Oh, to Be an Infant
From Schore ad
Schore is describing “two separate response patterns” of infants experiencing trauma
From the work of Perry et. al. (1995)
“Although the body of studies on childhood trauma is growing, there is still hardly any research on infant trauma. A noteworthy example is the work of Perry and his colleagues, which is extremely valuable because it includes not just behavioral but also developmental neurobiological and psychobiological data. (Schore/ad/188)”
“Perry and others (1995) demonstrated that the human infant’s psychobiological response to trauma is comprised of two separate response patterns, hyperarousal and dissociation. (Schore/ad/188)”
“In the initial stage of threat, a startle or alarm reaction is initiated,
in which the sympathetic component of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is suddenly and significantly activated,
resulting in increased heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and muscle tone, as well as hypervigilance.
Distress is expressed in crying and then screaming. (Schore/ad/188)”
“The infant’s state of “frantic distress,” or what Perry termed fear-terror is mediated by sympathetic hyperarousal, known as ergotropic arousal (Gellhorn, 1967).
It reflects excessive levels of the major stress hormone corticotropin releasing factor (CRF)
which regulates catecholamines activity in the sympathetic nervous system (Brown et al., 1982).
Noradrenaline is also released from the locus coeruleus (bunch of names…).
The result is rapid and intensely elevated noradrenaline and adrenaline levels
which trigger a hypermetabolic state within the brain.
In such “kindling” states (Adamec, 1990; Post, Weiss, Smith, & McCann, 1997),
very large amounts of CRF and glutamate,
the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain (Chambers et al., 1999),
are expressed in the limbic system (Schore, 1997a).
Harness and Tucker (2000) stated that early traumatic experiences, such as childhood abuse, literally kindle limbic areas. (Schore/ad/188)”
I believe that I experienced this condition most of the time. I still believe that it is possible to remain in this state while the abuse is occurring, dissociating after the event – and between events.
I suspect that there was something about ME that either caused me, or enabled me, to remain PRESENT during the peritrauma – and as I got older this allowed me to stay alive, i.e., to control the direction of my falls from her blows, where her blows hit me on my body, etc. She was always so out of control during the beatings, like in a black out, overcome with her rage, that she would not have even noticed my “participation” in them on my own behalf – to the degree that I could avoid blows, control where they hit, control the direction of my falls.
But this information is specifically about infant abuse – when the infant is far too helpless to avoid anything or to protect themselves. Understanding all of this matters to me because my reactions to her violence became “hardwired,” imprinted, formed into my brain – as Schore says, the internal working models and the mental representations are not only about what the environmental cue was “back then,” what was done to me, but also my reaction to the experiences – all are stored somewhere in my brain-mind-body-self.
I imagine that my ability to remain in this “hyperarousal” state had something to do with my stamina and ability to tolerate the intensity of this horrible state. It would have had something to do with my “window of tolerance” or my threshold level. (Something that I don’t think I have any more.)
How much could I “take” before confusion and total chaos took over?
How is this reaction related to the later-forming shame reaction? Both entail a prior state of overexcitation with an ensuing “crash” caused by an activation of the parasympathetic ANS branch.
I see an image of a nail in the wall, and a person holding an end of a string in each hand that is looped over the nail. If the string is pulled on one end, the other end rises while one lowers. With dissociation, is the string cut?
Coupled with this overarousal scenario would be the inevitable “built in” crash that would happen when the event of abuse ceased. The abuse is an over stimulation. When the over stimulation is withdrawn, the infant’s “system” would inevitably crash. I doubt that the internal reaction to the abuse incident would as quickly diminish. This would, it seems to me, leave the infant in a state similar to dissociation.
One aspect of the infant’s system would still be hyper-reacting, yet once the source of the overstimulation vanishes from the scene, and that corresponding point of vacuum is caused by the removal, that part of the system would no longer be super-stimulated and “kindled.” What, then, would be the internal experience of such an infant?
In medical scenarios, the effect of the acute trauma reaction lasts well past the ending of the traumatizing incident. The effects of peritrauma diminish over time, even in the most normal of “victims.” So an infant would be experiencing the after effects of the peritrauma along with the diminishment over time – yet the source of the trauma is likely to return at some “unknown” point in the future, and the peritrauma will be reinstated. There would be no opportunity, no time, for the effects of the one trauma to dissipate before the next event occurred.
One can stand on an ocean beach and watch the waves almost systematically crash onto the shore and then be sucked back to sea. Sometime waves might overlap one another. But the process is not chaotic. Rather, from watching, the action is rather predictable.
But with peritrauma from abuse, there is no prediction. Not of the onslaught nor of the cessation of the incident, nor of the reinstatement of the next occasion.
An infant has no frame of reference for any aspect or component of this abuse process and cycle. It has no ability to consciously determine that the stimulation it is receiving to its nervous system and to its neo-emotions is either good or bad. So it seems to me that when this intense stimulation ceases the infant experiences this as an abandonment. The contrast between the stimulation it has experienced in the presence of the abuser and the withdrawal of that stimulation with the departure of the abuser, creates a void or a vacuum state, a sort of “negative suction” reaction similar to the point where a wave moving into the shore crashes, then its action poises before it begins its retreat.
For the infant, that is a state shift. It is a transitional space that has to be being recorded somehow, somewhere within its brain-body-mind-self. But with such an infant, is that point of transition, of suspension, connected to the chaotic non-pattern of the unknown return of the abuser?
At least the experience of the abuse while it is happening is a known. Is it easier to experience that KNOWN rather than the unknown, than it is to tolerate that transition space of chaotic expectation and anticipation, knowing that inevitably and eventually the abuser is going to return (at some point in the future)? This transitional space would be especially traumatic all by itself for an infant completely dependent upon the abuser for every aspect of its existence.
And if the return of the abuser is, as is probably the case, solely conditional upon the internal state of the abuser and not correlational in any way with the needs or internal states of the infant, how does even a pin point of “self” begin to form within the infant – any sense of “I-ness?” From the infant’s point of view, there is no contingency between its self (initially from its bodily needs point of view) and what happens to it. There is no congruity.
The time and space between incidents of abuse and the return of them becomes as traumatic as the actual abuse itself. It becomes a continuum without break. But I would imagine such a scenario would at least keep the infant PRESENT in the world, connected to it – perhaps different than in neglect situations – which nobody has really talked about yet! Talk about a fragmented presentation of information by these authors! The sequencing is terrible! What I want to know next is not presented to me – very frustrating and aggravating!
And none of what I am describing here takes into account situations where sometimes the caregiver responds appropriately to it with kindness and comforting behaviors, and then sometimes it doesn’t and the abuse occurs. That would be even more problematic, especially because the transitional spaces would be filled with even more confusion – will I be loved or hated? Will I be cared for or terrorized and hurt? I would think if there was this quality of confusion in the transitional periods, then they, themselves, would become (on a weighted scale) even more stressful and traumatic than the actual abuse events themselves.
I think this very early issue is one of the distinguishing points between myself and my mother. She was, in effect, a very early “victim” of the equivalent of having been raised from birth in daycare. My grandmother was essentially a career woman. She was not devoted to the care of her infant daughter. She had a nanny to pursue that occupation. I suspect an essential component for the development of BPD is the inconsistency that I did not experience.
When my mother was in my presence, she hated, abused and terrified me. When she left the scene, all I could anticipate upon her return was more of the same.
My mother, on the other hand, received confirmation of existence and being sometimes and not others. She was hurt and terrified sometimes, but not others. She could not predict what would happen the next time her caregiver arrived – love or hate? She would have had some glimmer of hope connected to the possibility that the “good” caregiver would return – which was no doubt present, good and bad, in the same person – either in the person of her nanny or in the person of her mother.
In contrast, I could always expect and predict that with the coming of my mother would be the pain. IF she had an encounter with me that entailed the presence of some other “adult,” and only then – would the “good” mother show up. I believe from very early on I was able to distinguish the difference in these scenarios by the look in her eyes and the timbre of her voice. But I do not believe that I suffered from the same kind of confusion that my mother did. MOST of the time the bad mother came to me. PART of the time the good mother came to care for my mother when she was an infant and a growing child.
So for me, the transitional spaces between the presence of my mother and her absence were filled with a sense of impending doom, not hope. I consistently would have known that I was terrible, awful, and not loved because I was essentially unlovable, which IS what my mother believed. I was helpless to do anything to change anything.
My mother, on the other hand, would have had the experience of a transitional space that was much more complex – and to be clear, I mean both the experience of the experience of the transitional space was more complex, and the space itself was much more complicated. There was an entirely different dynamic operating for her than was for me. My hopelessness was absolute and fundamental. There was no contingency.
My mother’s situation included times of both “you are good and I love you because you are lovable” and times of “you are bad and I can’t possibly love you until you fix yourself so you are good enough again that I can love you again.”
“Always and never” are far different than “again and if.” There was no “sometimes” in my world, only “forever.” Sometimes means there is at least a glimmer of hope. Forever means there is no hope at all. My expectations and anticipations were simple. My mother’s were complex. The simplicity of my world meant that I was never disappointed. The complexity of my mother’s world meant that she was.
My reality was not compromised by inconsistency. Hers was reality was compromised by inconsistency. My world was absolute: I was a mistake and I made mistakes. In her world, there was no absolute: sometimes she was not a mistake and did not make mistakes. But sometimes she was like me – both being a mistake and making mistakes.
So in some part of her psyche the possibility that if she could change herself, rid herself of her badness entirely – and this is where her absolute came in, “I am absolutely good or I am absolutely bad. Any bad in me means I am entirely bad, so I must get rid of ALL of the bad entirely. IF I can get rid of all the bad in me, I will be loveable.” Notice the “sometimes” and the “if.”
It is a fundamental aspect of human learning that intermittent reinforcement is an extremely potent reinforcement for behavior (consciously or unconsciously). If you checked your mailbox for 90 consecutive days and never found a piece of mail there, you would be far more likely to quit checking your box than you would if every once in a while you actually discovered that something of value was there waiting for you.
But then we must introduce the concept of cause and effect. You are not likely to make the connection that just the action of checking your mailbox caused the mail to appear in there.
But from infancy a child’s growing brain will establish that sort of cause and effect patterns in the brain. “If my caregiver loved me yesterday and does not love me today, and they told me I was bad so they can’t love me today, then I better change something and make myself good again so they will love me again.” This is the “if this, then that” reality.
So it is “as is,” “as if,” and the “if this, then that” patterns that are formed with our early experience. Yet it is with the introduction of some possibility of change in the “if this, then that” scenario that introduces a personal sense of empowerment or efficacy. “If I do this, then I can change that.”
I did not have this sense. I knew from birth that mine was an “as is” situation. “Linda is evil, therefore she is not lovable and there is no hope that she will ever be lovable, therefore she will never be loved.”
It wasn’t even, “It is as if Linda is evil and therefore not lovable.” Any suggestion of “as if” implies that things are not absolute, that there is some possibility for mutability or for alteration or for change to happen. And it certainly wasn’t “If Linda changed, she would be lovable.” My mother had identified the unacceptable “evil” aspects of her self, projected them ENTIRELY out of herself onto and into me. She made (from the time of our labor – which at this moment I realize is interesting because she did not then know that I was a girl. Was the part about the devil sending me to kill her a retrospective delusion that happened backwards? Did she project her belief of my intention to kill her BACK onto me once I had been born and she knew I was female? That would make me wonder what her “thoughts” were during labor – did she attribute that “sent from the devil to kill me” onto that which was being born, or “who” was being born during labor irregardless of its sex? If she believed that was real during our labor, what kind of neurotoxins were released from her terror into me? And that all on top of the probable Twilight Sleep effect? The attack on my brain and my nervous system would have, then, begun before I took my first breath.) that evilness, HER evilness my entire identity. I had no other identity, nor was there a possibility I could “get” one or “have” or “form” one.
So the tender of the reality I was born into with my particular mother was in terms of absolutes and fundamentals. “Linda IS evil, therefore she is not lovable.” Along with that absolute was the belief-as-real that “Linda is evil, and she cannot change. She is not human, she is the devil’s child.”
And yet some of the operational procedures were similar between my mother and myself – on some level. As a child she learned that she COULD be good and/or she COULD be bad. Either/or. So that left her an option, a possibility, that IF she could get rid of her bad THEN she could be good and therefore lovable. Such is the motivation of the desperate desire to attach and to be comforted.
On the other hand, even those few times when “Linda did something right,” like dust the living room or roll the socks or “tell the truth” or “her dresser drawers are so neat and tidy,” or “Linda loves art” or “Linda loves flowers” – anything that was attributed to me that might be considered a glimmer of a shadow of goodness-therefore-acceptability-therefore-loveableness – I could not accept. I therefore followed her lead, example and pattern of rejecting and therefore of projecting the impossible illusion of GOODNESS outside of myself.
My mother’s childhood fundamental belief was that she was essentially a “good and lovable girl” EXCEPT for those times that she did something bad and therefore WAS bad. That was her reality.
The reality that I was given was that I was fundamentally a “bad, evil and unlovable girl” EXCEPT for a few insignificant times that I did something acceptable or “good.” But the image of myself that I was given by my mother (of her massive projections of her unacceptable evilness) was so absolute and pervasive that I did not accept or believe the occasional suggestions or attributions that there was any hope for me being “good.” And in my pattern of rejecting these “good and lovable” things about myself, I learned to do what she did. I projected those good things out into the world and they found their mirror surface to be reflected in inside the being of my attachment figures – my “lovers” and my children. THEY were worthy of being loved because I could see MY OWN projected/rejected lovableness in them.
It is like shining a beam of light out into the darkness until it hits a “target” that it illuminates. So I do what my mother did. I shine the light out because I cannot and therefore do not shine it inwardly upon myself. She did the opposite, shining evil “absence of light” outward until it hit the target of me.
In this, then, I am like my mother. Our process is the same. Her perception of personal “evilness” was intolerable to her. My perception of personal “lovableness” is intolerable to me. She was not able to integrate or metabolize “unlovableness” into herself. I am unable to integrate or metabolize “lovableness” into myself. And when I cannot accept the “good” into myself, there is nothing left but the “bad,” as it was and as it shall be unless I can change this pattern.
But there is another piece. My mother, in her unconsciousness, could not accept the “good” into herself, either, and so she projected “goodness” out onto my sister who was in my mother’s eyes, “God’s child who could do no wrong.” Yet somehow my sister figured it out, that it wasn’t possible to be as “good” as mother said she was. I only partially figured out that it wasn’t “humanly possible” to be as bad as my mother said I was when I was probably 14 and heard the “voice” that told me that. But even that was an externalized observation of a “fact.” It was not inside me, and therefore did was not connected to me. I, personally, did not perceive it as a possibility internally that I wasn’t “that bad.”
Which is leading me to think about something else. Although my pattern of projecting my good out and internalizing my bad was similar to my mother’s pattern of projecting out her bad onto me, the fact that she ALSO projected her goodness out onto Cindy was different from what I did and do.
What I am wondering about is “insecure organized” attachment styles, which is what an “ambivalent” attachment is that I think my mother had, versus an “insecure disorganized” style of attachment, which is what I think I have. How is living with an entirely fragmented delusional psyche able to be related to an “organized” form of “insecure” attachment?
Looking at all of this today, it seems that I am myself the one that does the splitting. I keep the bad and project out the good. If so, that means that I have a self-identity that is entirely, hopelessly, profoundly, absolutely and fundamentally BAD. That state would certainly prevent me from being able to form secure attachments – being unlovable means that it is not a possibility to be loved – not by my children, not by my siblings, not by myself, not by anybody else. It IS NOT POSSIBLE. To me, that is a separate category – CANNOT CLASSIFY because those such as myself CANNOT ATTACH or BE ATTACHED TO.
But my mother was really the same way. I doubt she ever was able to participate in a mutual attachment relationship of empathic resonance and attunement, either. If that is true, then she and I share this state in common, also.
That means there is another category the experts don’t recognize, describe or accept: the FAILURE TO ATTACH or the INABILITY TO ATTACH category. It is not a secure attachment style, or an insecure attachment style. Attachment simply does not exist in our world.
But from this reality, it is evidently possible to move to an EARNED SECURE style, like the one I had with my children. A “good enough” earned secure attachment. But I think, for me, this was because I externalized my goodness and projected it onto them – I was then able to see that lovableness reflected in them. And I did my best to love that lovableness that I could recognize in them.
So the next question is, “Do I just recognize the lovableness in them because it is already essentially there in them, or do I only recognize my own lovableness that I self-reject and project onto/into them? Or is it that in the process of doing my own rejection/projection, I INCREASE the lovableness I can see in them? And that it is because of this magnification of lovableness in them that enables me to respond in such a way that I do not hurt them?”
Or is the real root of the issue about acceptance? Being able to accept that “they” are lovable (though I clearly do not actually generalize this to people in general), while not being able to accept my own lovableness as being “real?” Is it still about fundamental modes of thinking in that I can “pretend” I am evil as my mother “pretended” I was evil, and yet in both of our minds this pretend-becomes-reality, or “is reality” (Bateman’s psychic equivalence – what is real in our heads is real in the world)? Can that go further, that what feels real in our bodies IS real?
Is that the way my mind evolved, from my feelings? Is that the way everyone’s mind develops, from their feelings?
I believe that being with Ernie heals me because I can FEEL it. I believe that if he wanted to be with me and HAD me with him, that it would heal me. I believe that he is, on that level, the physician of my soul, of my woundedness, of my brokenness. That must mean, in essence, that I believe that healing is possible. But it is through his resonance with me that the healing happens. Our resonance with each other. And part of what is so hard for me is knowing that I am being deprived of THAT. Did I make some sort of “agreement” that I would come into this world to be broken, and that I would not be allowed to heal in this lifetime, and that is why I am not allowed to be with this man? That is so unfair! And hurtful. Like, if others cannot be healed, then I am not allowed to heal, either.
There seems to be one thing at least that we are supposed to know from the INSIDE and not need confirmation from the OUTSIDE – and that is that we are lovable. But that comes initially from the outside – just as the regulation of our emotions comes at first from the outside and then once the structures and systems are developed inside of us then it comes from the inside – knowing that we are lovable, that we CAN be loved because we are lovable, must come from the outside. And in this “attachment” situation I have with Ernie, that must be what I fundamentally NEED that he will not give to me – the confirmation that I am lovable because he loves me.
This, to me, when they talk about the unsolvable problem, the unsolvable paradox, is what they are really talking about whether the experts know it or not. This is the essence of a “disorganized-disoriented” attachment style. We cannot be loved because we are not lovable, and the only way we would know we are lovable would be for somebody to love us, which they can’t because we are not lovable. And around and around it goes without hope or healing or end.
All I know is that at this point in my life, how I feel is real. What I feel is real. Feeling is my fundamental reality. There is no left-brain logic that seems able to influence that. Isn’t that the same thing as pretend mode where what we believe or think is perceived as real? Only for me, it is what I feel that is real? Is that because I cannot go far enough back or deep enough inwards that I can find either the beliefs or the cognitions – the internal working models or mental representations that were formed before I even HAD words – that are at the root of the feelings? That cause them?
My mother so pretended that I was evil that she treated me that way. Did I in turn so pretend that my children were lovable that I treat them THAT way? If this is so, then this is another area I mimic my mother! I can say this at this moment because I cannot say that internally I KNOW anything right now. That is, interestingly enough, exactly the stance that Bateman advises therapists’ to maintain when working with BPDs – a stance of not knowing.
This takes me back full circle to something I thought about last summer. The opposite of acceptance is rejection. In the natural order of things, either a mother accepts her offspring or she rejects it. In taking either of these two possible actions, the mother is, in fact, acting on behalf of her species. If she does reject by NOT accept the offspring, in all but the most unlikely circumstances that offspring will cease to exist.
Being accepted by one’s mother – NOT being rejected by one’s mother – means that an infant can “go-on-being.” It means to the infant that it belongs, on a most fundamental level. And from that initial belonging will come all other belongings.
Every person, so I am told, has good and bad within them. Some could say, however, that humans are essentially bad or essentially good so that the opposite quality would be an illusion. In my case, in considering what happened to me being born to my particular mother, is that these “opposites” of good and bad were at polar opposition to one another and initiated a dynamic in my body-brain-mind-self (in my being) that necessitated that I be formed with this opposition implanted clearly within me.
The opposition that biology has established for our beings is one that occurs within first our nervous system between “stop and go” and “approach and avoid.” This is about arousal levels of energy and about value and meaning. Extremes are not a good thing because they are not life enhancing.
The essential crux of the matter is about degrees of deviation from homeostatic equilibrium. Even if our “point of balance” and therefore our “tipping point” are not in exact alignment with the established (secure) norm or average, if we have continued to “go-on-being” then at least the fundamental aim has been accomplished.
But our comfort level can be way off from center and we probably won’t even recognize this fact because if we were abused from birth, our existing center point, as it is, is all that we have ever known.
But whatever our center point is, all of our actions are geared toward keeping it the way it is, and restoring ourselves back to that point if we become “upset.” It’s no different that a rocking boat. People who continue to maintain nearly constant turmoil in their lives do so because they perceive that state to be their point of equilibrium.
Primitive emotions, as they arise from the nervous system in the beginning, are experienced as either positive or negative. But TOO much positive affects the nervous system the same was as if it were entirely negative. Depending on the nature of the experiences we had as our brain and nervous system formed, we will either be geared toward the middle norm, or biased toward the positive “go” or the negative “slow” side of the ANS. Our comfort level in the present will tell us which direction our bias is leaning. We were built that way partly through genetics, but entirely through the interactions we had with our early environment, which WAS the quality of caregiving we received from infancy as our brains, formed.
Once we recognize our mid-point and our ANS bias, how do we change it, if it can be changed at all? We are not talking about the equivalent of software here. We are talking about hardwiring, about hardware. And brains cannot be transplanted. An operating system forms from birth, as does the hardware and then the software.
A concern for “how I am” is the same as a concern for “who I am.” One cannot be divorced from the other. My mother did not care how I felt, and from that she did not care who I was. It is all tangled up for me in how I feel being rejected, abandoned, unwanted, unloved by Ernie as he disappears for the weekend to be with a woman he obviously much prefers over me. It really hurts me, because he is the one I love and want to be with. The hardest part is how deeply this hits on my essential belief that he does not love me because I am not lovable – that it is not a possibility for him to love me because at my essence I am not lovable. THAT is entirely my problem.
For me as an infant and as a child, the situation was hopeless. She had entirely, completely and absolutely projected the “bad” and “evil” part of her own internal reality onto me. There were no contingencies for me, no glimmer of hope for reprieve. There was neither an “IF,” nor a “sometimes” in the reality that my mother created for the place I had in her life. Nor did I have even a glimmer of my own “self” that could take any action at all to change any part of my reality.
My mother came out of her early traumatic experiences with some sort of self, albeit an extremely fragmented one, that had a belief down deep that “if she could only” do something differently, change herself, she would be loved. She had at least an inkling of empowerment, even if it was illusionary (which became delusionary). But my mother lost herself in the process of manipulating the external world “as if” it were an extension of her internal reality. Her self existed, but was so fragmented that could not tell the difference between inside and outside. Her self became an entirely confused and deluded puppet master.
I, on the other hand, had no conception that any kind of contortion was possible by which I could change anything either in myself or in the external world to either make myself better or make “things” better. I had never experienced love, therefore had no sense of what “being lovable” was. I didn’t even know, on any personal level, that love was a possibility. I did not get a self, so I had no puppet master.
And what happens when the infant learns very early on NOT TO CRY and NOT TO SCREAM? What happens when the infant makes that connection, that when it makes any sound at all the consequences of what happens to it THEN are even more devastating? A lack of crying would not be a sign of dissociation. It would be a sign of intelligence.
I feel as though my re-searching thus far in the process of writing this book has brought me finally to an edge, if not to THE edge. I am at the edge of the pool, about to bend my neck and look down to see what it is that reflects back to me from that still surface of the pool. This is a narcissistic search, then. How could a search to love one’s self be otherwise?
When one looks into a mirror, or at any surface capable of mirroring back a reflection, we are ALWAYS seeing our self in reverse. [Does this have something to do with mirror neurons in our brains?] Even the mythical man named Narcissus did not fall in love with himself when he saw his reflection in the pool. He fell in love with his reflection, which was in reality a backwards, reversed reflection of who he was. Not only was it his reflection, it was the opposite – in opposition to his true self.
Any external projection from within ourselves that we do onto someone outside of ourselves we will then see as a reflection, backwards to that which holds the true essence from within ourselves. Only from within our self can we incorporate and integrate that which is not in the inverse position. It must be a matter of perspective. We juxtapose life against death. Good against bad. We separate and distinguish things by how they show differences. But we also categorize by how things are like and similar and the same.
I started out writing this book to find out why I did not abuse my children as my mother abused me. The entire journey has shown me how similar she and I are, not how different. And yet the outcome of what happened to us has been different, so the input at the beginning had to be different as well. Yet it remains a process of distinguishing degrees from one another – quality and quantity, but not KIND.
She formed my brain and psyche and mind to operate in the same manner and fashion hers did, through dissociation and projection. Yet her mode of functioning was so terribly violent and hurtful. Mine has been to lack and suffer on the inside. Hers was to project those feelings outwards until the end, when there were no more others to enact with, and she suffered and died alone a terrible and miserable death.
So what is this really about? If one assumed that the fact is that humans are basically ‘good natured.’ Any horrible acts that we enact are then distortions, illusions, perpetrated through pathological damage done to us and through ignorance. That would mean that my mother’s alien hatefulness that she projected onto me was an illusion. On the other hand, however, my alien lovableness that I project out is REAL. It was not destructive because it is a part of nature, a part of the natural world, a part of the natural order of the universe. It is pro life and therefore constructive, not pro disintegration and destruction. One destructs. The other constructs. What the pathology I share with my mother did to both of us, however, is to rob us of our birthright – the right to a coherent internal self-structure. THAT is where the pain is because the PROCESS is about overwhelming trauma.
Maybe it’s like I was the echo of my mother’s badness. She kept sending her badness, her echo, out there to get “stuck” in me so it wouldn’t come back to her. She tried to old onto and keep her own voice, her own lovableness.
So I did not become myself. I became my mother’s echo without my own voice. I kept my mother’s echo, a sense of my own worthlessness, and sent my voice out there, my lovableness out there. Maybe once that voice was out there, some of the echo came back to me in the form of having these people I tried to love REALLY love me in return. Only I could not feel their love because my own lovableness was out there.
Maybe our voice is our goodness and the echo is our badness.
Maybe it is not so much a process where people like my mother send out their badness, or the horrible parts they cannot integrate or accept within themselves simply because they cannot tolerate those particular aspects. Maybe it’s more about them trying to keep their goodness intact, and they cannot see or find a way to do that if there is a chance there is any badness in them that will contaminate it.
So they try to send the echo of their badness out there onto others so that they can keep their good voice. Maybe it is that they cannot integrate their good and bad – a belief that if there is ANY bad the good is cancelled out.
Maybe that happens when there has been terrible inconsistency in their infant development when sometimes they were loved and sometimes they were hated. So they decided if they could get rid of all the badness inside of them they would have control of it so that they would be loved. If someone hates you you feel hated. If someone tells you they don’t love you because you are bad and if you were not bad they would love you more often. Simple mathematics. You love me only when I am good and not bad, then I better be good and not bad more often. But we don’t know that it isn’t true, that our being good or bad does not have anything to do with whether or not those people out there love us or not. But we think we DID cause it, so we better be able to fix the situation, which means we better find a way to control and manipulate the situation by controlling or manipulating ourselves.
My mother had felt loved at some point. She therefore had a deep sense, an internal fundamental belief that she was DESERVING of love, that she was lovable and “deservable.” I did not have that experience. I therefore evolved a different method of operating than she did. She thought if she could get rid of the bad parts she would and could get the love back.
I never knew that was a possibility. I had no recognition of the lovable parts of myself, so they were ALWAYS out there and not inside of me.
This happens before we know that others can have false beliefs and so can we. It happens when we are not far away from literal mode and pretend mode thinking. It happens right at the threshold when we are supposed to be able to integrate the two and come up with the third mode, mentalizing.
So, with my mother, it happened because she knew the difference. She had at some point experienced enough love from someone that she knew what it was to be loved. She knew what the presence of love felt like.
Which left her open and vulnerable to knowing what the absence of love felt like when it was withheld or withdrawn.
Which makes me think that the “It” child also knew this. But I believe he had an advantage my mother did not have. He had an adequate developmental scenario birth until at least age 4 or 5 when the love disappeared.
I do not believe that my mother ever even had this. I believe she was damaged and vulnerable due to abuse and neglect way before age 5 when the great losses that she could EXPERIENCE directly occurred. “It” had working usable tools to use in his kit when his mother went bonkers. My mother’s tools were already damaged, missing and inadequate when her huge ADDITIONAL losses manifested. When her mother divorced, her nanny disappeared, her father disappeared, her grandfather and her uncle died. (I also think that at least one of these important figures in her life had sexually molested her before the age of 5).
Yet the bottom line has to be for all of us that the processes that are put into effect through early maltreatment, neglect and trauma are ultimately destructive to the people that experience it. The processes are distortions of natural processes that are meant to facilitate life. They are ADAPTATIONS to extenuating circumstances. They are alternative routes and pathways to survival. But they do not, in effect, allow for the healthiest possible functioning. They are detours to an end, but they are at times virtually so difficult that they are impassable.
And how this all fits in with the primitive, primary mental modes of functioning – the psychic equivalent mode and the pretend mode – I still need to explore and understand. Yet I am quite sure that according to damage, people can either never leave these modes in the first place, never even get to a developmental stage of integration and then to mentalizing, or people under stress, distress, and duress simply revert BACK to these modes. And when they revert back to the primary primitive mode of pretend mental functioning, we call it DENIAL. Believe me, denial is something more than we have even imagined it to be.
Our ability to assign and evaluate meaning becomes altered, as does our ability to focus our attention. Our resulting actions and behaviors are therefore altered through this process.
And when a person has been so damaged that self-love is impossible to even partially let alone fully achieve, the underlying modes of functioning will be anti-life. They will not allow a person to take care of themselves in the way that they need to because they do not know HOW to love themselves. It has to have something to do with a sense or awareness or knowledge of what we DESERVE – something that is not clear to me yet. Deserving is something that is still confusing to me. I of course did not deserve to be merely an external representational recipient for the alien terrible aspects of my mother’s alien self that she projected onto me.
If one has never had the experience of being loved, then there would be nothing in the brain to connect any experience even related to love to. That person, who has never attached, might never have that experience. They are completely alone, as I was growing up – and may still be today. Yet with Ernie I think I felt that glimmering of “deserving to be loved.” And that is what I am afraid he is withdrawing from me now.
A person has to first have the experience of being loved and feeling that being loved. The second stage would be associating that feeling of being loved with the higher-order belief that we deserve to be loved.
So the essence of the matter must have something to do with being loved, and from that evolving a sense of deserving to be loved. Once one knows that they deserve to be loved because they know that at one point they did feel loved, then the cause and effect thinking about this would be, “If I was loved once it was because I deserved to be loved. I must have done something bad, or have something bad in me know that makes me NOT deserve to be loved. So if I can get rid of that bad thing, they will love me again.”
If my suspicion is accurate, then the line that separated what resulted for me from what resulted for my mother was that she had once felt loved and lovable and therefore moved to the good-deserving-love stage. I had never felt loved, so I did not move to the good-deserving-love stage. Right there is where our paths diverged. She had to project out and get rid of her bad so she would deserve love and be lovable again. I didn’t know what love was, so I never knew what love was or that I deserved it and I had never felt lovable, never took into myself any part of being lovable in the first place.
I had no concept of love, therefore no concept of being lovable. Therefore I had no concept of deserving love. Any deserving construct or concept I had was connected only to being bad and deserving pain (bad-deserving-hate stage). My mother knew better as a child. Really, the way things turned out, that was unfortunate!
So, as sis Cindy says, even if the HOW of this is that some of us heading down the road of life find that all four of our tires are flat and mired in the snow or mud so that we cannot move, that HOW affects the WHAT resulting next. Mother and my “hows” were similar within degrees, but the what happened at the end came out differently. That is what I am exploring next.
THE ADAPTING MIND: DISORGANIZED ATTACHMENT AS AN EXAMPLE OF IMPAIRED INTEGRATION
“…the parents of children with disorganized attachments have provided frightened, frightening [big difference!], or disorienting shifts in their own behavior, which create conflictual experiences leading to incoherent mental models. Such children may develop an internal mental model for each aspect of the parent’s behavior. Abrupt shifts in parental state force the child to adapt with suddenly shifting states of his own. Such state shifts may occur if the nature of these experiences is profoundly incompatible with attachment and/or if the child is neurobiologically capable of intense dissociative processes. (siegle/tdm/317)”
[This has something to do with, to me, the nature of peritrauma – where being in the midst of trauma creates dissociation by itself. Let us assume this is happening from birth. What are the options?]
With frequent experiences, the child can rapidly enter “altered states” to meet the interactive demands of the parent’s sudden shifts in behavior. When such shifts are early, severe, and repeated, these states can become engrained in the child as self-states [and engrained into their brains]. The child both learns the processes of abrupt, dissociate state shifting and develops specific self-states that can be activated in response to specific external context cues. The results of these internal state shifts can be that the child may come to develop several forms of attachment with the parent: some avoidant, some ambivalent, some disorganized, and perhaps even some secure. These can be considered nonintegrated working models of attachment. (siegel/tdm/317)”
Wouldn’t an adult exhibiting this be put in the “cannot classify” category?
“The quality of the relationship between the parent and child may thus vary significantly across repeated clusters of interactive experiences. Parent and child may enter various forms of “dyadic states” characterized by unique communication styles. A parent who disavows the existence of certain dyadic states (such as during periods of terrifying a child), without later repairing and reconnecting after such ruptured connections, will promote dissociative adaptations. (siegel/tdm/317)”
“A parent with unresolved trauma or loss may enter trance-like states that are frightening to a child but are unrecognized and unacknowledged by the parent. Such state shifts lead to disconnections in attunement, which, if left unrepaired, can lead the child to have profoundly disturbing underlying feelings of shame and humiliation. (siegle/tdm/317)”
“Some individuals have experienced secure attachments with certain caregivers and disorganized ones with others. In such cases, iso- (siegel.tdm.317) lation of the attuned dyadic states may maintain high functioning within self-systems that have reflective functioning [such as the one I developed with John], as well as the capacity to integrate a coherent sense of self across the self-states within that securely attached clustered system. [wouldn’t this be related to earned attachment abilities?] The AAI narratives of such persons may reveal an integrated coherence that on the surface appears to be highly functional. This is revealed in coherent stories about limited parts of the persons; lives. When certain psychosocial contexts, moments of stress, or less integrated subsystems emerge, then integration, reflective functioning, and narrative coherence may become impaired. (siegel/tdm/318)”
“In the narratives and lives of less well-functioning individuals [compared to the secure folks, this is sure relative!], there may be a more generalized absence of any such reflective or integrative capacity, as a result of their more pervasive insecure attachment histories. These individuals may have had no developmental experience of interactive communication, [I had this with John] which would have promoted such abilities. These individuals may have more difficulty utilizing internal or interpersonal resources, and thus have more marked impairments in their ability to cope with stress and to self-organize. (siegel/tdm/318)”
This is where the major difference. I believe, is between my mother and myself – along with genetic predisposition factors and my strength, drive and stamina. I had my good brother. She had a bad one. I lived in a small enough house I could listen and hear things. I don’t think she did. In a very distant way, I had a father and a grandmother that loved me. I don’t know if she saw much of her parents or grandparents before she was 2 – and being raised by a nanny – and probably not a nice one –
Now I think I know more about how the homestead helped me – yes, I could say that I was attached to it, but it wasn’t a person! The fact that no people were there was a good thing because I developed an aversion to them anyway. But what DID happen is that I had an organized state of mind around the homestead. It was an organizational factor for many of my states of mind, and many states of mind that I could experience as being continuous and linked together over time. I think it also helped to find the book, Heidi, because in that story I could then link my homestead state of mind to one that someone else had – looking back, if not to a person of Heidi, then at least to a person who had to know what the state of mind of loving a mountain was like in order to write that book.
I probably did that same thing with Cinderella, the Little Match Girl, and with Jane Eyre. These stories gave me an option. They allowed me to link some of my states of mind together into a cohesiveness that could at least be achieved up to the level of those stories. Maybe that is part of what stories and myths and legends do for all of us at some level and in some way. We can form a link to a larger “mind” through knowing those stories and just knowing that they exist.
“Giovanni Liotti has proposed that several different trajectories are possible in the setting of disorganized attachment. If parental behavior becomes more predictable later in a child’s life, even in the non-nurturing direction, then the child may minimize the conflict among the mental models of attachment that have been developed in the context of the abrupt and confusing shifts in the parent’s behavior. In the case of a parent’s becoming more predictable, then, the child may “settle” on one model or another. (siegel/tdm/318)”
“If the parent continues to exhibit disorienting behaviors, but these are not overly traumatizing, the child may develop the potential for future dissociation, especially under conditions of stress. (siegel/tdm/318)” [I wonder if this doesn’t in some way apply to Ernie and the dissociated states he has between women and with his work – he just didn’t get it as bad as I did, yet it is still pretty obvious if I look at it in this light. My brain developed under conditions of dissociation with someone who dissociated all of the time – with Ernie, as he dissociates his states of mind, I am again faced with falling into those cracks where I do not exist, where our relationship does not exist – and those are places of fundamental aloneness. Ruptures in attachment become ruptures between states of mind. He can dismiss me and I disappear]
“A third pathway suggested by Liotti is that if the parent’s behavior remains severely traumatizing and chronic, then the disorganized attachment may evolve into a dissociative disorder. At the extreme of this spectrum is dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder). (siegel/tdm/318)”
I think that part of what happened to me is that I somehow did not learn or develop the ability to have the INAUTHENTIC self — just lots of dissociations without the assistance of one that can help me deal with the public or work professionally. Does this have something to do with the “self” that was so devoted to being alone on the mountain, as well as to the “selves” that were so isolated and alone all of the rest of the time?
“Elizabeth Carlson, working with the Minnesota Parent-Child Project, has provided longitudinal support for Liotti’s proposal that children with disorganized attachments are predisposed to develop clinical symptoms of dissociation later in life. This, combined with the finding that dissociation itself puts those who experience stressful events at risk of developing clinical posttraumatic stress disorder, suggests that disorganized attachment experiences early in life may lead to inadequate coping mechanisms and impaired interactive capacities. This vulnerability, in turn, makes these individuals less (siegle/tdm/318) likely to be able to resolve trauma or grief, if such stressors are encountered later in life. In disorganized attachments, the core of the self remains fractured. As Ogawa and colleagues have stated,
Self, in fact, refers to the integration and organization of diverse aspects of experience, and dissociation can be defined as the failure to integrate experience….When experience is acknowledged and accepted, integration inevitably follows, because the self cannot help seeking meaning and coherence from experience. When experience is dissociated, however, integration is not possible, and to the extent that dissociation prevails, there is fragmentation of the self. A coherent, well-organized self depends on integration, and thus psychopathological dissociation represents a threat to optimal development of the self.
For the child with disorganized attachment, in other words, relationship experiences have severely hampered the developmental acquisition of the capacity to achieve coherence. The segmentation of mental processes becomes an engrained process itself: dissociation. (seigel/tdm/319)”
DISORGANIZATION (disorganized / disoriented attachment)
“…a fourteen-month-old boy who wants to climb onto a table with a lamp on it. One possible parental response would be to…become enraged and throw the lamp to the floor next to the boy, to teach him never to do that again. (siegel/tdm/282)”
all one para
“In the fourth pattern, the child’s behavior elicits a rageful parental response, producing terror in the child.
This is not simply the child’s fear of consequences, but a fear for safety induced by the attachment figure.
The child’s adaptation to this suddenly induced fear state (high levels of both sympathetic and parasympathetic discharge) is a conflictual one: The accelerator and the brakes are being applied simultaneously. This is an example of a disorganized form of attachment.
The parent, often with unresolved trauma or loss…may unintentionally and unknowingly be providing the child with a set of responses that are disorienting and disorganizing.
As an attachment figure, such a parent has become a source of fear and confusion, not of safety and security. The intense and frightening moments of disconnection with the parent remain unrepaired.
As the parent disappears into rage, the child becomes lost in terror.
These disorganizing and disorienting experiences become an essential part of how the child learns to self-regulate behavior and emotional states. [They are NOT learning to regulate…..this is the state that siegel has elsewhere described as one having no resolution, no organized adaptation strategy possible}
The child has the double insult of being engulfed in confusion and terror induced by the parent, and of losing the relationship with an attachment figure that might have provided a safe haven and sense of security. [Unless the parent has always treated the child this way, and the child has never had a safe haven…..or if the child has seen the parent in public as a different parent—what then?] (siegel/tdm/284)” [Siegel is still not, even here, presenting the worst case scenario!]
(all one paragraph below)
“Unresolved parental trauma or loss can lead to disorganized/disoriented attachment, which is a much more chaotic form of dyadic system than either avoidant or ambivalent attachment. (siegel/tdm/294)”
“For the person who has experienced disorganized attachment [or does so in the present!], the experience of parental fear or fear-inducing behavior has often been associated with the parent’s lack of resolution of trauma or loss. That is, the incoherence of the parent’s life narrative has been behaviorally injected into the child’s experience by way of the parent’s own disturbance in self-organization and the resultant dysregulated states and disorienting actions. (seigel/tdm/294)”
“These parental behaviors, which are incompatible with providing a sense of safety and cohesion, are “biological paradoxes” and directly impair the developing child’s affect regulation, shifts in states of mind, and integrative and narrative functions. The result is that the child enters repeated chaotic states of mind. (siegel/tdm/294)”
“From a dynamical point of view, these can be considered “strange attractor states” – neural net configurations [as in states of mind] that are widely distributed throughout the system and that have become engrained, repeated states of dissociated and dysfunctional activation. (siegel/tdm/294)”
[Oh, great! Isn’t this just a lovely legacy! I should be grateful that siegel at least included the above (all one) paragraph devoted to the demise of the absolutely innocent infant under worst case influences!]
above all copied into dissociation notes 6