The interaction between the awake, conscious self and the sleeping self informed through dreams is fascinating. For survivors of severe trauma sleeping and dreaming is often complicated — and changed from what non-traumatized people experience, just as our lives are changed.
I am in process of book writing. I am still working my way through the age-10 severe trauma memory. I could not write about those experiences at all unless I wrote longhand away from home and my computer in a public place. A spent the week before this last one accomplishing that difficult task.
Yet I am finding that so difficult is this memory that I am having nearly as hard a time transferring what I wrote longhand into my computer as I did writing it in the first place! Every day I have transferred a section of that piece of writing — just a short section. I can do no more. And yet my ever-curious mind wants to know more about what is so different about this memory that makes it so hard to face (and write about).
I did not sleep well last night. My entire night of troubled sleep was nothing but a series of POP-UP windows from my mind that kept appearing to wake me up — or at least to make sure I never really got to sleep at all. They were no different than the obnoxious pop-ups that appear on my computer screen. Even though I have various versions of protection in place on my computer, they still find their way into my range of vision — demanding my attention.
I just hand wrote a section of book writing that I will synopsize here. This is about the very important protection that dissociation provides for survivors of severe trauma — especially if the trauma began at or near birth so that those dissociative patterns built the brain as they build themselves into the brain (and nervous system).
It strikes me now that my mother’s Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) genetic potential may well have been triggered into action by her earliest traumas BEFORE she was able to find another way to survive her trauma.
That would mean that she never got the chance that others without BPD have to find other ways to get along in their life with the trauma held in check and at bay in some other way.
Yes, she suffered from dissociation — but hers operated differently than mine does. For all of us who have experienced severe traumas and now experience dissociation, there is a very wise reason why this happens to us. In my efforts to write about the specific chain of traumatic events that happened to me in the spring of 1962 when I was 10, I am coming dangerously close to my own inner protective walls that surround and protect me from much (most) of the details of my early traumas.
These walls, these massive retaining walls within us constrain and contain traumas that are too much for us to know about. I am concluding that if the society we live within was able, ready and willing to truly listen to survivors tell about the trauma that happened to us, we would NOT be forced to try to deal with these traumas alone. The ones we do not remember, the traumas that we dissociate ourselves from, need to be told to the members of our species en masse so that the lessons contained in these traumas can educate our entire species.
Those of us who carry trauma sealed away behind protective retaining walls are doing our job of continuing to live the best we can. These dissociated traumas have not gone anywhere. They can be triggered into our awareness in all sorts of ways, and certainly trying to write a coherent, cohesive true story about our traumatic past will trigger MUCH discomfort.
That discomfort appeared in those repeating – nay, never ending — series of pop-up trauma alert windows that disturbed my sleep last night.
The BPD disease that took over my mother changed the nature of her retaining walls — and hence of the patterns of dissociation that were built into her body-brain. I am fortunate that my protective firewalls against trauma are still inside of ME. My mother’s broke down in such a way she could no longer ascertain what her walls were, where they were, what they were doing, and how their dissolution affected her and everyone around her.
These protective, defensive retaining walls that keep overwhelming trauma contained are there for a reason. Dissociation happens for a reason. A wise and good reason — or it wouldn’t happen at all. It is not the dissociation that should ever be blamed for difficulties in a survivor’s life. It was and will always be the nature of the original traumas that caused our difficulties. The ways that we are able to continue to survive in spite of these traumas are part of our immune system’s defense against threat and attack.
But it just struck me this morning that BPD might just be a defense against trauma that kicks in just a little too early in a child’s life. Without its interference it COULD have been that the survivor would have found other less harmful ways to endure although I have no doubt that, given the current still-primitive level of civilization humans live in, surviving these traumas cannot be done without the very real assistance of dissociation that keeps our memory of our own self experiencing traumas — as well as the memory of the traumas themselves — away from the survivor who would be the one doing the remembering.
When this dissociation happens for individuals we can always trust that the trauma was ALWAYS too much for a single person to deal with and was ALWAYS something that belonged to the larger social whole of our species — to deal with, to learn from AND TO PREVENT!
In essence, safe and secure attachment prevents dissociation on all levels and in many, many ways within individuals and within societies. Dissociation is what happens in its absence.