less than a year ago, and as L talked about how she relies on prayer to help ease her through the most difficult year – one holiday, one birthday, one anniversary – at a time she placed both of her palms on top of one another right in the center of her chest.

“Sometimes the ugly feeling builds up right here.”

I asked L how she handles that feeling, and if the prayer helps it go away.

“Oh,” she said, “Sometimes I have to really cry and when I do then this ugly feeling goes away.”

L had also told me about a friend of hers whose husband died, too.  L asked her how long she had cried after his death.  “For a year,” the friend told her.  “I cried and I cried so hard I thought I would never stop, but I’m finally getting a little bit better now.”

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Sometime when I am visiting with L I want to remember to ask her again about her friend – most particularly about what L knows about her friend’s early infant-childhood years.  It would not surprise me one bit to learn that this woman did not have the kind, loving and good childhood that L had.  In fact, just from the description about these two women crying I would be most surprised if the friend HAD a happy childhood.

L described to me something I will never be able to experience.  She described her feeling of deep sadness and grief as “this ugly feeling” that is obviously (to me) not a feeling that L has experienced as a chronic state of her life.  In fact I doubt it showed up at all until her tragic loss.  Crying is SUPPOSED to make what really IS an ugly feeling go away.

Now, for L’s friend the crying seems to have gone on a long long time and did not make the “ugly feeling go away” after a reasonable period of crying.  L can cry, the ugly feeling leaves her shortly and she can go about her day still missing her loved husband — but NOT captured in the essence of her being by “this ugly feeling.”

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Perhaps this is true for other severe (especially when it starts in infancy) abuse survivors as it is true for me.  Such stress and such sadness built themselves into my growing little body that “this ugly feeling” became my normal state.  It’s at the center of my nervous system where peace and calm is supposed to be (as the ‘set point’ for homeostatic equilibrium of the stress response and nervous system).

L and I have very differently-developed bodies – I know this now – so as she describes her ability to cry a cry and have “the ugly feeling” vanish from the center of her chest, and as she tells me about her friend who cried continually for a year I know where I fit in along this continuum – and I know why.

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Tomorrow I begin my writing of response to the book’s question #4 (about my father) – so I shouldn’t be surprised that today I feel far from chipper!  I found a passage today that I wish I understood – but I don’t.  Not really, not in any way but the most superficial fashion:

Truly, I say, the fear of God hath ever been the perspicuous protection and solid fortress for the whole community of the world.  It is the greatest means for the protection of mankind, and the chief cause of the preservation of humanity.  Yes, there exists a sign in the being of man which guards and protects him from that which is unworthy and unbecoming.  That sign is called modesty.  But this virtue is assigned to a few; for all are not endowed with this station.” From Baha’u’llah in “Bahai’I World Faith:  Selected writings of Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdul’l-Baha” (out of print) page 180

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This would suggest that for the bulk of humans it would be the fear of God that would keep us in line with living a truly good life.  Modesty, in a culture so pervasively materialistic, is often considered ONLY in this light.  But when I went to Webster’s online dictionary I found that the first definition of ‘modest’ is this one:  “placing a moderate estimate on one’s abilities or worth.”

I feel today as I prepare to write tomorrow for the book that I have a sinkhole of sadness and of DISAPPOINTMENT inside of me that seems at this moment to circle around a center that this word ‘modest’ represents.  I see that within this small and not-often used word might be a deep connection to both the essence of empathy and of compassion both of which were entirely missing in the severely abusive home of my origin.

Oh, no doubt both of my parents would have claimed if asked that modesty was one of their most ‘prized personal possessions’, but that would have been a lie as big as all the others their patterns in living represented.

It didn’t seem to be my mother’s ‘fear of God’ that was the straw that broke her, but rather the ‘fear of the devil coming to get her’.  I am not interested in arguing any points about how these two perspectives might be similar or different from one another.  I just sense at the core of my body that it was not any light that the first might carry that was present in her but rather all the darkness contained in the latter.

Whatever factors a human being might need to have been exposed to in their earliest life so that a healthy self could form that could have healthy relationships was missing from both of my parents’ experience.  They must have both been denied whatever it takes to develop “a moderate estimate on one’s abilities or worth.”  There is NOTHING moderate about infant-child abuse!  There IS NOT SUCH THING as ‘moderate abuse’.  Abuse is abuse, and I cannot imagine a human being who HAS “a moderate estimate on one’s abilities or worth” ever committing it.

Yet if modesty, according to this quotation is a rare virtue not common among humans, then there must be a whole lot of people who do, in their innermost essence, at least have a healthy fear of some kind for God – however that relationship is defined and experienced.  (I imagine the rare modest people have both.)  This passage suggests to me that to live a life of well-being ONE of these two factors must be present.  My parents evidently didn’t have either one – and oh the suffering and abuse that was fostered and perpetrated in their absence!

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I am so enjoying sitting on an upside down 5-gallon empty pickle bucket out in the chicken coop watching the baby chicks turn into hens.  Relaxes me – learning from animal intelligence – and here are two stories I heard today that make me smile.

One woman had a friend in New Hampshire that fed a family of raccoons in her back yard on a daily basis.  5 pm on the dot and there appeared the crew to devour whatever goodies had been left for them as the humans who fed them watched with caring delight – only always the biggest and the oldest managed to grab for himself the best of the best.

Then one day at 4:55 there appeared one of the younger members of the masked-faced family who seemed to understand a brand new plan.  Five minutes later when the rest showed up there was a little battle as the biggest and the oldest wrestled away the choice loaf of bread.

Next day at 4:55 again appeared the younger one who had just enough time to rip open the plastic bag containing the stale bread donated from a local bakery.  The raccoon not only pulled off the wrapper, but did so in such a fashion that the entire loaf of bread slices remained in a stack.  The younger one had one of its feet planted firmly on top of this stack by the time the bigger and older arrived along with the rest of the raccoons.

The human family watched in amazement as the older came, took a look, assessed the situation and moved on to munch away on something else while the younger one simply lifted its foot off the stack only high enough and long enough to snatch one slice of bread at a time as it planted its foot back down on the shortening pile firmly – thus gaining for itself the entire loaf.

Daily 4:55 arrival and very clever bread stacking, that’s all it took and the rest of the raccoons showing up at the dot of 5 never figured it out.

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The other story was told by a woman whose male friend frequently house sat for another friend of hers.  There were specific instructions given for the daily routine:  First water the garden, second feed the dog, third feed the 250 wild quail that lived in the draw behind the property.

One day the man watered the garden, fed the dog and then mowed the lawn.   Involved with his task the hungry quail were completely forgotten.

As he sat on an old bench beside the garden shed busy adding new cord to the weed-eater a small movement caught his attention out of the corner of his eye followed next by a little tap on the toe of his tennis shoe.  Looking down he saw one quail.  Just one little quail.  One quail, that’s all it took, and the entire 250 soon had their supper.

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I thought about my six little chickens yesterday when I brought them out a large piece of watermelon rind with plenty of juicy red pulp still attached.  Oh, what a commotion among the sisters when I laid it on the ground in the shade of the adobe chicken coop where they had been passing their hot afternoon napping in peace!  What on earth was THAT?  Food or foe?

They ‘chit-chatted’ away in great confusion, excitement and concern until finally one girl dashed up to the strange object, scooped a beak full of luscious watermelon in mid-run and still racing in a wide circle headed back to her little flock hiding in the corner.  But before this brave (chosen?) volunteer could put on her brakes her five sisters rushed past her in the opposite direction to happily devour what they now all knew wasn’t going to devour them.

Ah, the clever side of social life.  It sure doesn’t belong to just humans!

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What happened (and how it happened) to turn the man who holds me in this baby book picture (top right) into the one that appears in the pictures in my previous post – +MY LIFE IN HELL – “SET MY PEOPLE FREE!!!”?  Read the book to find out!

from my nonexistent baby book

MY BABY BOOK
Goosebump time

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I have been outside piddling around in my garden doing activities that need to be done but are on the lazier end of work.  I have known since I created the newest flower bed on the east side of my house that the tubing I used, given to me by a neighbor so I used it with consideration of ‘repurposing’ and conserving $$, was too stiff and too old to hold any pressure and instead cracked and leaked.  I knew I needed to replace it with new tubing, but doing anything with the irrigation irritates me!  So I postponed the repair and just now finally DID it!

In that process — and because I am INTENSELY involved with thoughts about writing my book — I learned something simple that connects these two jobs.  What I did just now was REPAIR a ruptured and faulty section of my irrigation.  What I am doing as I write my book and tell my story is repairing the ruptured and faulty parts of myself as I repair my life story!

I am following two story lines as I book-write.  One is my mother’s and the other is mine.  These two stories have been so intertwined, meshed and fused together from the time my mother was in labor with me that distinguishing between her story and mine is an arduous and at times excruciating process.

I realized just now as I replaced the faulty irrigation line so the drip will work correctly that the ONLY tool I actually have to use in order to distinguish between my mother’s story and my own is THE TRUTH.  Her story is a lie.  My story is the truth.  And as surely as M. Scott Peck writes in his book, “People of the Lie” I will be able to make the minute distinctions between story lines that must be made by FEELING MY WAY ALONG IN MY GUT!!

Bless his cotton socks, that’s exactly what Peck is saying.  We know EVIL because we can FEEL it in our gut.  It dawns on me this morning that the other side of this — MY SIDE — is that I can tell THE TRUTH the same way:  I feel it in my gut!

Because I Netfilx stream lots of British TV shows I am becoming more and more familiar with their term, “sorting things out.”  They use it a lot.  That’s what I am doing, sorting out the truth from the lies as I write this book – and although the POWER is in the TRUTH I hold to no delusions that there isn’t incredible power in this world all tied up in EVIL.

Because I understand the spiritual truth that God exists and is good, and that what humans might call the devil and evil only exists when God and good is absent (shadow without light).  The LIGHT of God’s love is real.  The shadow of evil and of hatred is the absence of that light.

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As I prepare to continue responding to the next question #4 my daughter has given me for this book, I am spiritually waking myself up for that task.  This is not an effort on my part that will be a success if I am sloggy or half-awake or only half paying attention.

I am approaching the Great Divide.  On one side will go GOOD and on the other side will go EVIL.  EVERY SINGLE THING ABOUT BOTH OF MY PARENTS’ RELATIONSHIP WITH ME WAS EVIL.

I am naming that with a clarity and power that has alluded me before today.  It is not mine to judge their souls.  That is God’s job.  I am naming WHAT THEY DID as evil.  All of it.

Now how that evil came to permeate and contaminate each of them as people is not my business.  Humans have that special dual nature:  animal and spiritual.  God wants humans to chose to live according to the spiritual where all goodness and human virtues lie.  But humans have free choice and choosing to act worse than an animal is our free option every moment we breath.

The BEHAVIOR of my parents was evil, belonged on the dark-ignorant-selfish side of human nature — whether their choices were made consciously or not.  When enough trauma happens during earliest stages of development the resulting adaptations and changes can so remove a human’s ability TO ACT CONSCIOUSLY that the automatic animal-survival-based INSTINCT to survive runs the show at all costs.

It doesn’t matter to me whether the evil happened consciously or not at this point.  It is my concern that EVIL is what my parents did to me.

So in thinking about the ‘warrior’ comment yesterday to my ‘hero’ post I have been facing today my inner WHINER who wants to just quit fighting and relax in the glory of a job well done and battles well fought and won.

“Give me a break, Linda!” I tell myself.  “Who are you kidding?”

The evil that exists in this world, with all the combined force of the life force that is tied up within it, is VERY REAL.  Enduring as a hero in the moment with no thought of the future except to survive that moment is one thing.

Giving a damn about the future of US ALL is another.  Fighting against ignorance is a battle I will not escape fighting as long as I am in this body.  Acknowledging infant and child abuse and then fighting against THAT GREAT EVIL is what I am about.

“So on with it, Linda!  No matter how intense, no matter how difficult, no matter how much you might rather have had a different life, this is the one you got and the one you are living.”  Within THIS LIFE I have everything I need to make something beautiful out of something that was evil and ugly nearly beyond imagination.  And that task is what I want to be all about.

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I WANT TO SET THIS GIRL-ME FREE WITH THIS BOOK I AM WRITING!

Next question for book is about my 'relationship with my father' - I have a VOLCANO inside of me! There he is with his children but not me with his back turned to me - look at the BODY language in this Alaskan mountain homesteading photo!

Age 7

Again age 7, brother's birthday BBQ - OH LITTLE ME, again father with his prides and joys - and me, oh it breaks my own heart!

In my writing I have to go to hell to get myself out

Things are coming together as I write this book in ways I could never have imagined, planned for or anticipated.  This is a very good thing!  Just very, very hard!

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Somehow I must think I would be pretentious or audacious to think of myself as a writer – but maybe I am anyway.  If so, words are the tools of a writer’s craft be one a poet or a songwriter or a writer of plays or stories true or imagined.  I am tracking a thought of mine today in between my writing for the book and this must MATTER to me because the use of one of the following words instead of the other makes – to me – a universe of difference.

Hero or victim?  Now, this must be coming from the writer-in-me (obviously, I’m writing this) who ‘says’ to me, “You were never a victim.  For all the terrible abuse your mother did to you, you were NOT a victim.  You were a hero.”

Next thought:  In order to have the LUXURY of being a victim rather than a hero one must be in a place of SAFETY rather than in one of threat, danger and harm.  The VICTIM part comes after-the-fact when there’s somebody there to CARE!  Being a victim does not happen while we are enduring alone.

That would mean that VICTIM is a word other people use to describe something from the OUTSIDE of the tragic-traumatic experience.  It is (probably) NOT a word the one who experiences the abuse ever thinks about – unless somehow someone OUTSIDE of the situation has given this hero the word and the thoughts and feelings that might go with it.

I am traveling back to before I was born in my book-writing process, and although I have made a deal with myself not to discuss what is happening with THAT writing, I wanted to let the writer-in-me have this say about these two words.

I will not be able to go back to any abuse memory from my early life, not even into the memory of a terrible beating and find myself in the midst of those traumas feeling, thinking or acting in ANY WAY like a so-called victim.  I bore what was done to me.  I endured.  I survived.  I was then and still am now A HERO!!

Now – I am safe.  I have people around me who love me and care.  But I have NO ONE, not one single person in my life who perceives me in any way as a ‘victim’.  I like that just fine!

Yet I also know that all infants and children who are being maltreated are being ‘victimized’ – but just as those actions against little ones are done by the big people, so does the word ‘victim’ belong to them.  The little ones who are suffering – and YES there is much suffering — their only choice is to a HERO.

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I am exhausted, but I just completed my response to Question #3 for the book — 16 more to go.  Tomorrow I will receive #4, then will spend my four days ‘in waiting’ and preparation, and next Monday I will begin to write my response.

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