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Archive for January, 2013

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This post follows directly from the one just published:

+RECOMMENDING A BOOK – MUST READ FOR EARLY TRAUMA SURVIVORS

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It seems rather awkward for me to leave that post unfinished, although I have several writing trains of thought roaring at full steam on different tracks in my mind just now.  It is after noon and I have yet to stop thinking long enough to eat a thing although at least I have done my daily 45-minute walk — thinking all the time I did it.

I could present an entire writing course for survivors of early severe neglect, abuse and trauma using the book I mentioned in the above post, ENDURANCE, as the text of that course.  One of the texts, I should say, because the other texts would be the ones survivors would actually write during the course of the – course!

What I have to say here is only sketchy at best.  I am not going to go too far down this track right now because I have something else I need to write FIRST.  At the moment I will say that I could not be more serious in my recommendation that survivors read that book!  HOWEVER, there are some thoughts that need to accompany that reading foray.

First, a blog reader left a comment this morning on my page at the top of this blog that could not possibly have been more timely —

LINDA’S ADOBE PEACE GARDEN

nagelpilz wrote:

First off I want to say terrific blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your mind prior to writing. I have had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out. I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or tips? Kudos!

and I responded:

Good morning nagelpilz,

Because you are visiting this blog I would wonder if you have a childhood history of abuse and trauma, and if this is what you wish to write about. If willing, can you let me know so I can focus on my response to you! thanks!!!

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Now, if this reader were in my imagined trauma writing class I would recommend exactly the book, ENDURANCE.  I would NOT suggest watching the movie as a substitute for what I want to do with this textbook, although watching the movie before reading the book (as was suggested to me) is perfectly fine if not outright advantageous.

Buy the book, available on Amazon.com or anywhere else you can find it.  You have to have the book to do this work.

If you have your own blog, have it handy before you begin reading.  If you do not have a blog, think about making one.  If this is not your preferred writing ‘container’, get yourself a good supply of pens and a very good supply of paper – in notebooks or not.

I will give a few suggestions below, but at this moment I will say that you will read this book and STOP immediately every single time you have a thought, impression, feeling, insight, reaction, question, observation — anything inside your own self that appears as you read the book.

Stop reading immediately and begin to write.  You might wish to write down the word or phrase that caught your attention, and also note the page of the book you found it.  Underlining in the book and/or writing notes in the margins is NOT suggested!

Now……

First I will say it’s important to note that the 28 men on that voyage were ADULTS and CHOSE to take off into these hostile, uncharted regions.

Abused infants and children are NOT adults.  We were given no choice.  We had no inner strength or adult powers and skills to help us along when REALLY hard times hit us.

We were being formed as a body-brain-self person BY the horrific experiences we endured at the same time we were having to live through them.

Nobody bought the rights to our story/film before we entered into hell.

Worse than that, unlike the very intrigued, fascinated public who devoured the descriptions of the ENDURANCE adventure — nobody gave a DAMN what we had to say about OUR ‘adventure’.

Nobody told us to write down each day what happened to us and to document it on film.  As Shackleton says in the movie, though I am not sure it is said in this book, if the films of their adventure did not survive they would ‘only have their word’ — against – what?  Doubt?  Disbelief?  Being called liars?

Nobody would have wanted to watch our movie, read our dairies, look at our pictures — now I say, SO WHAT?

Nobody believes our word?  SO WHAT?

I just started a book by Dr. Paul Renn hoping to find some information in there about facts on memory – but I put the book down at the beginning as he introduces DOUBT into any survivor’s mind – or anyone’s mind for that matter – by saying that science doesn’t know enough about memory functions so it’s necessary that we don’t believe childhood trauma memories.  We cannot, Renn says, do anything ‘more’ than say our trauma memories are ‘related’ to our childhoods – not that they are ‘from’ our childhoods.

Toxic stuff, kiddos!

Nobody is going to tell me my trauma memories are not accurate.  Don’t buy that! 

These men also had one another as they together shared their adventures of the greatest difficulty.  I had NO ONE – but that’s a particular part of my story because it was a particular part of my psychotic Borderline Personality Disorder Mother’s patterns of abuse that she had to isolate me alone in her hell while her other adored children lived in a different world.

But I am not sure any early abuse and trauma survivor endures NOT being alone.  Note that as you react to this book in your writing.

If your writing takes off in response to what you are reading in ENDURANCE – go with it.  Don’t worry a bit about if or when you EVER finish reading that book.

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Now, perhaps duplicating a few of the things I just wrote here, I am simply going to add here some notes just as I wrote them last night as I finished reading ENDURANCE.  There is a lot more I could say, but that writing is going along on one of the other tracks I mentioned above….

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Nobody gave me a hero’s welcome when I left home for what I survived.

I wish someone had told me to write it all down at 18 – immediately after I left home.  All of it.  I wonder what I would have recalled then.  It’s important.  Our record of everything we went through.

Nobody could have argued my memories weren’t accurate.  Nobody could have told me to doubt myself.  How dare they?

I should have been applauded then and there when I left.  Commemorated.

Those men were more ordinary than not before they went through what they did – how did they feel when they went back to civilization?  Were they changed?  How was it when they tried to talk to people about what they went through?  Did they have any need for others to appreciate in the deepest sense – what they went through?

Was it an adventure to them?  Was it a trauma?

How massively different to be a little person going through an equivalent.  No choice.  What possible hope?

I was in a different world – never knowing anything different.  No one shared that with me.  Such isolation – a ship alone at sea all alone.  Watching the other world through my eyes – but always having been excluded – never a loved part of that family –

Came out looking like a regular person – I was not.  Never have been.  Burden has always been for me to be a part of some else’s world.  Those men were a part of another world first – either they would survive and return to that world or they would die.

They went through that together – never alone (farts, personalities and all) – I have no shared experience personally with anyone else [except through this blog]

Yet the homesteading was by definition a shared experience in my family even if I was hauled along like a piece of battered luggage –

We shared the moves, changing schools, up and down the mountain, the long commutes – but nobody shared what Mother did to me.

In that suffering – in those attacks, I was all alone.

When times are hardest we’re designed by nature as a social species to endure together through shared experience – to go through good and bad together

No shared experience – we are built ‘alone’ – left alone – then and for our lifetime – the sharing only truly happens in the next world – if we stay a pure soul – and we can’t judge self or others if this is so – so we can be heard by the angels and holy ones [part of my story is that I had an angel on a mountain that witnessed what happened during all the time we were on the homestead]

As I accept other’s ordinary world – I disown my own self – numb, walled off – as I write what comes next I want to let some of that barrier dissolve

Memories.  We have them.  I think many are far more intact (but hidden) than ordinary people can begin to comprehend

Who are they – anyone else – to tell us to doubt ourselves?  Yet another layer of oppression to be told that –

Because we didn’t keep a diary of what happened?  What if we do have that diary – inside of us?  In our memories?

Intact

Extraordinary

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If anyone wants to take on this writing challenge, feel free to comment with questions and processes at the end of this blog post –

I also want to mention an epiphany I had about this ENDURANCE reaction process today:  When Dr. Martin Teicher (many posts on this blog about this work, just put TEICHER into the search bar on this blog and read away) – when Teicher mentions that we are evolutionarily altered in our physiological early development by the changes that trauma causes – and that the problem for us is that we leave our early malevolent world and enter a benevolent one that we are not designed for – that the mismatch between us and the ‘ordinary’ world gives us great troubles – reading ENDURANCE and starting from that point – as it describes horrendous survival and endurance in probably the most hostile physical environment on earth (like the one’s our cave ancestors lived within) – using this ENDURANCE book as our text we can start to understand our self and our experience and to give it WORDS in reaction to malevolent world survival.

This is important because our existence far more closely matches what is portrayed in that book than it does anything in the ‘ordinary’ benevolent world.

Seems to me using this book as our text gives us a far more balanced chance to find and express OUR OWN STORY!

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The Wandering Albatross, Snowy Albatross or White-winged Albatross,[3] Diomedea exulans, is a large seabird from the familyDiomedeidae, which has a circumpolar range in the Southern Ocean.  It was the first species of albatross to be described, and was long considered the same species as the Tristan Albatross and the Antipodean Albatross.  In fact, a few authors still consider them all subspecies of the same species.[4] The SACC has a proposal on the table to split this species,[5] and BirdLife International has already split it.  Together with the Amsterdam Albatross it forms the Wandering Albatross species complex.  The Wandering Albatross is the largest member of the genus Diomedea (the great albatrosses), one of the largest birds in the world, and one of the best known and studied species of bird in the world.

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A photograph of an albatross

WOW!  When I read about one of these I imagined it would look all elegant and graceful – nope!  It looks like a powerhouse!

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They have the widest wingspan of any LIVING bird.  There was once a rival for the title:

Spreading Their Wings to Longest on Record

The wandering albatross has the largest known wingspan of any living bird, at times reaching nearly 12 feet. But millions of years ago, there was a bird with wings that dwarfed those of the albatross, researchers now report.

The newly named species, Pelagornis chilensis, which lived about 5 million to 10 million years ago, had a wingspan of at least 17 feet.

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Why am I writing about a bird on my trauma healing blog today?

My new absolute MUST-read recommendation for early severe abuse and trauma survivors – especially for those who write or want to write about their life:

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

Last night I finished reading the copy of this book my friend, Sandy so wisely sent to me as he knew it was important for me in my current trauma writing work.  How right he was, and how much I thank him!

Maybe someday I will write an entire book about my ‘take’ on the ‘Endurance’ and the 1914-1916 survival story of adventure it is about (plus so much more) – but to do so would require that I seek and gain permission to reprint parts of that book.  I don’t have time for that work or the wait right now.  At the moment I am going to write a bit of the text here for educational and informational purposes only – I don’t sell my blog, so here we go.

Click here for information on Ernest Shackleton

Click here for information on PBS NOVA on the Antarctic expedition

The trailer for Shackleton’s movie

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After spending 497 days stranded on ice floes, the 28 members of the crew make it to rocky shores – but none of this is what I want to really mention right now.  It’s this brief passage I must have liked best in the entire book as the safe haven of a shore they have finally found is unreachable as the 6 men in their small boat are forced to continue to traverse the most treacherous sea on earth under the harshest of conditions:

There was a moment of confusion, then they felt her [their boat, the 22-foot Caird] roll sickeningly to starboard as she fell off into the trough of the sea and they knew instinctively what had happened.

Both Shackleton and Worsley scrambled to their feet and looked forward.  The frayed end of the bow line was dragging through the water.  The lump of ice was gone – and the sea anchor with it.

Shackleton thrust his head below and shouted for the others to get the jib.  They hauled it out, frozen into a rumpled mass.  Crean and McCarthy crept forward over the heavily rolling deck, dragging the sail with them.  The rigging, too, was frozen and had to be beaten into compliance.  But after a long minute or two they got enough ice off the halyards to hoist the jib to the mainmast as a storm trysail.

Slowly, drudgingly, the Caird’s bow once more swung around into the wind, and all of them felt the tension go out of their muscles.

The job of the helmsman now was to hold her as close to the wind as she would go, swinging from one tack to the other.  It required constant vigilance, and it could hardly have been more unpleasant, facing into the breaking seas and the piercing wind….

Shortly after noon, as if from nowhere, a magnificent wandering albatross appeared overhead.  In contrast to the Caird, it soared with an ease and grace that was poetic, riding the gale of winds [80-120 mile per hour winds] on wings that never moved, sometimes dropping to within 10 feet of the boat, then rising almost vertically on the wind, a hundred, two hundred feet, only to plunge downward again in a beautifully effortless sweep.

It was perhaps one of nature’s ironies.  Here was her largest and most incomparable creature capable of flight, whose wingspread exceeded 11 feet from tip to tip, and to whom the most violent storm was meaningless, sent to accompany the Caird, as if in mockery of her painful struggles.”  (above cited book copy, pages 234-235)

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Reading the book I would think such a visitor would be a blessing, not a mockery.  It was blessings like this that enabled me to survive the hell of my abusive childhood.

But I wasn’t there  in this story – and it is a whole HELLUVA story.

I don’t, however, believe that this story of endurance has any edge at all over any survival and endurance story infant-child abusive trauma survivors have to tell.  I also think it’s about time we told our adventure stories –

But more on all of that later………………

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Screwy blog format problems – I am not going to mess with them!  Geeze!

Please see next related post: 

+NOTES ON USING ‘ENDURANCE’ BOOK AS A TEXT TO WRITE OUR TRAUMA STORY

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To get my stories straight — I wrote the commentary that appears below in THIS post before I wrote the post this one follows: 

+WHO CARES? 23.1% of American children fall below the “relative poverty” rate

To clarify, by the time my words had spun themselves out to the end of my commentary I was genuinely concerned that maybe I just woke up this morning with my mean streak showing.  So I decided I better get my facts straight before publishing what is in this post.

My thinking is not off target.  For America to be OK with having nearly 1 in 4 of our children falling so far behind in overall well-being reflects — to me — that our nation has a serious problem with conscience and compassion — if not also with our common sense.

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COMMENTARY:

Everything humans do is about regulating our body chemistry.  Eat.  Drink.  Sleep.  Work.  Play.  Stay warm.  Cool off.  Have friends.  Care about others.  Have others care about us.  Go on holidays.  Relax.

We are physical beings in a body run on body chemistry.  Do we think that because we can think about what we think about that we can decide that our body chemistry — which has to be regulated — is only of the most minor concern to us?

Is it because in our culture our strides in science have been outmatched by commercialism that we can separate ourselves as consumer-beings from ourselves as marvels of biochemical engineering?

My bugaboo this morning has to do with how we think about the one word we use (if we are aware enough to use it at all) so naively in our culture that actually describes how we all got started on our merry road to personal freedom in the first place — and how we stay on it.  That word is ATTACHMENT.

By itself this word seems to be as nearly useless in its use to describe what it actually means as is the word LOVE.  As far as I’m concerned love is a philosophical word that describes a nebulous, ill-defined, amorphous state that carries within it no common or scientific sense at all.  Nobody can actually prove love exists.  It is not a tangible object (although it turns out that through attachment it is a tangible process).  Nobody can agree what love is and the word is used so generally as to be so diluted as a concept that it seems nearly useless.

But in our culture we love to use the word love so we use it as much as we possibly can.  This word love reminds me of the children’s story of the emperor who had no clothes.  If we use the word as if we know what it actually means — and if we use it often enough in every possible context where it might apply, we can include ourselves in the IN crowd.  This makes us feel like more regular people, I suppose.  After all, we can love pancakes.  We can love our car.  We can love a pair of shoes, a movie, our pets, our nation, our mates and our children.

And because love is such a lose-knit word it handily gives us the widest possible net within which we can toss everything that seems to have a value to us.  And then we hold on tight.

It then becomes simple common sense to connect the word love directly to the word ATTACHMENT in our minds.  If we love something or someone then of course we are attached to it – or her – or him.  Our language makes no real distinction between love of animate versus love of inanimate objects, so why bother to think through any further complications regarding attachment, either?

We can learn a new word, attachment, and then simply use it interchangeably with that old world, love.  We can be attached to a shirt, a skirt, a car, a pet, a sports team, a movie star, a community, and to one another.  And of course we all know we can be strongly attached to our ideas about everything from gun to birth control, from religion to politics, and we are of course attached to our habits — and to our babies.

But then there is an entirely different level of consideration possible in thinking about both love and attachment.  This level requires the acceptance of a common round between these words as they might describe what actually matters.  But what fun is it, really, to be bound together on a common level of understanding that rests on factual truths?

As long as we personally attach our own meaning to these words we are free to be individuals, not common blended members of a species who cannot escape the gravity of reality.  How is it possible to be both common and unique/special at the same time?

Who cares to talk about specifics, anyway?  Who wants to know that we don’t escape the fundamental operation of our biochemistry as it is regulated and dysregulated by what/who we love and what/who we are attached to?  Why would we want to know that where attachment and love matters most is exactly where our biochemistry cannot keep us alive without being regulated?

Is it blasphemy to accept the fact that what one human being does with its baby from the time it is conceived and then born directly modulates and directs the biochemistry that builds the nervous system and brain of the baby in direct response to caregiver interactions? 

Is it even criminal to think about the fact that attachment to babies is a BIOCHEMICAL NEUROLOGICAL INTERACTIONAL REGULATORY PROCESS that determines what kind of body, what kind of a nervous system, brain, stress-calm response system and immune system an infant will grow up with and then live with for the rest of its life?

We live in a culture that increasingly provides its population with increasing chemical compounds designed to be consumed to regulate the biochemistry that regulates mood.  Antidepressant consumption alone in our nation should be alerting us to the fact that something is wrong.  Terribly wrong.

We accept that we hold more people in more prisons than does any other wealthy nation.  We have rampant rates of sexual assault, domestic violence, harm to children, extremes of poverty and wealth that are both appalling and insane.  Addictions to alcohol, legal and illegal drugs, to spending, food and sex riddle the fabric of our society.  Our education systems are failing, our health is declining, our local community roots are disintegrating and our families are struggling greatly.  (It is becoming unpopular to talk about divorce/break-up rates, children being raised without both of their parents, or about working families that do NOT have access to high quality day care that babies and children need.)

As a nation we are continuing to build gross dysregulation into our future generations as our youth become unfit even for military duty at the alarming rate of 75%, and we continue to turn our backs on the fact that we are regressing in the quality of our overall well-being — not progressing. (See: 75% of young Americans unfit for Military Duty)

Whatever we are in love with, and whatever we are attached to, it’s not working.

The point of our physiological stress-calm response system is to take our startle response seriously when we need to.  When we experience a state of shock in our body systems it is a sign of health.  We are supposed to notice what is wrong, pay attention and then respond appropriately to a problem — and SOLVE it.

We use words like empathy, compassion, conscience and consciousness as if we know what they mean just like we use love and attachment  (all processes involving biochemical interactions in our body-brain).

Psychopaths do not have a normal startle response, tied to the fact that they do not have a conscience.  Do we as a nation have the ability (a fright-filled thought) to no longer be startled by flaws in our personal and social system to situations that are harmful?  What critical level of distress and trauma must exist in our society before our lethargic narcissism and ignorance gives way to asking the right questions about our choices?

Are we so distracted by the noisy clutter of what occupies our attention that we can no longer respond to the scream of our inner alarm system that should have already alerted us to the fact that all is not well in this nation we live in?

We can do better.

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Reminder:   Please always click on the title of a post and go to the blog directly to read – my edit process often lags behind my posting – apologies!

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UICEF  – Innocenti Research Centre – Report Card 10

Measuring Child Poverty:  New league tables of child poverty in the world’s rich countries

May 2012

http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/rc10_eng.pdf

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Yet it is arguable that the child poverty rates is one of the most important of all indicators of a society’s health and well-being.  For the here and now, it is a measure of what is happening to some of society’s most vulnerable members.  For the years to come, it is a pointer to the well-being and cohesion of society as a whole.

In the second of the two tables presented at the above link, this report indicates that as sown in Fig. 1b A league table of relative child poverty, 35 economically advanced countries

USA is second from the BOTTOM heading up only Romania.  But what measurements should be taken?  Which present the most useful accurate picture of the facts?  This report presents an excellent description of the problems connected to measurements of “relative poverty” as this condition creates “the sense of falling so far behind the norms of one’s society as to be at risk of social exclusion.”

23.1% of American children fall below the “relative poverty” rate in our nation

In Fig. 5 Child poverty rates by different relative poverty lines, USA remains at the bottom only above Romania using three different poverty lines set at 50%, 40% and/or 60%.  In Fig. 7 The poverty gap, USA is at the very bottom BELOW even Romania.  (The report also notes that there are many invisible children in Romania whose state of existence escape measurement.)

In spite of the variance of measurements being used in the tables presented in this report, it is true that “a greater proportion of the children are allowed to fall significantly below the norms of their societies in the United states than in the Czech Republic.”

When presented for what it is – an approximate measure not of absolute poverty but of falling so far behind the normal standard of living in the society as to be excluded from the advantages and opportunities that the majority take for granted – the idea of relative child poverty does make intuitive sense.”

In furthering discussion about advantages and disadvantages of choosing poverty measurements, the report states:

Ideally, the monitoring of child poverty would include its timing and duration as well as its breadth and depth.  The earlier the privation and the longer its duration, the greater the potential impact on the child.  This is true both because of the inherent vulnerability of the earliest years of life and because the longer a family stays poor the harder it may become to maintain essential expenditures (as savings and assets run down, for example, or as borrowing and other sources of help reach their limits).

In other words, child poverty should be monitored in three dimensions – asking not only how many children fall below national poverty lines but how far and for how long.

The Conclusion to this report:

This report has set out the latest internationally comparable data on child poverty as measured by rates of child deprivation and relative child income poverty.

The two measures are profoundly different in concept.  Both have strengths and weaknesses.  Taken together, they offer two different but complementary measures and offer the best currently available comparative picture of child poverty in the world’s wealthiest nations.

Both measures are also behind the times, and the seriousness of this failing has been exposed by the post-2008 economic downturn.  At this critical moment for low-income families in so many countries, very few have detailed information on the impact the crisis is having on children’s lives.  It may of course be argued that in times of crisis governments have more to worry about than producing statistics.  But without up-to-date information there is little possibility of putting in place policies that use limited resources in cost-effective ways to protect children from the effects of poverty.

Failure to offer this protection brings heavy costs.  The biggest price is paid by individual children whose susceptible years of mental and physical growth are placed at risk.  But societies also pay a heavy price – in lower returns on educational investments, in reduced skills and productivity, in the increased likelihood of unemployment and welfare dependence, I the higher costs of social protection and judicial systems, and in the loss of social cohesion.  In the medium term, these costs must be met in the hard currency of the billions of extra dollars spent in attempting to cope with the wide range of problems associated with high levels of child poverty.  The economic argument, in anything but the shortest term, is therefore heavily on the side of preventing children from falling into poverty in the first place.

Even more important is the argument in principle.  Childhood by its nature, and by its very vulnerability, demands of a civilized society that children should be the first to be protected rather than the last to be considered.  This principle of ‘first call’ for children holds good for governments and nations as well as for the families who bear the primary responsibility for protection.  And because children have only one opportunity to grow and to develop normally, the commitment to protection must be upheld in good times and in bad.  It must be absolute, not contingent.

Nor can this principle of first call be side-stepped by the argument that the protection of children is an individual rather than a social responsibility.  No one can seriously claim that it is the child’s fault if economies turn down or if parents are unemployed or low-paid.  That is why the league tables showing the different degrees of protection provided to at-risk groups should be weighed by politicians, press and public.  A society that fails to support parents in the task of protecting the years of childhood is a society that is failing its most vulnerable.  I is also a society that is storing up intractable social and economic problems for the years immediately ahead.

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SEE ALSO this GLOBAL report:  Progress for Children:  A report card on adolescents – Number 10, April 2012

Following post – commentary:

+FOR THE LOVE OF OUR NATION’S CHILDREN, WHAT ARE WE DOING WRONG?

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Twenty four hours of rain and a nighttime of snow.  Winter in the Arizona high desert.  All is still dark and very still outside.  I awoke thinking. 

“No, please.  No writing in my sleep yet – this time.  It’s not the time.  I am not done cleaning my writing castle.”

In this 100-year old house the dirt accumulates like someone swept it all in here off of somebody else’s porch steps.  Right into my space, every tiny corner of my space.  When the wind blows during dry seasons – which includes all but a few weeks per year – there is little to stop the dirt from sweeping in.  Under my bathroom sink I find it, under the kitchen sink, too.  In all of my closets, in every groove of every lamp, falling within the pages of my books on my shelf.  Burying into the rim of every unopened can in my larder.  Dirt.

Now that the snow is holding the earth down, sitting as it is this dark 4 a.m. morning, I can get more than a handle on this creeping earth inside of my house.  (Inside of my brain?)  Nobody knows but the survivors of the dust bowl days what THAT dirt was like as it ate up your soul and left only a body that tried to survive in Texas eating tumbleweeds.

Nobody lives here but me (and a small dog, two cats that live outside and eight hens which obviously live out there, also).  When I feel lonely, which I can often do if I let THAT dirt creep in and accumulate in the spaces surrounding my heart, I think about this situation being rather a luxury.  Alone.  A writer with her thoughts.

Damn thoughts.

My friend Sandy has sent me a book by Alfred Lansing, Endurance:  Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage.  It could have been titled, How to Survive on a Few Penguin Feet and Like It.”

I have been fasting for many, many years.  I only read developmental neuroscience.  I have reasons for this fast, and I won’t know until I know when I will be free again to read any old (or new) thing that I like.  Right now, because I know I have a trauma-formed body-brain from severe abuse that began at my birth, I will not feed my brain other people’s words any more than I can help it.

My brain is extremely efficient.  It has no ownership (as I have complained on this blog in recent times) of words.  Any handy combination of words is good enough for me.  My brain doesn’t give a “tinker’s damn” (or is that “dam?”) where any words come from, so if something is needed I will be as likely to snatch something stored in my verbal memory and use it that belongs to someone else (so they say) as reinvent the literary wheel.

But this book.  Wise, Sandy is.  What am I finding in these pages?

Endurance.

“Oh, yes Sandy.  I remember.  I know what that word means.”

Or at least I am beginning to remember.

An ultimate sort of tale.  How to be continually miserable as you live through it.

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Cleaning my thinking castle.  I want to chase words like those 28 men during the years of WWI chased land.  Or tried to as they floated around on rotting ice floes that tried to eat them alive, but not quite, ’cause the men were quicker.

I want to romp around with words like one of those sled dog puppies would rather have tossed around a half dead rabbit than be shot and eaten by the very men they worked so hard to help stay alive.

But life is life.

And too many words spoils the appetite for more.

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I could tell you that in the dark of morning, using what shadowed light my own few lamps provide me, damp rag in hand, pulling every stocked up useless thing from the crannies of my computer desk – whose arrival in my life itself belongs to a story with too many words in it – I just removed my wonderful now-loved copy of Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition off of its shelf where it’s been sitting since the last good desert rain accumulating dust and dirt.

Taking the book I spank its pages together hard.  The dust flies out.  The words stick, because hard copy dictionaries are made that way.

Years ago when one of my beloved daughters won a spelling bee she was gifted with one of these dictionaries and she gave it to me.  One of my regrets for my misbehavior in life.  Years ago a bit later I was living with a woman whose esteem I evidently sold a part of my soul to obtain.  She criticized me as so many had done before since I was 18 for using TOO BIG WORDS.  Who did I think I was?  A snob?

We were standing in front of her raging fireplace.  I reached for the poor defenseless dictionary and in an act of “Love me!” I threw my precious book into the flames so it could turn into ashes, words and all.

I half-way later replaced that book with this one, but no inscription lives inside its cover to my dear daughter.  Yes.  A shame on me, a shame I was so removed from being perfectly OK with who I am:  A thinker and a writer.  (Among many other things).

Now?  I use the online versions for word searches. 

ENDURANCE

1: permanence, duration <the endurance of the play’s importance>

2: the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; especially : the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity <a marathon runner’s endurance>

3: the act or an instance of enduring or suffering <endurance of many hardships>

I have to go to ENDURE to find this word’s origins as it came into Modern English

1: to undergo (as a hardship) especially without giving in : suffer <endured great pain>

2: to regard with acceptance or tolerance <could not endure noisy children>

intransitive verb

1: to continue in the same state : last <the style endured for centuries>

2: to remain firm under suffering or misfortune without yielding <though it is difficult, we must endure>

ORIGIN OF ENDURE

Middle English, from Anglo-French endurer, from Vulgar Latin *indurare, from Latin, to harden, from in- + durare to harden, endure — more at during

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What about this word?  How do these two states of being connect and relate, coexist with one another?

SURVIVE

1: to remain alive or in existence : live on

2: to continue to function or prosper

transitive verb

1: to remain alive after the death of <he is survived by his wife>

2: to continue to exist or live after <survived the earthquake>

3: to continue to function or prosper despite : withstand <they survived many hardships>

ORIGIN OF SURVIVE

Middle English, to outlive, from Anglo-French survivre, from Latin supervivere, from super- + vivere to live — more at quick

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Surviving 18 years of childhood from birth under the constant watch of Mother’s evil eye and the nearly continual interruptions of my experience of being myself in my life by her horrendous psychotic abuse.  Yes, this counts as OUTLIVING what Mother did to me.  It counts as SUPER-LIVING.

And endure?  This word intimates a deeper state of inner permanence that allowed me to come out of “all that” intact. 

But the truth is I don’t really understand the difference between these two words.  Are they redundant?  Does language clean up its own house over time to remove extraneous words that really aren’t necessary because some other word says exactly the same thing – and why keep two when one will do?

I don’t know.  Only solution?  Get back to cleaning the outside out of the inside of my house as I do the same for my thinking mind – because some part of me KNOWS the difference.  The other parts of me don’t yet know what I know.

This is, I suspect, exactly why Sandy sent me this book to read.

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Now that today I am better, with the love of friends who truly know what I am and what I am about in this world, in this body, in this lifetime, and from the high desert soaking rain — the high tumbling multi-shadowed clouds — with the help of the wind and its companion breezes — sunlight brilliant against the blue outlining edges — and the rainbow I saw this morning as I answered a friend — the full low humble rainbow arching close to me in the north as it called to me “I am here” — as all called to me “We are here!  You are not alone!  You are befriended.  You can breath.  You can relax and move away from those so-sharp razor edges that tell you — you have gone far enough.  Come back now.  Back to your body.  Back to time and place.”

Yesterday I searched online for hours reading what neuroscientists in USA, China, Germany, Japan, Iran, India, the Netherlands, Israel — have found in the past two years about the brain.  About especially brain wave oscillating rhythms.  AH!  They say. 

Each single individual neuron responds and is responded to as these patterns of music play, region to region, community to community inside our skull.  “Synchrony.”  The scientists talk about.  “Asynchrony.”  1 – 400 Hz.  Do they know with their EEGs they are hearing the sound of the beat in the beta and gamma, alpha and theta music all seven-plus billion of us here on this planet (plus all of those animals) are singing together?  Do they hear it?  Can I hear it?

So focused I become when I search deep space through echannels.  I follow and follow each trail of information, tendril wisps of vapor.  Thoughts so small and ultimately so connected.  All those trails lead in gigantic loops so far I search also for where the trails of thought turn to loop over and into and through one another.  Sometimes this takes years.

The tiny little glial cells.  I learned about them, too.  (I want to learn more.  But not now.)  From the Greek word “glue.”  They take on many tasks, but the one that I followed yesterday has to do with how they are the first “pioneers” (the researchers call them) to travel during fetal brain development into new territory, new geography in the newly formed skull, creating molecular signposts and molecular trails into new regions where other new cells will follow.  The neurons segregate, congregate, speicialize and form communities that communicate with one another as they form our brain and our mind.  Little “entrymen” as homesteaders like my father were called.  Little homesteaders. 

I also searched about the corpus callosum, the region of neurons at the center of our brain as they link the two halves of our brain together — our left and our right.  Across this formation, through this bridge information is passed so our two brains can integrate and process and talk to one another.  They decide.  They know what matters, what doesn’t, why and how.

At the same time I know from previous study that early trauma changes all of this for its survivors.  Both our brain hemispheres, our corpus callosum – and so much more.  All changed.  We have a different kind of brain.  Always, I ask of mine, “Who are you?  What do you know and how do you know it and how do I find out what you know?  Different knowledge.  We know it in different ways.

Yesterday I followed with my left brain (I am quite sure) volumes of factual detailed information that is written and published in little tiny unrelated pieces.  My right brain was left far behind, unable to sing to me, “This is what all of this means!”  Sing loudly.  Sing insistently.

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But when I follow what intrigues me in the PubMed online database with my windows open and the research flooding my poor old worn laptop, it slows down, so far down I am forced to stop.  Close this world down.  Lose all of my trains of intent thinking, reboot my computer from dead stop-off, and begin again.  This is frustrating.  This slows ME down.

I dream of having a big room with large flat high-quality monitors covering its walls so I can put on them all those thoughts when I find them — sit back — walk around — read those research thoughts as the works of wonderous discovery of truth and beauty that they are!

As it is, I have no printer to even print them.  Which is just as well.  Last time I did this searching (about 5 years ago – so much new has been discovered!) I filled over 60 feet of running board bookshelf feet with binders full of reports on the state of a miniscule snippet of the cosmos that fascinates me — the human body, especially the brain.  Eventually I felt crowded.  I emptied it all into the ground and fed it to my garden worms.

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Today.  I am back to ink pen in hand, riding my writing as I would the perfect steed.  Wind in my hair while I empty 10-20 pens a week at least and think “What a frustrating waste of manufacture and resources.”  Pens are created cheaply today and sold with so little ink.  No longer can I find them refills.  Most of them don’t even open.  But, no, I have yet to sharpen a quill and find a pot of ink to ride with across lines on paper until long after sunset.

(I have 180-page spiral notebooks all over my house where I can lay my hands on one in an instant.  All purchased for two bucks each at our small town’s Family Dollar store.  No college ruled sheets to be found in this town.  I make do.)

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I fell into a chasm today.  I don’t know when but I probably know how.  Being a bridge between the lived experience of being a being so changed by early caregiver relationship trauma (as “they” call it) means I live with a different kind of geography inside of me.  There are breaks where they shouldn’t be.  There are gaps and losses, wishes and hopes smashed, missing pieces,  lost dreams.

Somewhere in all my neuroscientific study today I encountered a piece that said, “60% of Americans experience at least one severe trauma in their lives and 40% don’t.”

I can’t remember where I read that!  Of all the notes I took today I lost the reference for that one.  The most important one it seems to me as four hours after first trying to sleep tonight I am still awake, still struggling.  How is it possible for any one person to go through their entire life without a trauma?

What world does that happen in?

Am I that out of touch?  60% is still a LOT of people.  And there’s us.  Those of us who knew very little that wasn’t trauma when we were little.  At least that was my world for my first 18 years.  I feel like I life on some skinny jut of land out into some foreign dark water where no other life I can see or hear keeps me knowing I have a void inside of me that will not be filled in this lifetime.

I try to study the actualy facts, the neuroscience research that documents this and that and that and this that goes so wrong in the entire developing brain and body of a baby exposed to severe, chronic, unending, unendurable trauma that – indeed – life makes sure we survive.  Thinking in all those cold hard facts seems to have snapped something inside of me, some little warm connection I seem mostly to keep ahold of — that today I lost.  Completely lost.

I am wondering if that kind for dense close cold reading took me far out to sea and then left me there to live or to die.  Yes.  These things do happen.  But I didn’t see this coming.  I didn’t see myself going out with some invisible tide in the ‘abstract’ direction, so far out now when I try to sleep I can’t seem to find my real self anywhere.  Not that I am certain that I HAVE a real self, but I usually have at least some makeshift version of a real self I at least DON’T FEEL LIKE THIS!

All those researchers, psychotherapists, news people, book writers who so seem to have ALL the answers.  If they don’t they seem to be quite sure of themselves and quite content stating whatever small facts their particular focus of study has given to them.

Then.  Here I am.  A continent of discontent — and I now know why — but I don’t think I belong to the group that can PROVE what I know.

I’ll get past this.  I always have found a way to go UP again after I have gone DOWN again.  I think there’s a kind of lesson in how I feel right now.  I was not cautious.  I did not monitor my emotional reality state as I plowed and plowed through information about the insides of all of us.  What does right.  What goes wrong.  I will have to more carefully consider where I am going to take myself and my mind next in my work on this trauma thing.  Carefully consider.

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I am doing some writing about how trauma changes an infant’s developing brain.  Heavy developmental neuroscience in there.  But, maybe I can keep this in my chapter titled Dry Ice and Fire Ants.  The chapter is specifically about how the heat of the arousal in the brain from a trauma trigger of the  ‘GO’ branch of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) kicks in during trauma only to be frozen out by the ‘STOP’ branch’s energy conservation response.  Both responses can severely damage infant brain and nervous system development in environments of chronic abuse and trauma in early caregiving relationships.

Is this memory accurate?  I have no idea, but it’s always stayed just like this.  I wish I could find a classmate from around 1960 – 1962 that could confirm or deny the validity of this one:

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+DRY ICE AND FIRE ANTS

I have childhood associations to both dry ice and fire ants.  My fire ant memory originated when I was five before our family joined my father in Alaska.  Supposedly, according to my psychotic mother, I “let” my two-year-old sister sit on a fire ant hill because I was so irresponsible when she asked me to watch my sister (I doubt that she had), or maybe because I hated her.  (This story is in the first book of the Mildred’s Mountain series containing Mother’s letters in Suburbia to Alaska.)  Because I was beaten over the remaining years of my childhood for this supposed ‘crime’ I had committed I clearly remember those fire ants. 

Dry ice belongs to an Eagle River Elementary School memory from the day a fireman came to talk to us at one of our many school assemblies.   All the children filed into the auditorium just as he finished setting up his display on the stage.  Dressed in his full fireman outfit this speaker was the most impressive yet.  He got my fullest attention.  Especially when he got to the part of his talk when he waved a carrot slowly through the air in front of him like a magician would brandish a magic wand (although I had never seen either) and then laid it very carefully in the center of a block of dry ice smoking in a pan sitting on a table beside him.  Next he put on his gigantic leather fireman gloves and made a big show of picking up a second block of dry ice that had been smoking away in another pan and set it carefully down on top of the carrot.

I then became very distracted from thinking about the carrot as Mr. Fireman gave a big speech about the importance of having a fire extinguisher in every household.  Although I didn’t really even know what such a thing was, I sure knew we didn’t have one.  But I soon learned that’s why the fireman came.  To teach us about fire extinguishers.  Both the good and the bad of them.

There he was, bellowing across the heads of all we little kids as he made sure we understood that “NEVER NEVER EVER EVER put your finger in the way of a fire extinguisher in use!”   Roar!  Hiss!  SWOOSH!  He aimed white spray into a garbage can while he told us that if he took his gloves off and put his finger into that spray it would FREEZE SOLID. And then if he touched anything it would break into a million pieces. 

A finger?  A million pieces?  Grim.  Very very grim.  I was suitably scared before he even got to the next part of his demonstration.  He put his fire extinguisher down, reached over to lift the top block of dry ice off of the carrot, and put it back in its pan.    Then with his very large glove hands, he managed to pick up the carrot and hold it high in the air over his head.  “Watch this very carefully children,” he said to us with words slow and definite.  Pausing for emphasis and then pausing a little more.  We were hushed.  Silence.  Then CRACK!  He dropped the carrot to the stage floor and yes indeed it disappeared into a million shattered pieces.  “That would be your finger!” 

But actually the words in this title are exactly backwards from the way I should have written them.  I just liked the sound of those words the way I wrote them.  I liked the imagery of the ice smoking and melting followed by tiny ants scrambling off to do whatever fire ants do – assuming they are not under attack from a fire extinguisher.

 As I progress through this chapter I will write about heat before cold.  GO!  Before STOP!  Fire ants before dry ice.   The topic of this chapter is about what is very likely to happen inside the rapidly developing right brain hemisphere and the developing nervous system of an infant in its first and second year of life if it is exposed to repeated patterns of trauma through neglect and abuse.

Most of us probably know more about how Burger King makes French fries than we know about how our brain operates or how our attachment interactions with our primary caregivers during our infancy give our brain the information it needs to build itself in cooperation with our earliest environment. We cannot talk about what goes right and what goes wrong during these most rapid, most critical early brain-building periods of our development without being able to use some basic words to describe these processes.  While many of these words might not be familiar to us, we can learn them – because we must.  We cannot learn about how early traumatic stress damages an infant’s growing brain without this information.

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Programmed cell death (PCD), happens through an orderly pattern of events carried out by cellular machinery intrinsic to cells.  Cell death by suicide is called apoptosis.  (There is no consensus about how to pronounce apoptosis:  some say APE oh TOE sis; some say  uh POP tuh sis.  I prefer A POP TOSIS, like bad popcorn breath.)  This process is as necessary for proper development as mitosis is.  (Cells having a nucleus of genetic material contained in a membrane envelope go through mitosis as part of the cell division.  Mitosis divides chromosomes into two roughly identical sets in two separate nuclei that will end up in duplicate, or sister cells.)

Apoptosis reabsorbs a tadpole’s tail before the frog hops out; removes the tissue between a fetus’ fingers and toes; causes the inner lining of the uterus to slough off at the start of menstruation; eliminates T-cells that might otherwise cause an autoimmune attack on the body.  In this book the apoptosis of interest has to do with how this process enables the formation of the proper connections (synapses) between neurons (nerve cells) in the brain by eliminating surplus cells.  (The human adult brain has approximately 100 billion neurons.)

Nerve cells or neurons have specialized projections called dendrites and axons, which do not exist as a part of any other cells in the body.  Dendrites bring information to the cell body and axons take information away from it.  Information from one neuron flows to another neuron across a synapse which is a structure in the nervous system (of which the brain is a part) that permits a neuron to pass an electrical or chemical signal to another cell (neural or otherwise) across a small gap separating neurons. 

Neurons can be classified by the direction in which they send information.  (1) Sensory (or afferent) neurons send information from sensory receptors (e.g., in skin, eyes, nose, tongue, ears) TOWARD the central nervous system.  (2) Motor (or efferent) neurons send information AWAY from the central nervous system to muscles or glands.  (3) Interneurons send information between sensory neurons and motor neurons and are mostly located in the central nervous system.  (Please visit this website for a visual about neurons:  http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/synapse.html.)

Apoptosis that is triggered by signals inside of a cell follows what is known as the intrinsic or mitochondrial pathway to destruction.  Mitochondria are a cell’s power producers.  They are tiny organelles with an inner and an outer membrane that act like a digestive system that takes nutrients in, breaks them down, and creates forms of energy that a cell can use.  The fluid inside of the mitochondria is called the matrix. 

In a healthy cell, the outer membranes of its mitochondria display the protein Bcl-2 on their surface.  Bcl-2 is protective and inhibits programmed cell death (apoptosis).  If a cell is hurt on the inside this causes a related protein, Bax, to migrate to the surface of the mitochondrion where it inhibits the protective effect of Bcl-2.  A process is then put into motion that executes this cell.

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This is nowhere near done yet – will be a piece of work……….

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January 23, 2013 (I have no idea why the blog has altered parts of the text formating in this post!)

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+BUILDING A HUMAN BEING:  VERY NARROW MARGIN FOR ERROR

Insane Mother Mildred:  Her Sustained Aggression and Violence Against Me:  I could write a book about this title.  Every word I ever write is really about this title as I ask perpetual questions for which I am forever left searching for answers.

What is it about me that I continue to search for the truth about what happened to my mother that changed her as a human being into a raging abusive monster toward me?

What is it about me that I cannot bury in insignificance the fact that I know that what she did to me when I was a baby is what torments me most?  I read the developmental neuroscience as if my life depended on it to learn about her so I can learn about myself.  I see where changes along similar developmental lines happened to her as they happened through her to me.  Yet, I am so different from her.

Even this morning I clearly know how one part of my damage keeps me from sleep.  I cannot make trite sounds as I am supposed to be able to, a consequence in my brain as it was changed in its development by her out-RAGE-ous screaming abuse.   Sounds do not fade into the background for me that belong there outside the range of my attention.  I cannot sort sounds out.  Even voices, fingernails scraping on chalkboards. 

Sounds hound me, chase me, plague me, torture me.  They jump out at me.  Insignificant sounds I should not hear, should not listen to, that should not capture my attention as if they are wild beasts intent on eating me alive, shredding me into pieces.

These sounds torment me.  Dogs barking angrily in the distance in the middle of the night.  My refrigerator humming peacefully.  To me it’s a roaring freight train intent on obliterating me.  Every sound as I grow older fits a pitch, a range of tone, a rhythm that belonged to the range of sound the monster made when she was going to attack – or was attacking – me.  From the time I was born.  For the next 18 years.  These changes are built into my brain, all the way into my brain.

In my brain sounds can be in more than one place at the same time.  They are always moving.  I am insulted in my senses by anything above the sound of silence.  Sounds intrude into my body and through it as if I don’t even exist.  I am the hearing one.  I am the always listening one.  I am the one under threat.  I am the one attacked.

I cannot tune sound out.  I cannot tone it down.  I cannot ignore it as if it doesn’t exist, as if it belongs somewhere else and to someone else.  All sound I hear is MINE to pay attention to.  I had this knowledge built into me from the start of my life.  There was no safe zone between myself and sound.

  Mother hurt me from the beginning of my life in ways that I am only now discovering.  She hurt my forming brain, my growing body on the INSIDE of me all the way into the formation of my brainstem itself, just as this happened to her.  I need to know this.  I cannot turn and walk away from my search for understanding about how early trauma changed me for my lifetime.  Being alive torments me.  This is not what I deserved.  This is not the way being alive is supposed to be.  It is not what any of us early abuse, neglect and trauma survivors ever deserved.

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We all have a body-brain formed in its essence by the quality of our mother’s attachment system.  All that plagues me where it matters most does so because I am the victim of my mother’s flawed and faulty attachment system.  Faulty.  An understatement bigger than Manhattan.  Disastrous is the better word for me to use to describe how what happened to Mother when she was a baby came down directly to me.  But to say so now, to say that Mother’s treatment of me was psychotically pathological, puts me way ahead of my story.  Just as with each life, each story must begin at the beginning.  Finding where that beginning actually starts seems to me to be the essence of my story itself.

I cannot walk away from any part of my story as long as I remain in a body.  I read developmental neuroscience research as others might read their Bible.  I am looking for my creation story.  I am looking for that story for other people who suffer in ways that I do.  I search for answers as if I am called even from the beyond the beyond to do so.  I am hounded by the echoes of Mother’s abuse of me in every breath I take, in every cell of all my tissue, and I know that every baby who misses out on the right kind of interactions with its mother that it needs ends up with some kind of deepest damage like I have.  The kind of trauma-triggered changes that happened to my body-brain development happen to others.  The difference is only a matter of degrees.

At the same time I know these researchers are speaking to me in their writings of fundamental yet rudimentary facts about what a growing baby’s body and brain need to be right in this world, I know they could not have possibly had the kinds of infant abuse trauma happen to them that happened to Mother.  That happened to me.  That happened and is happening to so many others.  Or they, too, would lie in shambles on their insides, broken from the bottom up and from the inside out struggling to make it – barely – through one day let alone through the rest of their life.

What motivates these brilliant, dedicated thinkers to study and learn and write what they do?  How can they look at the facts they know and be content to realize there is such a massive gap between they and we who suffer from the infant abuse trauma changes they so clearly describe to one another while nobody on the outside of their world has the ability to access or to comprehend what they are saying?

What light keeps burning to keep them going ever further toward the darkness of the truth about such horrible permanent irreversible damage done to babies who will be forced to endure their entire life suffering so tragically from consequences that were so preventable?

All those babies screaming.  All those babies dying inside a little at a time while their bodies live and live and live.  All those babies, over the edge, hanging onto the slippery wet rocks and breaking tiny twigs as they hang on, dangling over the precipice of the greatest cliffs.  About to fall.  Falling, falling while nobody alive stops what happened to them from happening again and again and again from sunrise to sunrise to other babies somewhere else?

I know in my body exactly what these researchers are saying.  I stop my falling by believing I can read their science, eat it up until I am so clear I can transform their words – of course being bound by polite (legal) rules of publishing manners not to plagiarise – not to overwhelm readers, either, from how I say what needs to be heard and understood about molecular changes abuse of infants  and trauma to them creates that can never be undone.

I seem to bear a burden of cognizance,  of being able to exist in a void between the truth in the researchers’ words, within the void where tiny babies die, tumbling into oblivion while they remain alive.  Screaming until they become dulled in silence.  Broken.  Into pieces inside.  Tiny hopeless shards of humanity.  And their ranks are growing.

Yet in this world where the “competitive struggle for existence” has yet to be transformed into patterns of true, heartfelt cooperation between members of our species, it is considered proper etiquette to so speak the unspeakable truth of science while obeying the rules about the ownership of words and the most important truths they contain that I feel I have had the tongue of my soul cut out while I bleed to death for myself, for my dead mother, for my dead father who had the very life and mind sucked out of him by the terrible, devastating mental illness contracted I believe by Mother exactly because she was abused, neglected and traumatized as an infant during the most critical stages of her body-brain’s development. 

My soul cries, “Where is the soul in science?”

At the same time I know I endured for 18 years such a hell as few can begin to imagine.  I reach for the knowledge that if I could find a way to stay alive and keep myself HERE – I can use all that strength, all that determination and excess of deep inner personal power to reach inside the pages of this icy cold book I study, whose pages are increasingly cluttered at their edges with Dollar Store sticky tags marking every important passage I must digest and somehow make my own. 

I must retrieve truth for the good of every cliff-hanging baby alive but screaming or dulled into near oblivion.  I must tear those words apart to find out and then explain in common language how trauma turned our very body and brain into our perpetual enemy – because that’s the best our early life could do for us:  Keep us alive.

I must take the sterilized, so-owned words of these scientists across a great divide between what they know and what early trauma survivors know so I can put these two worlds together.  I must pull the truth out as it exists in the facts.  I must use my mental forceps to bring those words through a kind of birth canal so they can come to life where we live it, can contribute to life, no matter how agonizing and bloody this birthing process may be.

“How can they own all these words?”  I want to know, “when they are genesis words?  When they belong to life itself?”

I am perfectly free to use a word like “spoonful” in my writings and nobody can bash and batter me for stealing a word.  Or for using (How dare I?) a word my readers do not comprehend.  I could write about smut and pulp, about rise and fall, but dare I write about the actual patterns of interactions required absolutely by nature between a mother and her infant for an entire human being to be formed correctly and undamaged without falling victim to the academic clutchings of,  “THOSE WORDS ARE MINE!  I and I alone – well, in tandem with my publisher – discovered through science what those words contain and we own them (like Monsanto owns the worlds’ seeds).  Leave my words alone”  – or – What?

Those words.  Cathedrals to science.  These books appear to have been written upside down and backwards.  Words scrunched so densely together all crunched up with no spaces between them either side to side or up and down.  I swear even the punctuation in these books is written in a foreign, unintelligible script nobody but those in the Great Labs and Ivory Towers can understand!

I fight.  I fight for the right to access this information and to share it with others who need to know it.  I NEED to know it.  I NEED to understand what happened to me where it matters most.  I don’t care if I am generations ahead of the crowds.  I need to understand.  If I have to read even this one book by Schore – Affect Dysregulation and Disorders of the Self– over and over and over and over again as many times as there are grains of sand in the hourglass that is running out for what days are left in my lifetime, I will do so. 

I will write this.  I will find my images and they will find me.  And then, if heaven will help me, I will use my own words because they “belong” to me to convey these obtuse weighty so-dense developmental neuroscientific facts to make sense out of a special kind of world we do not currently have words to talk about.

Words about how a baby gets made by its mother’s interactions with it either in the right, good way so it can grow a body-brain unbroken inside by distressful stress in its first year of life – or not.

I am captive to this work by choice, or am I?  I spent the first 18 years of my life being the captive of an incomprehensible mad woman’s torments.  I will take these words out of the pristine pages of this one book, at least, that I am studying so I can pull the facts about this madness through from the academic world into the world I live in – So help me God.

And when I am done I hope I will be able to say something people can understand.  “Take your hands and interlock your fingers.  Tip your right elbow up and your left one down.  You have just created an image of your right brain hemisphere’s limbic system.  Your top hand represents the higher order executive functions of your orbitofrontal cortex.  This is the part of the human brain that, grown right, makes us the best humans we can be.

This high part of your brain is interlocked with and interconnected to every other process in your body in one way or another all the way down to your brainstem.  If its development is altered due to stressful trauma?  There will be shades of hell to pay for a lifetime and beyond.  Without intervention these trauma changes pass themselves down the generations.

As a newborn baby, these brain regions and all of their connections form themselves directly through interaction with the patterns that happen most significantly between the infant and its mother.  If these interactions are flawed and faulty, the infant will develop in response a faulty, flawed body and brain.

Mis-information about safety and well-being for the self in a body in this world is communicated through mother-infant interactions directly into the ‘fabric’ of the infant’s forming body-brain.  If a mother cannot give her infant what it needs, the infant’s entire brain top to bottom including all its connections will be damaged and changed through trauma-induced stress reactions to this harm-filled environment.  Possibilities for safety, security and goodness in life will correspondingly be omitted from such a developing brain.  This infant will spend the rest of its life continuing to struggle and suffer from the effects that trauma had on its so-rapidly developing body and brain. 

These trauma-induced changes impact the development and operation of the Central Nervous System of which the brain is a part, of the Autonomic Nervous System connected to the stress-calm response system.  The immune system is affected, how genes manifest themselves, the biochemical actions and interactions in the body will be altered to the negative, and all these seemingly invisible changes will leave the infant forever gasping, grasping to create a better life somehow that is continually out of reach.”

Who is telling survivors the facts about what happened, why that happened and what that means?  And what about the other half of the brain and its development in inadequate mother-infant attachment interactions?  Dare I find out?

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It is my greatly growing concern that increasing damage is being done to increasing numbers of babies in America directly due to social changes in our culture.  Stress is stress.  Distress of a chronic nature creates trauma in people’s lives.  This trauma directly impacts the quality of care infants receive in families.

As economic conditions continue to deteriorate certainly for at least half of our population, increasing burdens for working mothers will mean an overall degeneration of the very quality of our population now and into the future.  We cannot afford to continue to blind ourselves to the fact that stressed mothers, no matter how pure their intent may be to “do right” for their babies through the second year of their infant’s life, are at EXTREMELY HIGH RISK for unintentionally creating harmful trauma-triggered stress related changes in the development of their baby’s body and brain.

Now more than at any time in the history of our species we need to know, understand and put into meticulous practice what the developmental neuroscientists now know about the essential nature of the mother-infant and father-infant attachment system as it is designed to regulate the development of an infant.  These patterns of attachment interaction literally build a human being from the ground up to match the patterns as they exist in infant caregivers.  Any mistake outside the range of “good enough” mothering creates harm in an infant.  We need to be very clear what “good enough” is and why that matters.

Due to the speed of early development “critical periods” of specific growth are open and then are closed in rapid order.  Once traumatic stress changes begin to happen in an infant’s development they cannot be undone.  It doesn’t take the special abilities my psychotic abusive mentally ill mother had to harm an infant where it matters most during its earliest development.  Believe me, anyone can do it.  Knowing that fact terrifies me.

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I am working with information found in Dr. Allan N. Schore’s 2003 book published by W.W. Norton & Co., pages 252-255 —  Affect Dysregulation and Disorders of the Self

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+INFANT ABUSE THROUGH ATTACHMENT TRAUMA:  PART ONE

It is a mother’s job (or a replacement early primary caregiver who can never replace the mother completely) to care if her infant is upset or not.  She is supposed to help her infant return to a state of peaceful calm if it is upset.  In neuroscientific attachment lingo a mother is supposed to “attune” to her upset infant and help it by “repairing” a “rupture” created when something too intensely troubling happens to her baby.  A mother is most certainly NOT supposed to be the cause of her infant’s “rupture.”  She is not supposed to traumatize/abuse or neglect her baby. 

Severely negative emotional states hurt how a baby develops.  The right limbic brain region grows very fast during the first year of life.  Repeated patterns of traumatic interactions between a baby and its mother (or other primary caregiver) create intense biochemical reactions in the baby that have great power to damage infant nervous system and especially right brain development.

Neuroscientists know that every time trauma causes an “intensely dysregulated” state in an infant, potential harm is done.  When the mother does not respond to her infant appropriately to calm it down, is the cause of the infant’s distress, and when these patterns continue over time, this “massive misattunement” between infant and caregiver cause biochemical changes in the infant’s body and brain that begin to accumulate and do not diminish their harmful impact on the baby’s brain and nervous system development. 

How can a baby defend itself against the massive over-stimulation caused by traumatic interactions with its caregiver?  Much of its defense must occur on the level of chemicals that are designed to internally take care of the infant’s body.  As trauma continue to happen over time both the overstimulation and the biochemical changes to the developing right brain they create become embedded in the rapidly developing brain, especially in the right hemisphere.  Any defenses a baby’s little body can use to survive these traumas become a part of the right brain, as well.  In addition, as Dr. Allan Schore states, these effects which include the defenses are also built into “the core structure of the evolving personality.” (p. 252)

Well, I’m not a scientist but this sounds like a whole lot of “Uh-Oh!” to me.  Because I have a personal history of being the recipient of 18 years of terrible abuse from the time I was born at the hands of my psychotic Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) mother, I want to understand what Schore means when he mentions “core structures” and “personality” being changed through early traumatic attachment interactions with primary caregivers especially a mother.  I know my mother acted “fine” in public.  I know she was fully capable of acting the opposite when nobody was around to see or to hear what she did to me.  I have no reason to believe that the same kind of overwhelming chronic kind of overstimulation from trauma didn’t happen to my mother when she was a baby.  The same kind of biochemical distress reactions that Schore describes probably began to negatively impact Mother’s personality, brain and nervous system development from the time she was a very small baby (as I describe in my upcoming book, Story Without Words).

That trauma changes do impact the early rapid forming right brain in the “core structure of the evolving personality” in extremely damaging ways is exactly what I need to know in order to begin to make sense out of what harmed my mother so much she could end up doing what she did to me.  Why would I want to begin my search for understanding of my mother’s mental illness anywhere else than at the very beginning?

In a “good enough” or “best possible” early caregiver-infant environment, what most could consider as a “typical” environment, I imagine that an infant’s developmental trajectory would head off in its best possible direction.  Because the stages of development build upon what has already been built first, one good change could follow another.  We can call a traumatic infant-caregiver environment “atypical.”  One harm-triggered developmental change would then change the trajectory of further development in a trauma-related direction.

While most experts claim that such changes due to trauma survival are diversions from an “adaptive course,” I disagree with the assumptions contained in that term.  While these changes might be maladaptive to continued survival in a benign, benevolent world, if they are necessary to continued survival in a malevolent world I see them as bordering on miraculous.  That these adaptations to trauma do cause difficulties themselves cannot diminish the power they can have to keep a baby alive in a malevolent world.  The traumatized infant’s body has no other choice.

Schore refers to trauma-triggered developmental changes as being “deflections of normal structural development.”  (p. 252) How could they not be, I would ask?  An infant immersed in the horrors of a traumatic early world is not trying to stay alive and grow its body and brain in anything like a normal environment.  Trauma changes are normal in its world.

Yet Schore points out that it is exactly during its earliest stages of rapid brain growth that an infant is “maximally vulnerable” to any kind of stress at all, or to what Schore calls “nonoptimal environmental events.”  (p. 252)   I interpret this to mean that being an infant who MUST rapidly grow a brain means that at this stage of our life we are at highest risk for the greatest harm from even minimal traumas – let alone from massive ones.  During these critical periods of brain growth we are extremely sensitive to our environment. 

What we experience shapes the way the synapses in our brain behave as our growing brain is shaped, and stress-filled early environments are “growth-inhibiting” when they “negatively influence the critical period organization of limbic cortical and subcortical connections that mediate homestatic self-regulatory and attachment systems.”  (Schore, p. 252)  Critical periods of growth happen once.  The changes created during these periods are permanent.  These are not minor developmental milestones that Schore is describing as he states that caregiver-infant trauma “leads to a regulatory failure” that impairs the homeostasis (balance) of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), disturbs function of the limbic system, and creates dysfunction in the hypothalamus portion and in the reticular formation of the brain.

(One of the most important functions of the hypothalamus, which has several functions, is to link the nervous system to the endocrine (hormone) system via the pituitary gland.  I find it very interesting that this brain region is also connected to important aspects of parenting and attachment behaviors.  I would wonder how the damage that Schore is describing from infant abuse trauma to this portion of the brain could not help but end up impacting parenting and attachment behaviors in infant trauma survivors.

The reticular formation, a region of the brainstem, is one of the oldest portions of the brain.  It is involved in multiple important tasks, including the filtering of incoming stimuli to discriminate between what are irrelevant background stimuli and what stimuli is relevant.  I wonder if early trauma changes to this brain region can show up in symptoms that are connected to adult anxiety and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.  This area of the brain is also involved in motor control and body movements, cardiovascular control, pain modulation, and sleep-wake cycles.)

Schore also states that “transcriptional regulation of gene expression” (p. 252) in the growing infant brain is modulated by intense stress.  Distressful infant-caregiver interactions that create hyperarousal (heightened arousal due to stress) cause the release of powerful chemicals in the infant’s brain designed to regulate arousal.  These chemicals can damage sensitive brain areas in the baby.

An abused infant’s right brain development is also significantly altered by the release of major stress-regulating neurochemicals that influence energy available to vital organs in the body and help contain or stop activation of the sympathetic (“GO!”) branch of the ANS.  These Big Gun stress hormones are directly regulated by the kinds of interactions an infant has with its mother and other early primary caregivers – or severely dysregulated when these interactions are abusive and traumatic. 

Too much for too long for too often of these Big Gun stress hormones directly harms infant brain and nervous system development during the most critical periods of growth.  It is up to an infant’s caregiver to “repair” over stimulation that happens to an infant (this can also happen through too much excitement due to play), thus reestablishing homeostasis – or what I call a balanced state of peaceful calm, or equilibrium.  When this does not happen – and often an abusive adult is likely to escalate the infant’s distress rather than down-regulate the infant’s stressful state – the prolonging of the infant’s stress response and the physiological dysequilibrium it creates in the infant’s body and brain begin to cause toxic harm. 

This harm is especially centered in the infant’s right limbic brain region exactly during its most important, most rapid stage of development.  Researchers are discovering that these kinds of interactions between high-powered, stress-related chemicals in the brain may be directly linked to the “primary etiological mechanism for the pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric disorders.”  (Schore, p. 252)  I have a strong suspicion that these patterns are exactly what sent my mother off in that direction from the time she was an infant.  (I also think about this information when I hear of adults who suddenly and supposedly “out-of-the-blue” are struck by some kind of mysterious “psychological” malady – that I believe originated in exactly these same kinds of traumatic earliest relationships.)

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