+SIEGEL ON ADULT UNRESOLVED ATTACHMENTS

Chapter twenty five 25

8-27-6

Unresolved adult attachments

To be revised

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As I write and do my reading, I have to realize that down deep inside myself I already know my own truth and my own reality.  The trouble is that I don’t know what this is.  Not yet.  I can’t mirror this information within my own mind to myself.  I can only trust that I will find in the very complicated and technical neurobiological texts that I am reading the words and concepts that will “ring the bell” for me.  And at those points, when the external concepts are being mirrored back to me, the concepts that deeply resonate with what I know inside myself are discovered, that they will open the channels within myself and shine a light in that deep darkness.

From their words, my words will be born.  “In the beginning the word was with God, and the word was God.”  We cannot speak our own reality until we separate the words from ourselves.  Tease the words out of the fleece of our inner reality, as it were, like burrs and thistles enmeshed in the fleece of our minds.

Let no one ever think that this isn’t painstaking and excruciating work.  It is like performing brain-mind surgery on myself.  I am looking for the “27 points of darkness” within me, like in the dream of healing I had many years ago.  I am seeking and searching for those 27 points with every minute I spend on this task.

I must apply myself today, to focus on this work, because tomorrow I will be interrupted by ten long hours of work at the factory.

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I am beginning with Siegel’s work page 110 on unresolved adult attachment.  Adults will demonstrate “marked disorganization and disorientation in reasoning or discourse during attempted discussions of lorr[???] or abuse” during the AAI.  Most often these adult states are connected not just to their own past history of trauma and abuse, but more importantly to the fact that these experiences remain “unresolved.”  They are still within the individual as a collection of mysteries.

And it is not just a feeling of sadness, or a display of other appropriate emotions while discussing past traumas and losses that would mean that they remain unresolved.  These reactions could be considered “normal or ordinary.”  Siegel clarifies what characteristics delineate problematic unresolved trauma from experiences of trauma that are resolved.

“…unresolved trauma or loss is defined as being reflected in a disruption in the representation processes necessary for coherent discourse.  We can propose that the mind’s ability to integrate various aspects of representations within memory into a coherent whole is impaired in unresolved states.  The orbitofrontal cortex can be hypothesized to be playing a central role in such impairments in integration.  Abrupt shifts in state of mind, intrusive “dissociated” elements of implicit and explicit memory, transient blockages in the capacity to carry out collaborative social communication, and difficulty maintaining a fluid flow in consciousness across these processes may be at the root of unresolved states of mind….( TDM/111)”

Using my mother again for a reference point , I would suggest that we would have to go back to consider all the early infant traumas of her life to be able to find where the “disruption in the representation processes necessary for coherent discourse” took place.  By the time the crucial first brain ability to connect past to present for an infant occurred for my mother at around nine months of age, something was for her as terribly wrong as it was for me by that age.  Peritrauma had distorted this process.

I don’t yet know if such an infant is even able to create mental representations, or virtual others in their minds if peritrauma is their constant reality.  And if they cannot or do not do this at this crucial development stage, then the connection within the brain that ties past to present may not have been made, either.  I suggest that this a case when new developmental abilities of the brain that are not used simply disappear.  At the very least, there is a distortion of this process that carries severe consequences for the future development of the infant’s brain-mind-self.

Siegel continues:

“…it is unresolved loss, not loss itself, which leads to disorganized infant response patterns.  Lack of resolution of traumatic events or loss from the past directly affects emotional experience….Unresolved trauma or grief creates pain and suffering in both these individuals and their children;  for this reason, helping people resolve trauma and grief is of vital importance for present and future generations.  Failure to identify lack of resolution can permit dysfunction to continue across the generations within the devastating effects of disorganized attachment.  Again, these children have a marked inability to regulate emotional responses and the flow of states of mind establishing a tendency toward dissociation, disruptive behaviors, impairments in attention and cognition, and compromised coping capacities, as well as a vulnerability toward posttraumatic stress disorder.  (ibid)”

Taking Siegel’s comment, “it is unresolved loss, not loss itself, which leads to disorganized infant response patterns” to the next level, we can directly say that the peritraumatized infant, who is a disorganized infant, then is especially at risk for carrying their “unresolved loss” within them into their adulthood, and then through them it is directly presented as a “gift” to their children, so that they, too, carry “…unresolved loss, not loss itself, which leads to disorganized infant response patterns” for their children.

It is the nature of peritrauma’s affect on the developing infant brain, as well as the fact that everyone’s brain has limited abilities during infancy due to its need to grow and develop through these infant, that it is NOT POSSIBLE for infants to “resolve” their traumatic experiences.  True, they have been recorded within the infant as implicit memory (never available for conscious recall), and formed the brain’s structure,  and impacted the functioning of the brain during these crucial stages.  It is also a fact that “unresolved trauma or grief creates pain and suffering.”

Using this “model” we cannot intelligently give an infant yet another “paradoxical injunction” by suggesting that it should be able to resolve its own trauma when it has no possible ability to do it!!  Let’s be realistic, and not be afraid to face the true facts.  Infants are left not only with

(1)   the pain and terror of their original traumatic experiences, they are also left with

(2)    the “pain and suffering” that the unresolved trauma has created for them – and that they will carry with them the rest of their lives. Add to this the fact that not only do they now have the original pain, and then the amplified pain, but they also have the

(3)    great “pain and suffering” that comes also from the fact there was nothing they could do to prevent the trauma in the first place or

(4)   to escape from it, and then add the “pain and suffering” they also experience because

(5)    they possess no ability to resolve it!  We can also add the fact that

(6)    the infant peritrauma experience being recorded within the growing structure of their brain is causing brain-mind damage,

(7)    that not only was there nobody there to protect them, but it is those very people who SHOULD have protected them that are terrorizing and traumatizing them, and

(8)    that the experiences are being recorded implicitly and therefore will be with them without the possibility of conscious recall, impacting them on emotional, perceptual, behavioral levels in an “automatic” fashion, for the rest of their lives, and then add the fact that

(9)    they have been overwhelmed by a continual flood of “poisonous” hormones and chemicals that cause toxic reactions and damage the very growing membranes, structures, and neurons within their developing and growing brains and bodies.  We can also add the fact that

(10)  very often there is no intervention and the children are left their entire childhoods enduring the conditions, and

(11)   that nobody truly wants to know about the nature of their peritraumatic experiences, or

(12)   even admit that it is possible that this level of chronic infant abuse causing peritraumatic damage even happens, and

(13)   as long as it is ignored and denied, nobody is describing the nature of the damage or finding a way to heal it, and

(14)  these people, as adults, have no “self” and remain completely and totally alone with it, and without the ABILITY to ever attach to anyone in the future.

(15)  and that everyone acts surprised when they cannot live an “ordinary” or “normal” life, and blames them for their troubles, while refusing to admit or acknowledge that something unusual and “extra-ordinary” might have happened to them as a result of the damage done to them by the experiences of trauma that they – somehow – endured, and

(16)  certainly nobody talks about the actual BRAIN DAMAGE they have as a result, and the mind damage they have from the trauma wounds inflicted upon them, and

(16)  certainly nobody congratulates them for the super-human job they have done by ever surviving their terribly traumatic childhood in the first place, or

(17)    decorates them as “war heroes” when they manage anything like a semblance of a “normal” life or raise their own children they best that they can with love and care, and

(18)    who cared about the welfare of these infants in the first place, and who cares about them NOW?

Is it any wonder that these infants, when they grow into adults, cannot help but transmit some aspects of their own sufferings to their offspring, no matter how hard they may try not to?  How, in the name of anything right or sacred, could it be any other way??

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Siegel states about adults with unresolved trauma and grief that creates a disorganized state of mind, that they often display in their narrative life stories an (unexplained) tendency to shift words that refer to time senses – using past tense to talk about the future and/or present tenses to talk about past events.  He states that their incoherent discourse patterns reflect an incomplete processing of experiences in the mind.  (I would suggest that as the mind is an extension of the brain, these time discrepancies are implanted there, as well.)

Siegel also notes that a parent’s unstable and conflictual mental models, demonstrated in their “abrupt shifts” of state of mind, impact their ability to parent their children because, as we have seen, their own brain and mind’s development was interfered with during their own infant stages:

“A young infant, attempting to make sense of the world, is particularly vulnerable to a parent who has abrupt shifts in his own state of mind.  These states are primarily functions of the internal processes of unresolved trauma or grief, rather than directly contingent and hence predicable responses to the child’s own behavior.  The child’s capacity to anticipate the parent’s behavior is severely impaired, and expectations, mediated via mental models, cannot be created in an organized manner.  As the two individuals interact, the child’s state attempts to align with the shifting sands of the parent’s rapid changes.  With these noncontingent shifts, the child’s mind may be unable to develop smooth transitions and will continue to have abrupt and at times chaotic shifts in state, which are ordinarily seen primarily during the first year of life.  States of mind begin to have significantly smoother transitions by the second year unless mitigating factors, such as frightening or conflictual parental responses prevent this developmental milestone.  Furthermore, the child may begin to take on a disorganized state as a learned, engrained, repeated pattern of neuronal activations.  The child learns to recreate the parent’s incoherent behavior by attuning to the chaotic shifts in the parental state. (Siegel/tdm/ 112-113)”

Imbedded within Siegel’s text is a very important concept for us to remember.  During its first year of life an infant’s mind is not capable of making “smooth transitions” on its own because its brain has not developed the ability to do so.  From Siegel’s description we can see, rather, that during its first year of life it is normal for an infant to “primarily” experience “at times chaotic shifts in state” because the infant cannot regulate or moderate these “chaotic shifts” in its own states of.  While a state of chaos is appropriate for newborn and young infant minds, the infant is also completely dependent on the quality and nature of the mirroring interactions it has with its attentive and attuned caregivers during its first year of life, to be able to begin to utilize within its own mind – using the abilities its developing brain is creating — the amazing ability to establish stability and order in the fluctuations of its own mental states.

During these crucial months of development, the growing infant brain is building the physical structures and functions it needs – and is dependent upon — to be able to create smooth mental transitions in its functioning not only in infancy, but throughout this individual’s entire life,.  These growth stages of the brain and mind are directly created through the quality of the experiences that the infant has over time with its caregivers.  Given “proper nutrition” through mind-to-mind interactions that are adequate with stable caregivers, the chaos of an infant’s brain-mind is supposed to “significantly” disappear by the second year of its life.

But what happens to an infant who does not receive care giving by an attentive and stable caregiver?   According to Siegel, “mitigating factors, such as frightening or conflictual parental responses prevent this developmental milestone [underlining is mine].”  What, then, can we expect to happen to and for an infant who was born into an environment of severe abuse and remains in the perpetual state of acute distress of peritrauma?  What if its caregivers not only amplify the infant’s already chaotic states of mind by abruptly, inconsistently, unpredictably and irrelevantly shifting their own chaotic states of mind frequently, but never respond to the infant’s own signals and never calm or sooth the infant?  And what if the caregiver hates the child and traumatizes it with direct and terrible harm?

What can it possibly MEAN that this “developmental milestone” is “prevented?”  These are not merely insignificant words printed on a page.  Do we HEAR what we are SAYING?  This isn’t a milestone that is like a tiny pebble in the pathway of human development that one might simply kick aside or step on without harm.  This isn’t a small stone that one might trip on and fall over, able to get up and continue down the road.  This is a necessary MILESTONE of immense proportion!

No, I am not blaming the parents who are so traumatizing their infants, such as my mother did me – parents who are so wounding infant bodies, infant brains, infant selves trying to be born, so wounding infant MINDS that the infant’s entire life will be harmed.  These parents experienced their own completely inadequate and traumatizing childhoods.  But if anyone is ever going to halt the progression of this plague of infant abuse peritrauma among us, SOMEBODY had better pay attention!

Given the right conditions, chaos might be a nice place to be born out of, but life is not supported by chaos.  It is supported and enhanced through order and stability.  If our orbit around our sun was an unstable and chaotic one?  Where would our planet be?  WHAT would it be?  Where would we be?

Common sense tells us that infants have chaotic minds that cannot make smooth transitions because if their heads were big enough before they were born to contain a fully developed brain, with all of its marvels of higher functioning abilities, they would kill themselves by killing their mothers far before they were ever born.  That’s just common sense.  But common sense also tells us that infants are crucially dependent on adequate care giving for the nurturing they need to continue to develop outside the womb.

This is NOT just physical care.  This is also MENTAL care.  This is the care that builds the brain-mind-self of an infant through the nutrition of the invisible flow of energy and information moving from caregiver to infant, and back again, like the sign of infinity.  If chaos rather than order is fed back to the infant by the caregiver, the infant’s own state of chaos will amplify.  It will not receive the nutritional information it needs to be able to stabilize the chaotic states of its mind and its brain will for chaotic connections and pathways rather than the “smooth” ones it needs for its further stable development and growth into adulthood

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The root of our word “trauma” is directly connected to the Greek word “wound.”  Our word “chaos” is directly connected to the Greek word “abyss.”  Our word “abyss” is connected in Greek to their word for “bottomless,” and has the definition of being “an immeasurably deep gulf or great space.”

When it is born, an infant’s brain functions in a complex fashion to regulate its physical state so that it can develop its brain, then its mind.  With the proper development of these two crucially connected aspects of the individual, a self will appear at the proper stage of development.  The original chaos of an infant’s mental capacities is supposed to evolve into a complex and organized, functioning whole.  If the needed conditions are not available to the infant to organize its mind, the early chaos of its existence will not organize itself correctly.

Chronic abuse to an infant is trauma that wounds it.  Because of this wound, the mental state of the infant will never truly leave the state of the “abyss” of chaos.  The self of the individual will not develop properly, and is left at the end of “an immeasurably deep gulf or great space.”  Professionals assume that even in cases where an infant’s primary caretaker is abuse or inadequate, that there are “secondary” caregivers in its life that will meet at least some of its needs.  We need to know that this is often NOT the case.  As I will develop within this book, my case was such a case.

CHAOS (15c) 1: CHASM:  ABYSS  2 a: a state of things in which chance is supreme, especially:  the confused unorganized state of primordial matter before the creation of distinct forms  b: a state of utter confusion  c: a confused mass or mixture.

There are not a lot of things in life that we would intentionally choose to leave to chance.  Certainly caring for newborn and tiny infants would not be one of them.  Yet as long as we choose to remain uninformed about and ignorant of the circumstances of severe infant abuse, that is exactly what we are doing.  I suggest that anything that comes to the assistance of these peritraumatized infants happens along merely through chance.  Their actual living environments are toxic, and will otherwise destroy their chance of developing a self and living with any quality of life.

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In returning to the writings of Siegel, we find him saying about the patterns of interactions with offspring that parents may have when they have not been able to resolve their own trauma and loss.

“…these parents may behave with fear or fear-inducing actions that are conflictual and confusing.  Their children cannot incorporate an organized approach to this behavior.(TDM/113)”

“Parental confusion, internal conflict, intrusive emotional memories, rapid shifts in state of mind, overt trance states in response to stress, and difficulty with their own and their children’s affect regulation are some of the fear-inducing and confusing parental elements that may directly produce disorganized/disoriented attachment in children.  (DM/113-114)”

Siegel goes on to explain how these parental behaviors reflect the parent’s own unresolved childhood trauma experiences.  He states, in part:

“Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to the physical orpsycholgoical integrity of the victim.  If the traumatizing individual is someone in a position of trust, such as a parent, relative, friend, or teacher, then the sense of betrayal can play an important role in the meaning of the experience(s).  (tdm/114)

According to Siegel, “implicit memory activations” can be released as a “cascade” so that parents become “flooded with an emotional response that rapidly” shifts states of mind.

“This sudden shift could be a sign of a discontinuous experience of the flow of consciousness – in other words, dissociation.  At times, such a shift might appear as the entrance into a frozen, trance-like state of mind.  At other times, this shift might reveal the sudden onset of explosive rage (tdm/115)”

Parents can, in certain situations, become “overwhelmed with implicit memories and suddenly {shift] into a childhood mental state filled with that old and all too familiar sense of rejection, fear, anger, and despair. (Ibid)” Such parents can, and do, experience an “avalanche” of emotions that can lead to dissociated states so that they behave in terrifying ways to their children – and to their infants.  Siegel is describing how parents can behave in ways they “would never ordinarily choose to do,” that they can literally go “out of control.”

  1. Except for her nearly continual reference to her fact that I tried to kill her at birth, that I was a curse upon her life, that I was evil, that I was the devil’s child.

From my point of view, such that I had, I accepted her state as a normal one.  Because I lived in her world, and she formed my mind, and even my brain through her interactions with me, what she said and what she did could never be questioned.  I never thought to ask.  There was no one TO ask.  And there was NOTHING to ask.  For my mother, there was no basis in fact for Siegel says when he says that parents can behave toward their offspring in ways they “would never ordinarily choose to do.”  There was no “ordinary” outside of the abuse.  The pauses were just that.  Pauses.  Therefore the continuous “ordinary” state of my existence was outside the ordinary.  It was traumatic, and I lived in peritrauma.  From the time I was born.

Siegel uses the example of a father who loses control and abuses his daughter, and states:

“This father’s repeated entry into these states of mind as a child had allowed these states to become engrained in his neural networks.  These were dreaded states, filled with shame and humiliation – painful, despairing, imprisoning and terrifying.  States of mind that are repeatedly activated can become traits of an individual.  The unresolved nature of this man’s traumatic experiences placed him at risk of uncontrolled entry into these dreaded states.  This disorganization in his internal experience was now directly shaping his interactions with his daughter, who in turn was beginning to experience the disorganization of her own internal world.  Therapeutic work with this family would require an understanding of these rapid shifts in states and their connection to patterns of relationships from the past.  If we can help those with unresolved trauma heal, then we can alter the cycle of intergenerational transmission of relationship disturbances – a cycle that produces and perpetuates devastating emotional suffering.(tdm/116).”

Siegel is describing a relationship between a father and a child old enough to “insist on things being done her way.”  He states that as a result of her father’s abuse, she began to “experience the disorganization of her own internal world.”  In the case of infant abuse and the state of peritrauma, the infant HAS NO organization of their own internal world.  What organization they get they get from interactions with caregivers, as has been stated.

So, again, we need to consider that abuse of a CHILD is not the same thing as abuse to an INFANT.  And even though child abuse is horrible and has the devastating effects on the individual that Siegel is describing, it is abuse to the INFANT that prevents the brain-mind-self of the infant from developing in anything like a normal way from the beginning of its life.  With infants there are the gravest consequences that nobody seems willing to openly consider and discuss.  When the kind of abuse Siegel is describing happens to an infant, whose mind has never had a chance to organize, the chaos of the natural state becomes permanent.  And when the chaos becomes permanent, as it seemed to be in my mother’s case, there is no intermittent break, and no internal brake on that kind of parent’s behaviors.

Siegel described how a “sudden shift could be a sign of a discontinuous experience of the flow of consciousness – in other words, dissociation” in the case of this girl’s father.  But in my mother’s approach to me, the sudden shifts were nearly continual.  This, to me, reflected the fact that she never had a “continuous experience of the flow of consciousness” in the first place.  I don’t think any one of my siblings could say that they ever saw my mother in THIS state.

If she indeed endured peritraumatic infant abuse, this would be the case.  Without a self she never had a flow of consciousness.  And without the self’s consciousness, there IS NO DISOCIATION.  The state of chaos caused by the wounds of trauma, which meant her brain was damaged in such a way that the infantile state of constant chaos STAYED that way, placed her in permanent chaos, on the edge of the abyss – standing on  the event horizon of her life and selfhood, at the edge of “an immeasurably deep gulf or great space.”

THIS is the damage of infant abuse.  The girl Siegel is writing about had enough of a self that he would say she began “to experience the disorganization of her own internal world.”  That meant she had enough of her infantile needs met that she HAD some semblance of an organized internal world in the first place.  The father must have had enough of a self, also, that he could recognize on some level that he WAS out-of-control, and reflect on some level that it was in contrast to his desired state of being-in-control.  My mother did not appear to even have that.  And looking back over the eighteen years of my childhood, I realize that I barely did, either.

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