I have mentioned this previously – something people who work with horses call ‘looking with soft eyes’. I wrote this post while sitting outside this morning and simply copy it now into a post. This was written with ‘soft eyes’ – meaning that I did not look directly at the topic I wrote about, but rather softened my inner gaze in such a way that some kind of inner truth of mine could appear in the following words – or so I hope!
It is possible for an infant to be born into a universe where ‘seldom is heard’ a word that sounds to an infant like a word most would recognize as being a human one.
What is a human word, anyway?
I can add one single letter to that word and PRESTO! Most will instantly know what I am talking about — as the word human becomes humane.
Ah-Ha! Mystery solved?
Human language uses words themselves as if they exist as entities of substance that are real to us because when we know some particular language we recognize those words because we know the MEANING of them.
We all know or can clearly imagine how different and difficult language use becomes when people are forced to communicate when the words of one another’s spoken language is equally foreign to each person.
Assuming the subject matter is important enough that these people are forced to continue trying to communicate, what happens? All the usually less obvious elements of language come into blatant play — exaggerated facial expressions, extremes of tone, rhythm, prosody (the music of language), gesturing and body movements. These instantly cease from being the hidden aspects of language as they become the only means possible for conveying, for SIGNALING from one person to another what is being said — beyond words.
This kind of communication is our human older way of communicating. We knew this language well earlier than 140,000 years ago when our species began to use words in the first place. And we knew this kind of communication as our FIRST communication within the womb of our mother right through our birth and on into the first months and years of our life. Once we learn to share word language these other aspects of language usually seem to fade so far into the background we rarely detect them consciously at all.
There are links below to blog posts here about verbal abuse and why it is so damaging to both the direct target of the attacks and to those infants and children who are forced to overhear it. Verbal abuse changes the way the brain, nervous system and body form during our earliest most important critical stages of physiological growth and development.
Those of us born into a universe filled with trauma, terrorism and vicious tyranny had our communication needs virtually unmet. No matter what literal ‘language in words’ we eventually learned to speak and to understand, the underlying patterns of signalling back and forth between people did not develop normally within us. We are, therefore, at a permanent disadvantage because the language we do know is not fundamentally connected to a language most people on earth actually know.
(While there is much suffering and trauma on this earth it is specifically the most permanently damaging trauma a mother can cause her infant from conception to age two — which includes her failure to protect her infant from harm from others for whatever reasons that I am talking about here. A mother’s state of health and well-being is determined to the largest extent by the conditions of societal forces which influence/d her. She in turn communicates societal conditions to her infant.)
While it is of course true that everyone has their own unique experiences since conception, most people’s early experiences fall within the boundaries of ‘ordinary’. Trauma is by definition outside the range of ‘ordinary’. It is the continual repeated experience while very young of developing as a person — which absolutely includes how we develop ALL the patterns of language use — in the midst of ongoing trauma, terror and tyranny that creates some permanent disconnections and altered connections related to our ability to express our self and to comprehend other people’s language.
More ‘ordinarily created’ people will usually expect that early trauma survivors are ALSO ordinary people. Yet I suspect on fundamental levels we all know that when survivors are in communication there IS something very different going on. We are, in effect, shouting across a great divide — and much of what is not literally carried in words, AS words, never gets transmitted across the vast space that exists between our worlds.
On the most basic and obvious level we can detect that these missed-communication connections are happening because we feel LONELY. We are fundamentally alone! That’s what our traumatic, terrorizing, tyrannical early experiences were all about in the first place. Yes, there we were in a monstrous world without the safety and security of humane attachments.
Yes, we survived, but there has been a price to pay for doing so on every level of our being.
My newest grandson is now four weeks old. Although I won’t physically meet him for another ten days when I travel 1700 miles north from where I live, I know my daughter. She is ably, with absolute love, attending to her newborn’s every signal of communication — and she is responding in understanding to meet his needs.
These human and humane patterns of communication are building the entire body-brain of my newest grandson as his entire body-brain-self responds to the safe and secure attachment he has not only with his mother, but also with the entire universe he has been born into. What he is experiencing now will determine how he lives the rest of his life because he is building the only body-brain he has to live in and with as long as he’s on this earth.
He is learning the language of his world. He will share this language with all human beings around the globe that are being formed in a healthy, safe and secure attachment early universe.
I am one example of being a being formed in an ‘opposite’ universe where extreme mental illness and psychotic abuse was present in my mother toward me from the instant I took my first breath. I can recognize what a different experience from mine my grandson’s journey through life is and will be.
He will live among a gathering of people for whom ordinary communication can happen because his entire formation as a person is preparing him to be a fully MODERN member of his species.
People like me, however, are formally related in our physiology to those of our species who were formed in a hostile universe where threat and danger ruled the world. We are among those people Dr. Martin Teicher and his Harvard research group refer to as being ‘evolutionarily altered’. (see link below)
We belong to the ‘old ways’ of our species. My grandsons both belong to the ‘new ways’ of our species. The most critically important determining factor that sends a newly born person off in their development in one direction or the other is the degree of health and total well-being of its MOTHER.
No matter who else is involved with the early care of an infant during its first two years of life (early critical developmental years) — it remains a mother’s primary ability to forge and to guarantee the safe and secure attachment of her infant TO HER that matters most.
For mothers such as my daughter is, who will be returning to full-time employment when her baby is six weeks old, making sure her son continues to be in safe and secure attachment communication and care while she is away from him becomes an extension of her own role in her infant’s life. The mother-infant attachment always remains primary, and it is a terrific job to ensure that an infant’s fullest needs are met.
Those of us born into a malevolent world just plain missed safe and secure attachment to our mother and hence to the world. Our development was forced to turn in the obvious direction I have just described.
It is beyond the scope of this post to discuss how I, as my daughter’s mother, was able to make certain that her early needs were met in such a way as to enable and allow her to become the most excellent mother that she is. The simplest description of how this happened is this:
Every instant of my early life I was forced to live, grow and develop in reaction to my insanely abusive mother. Yet at the same time I never left my own central core of my self. My core self did not wander away to become lost, no matter what Mother did to me.
In some way I was protected by the frequency and severity of her abuse. I continually had to react to her – from birth – while at the same time I was always busy finding a way to not only survive but to return ‘up right’ – no matter what Mother did to ‘tip me over’.
In truth only two things happened for me within my early environment of extreme trauma (that did last the first 18 years of my life): Mother ‘abused’ me AND I reacted.
However, every time I reacted to endure and survive what Mother did to me – as an integral part of my life process there was ALWAYS a point in time when I returned to my own inner core state of central balance — MY OWN SELF. From there I was always forced yet AGAIN to endure another trauma – to react to survive it – and to again return to my own central core self-state as part of this ongoing cyclic process.
This pattern of reacting and responding to external sources of ‘stimulation’ and my return to self-center meant that when my children were born I was exquisitely built in such a way that I could react-respond to the signals they sent out to me.
In essence I had been built from birth to react-respond not to what I had accumulated of a complicated self, but rather to react-respond to external sources from a clear core place of self inside ME — to OTHERS.
I had always been forced from birth to react-respond adequately and appropriately to the ‘lead’ of my mother. I had no choice if I was going to remain alive.
The process was FOR ME identical. Once my children were born I was able to react-respond adequately and appropriately to the signals sent to me by my children. My children led the way – I was able to allow them to do what they did naturally – attach to me.
Human beings are designed to adapt to the context of the world they are born into (all the way down to how our DNA manifests and operates). Our language abilities (and dis-abilities) are built into us by our interactions within and with this context.
In closing I will mention a phrase whose meaning few people are prepared to understand:
“There is more than one way to skin a cat!”
No matter what visions of meaning and intent this statement might trigger in readers, because of my unique exposure to being raised as a child of Alaskan mountainside homesteading parents I know the meaning of these particular words because I know their context.
The people (always men as far as I knew) who ‘skinned’ the surface of Alaska’s virgin earth as they cleared timber, forged roads and created homesteaders’ fields drove massive Caterpillar tractors (with treads). These men were known as ‘cat skinners’.
The deep thundering, throbbing, pulsating roaring growl of these ‘cats’ at their grinding, crunching, crushing work echoed through the valley and across the mountains of our home. However, when the cats became silent it was often the case that the cat skinner was looking for ‘another way to skin the cat’. No matter what obstacle appeared the skinners were always confident that a way could be found to solve the problem and to finish the job right.
I grew up in such a context. No matter what obstacles arose in my life as a child I found my own way past them ‘to get the job done right’. I knew no other choice.
No matter what kind of a world a person was born into I doubt anyone can ask for more than this.
VERBAL ABUSE LINKS HERE:
*Attachment Simplified – Still More Complicated Information Including ‘Feeling Felt’ and ‘Healing in Solitude’
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