+AN UNEXPECTED POST TOPIC: HOARDING

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The web of life is so complex, and appears to be gaining in complexity with every passing moment.  It seems unfortunate to me that some of life’s complexities have come to so surround me and to infiltrate my thoughts and heart that tonight I have given up any hope of sleeping.  How to untangle what seems to be so much bigger than me?

How to even begin to write about what?

I will start with this.  A woman I have recently met in town offered to house, animal and garden sit for me while I am traveling north to see my family free of charge.  I may be being small-minded to say that I am leaving ‘my life’ with this woman who is very much a stranger to me.

Because of the limitations of my existence – both inner and outer – my home, my garden and my animals exist as a sort of oasis for me of safety, security, entertainment, what gives some meaning to my life, some structure, some sense of well-being and connectedness to the web of life which for me so seldom CAN include human contact and interaction.

Yet as I mention my decision to accept this woman’s generous offer to people I know in my life here in this small town rural area I have had my initial suspicions verified – this woman is ‘a hoarder’.

My oldest daughter’s best friend’s now deceased mother was a hoarder.  I know very little about this state of being.  Someone told me today of a television show about this condition.   I don’t have any insight about what the intent of this show is, why people watch it, what it offers for the betterment of humanity.  My initial reaction was sadness.  “Why would anyone wish to put on display or voyeuristically want to watch it?”

When I type ‘hoarder research’ into an online search I see many pages appear with information about this condition and about being raised as a child of a parent with this condition.  Yet what gives me hope for whatever suffering might exist both for the hoarders and for those who love them is this:

Inside the hoarder’s brain: A unique problem with decision-making By Maia Szalavitz, Time.com, updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue August 7, 2012 (there are some fascinating links to follow for related information at this link)

And this:

Distinct Brain Activity in Hoarders – August 20, 2012

What strikes me personally is the fact that evidently it is most common that no matter how much ‘stuff’ someone with hoarding accumulates – they do not recognize that they have any problem at all.

BOY does THIS make me THINK!!

I can think about my mother and about my father, about the insane abuse that happened to me (with my siblings suffering as witnesses) because they also did not recognize they had a problem at all!

I think of raging alcoholics, drug addicts, violent offenders – the list could fill a blog post by itself – who also do not recognize they have a problem.

I think of myself living my life until I was 29 as I mentioned in my last post as I did not recognize that I had a problem – even that I had been abused – until I was this old!

I even think about our society being so oblivious to the terrible ongoing demise of what could even be called civilization let alone morals within our national boundaries.  We don’t have ‘a problem’ with the fact, for example, that research has clearly shown 75% of our nation’s youth between the ages of 17 and 24 are unfit for military duty?

The list of telling facts about what’s wrong with society and with the world seems to be so overwhelming to so many people as any solution seems to be nonexistent (which it is NOT, by the way) that ‘the problems’ simply vanish over some imaginary horizon so that people can get up and get through another day.

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I am still cleaning up my own house!  I have plenty, although by many American standards I am poor.  Everyone has some kind of hoarding tendency – I suspect.  Why do we buy more than one roll of toilet paper at a time?

Yet as I clean my house I think about this woman who will be staying here if our agreement finds fulfillment.  I want my house clean and organized for myself – but also for this woman.  I want her to feel she has a full-house Hilton vacation while she is here.

Will she notice?

It seems that the brain of a hoarder does not connect what they might see of how other people manage their material resources in any way with the overflowing MESS that can engulf their own lives.  This woman I mention (not meaning to put her down but boy has this all got me thinking) drives an older model pickup truck that is stuffed in the bed with stuff (I’ve seen books and magazines peeking out from under blankets thrown over the pile) that has no option than to be soaked through and through with our heavy monsoon summer rains.

The cab of her truck is packed so tightly there is barely room for her to sit herself in there – but she CAN – so there must be some sense of ‘enough is enough’.

I sure don’t know.  I don’t know how this woman will feel staying here – but I wonder if part of the reason she jumped up to offer to stay here while I am gone free of charge is connected to how she feels in her own home.  Is there a vacation from hoarding?

I suddenly (as I wrote those last words) thought of what I ‘saw’ when I so thoroughly examined my own mentally ill mother’s papers and letters, sifting through my own filters about how I would bring HER words (as the terrible perpetrator of abuse against me for 18 years that she was) into my own version of MY childhood story.

I was able to so clearly recognize that there were two brilliant, short periods of time in my childhood when Mother was OK!  I view these periods (each having been about two months long) as having been times when my mother was granted a reprieve from her own devouring devils – times when she was in what I call ‘a perfect state of grace’.

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It is both my business and not at all my business to be considering these things regarding someone completely separate from me.  Yet I can’t ignore the fact that I process related information through a series of personal filters.

As I do this I realize that I see two kinds of filters.  One kind allows us to filter out reality so that we can ‘ignore problems’ as if they do not exist at all – which allows us to keep on keeping on IN SPITE of what troubles us.

The other kind of filter reminds me of purification filters that remove debris and contaminating toxins – like water filters.  This kind of filter for a human being must by nature involve some thinking and processing GROWTH work.

This kind of filter must allow us to see things in a new light, to gain new insights along with new information, to reprocess what has been known before into something bigger and more whole that what we have known before.

This filtering system is about clearing things up, gaining clarity, expanding possibilities and potential.  One kind of filter is a closed filter.  The other kind is an open filter.

And I guess, as the above research mentions, what we keep and what we don’t allow to stay in our lives has to do with our brain’s ability to make decisions and choices based on what we find has value to us – or does not.

I am adding the fact that I do not have a hoarding condition to my long list of things I am absolutely grateful for.  Although I have spent days bemoaning my housecleaning tasks – I realize now that I am grateful that I CAN clean my house, that I CAN make the kinds of decisions and choices and take the necessary actions to clean my house at all!

Life.  Never boring!

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7 thoughts on “+AN UNEXPECTED POST TOPIC: HOARDING

  1. Your posts are always so meaningful. Somehow in the reading of your text on filters we started thinking of our familiar images of the two words – analysis and synthesis and wondered if they would apply to the way you think of “filtering” Basically, we see in those two terms … analysis as the breaking down of some kind of information we are processing … and then when you get to what’s been diluted (in or out), then there is synthesis where we build something back up into something meaningful and new – the pure gold bar! Some of the negative you mention would be viewed like sediment that could be discarded. It seems like your hoarder acquaintance has no filter and everything is meaningful. I’ve heard before that some of hoarding is that they haven’t been able to process the loss of someone they hold closely so like saving “stuff” is like holding on to those memories surrounded by their loss. Just a theory. I think some siphoning would be necessary because it doesn’t take much to be overwhelmed. I also like the idea of finding some level of purity – the value you mention. I use the terms “choices and decision-making” a lot too. It’s what make each of us uniquely different and independent of one another. That’s the problem with abuse is that it takes away our ability to make choices for ourselves. On the positive … we’ve gained so much through growing past the abuses and can now choose to live a life without them. Thank you for always being so reflective out loud!

    Always our best,
    Anns

    http://newsdidmpd.blogspot.com
    http://annsmultipleworldofpersonality.blogspot.com

    • It is good to hear your words – today I am struggling with the great sadness – it is almost winning – but not quite – as usual…..

  2. Linda, I forgot to thank you for all the additional links you sent in your reply. I’m in the process of printing them and collecting your posts in a binder, because I enjoy being able to follow your train of thought, from post to post…because I think you’re doing important work with your blogs.

    I know you have much on your plate, with your friend’s illness especially. I will hold you in my thoughts.

    Sandy

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to respond back with this info on the book, and with your thoughts – In my case evidently it was destined for my own journey that I had to wait for the information that technological developments allowed to bring forth beginning I think around 1999. For example, as Dr. Schore says, it took a tech advancement in photographic abilities for researchers to finally be able to track the millisecond interactions with stop-action accuracy between mother and infant that build the right brain birth to age one. (available here http://www.allanschore.com/pdf/SchoreIMHJAttachment.pdf)

      my experience was very specific – for myself I have been ‘spared’ a need to study shame in the ways that you are mentioning – my altered development began even as mother birthed me with the stress hormones and I believe Twilight Sleep anesthesia given Mother during birth – so my shame development pathways were so profoundly influenced on the level of the development of my nervous system from the beginning of life – well, rather than get all tangled up in my own words here – enough to say I never had a chance, not a single chance to BEGIN to develop in more ‘ordinary’ ways – reading the developmental neuroscientists gave me my first opportunity to read anything that made sense to me about my own experience – on the level of DNA and of molecular biochemical signaling.

      Every other description of shame seems ‘merely’ metaphoric to me.

      I hope for myself, for my work in my writing, that I remain clear about what I can speak about and what I cannot. As I reply to you here I realize this level of clarity for myself on the development of my ‘shame problems’ – of which I have MANY, of course – matches what I say about why I don’t write about sexual abuse – as far as I know I have zero experiences with overt sexual abuse (a fact that I add to my resiliency/protective factor side of my survival equation)

      In the same way I have no experience with anything like an ‘ordinary’ development of ‘shame problems’ – much of the end result matches – but for me the need to go as deeply into the physiological origins of shame as I could – at this point in time post 1999 – led me to understand all of this fundamentally is about signaling communication between an organism and the conditions of the environment within which the most formative stages of the organism are taking place.

      The organism,in this case me from birth, then matches the patterns of the environment – the environment of trauma I was in transmitted into me a matching set of developmental patterns.

      I don’t wax metaphorical about shame – because I personally cannot. It would be phony for me to do so!

      What I do is watch for the shame nervous system CRASH response in my nervous system/body/brain – and then name it for exactly what it is. FEELING that shame reaction, which in itself is essential to have for members of any social species, lets me relax into a kind of uncomplicated experience of being alive in a trauma altered body (Have you read the Teicher article yet? https://stopthestorm.wordpress.com/a-book-being-born/dr-teichers-article-on-trauma-altered-development/ and notes https://stopthestorm.wordpress.com/about-stop-the-stor/our-earliest-start/notes-on-teicher/ )

      Many times I can become acutely aware of how special my experience was – like some kind of an experiment where variables were strictly controlled for – so that there is a kind of purity in what I experienced – it was such psychotic abuse, so persistent – that in strange ways the very nature of the severity and chronicity and consistency of Mother’s psychosis SAVED ME

      As I have put it in several posts, I was never betrayed as my mother was, as so many were. Nobody pretended to love me. Nobody pretended (parents) that I was ever anything other than the devil’s evil child — nobody ever fooled me

      which, among other things, let my nervous system operate more on shock factors than upon shame

      Thanks again!!!!!!! Life moves on – and the gift of readers here means more to me than I can ever say. Until next time, all the best, Linda – alchemynow

  3. Hi Linda,

    I’m relieved that you weren’t put off by the length of my post! And that you want to hear more! You just made my day… 😉

    Regarding Gershen’s book; I wrote the first Amazon review of it back in 1999 (it shows up second on the list, but only identifies me as ‘a customer’). I was astonished that it was the first review – and after all these years, I’m again astonished that there are only two other reviews…because I think, as one of the later reviewers noted, Gershen’s book is one of the ‘seminal books on shame.’ That, IMHO, is a sad commentary on how little-known it is…

    But Gershen was never a big self-promoter. Just a hard-working, very decent guy, which I know because he came to Seattle to do a two-day workshop on shame way back in 1989, and of course I was all over that…I’d called him up every year or so since reading STPOC in 1985, just to see if he was going to be doing workshops anywhere near me (I first called him from New Orleans, where I lived for 10 years), and he finally did land near me.

    It was a great workshop, and he very graciously joined several of us for lunch on the first day, and let us pick his brains…and then caught a red-eye back to Michigan. No big ego, just a quiet, respectful guy with a lot of humility. Didn’t see himself as some kind of ‘rock star,’ unlike some other therapy experts I’ve met…I’ve given away numerous copies of his book, and buy every single copy I find in used book stores. I wish I could afford to buy a case of the book and send one to everyone I know…

    Let’s see if I can do a synopsis…maybe I’ll start by listing the table of contents, I think that will give you a better sense of the book. From the 1992 third edition (sadly, the book isn’t searchable on either Amazon or Google books):

    Part I: A Developmental Theory of Shame and Identity

    1. The Interpersonal Origins of Shame

    2. The Internalization of Shame and the Origins of Identity

    3. Defending Strategies Against Shame: The Beginnings of Adaptation Toward Outer Reality

    4. The Disowning of Self: The Beginning of Adaptation in Inner Reality

    Part II: Toward a Framework for Psychotherapy

    5. Restoring the Interpersonal Bridge: From Shame to a Self-Affirming Identity

    Part III: Extending Shame Theory in New Directions

    6. Toward a Theory of Shame-Based Syndromes

    7. The Significance of Shame for Gender, Culture, and Society

    8. Affect and Ideology Among Nations

    I just discovered that his later book, “The Psychology of Shame,” IS searchable at:
    http://books.google.com/books?id=YZFEzl4SuU4C&pg=PR9&lpg=PR9&dq=shame:+the+power+of+caring&source=bl&ots=sjeGfd7FDq&sig=C25oFZdq9A5FCC-_wsNoZ9dpSmI&hl=en&sa=X&ei=cWs1UOuVPKuWjALbs4HgCw&ved=0CDwQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=contents&f=false

    Before I forget; I remember now that when I first read STPOC, I realized while reading it that it was the FIRST psychology book I’d ever read, in which the author was willing to – had the courage to – reveal that he himself suffered from excessive shame – and exposed his own vulnerability…in much the same way you are courageous in how you explore your own woundedness…

  4. Wednesday, August 22, 2012

    Hello Linda…
    I’ve been reading your blog for a few weeks now, marveling at the courage you show in revealing your true self/soul/condition/experience. I can’t remember just how I stumbled across ‘Stop the Storm,’ but I’m certainly glad that I found it.

    There is so much in your writing that resonates with me. I too grew up in a seriously dysfunctional household, with a mother who might well have been diagnosed with any number of psychiatric maladies, had she ever been to any kind of a mental-health professional – which I am, kind of…(I mean I’m a MHS, not a BPD – hopefully!)

    I feel fortunate that I wasn’t targeted for abuse in the way your were. It was spread around to my two older sisters and my younger brother. Mom mostly fluctuated between being overwhelmed and depressed, and suddenly erupting into towering rages, and then would sometimes yell at all of us: “I wish I’d never had you kids! I wish you were dead! I wish we were all dead!” And she was pretty physically abusive as well – though I think the greatest damage done to us was through her emotional abuse.

    She was not treated well by her parents and so was ill-prepared to cope with the stresses of parenting four children on her own. I think she did reasonably well as long as she had my father’s emotional support, but he died unexpectedly when I was two years old, leaving her with three kids, pregnant with another, and with no visible means of support from her or my father’s family. She worked all her life, and never held a job that paid more than minimum wage.

    But I digress. I’ve started to comment on your posts several times before, and always got distracted from doing so by something (I’m a very distractible fellow; I think it’s largely a kind of dissociative pattern I developed when quite young, to cope with living in a crazy-making, unhappy household).

    My mother’s greatest legacy to me was shame. She was easily the most shame-based person I’ve ever met in my life. And since she was the one adult I was consistently in contact with through my childhood, I absorbed her shame. I was also the middle child (when I was 10 I had a stepfather for about a year, and he contributed little to my life but my half-sister, who I adored), and the firstborn male. I could tell that my family was seriously damaged, and I spent my childhood trying to find ways to fix us…in the hopes that I would also finally earn my mother’s love and approval.

    But back to the subject of the shame I absorbed and lived, and still live with…

    I spent my whole life wondering what was wrong with me, why I had such difficulty in believing I had a right to live, much less to be happy. My search for answers took me far and wide, as I tried out one therapeutic model after another. Each one contributed to my greater self-understanding, but none seemed to truly address my deepest issue: shame. In fact, shame wasn’t even MENTIONED in most of the therapies I explored…and when it was, it was with only a very superficial understanding of it.

    At the age of 39 I stumbled across a book that changed my life: “Shame: The Power of Caring,” by Gershen Kaufman. I spent a week reading it, a few pages at a time, then putting it aside while I had a crying spell, reading a few more pages, etc. That book started me on a journey that I’ll continue for the rest of my life. (I figured out where Gershen lived and called him up out of the blue to thank him for writing his book – he was quite gracious, and surprised, because no one had done that before.)

    Wow, this is getting to be like “War & Peace” I’d better cut to the chase here. Which is to say, I hadn’t seen the word shame in many of your posts up to now, so I decided to do a search for the word…and discovered your post titled: “I HURT MY FRIEND: RUPTURE OF TRUST AND REPAIR IN RELATIONSHIPS” [https://stopthestorm.wordpress.com/2012/06/05/i-hurt-my-friend-rupture-of-trust-and-repair-in-relationships/]

    …and discovered a veritable treasure-trove of the results of YOUR reseach into the subject! And you cite many authors whom I’ve come to deeply respect: Dan Siegel, Allan Schore, etc.

    So to wrap things up, this is just my long-winded way of saying THANK YOU! For contributing to my further education – and for everything you’re doing to heal yourself – I think you’re making a major contribution with your work…

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