NOTES on Damasio The Feeling of What Happens
It is not enough for you to tell us, “Oh, I know what is wrong with you. You have PTSD.” It’s not even enough if you tell us, “Oh, I see now more clearly. You have early onset PTSD.” That’s about as useful as saying to somebody, “I told you so.”
We need to know more. A lot more. And if you, the professionals and the experts, are not going to tell us what we need to know – honestly, because you don’t know it either – then it is up to us, those of us who have suffered from the time we were born – to find our own answers, and then for us to tell ourselves, tell one another, tell each other, and to tell YOU what the truth really is about “what condition our condition is in.”
I don’t know anything. I’m just the one with the question. A whole lot of questions. A lifetime of questions. (Damasio says our consciousness questions are not asked until we already have the information we need to answer them).
Cindy asked me yesterday when will I know the research is completed so that I can start the outline and the book? I told her it would be when I knew enough about myself and what happened to me that all my questions about myself were answered.
Those of us who ever seek help from professional counselors or therapists need to know that we do so as much to get answers so that we even know what the questions are that we are asking as we do to “get help.” I really do not believe they know the answers because they don’t know the right questions to ask, either. We have to clarify and delineate and ask and then search for the answers to our OWN questions.
“What is “wrong” with me? How am I different from normals, and why? What happened to me that has caused me to be what I am – and where is the “who” of me?
I know that it is significant that I was not truly conscious by the time I left home at 18. This is not something anybody else but me knows about myself.
I cannot write my story until I understand how I was back then for the first 18 years of my life. I do not believe that I had a self as is usually defined or recognized. And because I know that, if I know nothing else, this is where the crack appears in the solid stone wall of this cave that I was forced to enter when I was born, and where I have been ever since – and where I, and others like myself, will truly be until the day we die, unless we can find the way out.
My mental fingers claw and scratch away now at that crack in the wall. Anything like lose dirt must be pried and scraped and picked away. Anything like lose rubble that gives from the inside, small stones and pebbles that I can send clattering and scattering down the wall until piles of rubble grow at my feet that I can kick and push away – or use to stand on as I work ever deeper from the inside of this mountain outward. Deeper and deeper into the wall, the crack is growing and getting larger.
But when I transpose myself to the world outside the mountain, which I know how to do because there has been no other way I have found to continue to subsist-exist (even though I am leaving within the cave who I TRULY am), and when I try to make a connection “out there” with anyone in the “regular” world that I think might understand what I am trying to learn and that perhaps could assist me – I am met with people who basically still understand that the world is flat and forever will be.
They do not and cannot understand from this inside out.
So I return to my solitary work with the words of the researchers and clinicians who each of a small piece that I need, who give me yet another sharp edged stone I can hold in my hands to chip away at the crack from the inside of me. Widening, deepening.
My siblings and children have appeared now and then beside me in this cave, to visit, to stand beside me and listen as I tell them what it’s been like to be sealed alone in here all of my life. They have given me support, assistance, encouragement, understanding, compassion and their love.
My dear sister Cindy has stayed in this cave with me the longest and has learned a new process of being in the world with her children and her grandchildren. She has acquired a new light of understanding, awareness and knowledge about the development of the human brain and the human being from birth, and she watches and assists them now differently than before. She has become “enlightened.”
But she has to leave me now and go on with her own life. She is planning and working to open a used bookstore in Lubbock which will take her focus and her energy completely. This is the new process of her life as I continue my own.
So I am still here in this cave pounding and tearing my way out through my work on this crack, following this fissure, determined to find a way out of this mountain. Like the children in the tale of the Pied Piper – who punished the parents by playing his magic flute and charming the children away. The children followed him into the mountain and he sealed them up within it for the rest of their lives.
But in this case the children left BECAUSE they were the ones being punished. These children never had a chance or a choice. They were prevented from growing up as normal, regular, ordinary children do.
And they have remained entoubed in the mountain – yet when they are grown their adult bodies have to appear in the “real” world, as wraiths, as ghosts, as shadows, as the disembodied. They are not the people they could or should have been. Nor are they whole. They have become split, splintered, stripped of the essence of selfhood by the biological reactions their bodies had to take in response to the traumas that happened to them from the time they were born. The horrible things done to them.
And when these shadow bodies of the grown ups these children became are seen walking around out in the regular world, nobody really knows who they are or what they’ve become, because they do not know what they have gone through to become the way that they are.
But we know and recognize one another as surely as if we could look at one another and say, “Good morning! I saw you inside the mountain today, and here you are out here like I am trying to get by. But “they” don’t see us, do they? They do not know, they do not understand, nor do they want to.”
Because we all know we are, at any given time, in both places at the same time. Split people we are, with our bodies in one place, out here in the world trying to get by, while the inner essence of who we are and what we know still lies locked inside that mountain.
So as I work at digging my own way out I hope to not only find my own answers, my own escape route, but I want to create a safe opening wide enough and large enough out of that mountain that others on the inside can see the light of day, and perhaps will search their own hearts to find their escape.
I am searching for the hope that while we are and will remain different people with different brains, we are not ruined people because of it. We have been tortured. We have suffered unimaginable woundings, so deep that our own self has had to remain in hiding all of our lives.
But what we need to know is that while we were so wounded, we are not broken – we are not ruined. Within us lies a spark that burns so brightly we are not dead. We have not vanished completely from the face of the earth even though nobody is naming the truth about what happened to us.
We have a glow like a fireflies, carrying the source of our light within us, and that light has kept us alive and will show us the way out. It has allowed us to endure in the darkest places.
Every word I read of every book and every article is one of the stone tools I use to work my way out. There will be a dawn at the end of this. And when we figure the whole thing out, we will know that we are WHOLE beings. That is what we are. Whole and complete but different because we evolved our building brains in a different world that only trauma knows. We were created to live in T HAT world. Inside THAT mountain.
We have bodies and brains that match the necessities of THAT world, and very few to let us live in the outside, different world of the ordinary, regular people, where “safety” lies.
In the process of having had to take all kinds of survival-bound short cuts and detours, we have avoided unbreachable chasms where the roads did not go. Bridges burned or blown out, pathways leading to nowhere, dead end after dead end. We found our way around landmines, quagmires, quick sands, skink holes, fire swamps, toxic waste dumps, tornadoes, earthquakes. When we tried to find other routes to adulthood via sea or water, our boats were swamped or fell apart, we hit cyclones and tidal waves and tsunamis. There was no safe route. And nobody helped us. We were tiny, not only with a pitifully small body, but also with a brain still forming and pitifully inadequate to take care of us or assist us to survive the challenges we faced.
The adults around us were blinded in the light of day because most of them really lived in the caves in the mountains with the exits sealed off, just like their ancestors did. They were swallowed in the sadness of trauma and there was no way out. And as for the public? Well, many of you readers can answer that one for yourselves.
What the regular people do not understand is that it is an entirely different world in here, inside this mountain, inside ourselves. We all need to know this, that this is the picture. Our worlds are different and we have been created from birth to adjust to them. These worlds we know are NOT the same, except on the most basic biological levels.
There is only one thing, when bad goes to worse that a human being is programmed to do. That is to survive long enough to produce grandchildren. All the rest of what we might wish our lives to be about is, essentially, only gravy or candy.
Speaking of the extras. Regular children, be they raised in environments of feast or famine, are somehow given enough of the right stuff that they are able to live a relatively regular life. They do not hear the Pied Piper’s calling because they do not have to. They stay out of the mountain. They stayed in Hamlin, grew up, and then followed their own calling to go where ever they wanted to, to do whatever they chose to do. The rest of us were too young to even hear our own calling, too young to follow it anyway – all but for the single basic calling: to stay alive. The Pied Piper helped us with that, though he had to take us away in order to save us. Away from the regular world, and away from our developing selves.
And believe me, this is a huge mountain. There are lots of us in here. But mostly we are doomed to hear only the lonely echoes of the crying of our own lost souls.
We are not in the world, we are in the cave at the center of the world. The cave of trauma, the cave of basic survival, the cave the human race was supposed to evolve out of. But our species evolved and has left us here to find that ancient evolutionary ladder all by ourselves. These experts each are describing a rung of that ladder, or a segment or portion of it, but nothing I read is in order. For all practical purposes, the ladder doesn’t even exit. We have to find the way straight out through the mountain ourselves.
We have to recreate that path, taken by our ancestors over millions of years, to find our own way out into the light.
But their brains evolved with all the right equipment in working order. Ours did not. We have to reproduce what others obtained through natural processes at natural times. We cannot do that. We have to work with what we have at the same time realizing that we have limitations built right into our brains. Our genetic endowments did not manifest properly. Our brain regions, circuits, pathways and processes have been altered by the experiences with trauma that we had from our birth.
In a way, we have to become like super heroes and heroines to make it through this not only intact, but in-spired and in-formed and in-lightened. Our firefly is our hope. Our own light within us. Our own life force, the wisdom of our own soul that can recognize and realize that our bodies have been formed to live one way in one world, and now must adapt to another way in another world – one that we can never truly know from the inside out. We have to work from the inside of ourselves, from inside our cave outwards. We cannot do it the other way around.
At the same time it is a nearly impossible task for us to accomplish on our own. Like miners buried a mile down by a cave in, the rescuers above are supposed to realize that we are down there, trapped, and start all their digging procedures to get us out.
But we cannot, and need not, wait for them to do that. They don’t realize we are in here. We can shout all we want, screaming for their help, but the thickness of the mountain, the thickness of the nature of trauma is not going to make it likely that they will hear us. Not at first.
I want to be one with the loudest voice, the one with the voice that carries the farthest. I want to sing a song, like my vision showed me when I was 15, that is irresistible to them. That they CAN hear, that some WILL hear. And most importantly, to inspire and motivate them to search for the source of the sound. When they find it they will find all of us locked into the mountain by trauma from the time of our birth.
Perhaps they will pity us, or say that they are sorry. But none of that really matters. What matters is that we find a way to integrate ourselves with their world, and vice versa. This is no more a one-way street, and one sided effort, than is the processing of information between the two sides of the brain each of us have within us. One cannot understand the other without sharing information, and I do mean sharing. Getting into that “middle” space, that mentalizing space that Bateman writes about.
The odd and ironical thing is, those of us inside the mountain have had this mentalizing ability stripped from us as our brain formed without gaining it. THEY on the outside, the regular people, have the ability, and it is THEY who must realize what a blessed gift it is, and THEY must decide that they will share their ability with us. They can come far closer to understanding US than we will ever be able to come in understanding them.
Can they be that altruistic? Can they care that much? The word “cure” comes from words meaning “to care for the soul.” Do they care that much? Will they?
People can only take responsibility for things they have the ability to respond to. They have this response-ability, the ability to empathize, the ability to mentalize. Nobody yet knows if this is something that can be taught to a brain that has already finished its formation. We will all have to find that out.
The regular people have far more to be conscious about, and to be conscious with than we do. We will have to work for every fraction of a centimeter that we get in their direction. All the regular people really have to do is to care, and with that action, to pay attention. They have all the rest of what it takes. We live by force in a self-less condition. They can live that way by choice.
We will be grateful for any effort that the regular people make to hear our callings from inside the mountain, and for any effort they may make to find a way in to reach us. But as long as they ignore us and pretend that we do not exist, as long as they blame us for our “condition” or suggest that we are genetically flawed or simply “mentally ill,” as long as they call us “bad seeds” or “lazy people” or simply “lost souls,” then they will believe that they either owe us nothing, or own us with a price attached that is too high for us to pay: Take their drugs, believe their theories, don’t question the experts, behave ourselves, don’t make waves, fit in, contribute – or else. Believe me. None of that helps us, and usually does more harm than good.
If you are going to help us, you absolutely have to hear us. Yes, it is true that we are having to dig around, sifting through the words of the researchers, borrowing from their words and their knowledge to begin to describe our own reality and our own condition. We need words. Otherwise all we are left with is the manifestation of our condition through our actions, which are reenactments of the traumas we have experienced as if we are all engaged in a critical game of charades. Our beings pantomime in gestures our memories of trauma, but they are only about what we became, not who we could become or who we really are.
When trauma begins at birth, the body itself, concerned with its own survival, takes over the reins and guides development – including brain development – in a very particular direction. It subsumes control over development. It overrides the dictates of a more evolutionarily “advanced” process, and creates an individual biologically prepared only to function in this kind of dangerous world. A “self” present in the body would only slow down the body’s ability to take care of itself. Such a body only needs to know that it can react appropriately at any given split second of threat, to ensure its own survival. Simple process, disastrous consequences when that individual grows up to join a different kind of world.
I suspect that there have been stages during my research – as I realize that a year ago in Fargo I was doing this same thing, this research. That I do not know what the points of demarcation are yet, but they must be here. Main points that I have encountered, that changed everything I understood when I looked both backwards and forwards. Like this recent revelation about PTSD. I remember last summer when I named the chronic feeling, what Damasio might call the background feeling, of foreboding, realizing that it entirely colors my world.
I suppose the PTSD experts would call that anxiety. But that is not a specific and therefore not an accurate description of my chronic state.
This is all very much bigger than “just” the inability to regulate emotions (with its lack of ability to self sooth). This is even far more than “just” having a disorganized insecure attachment disorder with resulting brain changes-damage-alterations. This is more than “just” having PTSD, even if it is PTSD that originated so early that it has been with me since the time of my birth. This is more than being “just” about dissociation, or memory impairments, or a lack of a center point of calm balance, or damage to my CNS and ANS. This is more than “just” having a different brain and being an evolutionary throw-back. And, if such a thing is possible, this is even more than “just” having a split between my self and my soul and the world. This is not something JUST, it is about having something MORE – MORE THAN. But at the moment I do not know what that MORE is. The search continues. The digging continues.
I am grateful for those places along the way where my hole has been large enough to sit in comfortably, or to even stand in. But I am not “all the way through” yet. I am not finished. How will I know when I am, as Cindy asked me? I don’t know, except that I know that I will know.
Something about this: When I have all the pieces and I put them together, the resulting “whole” will be so much more than the sum of the individual parts I have been discovering.
The study of the neurobiology of consciousness seems to me to be about the neurobiology of relationship.
If they can identify the brain regions that seem to be active in consciousness, as Damasio says, consciousness seems to share the same substrate as emotions, then the areas that suffer alterations due to early abuse in the emotional regions of the brain could very well affect consciousness, as well.
I know my consciousness was affected as a child, yet no child, or perhaps just very unusual ones, actually become aware of a self having the experience of experiencing their lives. I would suspect that there are a lot of adults that aren’t consciously aware of that process even in themselves.
I have to understand this before I can tell my story, because autobiographical consciousness is affected in insecure attachment formation – we cannot tell a coherent life story. I don’t know that I was present as a self in those experiences as a child.
Damasio says consciousness arises where an object changes an organism.
That is about relationship.
It seems strange to think that an organism – especially a child or an adult -can DO things without thinking about them consciously.
I think about rolling up all the sleeping bags when we first went to the homestead and there was little else in the Jamesway. I wanted to do anything I could to please mother.
Was that a conscious act?
Was I conscious went I went to Brownie camp? When I ran through the tall verdant ferns behind the log house? When I ran through the woods, crushing golden leaves behind my feet, feeling like a deer?
Was I conscious when my father was out in the cold rain looking for my lost rabbit, or when I found out it was dead? I know I grieved. I know I told Cindy, “I am so sad that my rabbit is dead, I will never smile again.”
Was I conscious of playing “the Queen is coming to visit?” Or when I looked at the world through the hole of a Saltine cracker and marveled about the relationship of sizes, that I could see most of the world through that tiny hole? Or when I tried to line up the mirrors so I could look into them and see what I sensed was infinity?
Damasio uses that word, “senses.” I need to pay closer attention to that!
How is sensing tied to consciousness? How does sensing affect consciousness and vice versa?
I don’t ever remember thinking as a child, “I, and nobody else, is having this experience, these feelings, thinking these thoughts.” I don’t remember being aware of that. Was I not conscious, then? Or just not self reflective or self-aware? I still think it has something to do with being able to play basketball like that autistic boy.
I think this is the essential mystery I am trying to solve – that of consciousness – because it is so intimately tied with relationship to and with the self, objects, people, experiences and experiencing. It HAS to do with neural pathways. Damasio refers to that when he mentions self. I also believe it is possible that those pathways are not formed correctly during infant peritrauma. I think those are fundamental connections.
And I wonder if Diana Fosha has found a way to go back from the present and connect them correctly. If so, that work is monumental. She and Damasio are using the same term: CORE.
Core self, core emotions, core consciousness.
Looking up the word core: 14c is late to come into the language, has no clear origins or roots, but seems to denote a fundamental difference from something else. Perhaps from its source or origin, but not from what it evolves to include?
Perhaps related to “core” as Scottish group of people? Or to chorus, also very late into the language. A mystery is here!
Perhaps this is the other way around, that we are really talking about Hillman’s soul here, that part of us which is not really in or of this world!
Maybe things are genuinely confusing and distressing to me because far more of me, the PTSD brain person, is “dispositional” than image, as Damasio might say. The dispositions seem like secret memos to me, things that make us DO things that we can never be conscious of. It makes me think that I don’t have enough images, and don’t have the correct ones to function optimally.
This makes my thinking about developing a more conscious mind rather hopeless. If what makes me tick – like what made my mother tick – is operating automatically and unconsciously, it’s like “we can’t get there from here.”
It is also distressing to me that I think Cindy has gone into another world and can no longer hear me. That makes me feel very very alone now.
I feel like maybe a blind person might feel, reaching into the toolbox or into the cupboard for something I need, that should be there, but it’s not – and I have no idea where to look for them. None. Like I never got them in the first place, things that “ordinary” people have gotten from their brain developmental stages forward. I am missing “vital images” that I need to get along in this world. That would mean that in that vacuum, PTSD people operate from the “secret memo” place – where images should be. We are short changed, and there is very probably nothing we can do about it.
When I look inside to try to “think” about things, like even the future, or what is going on for me or for Ernie in this relationship, there is nothing there – like a missing limb. Missing abilities to perceive and to think consciously and in an orderly fashion. It makes me feel really really sad. Like all we can do is get by the best we can with our limitations.
Secret memos behind the scenes. I don’t have enough of the right information, or of the right kinds of information.
It is like there are huge gaps in my ability to think about my life. There are too many missing pieces to the puzzle, so that I cannot see the images that I need to see, and I do not have the right kind of information, or even enough information to find these pieces.
I have run my life blind, trusting my stamina, my courage, and my hopefully relatively unerring ability to make choices that do the most harm to those who are in my life – including my own life. In short, I have done the best I can do with what I have been given – but the true fear is that this is not enough. That I am going to reach a point beyond which there is no passing – a point where I cannot cope.
I look around me and see these broken people, who are already at the dead end in the maze of their lives. They cannot guide themselves consciously forward. There is too much darkness between the white and gray matter in their brains – in my brains. Too many gaps, too much missing information, too much information within that we cannot trust. We can concentrate all we want on moving our missing limbs. That does not make them magically appear at our service.
This all adds to our duress and our distress.
I have always tried to be as truthful as I can be. But I have never had enough of the right kind of information, and I’ve always had too much of the wrong kind of information. This is a description of not only a complicated disability – not to be taken lightly – because it devastates a person.
It comes from not only being terribly hurt from birth by early caregivers, but from the fact that there wasn’t anybody else there to help us. Nobody saw how injured we were becoming, nor how desperately we needed somebody to help save us. Infants do not simply pull the information they need to grow and survive and thrive out of thin air. It has to come from SOME BODY.
Unless we know the real truth, what was done to us when our brains were forming and what the results and consequences of that are, we cannot be truthful.
And I don’t understand abandonment. There was never anybody there for me in the first place – just a little bit, by grandmother, who I lost when we went to Alaska, and my tiny brother. My father might as well have been a poster on the wall.
What we have been given to live our lives by is inadequate! Not enough of the right stuff and too much of the wrong stuff. Plain and simple. In a nutshell.
This all leaves me very very alone. Both PTSD and attachment disorder does this to a person.
Being insecure, and being inadequate does not give us what we need to either compete or cooperate. Therefore, our “negative” emotions are triggered all of the time. We never had the right skills in the first place, so of course they don’t work. We feel the despair of that all of the time, and the anger is ongoing as we TRY to get along. In our fear we know our skills are not enough, and in despair we do not learn new ones because nobody understands this whole mess, least of all ourselves.
We are competent only to be alone and survive the best we can – alone – in a terrible world of destruction. For that, all our adequacies were formed. There are no extras. Just that. Simply that.
And we are certainly, in America, the tail end of generations where there was no reprieve. And the consequences are still the same today for any infant-child raised under peritrauma conditions without intervention or reprieve.
There is no relationship that could ever give me what I need, because what I am missing and what I need is supposed to be there on the inside of me. That leaves me always feeling dependent and needy. It is truly an impossible situation – the disorganized/disoriented insecure attachment malady and curse.
It really is like my Indian name, Floating Around in the air. I cannot take the bull by the horns, take control of my life, steer my ship in any direction. Is it the same thing as being lost?
A person can not have an inadequate brain and live a truly adequate life. A person cannot have a severely insecure attachment disorder and be secure through life. We can do the best that we can do, but it is not the same thing as having been sent down the right road in the beginning with the correct brain structure from birth. Not at all.
Maybe nobody understands how neural activity creates images, or consciousness because maybe it is part of the Great Mystery of life – maybe it is that Great Mystery that IS life.
This is the ALONE brain. It formed when we were alone and by that being alone. I can’t give people false hope or feel-good misbelief that this is changeable or curable. Why would we then care if we prevent it? If we can break something precious and then restore it later as good as new, why do we take care of it in the first place?
Again, like the fingers in the Sistine Chapel – there will always be that gap.
We cannot change the foundational brain that we have, and mind comes from brain. We can educate ourselves and others, and try to use what we do have the best that we can. But we cannot fix this. It is a rupture that cannot be repaired. The necessary “drivers” are missing, and we are not compatible with this world we live in.
I cannot placate people by telling them “It’s going to be all right.” It isn’t ever going to be all right.
I can read Damasio and all the brain experts that I want to, but it still will come down to one thing: I will only know in the end what I knew but didn’t know I knew in the beginning. I have the metaknowledge about myself and my “condition.” I am looking for what resonates, for the light that will illuminate what I already know. And I am looking for the words that go with that knowledge so that I will know what I know, and I then I can communicate that knowledge to others.
I am listening for the echoes. I am looking for the shadows so that I can see the objects that they represent. Like a bat, I am flying by sonar, hoping bouncing sound will guide me through what I cannot now see.
Perhaps there is a combination of memory deficiencies and a distortion of reality with the sense I have now after Cindy has been gone for 2 weeks from her visit here that “it never really happened.” Is that how I dealt with, or managed, or organized my attachment experiences from the beginning – with some sort of denial that no doubt predated “magical thinking?” Did my brain understand that fundamentally, that “it never really happened” so that it erased the impact of the memories, even when it did not erase the memories themselves – or did, one way or the other? Is this the way the brain handled the ALWAYS recorded emotional component of the trauma experiences?
The brain moves really fast, and sometimes maybe all we have is a vague impression that something has passed through it at all. Maybe it can change things that fast, too – like erasing memories or detaching them from their feelings.
If consciousness is a feeling, maybe it does relate to the past – that I “lose consciousness” as a feeling that I have been with the ones I love. This would be an attachment issue – but I would not say that it is disorganized or disoriented. It is perhaps extremely practical and saved me a great deal of suffering in the beginning. My brain would have made that “forgetting” or “disconnect” or “dissociation” pathway very deep and worn.
Because my life was too awful to remember as a child, I didn’t store those memories. I only had the present, one long present, but when it changed, I changed.
I did not have a future. The future was not there to guide me into it, or for me to guide myself into. I still have no wishes, hopes, dreams or desires. Only when I thought there was some hope for this relationship did I have anything like those magical four.
That was not right. That is not the right way to do “it,” to move from a present into a future. I do not have a strong enough self, perhaps, to want anything for it. 35 years of my adult life were about raising children, and I knew they had a future, that I was helping form them in preparation for their futures. They were MY future.
But I did not move into their future along with them. They were separate people, and thankfully I could still raise them to be that. So they left home and took themselves with themselves, leaving me – again – here in the present.
Looking up the word “future” in the dictionary, its origins are in the verb “to be.” Interesting. I will explore that more. Future is directly and intimately tied to self, then, to the sense of a self that “be-s.” It has to be tied to anticipation. What did I have to anticipate as an infant? I don’t think those “anticipation” circuits formed correctly.
All I have right now is this book, the hopes for it, the effort I am putting into it. I have some vague sense that the future takes care of itself. I have a sense that as everyone else moves into the future, I just get sucked along in their wake and I end up in the future along with them.
Damasio does not list the ability to plan for the future as one of his miracles of extended consciousness. I guess because he suspects that everyone can do it. We can’t. I can’t. I deal with each new day as best I can when it gets here. But I no more understand it than I do being able to know ahead of time what my next thought is going to be before it gets here, or before I get to it.
I really don’t even know what is good for me. The thought that did come to me just now is that it’s like a table top, a table without any legs. Is it still a table? It is like the future exists before I get to it – but it doesn’t. It doesn’t for anybody. All anybody can do is to “remember the future.” Any thought we have of it instantly becomes an object the brain stores right along with all its other memories, somehow connected to US and to what we perceive of as the future, our future, our place in that future that does not exist.
Having all the beads to make a necklace in a pile, but not having any wire or any string to use to put them together. No necklace! Unless, like when I was little, a person has pop beads that hook into one another – no string required! Getting to the future this way is like sliding into home plate. Sliding into the future, not with one’s feet firmly planted one step after the other.
I needed Ernie’s help with this, but he has chosen to give his help to somebody else. Now I have a paper cup to drink out of with a hole in the bottom. Nothing substantial at all. Nothing I can rely on, count on, depend on, or trust.
If there was such a thing, I need to go to a school that would teach me from the beginning about the future. Those circuits were not built into my brain. My siblings also, like I, did not have a sense of what the future was for them when they left home. But at least they had the neural circuits to build themselves into the future and to build the future into themselves. I didn’t even get the circuits, and I don’t think I can ever have them, because I think that the future is something, as a form of the verb “to be,” that is tied to a self – a normally developing self – and I did not get one of those.
Maybe that would be an easy way, like going to the doctor’s and they take your blood pressure and temperature – if we had ways to assess someone’s relationship to the future we could test their relationship with a self, the strength and health of their SELF.
I think this is part of the formation and operation of the Different Brain. Trauma does not allow for the development of a relationship with a self – and therefore not with a future self, either. I think it is the extension of a healthy self into the future that allows one to “remember the future.” You have to have a self to have a future self to relate to – to form a bond and a connection with. Like having a self in the future that one is attached to and loves, so you want to get there – to that place where that self is – in the future. Ernie has not planned for me to be present in his future. I guess that means I won’t be there, will I?
As Damasio is looking for the biological and neurological location of consciousness, he really is looking for the biological and neurological location of the self. I am not saying soul. I would suspect that the soul is connected where the self meets the body.
If I use any inner crystal ball to try to look into my own future, all I see is a swirling mass of fear there. I imagine that was exactly what greeted me from infancy – terror and unpredictability. Terror of unpredictability.
If consciousness is a feeling, and feelings are tied to emotions in the body, then perhaps dissociation is the point where consciousness is lost – and what a person from the outside will see, and perhaps name dissociation, is exactly just that – being a point where the organism of the person says to itself, “This is truly awful. This overwhelms me. I cannot and will not remember this.” It would be the point of NOT remembering that creates dissociation. When I talk about the floating, disconnected bubbles, they exist because memory does not adequately and responsibly hold them together in a pattern, in a line, in a formation that relates to ME.
This is the first time I have had the word liability come into my mind. Not having a self for the future is a liability. We move past disabilities to liabilities. Maybe like the triune God, we have a mother, daughter and holy spirit – and the holy spirit is missing from the action. MFA, not MIA.
So being able to stand with one hand stretched to the past, one to the future, balanced – is a picture of a whole person. We need these three selves. Any disruption in the development of the self disturbs all three of these aspects. And I suspect the thread that runs through them all, or the steel cable, is the operation of memory. That is where we get all out information from once it has been initially perceived from input from the immediate environment.
From birth, if there is no ability or opportunity to escape the overwhelmingly, overbearing, intolerable, then no confidence develops – and with no confidence or sense of competence to utilize one’s own resources and abilities – and being in an environment where there is no trust that anyone will come help you – no healthy self as this point of reference is formed. It cannot. There are no appropriate points of reference (I just typed reverence – interesting slip!).
I am keenly aware that I cannot just sit down and write the story of my childhood like Pelzner wrote his. The reason why I cannot do that is a central part of my story, and what makes it different from his.
I am writing to and for those who did not have it “so good” before the age of four or five years old, those whose abuse began at birth, and what that does to the developing brain, mind and self. All this research has been about finding out what kind of damage is done to those children, different from children who had a “good enough” attachment before the age of even 18 months, or 2 years of age. It is a different world for us, and a totally different story.
So not only did I suffer the abuse, I was robbed of the story that goes with it.
The story is more, as Damasio notes, in the form of nonverbal images, which would be like film clips – or pantomime.
Idea for title, Cindy likes it:
MORE THAN A GIRL CALLED EVIL
The Girl Called Evil
Is there a way to write the story so that by the end of reading it, the readers are asking the same kind of questions I have been asking all along through my research? My supervisor at work, Sharon, told me today that she thinks I should write the story first – the sad story – publish that one as publicity for the BIGGER book.
Do I know enough to write that first book yet?
Autobiographical self and
Conventional enhanced attention and
memory Working memory
(includes core self)
images of object
changes in proto-self
detection of object significance
Figure 10.1 From wakefulness to conscience
Damasio assumes that every normal person goes through these stages to the same end
He does not consider what can happen when things go terribly wrong from the beginning