Under Traumatic Stress with van der Kolk’s work
PSTD my notes
This book is so simple even I could write it!
Idea for title
thinking about flashbacks versus flash-forwards
the emotional memory is invisibly triggered without the facts
we reenact the emotion in the present with how we need to have been able to behave in the past when the emotion of the memory was originally stored
I have never realized that flashbacks do not need pictures. That’s what I thought they were. I did not know that any time we are experiencing intense emotions that are our of proportion to any present situation that we are experiencing the emotion part of a flashback memory. I always thought that a flashback required a picture with the memory-response.
I did not realize that we react in the present literally from emotional memory. Which means that when and if my behavior threatens Ernie, that his reaction is an emotional memory. Maybe even like his “big feet – big foot” comment this afternoon – that really did hurt my feelings because his comment was a trigger for my own emotional memory flashback in response to his criticism and judgment – which I heard as him saying I am unacceptable and defected, flawed, inadequate, ugly and not worthy of being loved. That I don’t deserve love because he does not approve of me. This is evidently exactly how abandonment as children effects us now. We echo our own echos out to one another like bats do their sonar signals. I send my emotional memories out there by my behaviors which then trigger your emotional memories which you act out back to me.
In this way we are always re-living the unintegrated memories, mostly I would guess, emotional memories – that Siegel would call implicit. Now I understand that they are saying there are no images, no pictures, no experiences, no specific “rememberberable” aspects of the memory to even remember. It is in our bodies, in our emotions.
Which connects also to the idea that emotions are not necessary what we think they are, that they come into our being and into our lives as “forming things” without specific form in the beginning, either – and as young children there are no names for them. We have to be SHOWN ever more accurately what an emotion is and what it is connected to, and in our brains we come to recognize automatically what they are triggered by and attached to.
If someone had used the name “red” all of our early lives to describe what is in actuality everybody else’s blue or yellow, then we would not be understanding the color red the way others do. Not the word, anyway.
This is also connected to the problem of emotional dysregulation that even van der Kolk talks about – the intensity of magnified emotions – flashbacks that are emotional memories.
This also ties in with the discussion about responsibility and accountability. I hold the anger management trainers of Chris’ responsible and accountable for his flashback that could easily have killed somebody if they did not explain to Chris the physiological facts regarding PTSD and the potential for triggers to set off emotional memories that are directly tied into the CNS ANS automatic response to the perception of a threat to life.
We consider life dangerous. We have a perpetual array of trigger happy responses at our disposal – especially men.
This means that I was right that mother was preoccupied with her own memories regarding her interactions with me. I was her trigger, flat out, plain and simple. I was a trigger for her every emotional flashback to what was actually done to her, as well asthat behaviorally turned into a flash-forward as she did to me what she wanted to do to those that hurt her and she couldn’t.
When a PTSD memory is triggered, during the actual physiological automatic ANS, CNS and brain response, those people are not ABLE to respond at that instant in any other way. The response itself bypasses the (faulty, underdeveloped, prematurely myelinated, atrophied cortex), not allowing for a rational thought process to occur or intercede in the ACTION. These are action responses, where the “low” road rather than the “high” road automatic response (as Ratey would say) is carried out – a memory being enacted externally that has never been processed internally – and may well not be able to be integrated “normally” – which is what happens with ordinary memories for ordinary people – who can usually also process severe trauma experiences that are not chronic as they can turn these into ordinary memories through the ordinary memory process.
We do not have the ordinary memory process available like ordinary people do. Our brains do not process distress as ordinary. We are hypersensitive to all kinds of things in the environment that set off our memories, things that an ordinary brain would be able to adjust to with a wide range of optional choice-driven adaptations that we do not have.
People who were abused chronically as infants have an impossible dilemma built right into their nervous systems, including the brain.
This is what the “disorganized” attachment results in. This is the unsolvable paradox repeated again and again and again. If we refuse to connect any later traumas back to the formative brain and CNS stages which included damage, we will not understand the severity of the response-dis-ability.
Anyone acting from emotional flashbacks is not at that instant responsible. They are response-disabled.
But we have to be accountable and kept safe. We must know what the process is, what happens to us – that we have a different gear ratio than what is ordinary – and why that is so. Especially infant abuse PTSD men need to understand their physiology and how the triggers and the flashbacks and the flash-forwards work.
We have to understand that we don’t have empathy, cannot create the mentalizing space, cannot handle transitions. We need information and education about the triggers, about our dysregulated emotions, that we don’t have self-soothing abilities like other do.
Being able to respond TO a safe place means that we have to be able to act as if, or pretend that we are not under threat of immediate extinction and the moment, and that we are not wanting to kill whomever we react against (even if that is exactly what we want to do – because our CNS tells us to).
We need to create ordinary response patterns based on ordinary perception of ordinary stimuli.
We need to see the past in the form of emotional memories coming before they blind side us.
We need to name all of this. We need to name chronic peritrauma. We need to name flashbacks and flash-forwards.
My guess is that every time we are feeling an intense “negative” (survival based emotion) we are having an emotional flashback memory.
We have to recognize and understand that some of us can feel unformed or partially formed or malformed emotions that do not have words and are not in the realm of “ordinary” emotion. They are a “something else.” It is not pleasant to feel an intense negative survival emotion that does not even have a name, let alone a form. “Formless expression.” Van der Kolk speaks of “wordless terror.”
We need to understand that this wordless terror can be attached to nearly every single experience a child ever had. This alone is beyond most people’s ability to conceive, yet we have to break through and change our own pretend thinking called denial. It IS true, possible, and DOES happen.
We do not have a happy-feeling brain response. We were not built that way, and all the wishful thinking in the world is not going to magically turn us into happy people. This kind of pretend-mode thinking denial is NOT helpful, but continues the reality we were exposed to – even in the area of being blamed and held accountable and responsible for things that had nothing to do with us.
We need to understand that watching parental violence gives children PTSD.
Only we could not fight back then. This is especially a problem for men, whose physiology is different from women’s in the first place. And the pain of the shame and the humiliation they must feel as part of their emotional memories – so much more of the “I am a man, I should have been able to do something to fight back, something to stop it.” That must be emasculating to them as adults, a form of self-hatred that can be overpowering.
These memories and their enactments, these flash-forwards (I wrote this before I went to work this morning and found out what happened last night) are dangerous. We are volatile.
Last night one of the residents at work who has PTSD went out and found all his lug bolts had been loosened on his vehicle. He went after another resident who he felt had done this deed with a tire iron and would have killed him if the resident manager hadn’t been there to grab the tire iron away from Chris and managed to contain the violence until the police arrived.
This man is a Katrina survivor with known PTSD and has been attending anger management classes. But my guess is that there is abuse and neglect in his childhood, probably in his early childhood.
This is a perfect case of what I was writing about this morning. Chris was triggered, his body went into hyperreponse, his cortex was completely bypassed, and added to the rage in reaction to the immediate threat to his life was no doubt a trauma memory which came with the force of emotions from the past and was acted out last night.
We are our calling and our calling kept us alive. It responded in any possible way that it could back then to do that. Both the angel and the demon – the split of the daemon, diamon.
Together and apart with Ernie feels on a deep level like life and death. I don’t know what to do
We are completely ill0equipped to live in a benevolent world.
The world, to our bodies (including our CNS with its attached, integral brain), is a dangerous place. It always has been. It always will be.
“As it is now it shall be forever.”
We are not “in time”
“It is now and forever shall be”
As it was in the beginning it is now and forever shall be. In a world without beginning, middle or end.
Because we were so hurt so earl in our lives, it was the angel in us that has been wounded. It’s attachment to our bodies. Perhaps the CNS IS that point of attachment between our soul and our body-mind-self in this world. And our connection and operating capacity is damaged and altered.
No matter what the violence was in our very early childhood, what damaged us most was that our angel was not taught how to live here. It was not even allowed to exist (if our abusers could have prevented it). It was not taught that this world CAN EVEN be safe – not even the remote possibility that safety existed anywhere, anyhow.
It has not, therefore, learned how to “grow down,” into our bodies, let alone into this world. But our SPARK is very much here. Disembodied, but here.
Into the body of the world we descended. We are the unintegrated daimones. Just like our unintegrated trauma memories.
Misfits and marginalized, understatements! We are both here and not here, we are the invisibles. Unless we do something so bad the media notices.
I played basketball like an angel because I was one. Maybe it’s like there was nothing to intervene so that my angel could just jump into my body – or it was so vacant the acorn could move in an out.
I saw the world through my angel eyes because I was one.
Which makes me think of how these memories are related that way:
The toilet bowl
Puddle wet boots
Being in bed and in corners
The angel doesn’t need education in the beginning. It knows how to be. It makes me wonder about what they call childhood dissociation. How do I know that at those moments when my “earthly” self had no place, that the angel stepped in? Like at the end of the beating for the toilet bowl.
The essence of it all, the essential (necessity) of it all – it was necessary to stay alive and our bodies knew it then and know it now. That is the “first response team” reaction to any trigger that “sends us there.”
Cleaving the world in 2
Asunder we live
Our lives are unspoken because words do not work the same for us. Our hemispheres don’t work the same as ordinarys’.
Our actions are almost always trauma re-actions, therefore trauma reenactments.
5 million children at any given time – at the point of a full blown PTSD diagnosis or having enough symptoms to be well on their way.
5 million of the little ones among us.
Ernie says there are 12 million illegal immigrants in the US and a total population of around 300 million in the US
These children are almost all the way they are because they are being raised by parents who are trauma survivors. Figure 2 parents for each child, there’s another 10 million.
The millions among us with their souls split in two
Concretizing the end of the world – it’s in our CNS and brain
The world, OUR world changes many times in a lifetime.
The soul at the center of the world, the one Gorilla Dawn knows about. The one that parented and raised me, whose bosom I rested upon.
We can’t distinguish, but we know we cannot stay where we are not safe or wanted.
When people use the phrase, “going where angels fear to tread,” they are not talking about us. I do not believe that from birth, in a world of constant threat and abuse, that our angel self, our acorn, our daimon, is ever afraid enough to leave us. Our angel STICKS. It goes the course. It is not afraid, it does not leave us. It does not abandon nor forsake us. That only happens when we are dead.
And if we are dead, then we don’t have to concern ourselves with any of this.
If our angel is our calling then we have to understand that it calls us sometimes as tiny infants, as tiny children, forward into our lives one gasping breath, one gasping sob at a time.
I believe that this calling is directly connected to our life force.
This means that it was my calling, my angel image, my daimon that called to me that day in bed when IT spoke to me. I mean, why not, if it can play basketball like a pro?
The letter I left for Ernie last night really upset him. He said this morning that he doesn’t know what to do with me. I don’t know what to do, that’s for sure. Everything is sadness to me right now. Not seeing him, but seeing him is, too, because it is always only for a little while and then I have to leave and be alone. It is his set up. I just have the routine time, that he allows me, like I can then go over and worship at the altar of Ernie, worship before his throne. And then I’m thrown out! Over and over and over again.
I am sad, but I am safe here at home, in my cocoon. I get tired, and only being able to see him publicly on his terms on his stage wears me out. I don’t get to relax with him, to just BE with him. That makes me sad.
It doesn’t matter. He goes home to somebody every night.
No woman wants to be told she has big feet. As Cindy says, that is just not something a man says to a woman. There isn’t a woman alive who would not have been upset by that comment. I don’t think Ernest has had compassion or empathy for a woman in his entire life – not those he is involved with – not me. I’m not supposed to say anything at all, and just continue begging for crumbs of time with him. Gee, he could have said, “I am sorry your feelings were hurt.” He is not available to talk to when I need to talk to him. Only on his terms. Always only on his terms.
How to tell if an emotional reaction to something happening in the present in an emotional memory of trauma or not? If it ties into negative thoughts about myself.
PTSD. We cannot tell the present from the past. How could we? Our memories are not integrated, the ones that aren’t fried.
We are already on the edge, on the ledge. It’s a downward fall, and we’ve made it many times, hitting one edge or ledge after another and then grabbing on and holding on for dear life.
He says he has a sure thing going and he’s not going to risk it, so he is done because I need more and he cannot give it. It is breaking my heart.
Help me, Oh soul of the world!
He is saying that he does not have the courage to take this risk of loving me. I am so sad.
He let go. I am falling. Into the soul of the world. I had to get to this point in this writing, to remember the soul of the world. For it was with me in the beginning. Through every horror my mother did to me. I knew it, because of the homestead. I can know it now, no matter how difficult this is.
It is the soul of the world that saves us. That IS where this love for this man, Ernest Marian Rogers, Jr. came from in the first place. More than his body. More than mine.
What am amazing thing that we have evolved so to cry. There has had to have been a great deal of sadness, sorrow, anguish and grief in the world that we have evolved so. Generations from the beginning. When did those old ancient fish learn to cry?
Crying came from the soul of the world, as we did. As I did. I am in a body that came through time in that soul, as a part of that soul, in interaction with that soul. It knows about this pain, about this loss, about this sorrow, about these tears.
When Hillman writes about soul love compared to all the “other kinds of love,” perhaps it is that we are such soul-full people, at least for myself, that there is no other kind of love for me. I cannot imagine finding some BODY as Cindy says and compromising myself or that man by trying to have a half-assed life together.
There are relationships that are on the love map, and there are those that are not. This is one that is not on the map.
I am reminded of when my black rabbit died and how hard I cried and how I grieved. Even then, I loved that rabbit with all my heart. Just like I love Ernie.
I cannot talk to him, even if he calls. I left a voice mail response that says if he has something to say to me leave me a message.
I have to write. That is my focus and my mission. I have to pour my soul into this book. This love is in my angel’s hands, in the hands of the soul of the world. Maybe that’s where this kind of love comes from in the first place, from the soul of the world and from the individual soul.
I don’t think Ernie will allow himself to love. His arrangements are satisfactory, certainly at his age, almost 70. I don’t understand any of it. He is a business man, and these are probably satisfactory business arrangements. He does not need my love.
This had to be done before he quit the shop and disappeared from me as he has planned, anyway. But it hurts. I know it is none of my business, but I don’t expect him to live long without the love of his soul mate. I think he will lose his life force quickly. Maybe not, but probably. There are consequences for the kinds of decisions he is making. Life does not need to be only about money and the kind of security to can barter your soul for.
I do not believe he consulted his heart. Only his cortex. He can do that, avoidant dismissive person that he is. None of my business.
Somehow as Hillman says this is all necessary, though I do not understand why. He says that it becomes clear when the oak tree is fully-grown.
People die of a broken heart. I wonder if I will.
If I knew I had to give up the love of my heart to write this book well and have it help people, I would have to make that sacrifice. It has, evidently, been made for me, no matter how much I am suffering.
My soul is weeping. Does that mean it is bleeding?
NOTES FROM BEFORE WORK THIS MORNING:
I am honing to precision the scalpel of my words.
When at the scene of a life and death crisis precision counts.
Assess and contain the crisis.
I wrote this before, earlier this morning: Ernie’s routine provides external structure and containment. It is rigid by definition of purpose and function to provide security. I am his unpredictable wild card – you cannot control the unpredictable. His routine regarding me is crushing. I have no hope.
I had tried to ask him last week for some flexibility, so on the days when I needed it I could just come home and not go over there. He said if I broke the routine it would make him mad.
Our truth hides with out pain. Our self and our soul, when they come together, each with their pieces, know the “rest of the story.” Because we are in this world and in this body it can be no other way.
I drew two figures that look like an egg cut through the center.
One with truth at the center where the yolk is, pain where the white is. “When the truth is buried in pain it is hopeless.
We need the truth as a tool to help us with the pain.
The other figure has pain at the yolk and truth as the white. Although very difficult to do, this central truth around the pain can be accessed – through all the defenses. There is hope when the pain is buried in the truth. There is a great tendency to avoid the truth to avoid the pain at the center.
(Maybe that is why Ernie lies so much. He doesn’t even remember them. It seems as though he is lying to get what he wants, which may be true. But he could also lie to avoid the truth that lies too close to the center.)
My mother was in pretend land. She never even got past that.
To go for the truth in all things – to learn enough to be strong enough to let the pain heal. Healing as a verb here, a process – I do not believe it is ever accomplished completely.
For the truly broken, if these two – soul and self – came together where the pain is, it might destroy them completely in this lifetime.
A big BOOM! Big bang! Like an implosion or explosion.
When the truth is in the pain, it is inversed from pain being in the truth — from too much pressure.
Life requires that the BOOM be avoided at all costs, so there is no hope of healing. Do we, can we know who is who and which is which? My mother could not be healed. Where there’s all the rest, infant and child abuse PLUS sexual abuse – that’s the broken people. End of story.
There is still an edge to the universe. This process helps us but does not heal us. We are not “curable.” We work for the cure, live for it, “as caring for the soul,” at the root of the word “cure.”
Always working on the truth, in the truth, with the truth, getting through illusions, delusions, and denial. Working past the magical mode of thinking (denial) and getting to what’s real. That’s where the truth is.
We are in midair falling.
I am realizing what part of the problem is between myself and my communications with Ernest.
It has to do with the intensity of my emotions. It has to do with the flawed PTSD functioning and my brain formation because words come with feelings, the feelings are intense, and I have not been able to pass the words that come with the feelings back to the right brain and to utilize my cortex for deciding on a whole new level what to do with the information – the feelings or the words.
Ernest says that sometimes I spend a great deal of time thinking about things. I wish I could tell him that it doesn’t take me very long. I have the mind of a Ferrari, not a VW bug!! It works very fast.
I just have not “learned” how to continue the processing of information, words or emotions, within my own head. Kind of like a young child that is learning to talk and talks all of the time until they learn they can keep their mouth shut and the words can continue within their own head – silently to those on the outside!
But then what we have to realize is that these people are incredibly selfish. It might be that when the daimon splits, the part that can be helped and the part that truly can care about another and help them are split off so that they ride in the same boat, floating away somewhere off into the distance away from an integrated person and an integrated life.
Having spent time with that woman yesterday, I can feel that what they say about borderlines, that they suck you dry. She has a negative response to everything because she operates on both sides of the highway of life and gives no one else the right away on either side of the painted line. Passing lane, turning lane, main line of traffic on either side, she claims the whole road because within her brain there are no containing boundaries. There is no capacity to truly care about another person, and no true way to be “fed” by the care of another, either.
These people are always starving to death, no matter what or how much they eat or where they get it from. They have that black hole inside of themselves. They are a destroyed personality that might be able to be trained like a monkey to do as little harm as possible, but they will never truly become a member of the human species.
This is the far end of what “an inability to feel empathy” is all about. It’s a real condition, and we must realize that it comes from attachment disorders in infancy during the growth developmental stages of the brain – no matter what that person may say about how wonderful their mother was and how idyllic their childhood was. Their needs were not met appropriately, their brain changed, and nothing this late in the game is going to change the score in anybody’s favor. It was a game that was lost in the beginning.
So these people are essentially, fundamentally, and irrevocably selfish. The ability to care about, and therefore FOR a person, including oneself, is built into the brain in infancy by interactions with early primary caregivers that truly have the capacity and DO care for and about the infant itself. If these brain patterns are not established in the right limbic brain during these early rapid brain growth developmental stages, they will never be there. After all my research, this is my conclusion. If there is an insecure attachment with a resulting empathy pathology, this is what is being affected.
The fundamental construct within the brain becomes based on a different relationship to and with the truth – of the individual and of their relationship with the “home of the world” or the “soul of the world” including everything alive within it including people. They suffer from “essential pain,” that is, the essence of pain so near to the essence of who they were formed to be IN THE BODY that their ability and capacity to process and negotiate with the tender of the truth is absent. This is a harsh statement and a harsh reality.
They can be TRAINED to not harm others, but this will NOT be connected to the essence of who their SELF is in the body in this world. The ally becomes their soul, who/which has remained unscathed by anything that the physical body of the person has endured or experienced. What is limited, however, in these conditions is the soul’s capacity to operate effectively through the BODY of the person because their CNS/brain has been damaged and altered in a way that allows them only to function in a competitive world that does not allow for true cooperation on any level with anybody. The capacity to operate in a cooperative world does not exist.
Their system has designed itself, in these early infant caregiver-environment situations, to perceive only a chronic state of want and need, and even those are not truly differentiated any more than their emotions are. The emotions remain relatively stable at their core level as fear, anger and sadness. They development of their specific emotions have been physiologically affected, forming alterations as extensions of these primry states rather than alterations that are extended into differentiations of specificity related to a much more sophisticated system of detecting relevant stimuli and reacting to it appropriately in a flexible and adaptable way.
The prognosis is not good, but if there is any hope of providing remedy as best as is possible, it has to come from everyone recognizing the truth within the body and therefore the brain and mind and self of these persons. We have to listen to them with a new ear and see with a new eye what is truly at the center of the storm so that we can find ways to help these persons live the best life possible under the conditions that they are forced and doomed to experience in the form of early onset PTSD the rest of their lives.
I just talked to Cindy and we actually had a connection that allowed us to! She is angry at mom, the kind of anger that I have never been able to feel.
And it seems to be connected, that I cannot feel that anger toward Ernie, either.
She talked about a line of protection that she feel we are supposed to have around ourselves, and when somebody crosses it there is NOTHING left. Access denied.
She wonders if there isn’t what she calls a “reverse PTSD” that somehow causes me to feel such an amazing sense of comfort when I am in his presence. That IS exactly how I feel. I believe my feelings for him are on a soul level. It is as if I can be in his presence and feel his soul wrapped all around me. And it is incredible. It seems to have little to do with the human man and what he chooses to do.
I am finding myself wondering that if a soul cannot come down into the world, cannot integrate itself properly into the body and self of a person, that it does somehow remain disconnected yet present, like disembodied, and some of us with severe PTSD are super sensitive to these disembodied souls because ours are the same way. We can feel them, sense them, and in my case, love them.
As I read these entries by my mother, I do not sense her malevolence. It would make me crazy if I didn’t have siblings to confirm that the abuse was not only there, but her ability to adequately parent any of her children was severely impaired.
And yet it’s like ther is a part of me that knew the part of mother that loved that land. Like I could on some level BE with her the way I can BE with Ernie when she was in that shared state of love for the land, for the place, for the beauty.
This love was not mystical or inappropriate. The land was worthy of that kind of love, and inspires that kind of love in people who can respond to its power.
I know, at least as I read her 1960 letters, that she felt that for the land. It was not a psychological invention. It was not a fantastic thing. It was appropriate. And I believe it was very real. And I felt the same way, too.
And here I am loving a human man the same way I loved the beauty which was the soul of that land. A soul that was good, that I shared with my mother.
If Ernie loves me he cannot say it – again. Yet it almost like when I am in his presence his soul IS loving me, like the land DID love me – yet the land perhaps did NOT really love me back, though I felt the angel on the mountain was there for me always.
Obviously something did not form correctly within me so that life makes no sense to me and I do not know HOW to live my own life to my own betterment.
But my thinking is suggesting that there is a “shared soul space” that those of us with severe PTSD from infancy and early childhood live in. It is a world above the world, connected to the world, but not a part of the world. It is like a transcendent place where there is no evil and no badness, no harm, no danger, no malevolent intent. It is pure and a place of innocence and pure love flows there.
It makes me think about battered women who say they truly love their abusers. Perhaps that is because we are living on that other plane and we truly do, from our own soul level, love those other severely troubled persons whose souls are also in that sort of limbo place – but we can see them. Like we can see angels that nobody else can see even in the darkness.
Because our souls were forced to stay in that limbo place near us but not in us. Our lives were far too full of torment and suffering.
And in my case, the person of my mother, possibly without her own soul, occupied my being, my “parking space,” so that I had no “room of my own” for my soul to come down into. She “possessed” me.
But I have lost something even as I have gained something. My life is hence a distortion from what is ordinary and intended by life on this earth. And tied to that is the fact that it touches the deepest pain I have to think about not being able to see Ernie.
Is this a calling to the essence of compassion? Is this about what Jesus said on the cross, “Forgive them Father for they know now what they do? Jesus could see people’s souls. He did not focus on their human failings and shortcomings. But even Jesus was angry in the temple.
Where is my anger in the temple? That this man does not appreciate that my love is precious.
Hillman/SC/216: “Perhaps innocence is a greater mystery than evil.”
“Innocence seems to ask for evil. Hillman/SC/239”
“Absolute certainty, utter conviction – these, then, are signs of the demonic. (Hillman/SC/224)”
Mother had absolute conviction that I was a “bad seed.” Lost in the mirror, where the very bad seed projected itself onto me – I am still not convinced it was literally that mother herself was a bad seed, but there certainly was a demonic influence in her treatment of me