Tag Archives: Grief

My First Podcast 2 of 2

Part 2 “How to Heal” of my 11-6-15 podcast with therapist Jeff Friedman:

Allan Schore 2What books and resources would you recommend for trauma?
I really recommend Dr. Allan Schore’s Sept 2014 Oslo speech video “The Most Important Years;” on my Resources tab, see the subtab on Audios & Videos.  Dr. Schore (left) explains that babies are born screaming in pain because we’re designed for an adult’s emotional brain to show us “Someone cares, I can relax.”  Mom’s love actually creates the neural networks in a baby’s brain needed to calm down, Schore wrote in the’ 90s. Now, in the last 5 years, brain scans have proven him correct. But with infant developmental trauma and attachment disorder, no adult showed us how to calm, so we never did. Infant emotions are still crying painfully deep inside us, says Schore. We’re unaware of it, but that is the cause of our anxiety, fear, anger, and misery.

Several healing tools are really helping me now. Links to all these below are on my Resources tab, sub-tab Healing Tools.  I’m sorry to keep mentioning my website but I was forced to build it when I couldn’t find all this centralized anywhere else. My home page has almost 40,000 hits; my book tab over 12,000 hits and there are 4 more tabs. It gets hits because there’s a large amount of content on my pages.  Here are the healing tools:

Neurofeedback is a computer program which therapists use to train clients to calm brain waves. We with early neglect and abuse have disorganized brains and fear circuits dominate.  Neurofeedback can calm this by growing new neural networks, the way a mother grows a baby’s neural networks. I was moved to tears by Sebern Fisher’s recent interview “Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Developmental Trauma” on ShrinkRap radio, as she described how necessary love and attachment are to the creation of a human brain.

EMDR can resolve trauma using bilateral eye motion, bilateral sounds, or even tapping on either foot. When a therapist moves a finger from side to side before the patient’s eyes, it guides the eyes to move naturally as in rapid eye dreaming. That’s where we process most trauma. That means, we move traumatic memories out of short-term memory banks where it feels like a terrifying flash happening “right now,” into long-term memory banks where we feel it’s past, and we’re “over it.

Tapping: For years I’ve used tapping, aka Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). We use fingertips to tap a few times on 9 of the body’s acupuncture points. It’s a fantastic aid in calming down, or even just getting to sleep at 2 am.  I used it again just this morning to release a pile of anger.

Meditation: Meditation is where we ultimately need to go to fully heal, but it can be terrifying for us with infant trauma. To get started, we can work with our therapist on it, and meditate in groups. Please check Dr. Tara Brach’s “Basic Elements of Meditation Practice” videos on youtube; it’s also on my Resources tab, sub tab Audio & Video.

Books:  on my Resources tab, look for the subtab on Books:
–“The Grief Recovery Handbook”  by John James & Russell Friedman
–“A General Theory of Love”,  Thomas Lewis, Richard Lannon et al; 2000.
–“Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body,” Peter A Levine
–“Changes that Heal,” Dr. Henry Cloud
–“The Body Keeps the Score” Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, MD

Didn’t you say recently that there’s a lot of trauma in high places?
Yes, in part because emotional abuse is really hard to spot.  Emotional abuse alone can be just as damaging as overt abuse, but I didn’t know I had trauma the whole time I was a high-functioning business gal with a math degree, working with rocket scientists.  When I found out I had trauma, I used to say, “Nobody beat me or raped me.  What’s wrong with me!?”

What’s wrong was, I had a huge left thinking brain, but an infant’s right emotional brain that took a lot of damage.  As Allan Schore says, when the mom doesn’t grow the infant’s right brain, the child’s left brain often over-develops in an effort to control the emotional chaos.  My mom didn’t hold me as an infant or show me “it’s safe out here so you can stop crying,” to grow my right brain. So it remained an infant right brain.  Instead, I learned that “it’s dangerous as heck out here, the world is scary.”  I probably didn’t stop crying until my left brain grew myelin and began to think at 2 1/2 and I realized, cognitively, that if I didn’t shut up, they’d swat me.

I’ve been told: “Most people with what you have take it to the grave because they’re so intelligent, no one imagines anything’s wrong.”  One thing motivating me to finish this book is: I’m betting that 20 to 40% of smart people in high places have infant or child trauma hiding inside where no one can tell, just as I did. Maybe my book can help them wake up.

That’s why our corporations, governments and so forth make a lot of un-compassionate decisions.  No one showed them how to do compassion as kids.  That’s why wee spend over $80 billion a year to drug school kids into being quiet, but there’s no funding for serious therapy for children.

Maybe my book will help people see reality. Allan Schore said in his Oslo video that UNICEF put out a report in 2013 saying society needs a massive shift of resources toward making sure at least the child, from conception to age 3 at least, and families with young children, get major public support to try to stop child trauma at the source.  $80 billion would sure help.

Any closing thoughts?
Sebern Fisher hit it on the nose: the real answer to trauma is love.  Babies need our mothers to love us, to even just have the brain cells for emotional well-being. “We need to know that the Big Person who’s taking care of us, loves us,” says Dr. Henry Cloud, and then gradually a baby learns to grow “love inside” he says.

Or Not.  What if I didn’t get love as an infant?   Then emotional chunks of me are an infant’s emotions, and I need to find out about that.  Then I need to go where I can get that part of me loved!  Not to new parents, but I do need to feel the kind of love a good parent gives. And not to romance; we don’t want an infant or toddler on Match.com.  Instead, I need to learn that I can receive platonic love from a really fine therapist, and that I can love them back.  I need to learn that I can do deep platonic love with my Grief Partners and platonic friends at church or in small groups or yoga or meditation groups. I need to feel and give unconditional platonic love.

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Kathy’s news blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

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Comments are encouraged with the usual exceptions; rants, political speeches, off-color language, etc. are unlikely to post.  Starting 8-22-16, software will limit comments to 1030 characters (2 long paragraphs) a while, until we get new software to take longer comments again.

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My First Podcast, 1 of 2

Jeff Friedman 2I’m excited to have just done my first interview on attachment trauma with therapist Jeffrey M. Friedman, LCSW of Aventura, Florida (north of Miami).  Jeffrey (left) interviewed me  November 6  for his new “Trauma-Informed Podcast,” a series on the prevalence of trauma – so we can stop passing it on from generation to generation. Click here to listen: https://soundcloud.com/east-coast-trauma-project/kathy-new-edits?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=facebook

Kathy on Friedman Podcast 11-6-15The interview summarizes my work: my trauma history, what I’ve done to heal with good therapy, and my sorry adventures into what does not work, such as sub-par therapy. We noted the prevalence of child trauma, how it’s likely affecting a high percent of government and corporate leaders, and the need to educate and help them. Here are interview excerpts:

What is a quote that inspires you that is related to trauma?
“Too many Americans are spurred to achieve, rather than to attach,” says A General Theory of Love; that’s at the core of  our society’s illness.  We’re rushed to compete and get the grade from age 5 or even Baby Einstein age, but there’s little talk of how to learn to attach compassionately to other human beings.  But we are mammals, and we literally need attachment to other mammals, physiologically as well as emotionally, just to live. The book, which is by three psychiatrist MDs, demonstrates that unless we reverse this priority, our society can only get sicker.

Where are you from and what type of work are you doing?
I’m from the New York City area, then lived 20 years in the Washington DC area. Now I live in Orange County, Southern California.  I run a website with resources on attachment disorder, AttachmentDisorderHealing.com , and I’m writing a book about how I only discovered my severe attachment trauma after I hit age 50, and how I’m healing.

What is your story of trauma and recovery?
I was  a high-performer who’d barely even heard of trauma. Suddenly I was divorced from a 27-year marriage, bankrupt, and homeless. “I married a bad man, now I’ll find a good man,” I thought. But I only found more abusive men, and it hit me: the common denominator is me!  Something’s wrong with me. Then both my parents died in 2008, but when my Dad died, I couldn’t cry. “Wow, I’m really sick,” I said, and took myself to therapy.  But I found 3 poor therapists who made me sicker, almost to the point of suicide.  So in 2009 I quit therapy.  What does not work is bad therapy.

Then I got something which does work, the Grief Recovery Handbook, which instructs us how to read letters to a Grief Partner about what’s hurting us emotionally. I wanted to heal from my marriage so I could date, so I read letters about my 27-year marriage to my partners for two years. But I didn’t feel better; I only found more pain. Reading about my marriage regressed me back to about when I met my ex at 18, but still more pain. Then I read letters about my Dad that regressed me back to age 5.

I removed 40 years of denial like rocks off my soul by releasing the anger and sorrow.  But I didn’t have anything under the denial; the further back I went, I just found more pain. Then I read letters to my Mom that regressed me back to infancy.  It’s all on AttachmentDisorderHealing on the New Book tab, in my Preface: “The Silent Epidemic.”

 What have you done that helped with trauma and what did not work?
I discovered I was maybe 2 weeks old inside. It was so terrifying that this time I did a huge amount of research, found a really good attachment-based psychotherapist and went back to therapy in 2011. Thus my book title: “Don’t Try This at Home.”  Don’t go it alone. What works is:  1. Do get a qualified attachment-based therapist but you must do serious research to find a good one.  2. The Grief Recovery Handbook works to get rid of denial,  but with severe infant trauma, don’t do it unsupervised! That was my error.   3. Then what actually healed my trauma was Body Work; Dr. Peter A. Levine’s Somatic Experiencing method helped me enormously. For Body Work, go to AttachmentDisorderHealing; fifth tab from left Featured Topics.  Subtab item #4 is Grief Handbook, then subtab item #5 is Healing: Body Work, with links to videos and books.

What advice would you give to those dealing with their own trauma?
I can only tell you what I learned: Don’t, don’t, don’t try this at home; I’ve put my last nickel into a good attachment-based psychotherapist. Second, later I discovered the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) and I wish I’d had that at the outset, to find out scientifically how bad and what type my trauma is.  On AttachmentDisorderHealing see the 4th tab Blogs for my blog on the AAI.   Third, I worked the Grief Recovery Handbook (GRH) with a partner but I wish I’d kept a therapist thoroughly informed, it was dangerous not to. GRH can get rid of denial barriers so we can benefit from the next deeper steps. Fourth and most important is: Body Work.

Not reading books about Body Work – doing body work.  Reading a book about singing is different from physically singing; reading a book about sex is, well, you know…. We need to do Body Work, not hide in books.

But remember: Body Work won’t get through to us unless we do the other  steps first, especially if we have 20 or 40 years of denial to bust through.

Why can’t some Moms help their babies calm down?
Sadly, because Mom’s mom didn’t show her how, and grandma’s mom didn’t show her how; in my family I’ve traced it back to the 1800s and that happens a lot: inter-generational trauma.  That’s why I’m not satisfied with programs for child trauma alone.  We need those but we need more.

Fifty percent of parents out there themselves experienced some degree of childhood trauma, as the ACE Study shows.  So it’s baked into their brain cells to pass it on and traumatize their children, mildly or wildly.  Unless we have mass-based trauma healing programs for at least child-bearing aged adults, we can’t stop the cycle.

You can’t just hand a young couple a book and tell them carry the baby in front.  If they’re deeply wounded, they don’t have the biological capacity to attune to another human being, and they need to learn that, which means serious psychological work.  Otherwise they’re going to hurt babies and others until they get real emotional  healing.

More excerpts next time…

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Kathy’s news blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

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Grief Recovery Handbook, 2 of 2

GRH Millions LackTools for GriefIn Part 1, I summarized the Grief Recovery Handbook (GRH) instructions for making a lifetime Loss History Graph; then figuring out which personal relationships dealt us the most of these losses; and then how to  write a separate “Grief Recovery Completion Letter” to each of those persons. (“Millions lack tools for Grief,” by the GRH website GriefRecoveryMethod.com)

Complicated? Overwhelming?  Sure.  But wait – there’s more!

We also need a Grief Partner to join us in doing all this homework. They must meet with us weekly so we can read our homework to each other; and then later read our Grief Letters to each other.  This goes on for as many weeks, or months, until we felt we’ve been “seen and heard” enough by another real live human being, to somehow deal with the pain.

“This is why I tell people that God put tear ducts in our eyes,” I read two years later in a book by Dr. John Townsend.  “Grief is a relational experience, and your pain has to be seen eye to eye with another person. Someone should be looking at us when we are crying, and we should be looking at him or her. Then we know that we are not alone, and that our tears are seen and heard.”

My pal Steve and I both saw instantly that a partner was key; so we hated to start all that homework without getting leads on partners. What if we got too far ahead, with no one working with us?  Now the real “fun” began.

We soon learned that finding a Grief Partner was only slightly less tough than finding a marriage partner — or a unicorn.  “Unicorn hunt” became our grim buzzword. We couldn’t work with each other; mourning some details with the opposite sex was too embarrassing. We needed a gal for me and a guy for him.

I went to the local hospice and community groups looking for others in mourning who also needed relief, while Steve asked around at the office and in choir. But it soon became clear that people didn’t like to admit to feelings like this, or if they did, were disposed (as society demands) to minimize losses and “put on a Happy Face.”  Last hidey hole: they were “just too busy.”

After two months’ search, at the end of June 2009 I spoke to my local hospice director Greg about my difficulties finding a partner.  I was too embarrassed to discuss my Mom’s death due to my horrid conflict with her.  The GRH calls this the “loss of a less-than-loved-one.”

“With all these people crying about how they miss their beloved parent, I’m afraid to upset them by discussing my nasty feelings about mine,” I said. “I don’t fit in anywhere, not even here.” “You are not a freak,” he replied. “Just because you have complex grief does not mean you’re an imposition on other grievers.”

Finally I asked Greg, as a professional, to sit and hear me read my Loss History Graph.

The Loss History Graph

GRH Unresolved Grief LuggageOn July 3, I took a room at the beach for the summer of 2009 and had at my first assignment, my Loss History Graph. This opener is not about any one person in our lives, but rather a list of all the major losses we’ve ever felt. I didn’t know it, but I fled to the ocean for a reason; this was going to be ‘way too much to take without some sort of natural beauty for comfort. (Another graphic from GriefRecoveryMethod.com)

The exercise blew me away; what I saw was that I’d had an entire life of loss.  My emotional pain and losses went back as far as conscious thought — and just kept coming. The graph was assigned to fit on one page, but I needed two and that would hold only my worst losses in my tiniest scrawls.

My first memory was swallowing a penny circa age 4; I’ve related that and other frightening experiences with Mom at age 4,5 and 6 in Chapter 3. At 5 my best friend Helen from next door fell off our swing, broke her arm, and was never allowed in our yard again; I was crushed. At 9, I cracked a lamp and was told I’d destroyed a priceless heirloom. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, cowering under the schools desks I felt somehow way more terrified than other kids and completely alone in the agony.

Then came the JFK assassination which terrified me to the point that for no reason anyone could grasp, I began crying uncontrollably and went on sobbing in my room for weeks.  Finally Dad came in and said, “That’s enough now, cut it out.”  Mom and he were displeased when I cried and that was the signal to be quiet.

Other than that Dad didn’t appear on the graph. I wrote in the margin “Never home; never told the truth that Mom was crazy, not me; never stood up for me.”

My high school boyfriend Alan left me at 17 saying I was too crazy (now we know he was right). At 18 my first college boyfriend Jim got so depressed when his brother committed a murder, that Jim broke up with me. Being dumped by Jim was my first major prolonged romantic crash; I was completely crushed. I cried and hid in my dorm for a year. No one, led by me, could figure out why my crash was so big; the rejection felt like the earth had fallen out from under my feet. I didn’t actually recover from it for many years; I just kept moving.

At 19 I met my college beau Larry; then I fled to Japan at 21, ended up in medical school in Manila, returned home at 25 and was excommunicated from my family when I quit medicine.  The loss of no longer being able to see my sister alone was a mind-boggling amount of agony.

Then I married Larry and had 27 years of loss, starting with an awful abortion in 1982 when he refused to have children. There was no room on the first graph for all the marriage losses; he’d get his own personal Larry Loss Graph and Larry Grief Letter later. Next we lost our international business due to Sept. 11, 2001.

When I finally left our home back east in 2006 and headed to California, I had to add the loss of my house and home, all my friends, my 25-year singing career, my beloved pianist (truly one of a kind), and all my finances in bankruptcy. Next came the losses I took in two nasty rebound affairs.

My jaw dropped as loss after loss spilled out and the large sheets of paper became entirely covered in ever more tiny black scrawls of more and more bad memories until there was almost no white space. Gosh, I thought I’d had such a happy life with all that glorious music and global business travel!

“My heart’s like a car which was totaled approximately at birth, and never got any gas or oil, but I just kept driving,” I wrote. “I’ve driven in the Grand Prix to the moon and back a few times — and now I open the hood, and my engine crumbles onto the asphalt in a pile of rust.”  In the Loss Graph margin I scrawled: “Unwanted pregnancy would accept all of this to gain any self-validation as in ‘Yes You’re OK to have been Born.’  Need to prove you had a right to exist, contrary to the message you got.”

I did warn you that using the GRH was a cataclysmic life-changing process for me.  Such things are a lot of work. Click here for the rest of the story: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/featured-topics/grief-recovery/

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Kathy’s news blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1  James, John W.; Friedman, Russell, “Moving On: Dump your relationship baggage and make room for the love of your life,” M. Evans (Rowman & Littlefield), Lanham, MD, 2006. This is also a terrific book, if you’ve grieved your already huge losses (I hadn’t) and are ready to move on (I wasn’t).

FN2  James, John W.; Friedman, Russell, “The Grief Recovery Handbook,” Harper Collins, New York, 2009 (orginal 1998)

FN3  James, John W.; Friedman, Russell, “Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later,”  www.grief-recovery.com/Articles/Pay_Me_Now.htm, The Grief Recovery Institute, 2002

FN4  Townsend, John, PhD; Cloud, Henry PhD, “How People Grow,” Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2001

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Grief Recovery Handbook, 1 of 2

Grief Recovery Handbook,+20th+Anniversary+Expanded+EditionThe “Grief Recovery Handbook” by John James and Russell Friedman is an invaluable tool for healing emotional pain and loss.  It saved me after the death of my parents and my divorce, which all happened at once.

It shows us how to write “Grief Letters” to our  “dearly beloved,” and read it to a listener. This simple eye contact with another human, who need only be silent and accept our grief, pain, and yes tears, creates astonishing healing.  “This is why…God put tear ducts in our eyes,” says Dr. John Townsend.  “Someone should be looking at us when we are crying…Then we know that we are not alone, our tears are seen and heard.”

If you’ve lost a dearly beloved, you could just buy 2 copies, find a “grief partner” who’s also had a loss, and follow the book.  The grief letters may be straightforward for you, and then you’ll be “complete” and heal.  You may not need this blog.

But I had childhood trauma, and neither my parents, nor my ex, were “clearly beloved.”  There was a lot of muddy pain and hurt; I was stuck with “the death of a less-than-loved one.”  I had to walk a convoluted path to discover how to grieve pain from before consciousness.  It got dangerous.

It was March 2009 and my choir car pool buddy Steve was in a sea of emotional pain since his wife’s death; I’d advised him in 2008 to get the “Grief Recovery Handbook” by John James and Russell Friedman.  I thought it was about death, which clearly was his issue, not mine.  I thought my issue was to replace my ex with a new romance, so I got their other book, “Moving On.”  [FN1]

But Steve, ever the engineer, was determined to deal with pain scientifically. He took one look at the book and bought a second copy for me. “This is a program to retrain the emotions,” he announced.  “You need it too.” [FN2]

Thus began our three-year saga with the Grief Recovery Handbook or GRH as Steve fondly dubbed it. We wanted off the pain train, and bad.

“A broken heart is like a flat tire. Waiting for time to heal your heart without taking action, is like waiting for air to jump back into a flat tire,” the GRH begins. “That’s what the grief process does. It’s an action we can take… Action first, feelings follow,” it repeats. “Don’t wait to act until you feel better; you’ll never feel better unless you act.”

Most of what you know about emotional pain is wrong, the book next announces — we’ve all been taught Six Myths in particular which are a fraud. These myths make grieving impossible, forcing us to keep carrying the pain around, often for life:

1. Don’t feel bad.  (Don’t feel. Feelings are bad. Stuff it.)
2. Replace the loss. (Get a new spouse, just like a new cat.)
3. Grieve alone (Go to your room. Sadness is impolite. You’re bad.)
4. Just give it time. (Just sit; air will spring into the tire.)
5. Be strong for others. (Your feelings aren’t important, nor are you.)
6. Keep busy. (Distractions help us to stuff it.)

Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later

In a brilliant article “Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later,” James and Friedman compare the heart to an auto engine. It’s an imperfect world, despite the fantasies of perfectionists, so loss and hurt often start at an early age.  “You might recognize the title from an advertising slogan for an automotive product several years ago,” they write. The idea was that if you spend a little money on maintenance now, you might save a tremendous amount replacing an entire engine later. [FN3]

“In the auto commercial it was failure to change the oil filter which led to a build up of crud, which clogged and eventually destroyed the motor. Thus, buy an inexpensive filter now or buy a whole new engine later.”

As we go through life, they say, stuffing when we’re hurt instead of grieving, this “crud” builds up around our hearts and thickens year on year. “Grief is negative, and cumulatively negative,” they say, in a key insight.

Then a serious tragedy hits, like a death or divorce, and we don’t realize it, but it triggers all those past hurts we never grieved. Our hearts are breaking inside – but our heart is so hard outside, due to the thick crud, that we can’t see out, so we go into a tailspin.

Now we’re in big trouble and with decades of crud around our hearts.

What to do? Grieve today’s loss thoroughly; that may also help grieve the past, they advise. “Right after a loss, we have a direct pathway to our experiences in the relationship,” they say. “Death and divorce both tend to trigger memories about the emotional aspects of relationships that may never have been communicated about or completed…

“But as time elapses those memories are more difficult to access,” so we’ve got to start now. Otherwise “the build up of emotional ‘crud’ around the heart almost automatically tends to cause us to limit or restrict the kind of interactions that require an open, loving heart.”  We become unable to really relate to “safe” people, so we only find more bad relationships.

Grief Letters, Grief Partners

Flatten Me Brousblog1bWhat about action? You asked for it.
[Something’s wrong with my software; click on image at right of my 2009 cartoon “Flatten Me” to see it.]

The GRH details actions which are concrete, detailed, extensive, and time-consuming — i.e., credible, and scary as hell. We’d need to make a Loss History Graph detailing the major losses of our entire lives; determine which two or three personal relationships entailed the most losses; and then write a separate “Grief Recovery Completion Letter” to each of those persons. ( p145)

We start with the individual about whom we feel the most pain, and make a Relationship Graph of the major losses related specifically to them.

Next we abstract the incidents on the individual’s Relationship Graph into Recovery Components for that person. Then we turn the Components into a Grief Recovery Completion Letter (Grief Letter hereafter) to that person — and read it aloud.

Then we repeat all those steps separately for each other individual in relation to whom we’d felt significant loss or pain! Doing all this was going to take a big bite out of our lives, and we whined about it up front: Good Grief, Charlie Brown.

Complicated? Overwhelming?  Sure.  But wait – there’s more!

Stay tuned for Part 2…

Can’t wait?  Here’s the whole thing: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/featured-topics/grief-recovery/

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Kathy’s news blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1  James, John W.; Friedman, Russell, “Moving On: Dump your relationship baggage and make room for the love of your life,” M. Evans (Rowman & Littlefield), Lanham, MD, 2006. This is also a terrific book, if you’ve grieved your already huge losses (I hadn’t) and are ready to move on (I wasn’t).

FN2  James, John W.; Friedman, Russell, “The Grief Recovery Handbook,” Harper Collins, New York, 2009 (orginal 1998)

FN3  James, John W.; Friedman, Russell, “Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later,”  www.grief-recovery.com/Articles/Pay_Me_Now.htm, The Grief Recovery Institute, 2002

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New Year Gratitude

Messiah_2013 045And now, the New Year’s face of trauma recovery:  I am so grateful for how wonderful I feel this year!  That’s why I wanted you to see some of my holiday pictures – so that when I tell you in mere words that “it’s worth it” to confront all this trauma by feeling it to heal it, you can see for yourself that it’s true.

My holidays kicked off with a shine on Nov. 24 when I sang Handel’s “Messiah” at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda in a full-scale replica of the White House East Ballroom.  They even handed me a 17th-century gown and said “here, wear this.”

I looked like Bo Peep searching for her lost sheep amidst the crystal chandeliers (I called the Dollar Store to see if they had any shepherd’s crooks, but they just said “Yeah we get a lot of crooks in here…”).  It was a riot… and we sang good.  DVDs to come, ask me.

Many of us, whether in trauma or just excess stress, unfortunately find the holidays to be the worst time of the year.  When the whole world is supposed to be joyous because they’re cuddling up with family, those of us who don’t have the Picture-book Perfect family can feel like failures, feel unloved, and even feel that we don’t belong to exist.  I sure did, in particular for the ten years 2002-2012, in spades.

But not this year.  It’s no exaggeration to say that 2013 was the best holiday season of my entire life.

Trauma stinks, to put it politely, and I’ve been posting some pretty awful stuff about about “as bad as it gets” with infant brain stem trauma and how the emotional pain can louse up a whole life.  I had some friends back east who in jest (usually) didn’t call me “Lousy Brousie” for nothing.

I’ve also noted that the worst of infant trauma can happen not only in poor and violent areas, but in the most wealthy and educated families.  In fact it happens in 50% of American households.

Messiah_2013 054So there are a lot of us in this together –- whether some of us know it or not.

I wanted to let you know that every step we take to walk fully through whatever trauma we may have, is so worth it.  It’s worth it, to feel all the even terrifying feelings we sometimes need to feel to heal them — because the healing can feel “as good as it gets.”

I may be clowning around now and having Thanksgiving dinner at the beach, which I did — but it was a result of a lot of hard internal work.  Doing this work results in a growing feeling of “love inside” as Dr. Henry Cloud puts it, which at times can feel as if God’s love were pouring in the windows of our soul.  Or at least of the Nixon Library, which are some pretty huge floor-to-ceiling ornate windows…

And: this year I actually had  Christmas!  It’s amazing how much of the joys of Christmas we can miss when we’re frozen in dissociation.  But now that I’m unfreezing, I get to experience the wonder of finally being alive.  Starting in December I went to so many tree lightings and caroling parties that I began to gain weight because I could finally taste the food for the first time this year.

Tustin Dance Nutcracker childrenI went to the Nutcracker Ballet with a dear friend, just at a local high school – and got 100 times more out of it than if I’d flown to New York to see the New York City Ballet’s world-famous production.

I could hardly keep myself from leaping up onto the stage.  It was a shock how fully I could hear Tchaikovsky’s music, feel it in my heart, see the children prancing around, like never before.  It feels like the joy a child feels when we just jump for the sheer joy of being alive.  Everything feels so real.  I tried to get tickets to go see it a second time but they were sold out…

Emotional Attachment

1 Kathy ALYC 12-22 Xmas 001It took deep emotional attachment from good friends and more to heal me over the last five years.  Here I am toasting one such friend at the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade on Dec. 22.

Humans can only feel safe in the presence of caring humans.  “The Mind is a dangerous place – never go in alone.”  So yes: I do mean it when I say “Don’t Try This at Home.”   And I wanted you to know that it’s all worth it.  And that you are worth it.  And yes – you can find compassionate friends who will let you attach.

Dealing with trauma has required me to set up a very broad safety net: an empathic, painstaking therapist skilled in Adult Attachment Theory; support groups modeled on the AA and other “anonymous” organizations’ principle of total acceptance and emotional support for the wounded; and close friends who were serious about staying attached to me — because they wanted to heal, too.

2 Gingerbread Crop2Keep looking until you find people who have issues of a similar severity and who also want to heal.  They’re out there, and they’re worth it.  I know; they saved my life.

A lot of these snowmen on the gingerbread house on Newport’s Balboa Island were quite frozen in dissociation when I first met them.  But over the years, as we shared our histories and helped each other grieve our real grief, we began to heal from the past, and melt our frozen hearts.  So now above on Dec. 22 we’re all enjoying Christmas!  (And yes there were real people involved, but the first rule of this kind of deep sharing is 100% confidentiality – so I can’t use their pix…)

Therapy alone won’t do it.   It requires the whole “recovery suite.”
As the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, attachment disorder, brain science and the biology of brain stem dysregulation have become understood in the last ten years, we’ve all focused on creating “preventative programs” to help babies and children now.   We’re trying to alert parents to be more attentive to their infants and to these issues.  Obviously this is necessary and mission-critical.

But I’d also like to point out: if half of today’s parents themselves, like 58% of the adult ACE Study participants, have moderate to severe brain stem developmental trauma, will working with parents on how to be better parents be enough?   Necessary, but not sufficient, as mathematics textbooks put it.

I wanted you to know that you are worth it, specifically.  You can find Recovery friends and support groups to really lean on — so that you can get to the parts of the traumatized brain where you can feel the deep stuff and really experience deep healing.

Dr. Dan Siegel calls it widening our “window of tolerance” to feel things which are repressed in dissociation.  This biologically can only be done in “dyadic consciousness,” in the presence of other compassionate human beings whom we can trust and to whom we can therefore become attached.

Otherwise the brain stem just knocks us out into dissociation and we can’t feel a thing, period.  You can’t fool your brain stem; it knows you much too well.

3 Kathy ocean 12-25 Xmas 058Don’t we need a campaign to heal the parents, too?  Not for some socio-economic brackets – but all Americans?  It sure is worth it! That’s me in the ocean at Dana Point on Christmas Day,  in 80-degree sunshine!  A New York girl’s dream come true.  (You can see the grin on my face if you click on the picture… )

In one example, scientists report that the infant brain, from conception and early cell division, must divide cells and grow based on some kind of rhythm, and for nine months it is driven to tune on a cellular level to its mother’s heart and breathing rates, among her other vitals.  “We have a pregnant employee who’s an athlete who’s resting heart rate is 40 beats/minute; she’s likely to have a very relaxed baby who likes relaxed rhythms.  And a hyper-thyroid mother whose heart rate is 95 may have a baby who finds a higher regulating rhythm,” Bruce Perry reports.

But a mother with ACE trauma herself, hysteria, or any high stress often has  “a totally irregular heart rate, breathing and other vital signs,” he notes.  “These moms end up with kids who are difficult to sooth because the mother had no rhythm consistently present for them to entrain to in utero.  After birth, they can’t find any rhythm that is soothing.”  Perry says that can easily cause developmental trauma.

Such mothers themselves, even the most determined to love their baby, require deep psychological and biological healing for their own trauma. That is often true for fathers who marry such women as well.

If a mother isn’t “attuned” inside herself, how can she truly attune to her baby?   I had so little ability to attune to a baby in my 20s and 30s that I literally “didn’t even have it in me” to have children.   “I would have thought the very idea would have been absolutely terrifying to you,” my fourth — and last! — therapist said (finally found a good one).  Without far reaching programs to heal the parents, many will remain biologically incapable of attuning to children.

It’s Adult Attachment Disorder which is the underlying cause of childhood trauma — not babies.

4 yogi tea 13116516 Kathy eyes openSo remember, all you adults out there, including you who may be in this field of endeavor because of your own childhoods or because you just can’t bear watching the inter-generational trauma being repeated over and over:

You’re Worth It.

I raise this cup of spicy home-made  Christmas Tea to you, with the most contented smile I’ve ever had on my face, to prove it.

———————————

Kathy’s news blogs expand on her book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment DisorderHow I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series  each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

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Survival Instinct

#18: Last book blog from “Don’t Try This at Home,” Chapter 3

Goya Capricho 75 ¿No_hay_quién_nos_desateLast time, I was in the hospice with Mom in 2008 and Dr. Rita told me to “just disengage.”  “I can’t disengage, she’s my Mom and she may be dying,” I said. “Besides, I couldn’t do that to my sister.”

But the real story was, self-protection literally never entered my mind.  Since infancy, self-protection wasn’t in my biochemistry; my entire organism was all about trying to oblige Mom.  I took Mom’s excommunication verdict when I was 25 the same way – the idea of protest or self-defense never remotely occurred to me.  I didn’t even know I had self-preservation instincts.  Whu Nhu?

Yet we all have survival instincts – strong ones.  Trouble was, my instincts for self-preservation had been constantly being overwhelmed by events which seemed beyond my control.

I was beyond clueless in 2008, but here’s a fact I’ve learned since: “the overwhelm of our instincts for survival by events completely beyond our control” is the technical definition of trauma.  And when our survival instincts are forced into trauma mode, “double-plus un-good things happen,” to quote George Orwell.

As I went into overwhelm in that 2008 hospice, it was like living in a nightmare during the day, all day, every day.  I began to experience days when it felt as though Mom’s critical voice was screaming so loud in my head that her voice had become the inside of my head.  I began to have waking and sleeping nightmares about Goya’s Los Caprichos, a series of 80 etchings heavily populated by just such images.  All I wanted was for Mom to let go her claws from my brain. [FN1, Goya, above: “Can’t anyone unleash us?”]

One day watching Mom nap, I was dimly conscious of a horrifying gut reaction from deep in some prehistoric part of my mental sub-basement, a place out of Dante’s “Inferno.”  Up came a horrible idea: something which is inflicting so much pain upon my sister and me requires the raw animal response of fight, flight, or who-knows-what.

I looked at Mom and thought “This is a creature in total misery because it knows no God and no perspective.  It can’t find enough meaning in life about which to feel peace, so it’s going out inflicting as much hurt as it can on the universe, because watching people like me suffer is the only way it can know that it exists.  This is a bad golem, a hurtful thing, and not only is it hurting me, it’s about to be flown to New York to make life miserable for my beloved sister.  I must defend my little sister!  Why do we prolong this golem’s ability to torture itself, my sister and me?”

Horrified at my own hideous emotional upsurge, I flat-out ran from the room and the hospice.  Many palm trees narrowly escaped the fury of my assault upon the grounds around Mom’s condo that night as I jogged off this unwelcome animal fury, until I limped inside and fell asleep senseless in my work-out togs.

In short, parts of me were literally going mad.  There were deep places lurking in me with a gut instinct that emotional pain this intense must mean that I was about to be killed – and we all have a survival instinct to fight back.  Luckily the higher parts of me prevailed.

Caution: in trauma, adverse experiences can feel either much worse or much better than they actually were.  Perhaps Mom was no such person.  Perhaps I was traumatized during my incubation, then I projected my anxieties on her.  We have no laboratory proof either way.  But my job is my own healing and transformation.  For that we must go beyond denial, to feel into our feelings without acting out.

I’m Sorry

Goya Capricho 72 No_te_escaparásDuring the last three days in the hospice, I decided I had to bring some calm to Mom’s soul, or all this would kill me along with her.  I went in one morning and basically insisted on loving her.  I sang to her.  I held her hand.  I rubbed her back.  I used the fact that we thought she was about to be kicked out of the hospice for failure to die according to the Medicare schedule, as a selling point.

“Things are looking up,” I said, “Linda’s finding you a nice place in New York.” My sister was in court running legal cases all day, while trying to find a nursing home nearby. “How am I going to get to New York?” Mom demanded.  I talked her step by step through how we would first get her up into a wheel chair, then onto a plane with oxygen, and I’d sit with her on the plane, and Linda and her family would meet us at the other end.  In great detail.  That seemed to calm Mom down.

“I’m sorry I separated you from the family,” she finally said, 100% out of the blue, regarding me with a baleful look before falling asleep.

I felt moved and teary, but somehow it wasn’t enough to make me feel much better.  I was way too far gone into the emotional pain pit.  [FN2, Goya, above: “You will not escape”]

During these last weeks, I was staying alone nights in Mom’s upscale retirement pad on the beach, out of my mind with isolation and grief.  To keep my immune system from collapsing, I’d jog around the gated community late until midnight after 12 hours in the hospice, so disoriented that I had trouble not running into a palm tree or two and bashing my own head in.

I had to use the computer for business, and I couldn’t go through this alone; one night I “just found myself” on Match.com.  What, you ask, after all those weeks of diving deep into the pain of the Inner Child, then being told “Go Way Kid” by my mentors, and then more weeks of ultra pain delivered in person by Mom?  “That stretch in the Florida hospice with Mom was the worst weeks of my entire life,” I wrote at the time.

Wasn’t I more ready to enter a mental hospital than a dating website?  In retrospect, that’s a big “Yes.”  Years later I heard that the standard joke at Alcoholics Anonymous is about a guy who’s been sober for months, then suddenly “just finds himself” with a drink in his hand. That’s exactly how I “just found myself” on dating websites.

But nobody warned me at the time.  In fact, my second therapist Dr. Rita told me that I was doing very well on her program.  She said that I was well enough to go back to work, and that I was well enough to drop my own therapy and fly around the country to physically nurse someone else for weeks.  She also said I was well enough to date.

In my mind, it was simple: I had a huge deficit of romantic love.  I’d gotten no deep emotional connection in my 27-year marriage, then I got a taste of it from Dan back East, a taste which blew me away.  I had accepted starving to death as a 27-year norm, then discovered there’s food out there.  Really tasty food, in fact it was addictive, if you recall.

Hitting the Bottle

Goya Capricho 43 El_sueño_de_la_razón_produce_monstruosNow it’s simple, I thought: “I married a bad man.  He was mean to me.  So I’ll just find a good man to love me.”  If Dan wouldn’t, I’d find a “West Coast Dan” who would.

What I didn’t know was that I was in so much pain from not merely 27 years but a lifetime without attachment, that I was hitting the bottle.  I was trying to anesthetize an entire life of emotional pain, with the “feel good” of romance.  [FN3, Goya, above: “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters”]

I couldn’t stand the thought of returning from Florida to California after week upon week of this living Hell, with nothing and no one to whom to look forward.  After my evening jog, I’d take advantage of the three hour time delay to take calls from California into the wee hours.

“I hope to meet a productive man who has worked in transportation, construction, engineering, the military, science, or any field which gives him the satisfaction that, at the end of the day, he can look at his work and say:  ‘Today I created something to make the world better’,” my Match.com profile said.  “Such men seem to have the self-confidence necessary to love a real woman.” It also mentioned my singing.

“Hi, I’m a productive guy, and turn in a day’s effort for a day’s wage,” one aerospace engineer wrote back.  “I like to be active, love to play in the ocean during the summer, play racquet ball outdoors, and bicycle the Back Bay.  But I also have this music connection, and found it fascinating that you perform music.

“I have too have lived abroad, and I have a universal outlook on business models in today’s world.  It would be interesting to talk to you about the American and world economies.  Got to go practice the piano!  With a song in my heart…” he signed off.  A prospective accompanist, no less.  We spoke several times about everything from Schubert to Schopenhauer.

Another night there was Bob the Air Force man.  We both had the same science degree and an interest in international affairs; we hit it off by email and then by phone.  “I just read your profile and was impressed,” he wrote me.  “We seem to have a lot in common, including a connection to the military.  Appreciated what you wrote in your profile, and have never seen it put quite that way before (about productive men).

“The experiences I had during my many years of military service (world-wide travel + two wars) were exciting, inspiring, and humbling.  The average American has no idea how lucky he is to have had the good fortune of being born here, rather than one of the thousand other places I have visited around the globe.”

Mom passed away overnight in Florida the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  We had been scheduled to fly her to New York two days later, that Tuesday.  My brother-in-law booked me to New York for Wednesday Thanksgiving eve, to give me two days to pack up whatever I could carry of Mom’s belongings in our parents’ suitcases.  I gave away most of the wall paintings to Mom’s friends and relatives, made arrangements for the furniture, brought whatever bulky items might sell to an e-Bay trader, and took calls from Match.com while packing.

We held a funeral for Mom in New York on Thanksgiving eve in my sister’s upscale church.  Again Linda and her family said all the words.  When they were done, I just got up and sang again, this time Mom’s favorite song, “Moon River” from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”  Again everyone cried and almost applauded my singing.

Again I was without tears.  At least this time I knew why.  I had always lived in fear of Mom, and now she had spent her last six weeks doing what felt like trying to obliterated me.  I felt really awful.

I’d been scheduled for many months to sing in the Handel’s “Messiah” given annually at the prestigious Nixon Library in California on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  I decided that I’d had my life on hold while sitting in Florida long enough, and told Bob I’d be back for the performance.

“You can’t be alone in California the first night right after your Mom died,” he said. “I’d like to take you to dinner after the concert.”  We arranged it.

And you, dear reader, already know what happens next.

Footnotes

FN1   Goya, Francisco de, “Los Caprichos,” set of 80 aquatint prints, Madrid, 1799 :  Capricho № 75: ¿No hay quién nos desate? (Can’t anyone unleash us?)
FN2   Goya, Capricho № 72:  No te escaparás (You will not escape)
FN 3  Goya, Capricho № 43:  El sueño de la razón produce monstruos  (The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters)

———————

This is from Kathy’s forthcoming book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment DisorderHow I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in Adults, Adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

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Mommy Doesn’t Like Me

#17 in my book blogs from “Don’t Try This at Home,” Chapter 3

Scan3-1 Kathy at porch crop 1I bet that title got your attention. Hey, most of my life I thought it was no big deal. I just always took it for granted that Mom didn’t like me much, and so what? Lots of people simply don’t get along. Mom was kinda like the weather: a fact of life about which one couldn’t do a thing, so why fret?  You don’t like the weather, you move.  So I graduated high school a year early and got moving.  Problem solved.

Or so I thought. But in 2008 in the hospice with Mom, the problem was back in my face.  And didn’t start when I quit med school at 25.  That’s me at 8 in the photo.  What kind of face is that on a kid?

I reported last time that in 2006 at her 50th anniversary dinner, Mom looked at me out of the blue and said, “I nearly died having you; you almost killed me. You gave me an infection that put me flat on my back for weeks…”  Huh? This was the first time in my life that I’d ever heard of that.  It seemed so unimportant, no one ever said boo.

When I was a kid, Mom did sometimes show me her scar, say I was an emergency Caesarian, and hint I was an unplanned pregnancy. When I hit puberty she’d warn me hard against boys. “It’s the woman who pays,” she used to repeat, “You don’t want to end up pushing a baby carriage.”  It wasn’t banter; it felt anxious and scary.

Later in 2009 I learned that at birth I was instantly put into incubation for many weeks since I too had that infection, one so bad it nearly killed me as well, not only Mom. She never mentioned that.

At about 4, I swallowed a penny and was rushed to X-ray. I was terrified by the huge cold black machine, by being held down, and by Mom’s anger; I thought she’d kill me for causing all the commotion. Another time before I was 5, Mom took me aside and said of one of my playmates, “I don’t love Michelle; she’s not my daughter.  But I like Michelle.  I love you – but I don’t like you.”  I tried to ignore this stuff, like the weather, but that one stung.  I realized just last week that I can still see the family dining table where it happened.

I recalled cowering in the kindergarten bathroom at 6, trying to erase a B grade and pencil in an A, afraid to come home with less than perfect – and then Mom’s fury at the lie. Washing my hands in school at 12, a tiny ring Mom gave me slid down the drain and she didn’t speak to me for weeks.  I felt complete panic.

Suddenly in that 2008 hospice it hit me: I’d always had some underlying feeling of fear, because I knew: Mommy doesn’t like me.

What child, you ask in disbelief, grows up thinking “Mommy doesn’t like me?”  Don’t all children think Mommy likes and loves them?  Hey, when I was a kid, I’d never been through childhood before, so I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to feel that! And didn’t dare discuss it.

All I knew was: Mommy doesn’t like me, she told me so in person, and I believed her. And in early 2008 when I interviewed five older relatives as instructed by the Inner Child Workbook, they confirmed it in spades: “Your mother never seemed to like you much.”

I was in this hospice because Mom was my Mom, and my beloved sister had commuted from New York to Florida for months to help first Dad, then Mom.  Now, Linda had to stay in her law offices on Wall Street; she had a husband, two sons, a large dog and a sailboat to support.  But Mom didn’t care. She just didn’t want me around.

My Wasted Life

homeless woman color1 cropI reasoned that Mom must be terrified of being ill and facing death.  No matter what she said, I decided, what Mom needed now was a huge amount of compassion and love; then surely she’d calm down.

I tried the compassion route to the best of my ability, which was probably pretty meager, but I tried. I sat with Mom for hours.  I said, “Mom, it must be scary to have a heart attack and be in here; why don’t you let me just hold you and support you emotionally?”

“I don’t want you to hold me,” Mom finally said. “I don’t want you anywhere near me. I sat on the living room couch and cried after I got off the phone with you, every Sunday for 25 years.”  (About seven minutes into my weekly Sunday phone calls to her, as noted last week, Mom did have a habit of hanging up on me… for 25 years.)

“Is this a good time to focus on bygones?” I persisted. “I’ve had a rough time with my divorce, the loss of my home and the collapse of the job market, and I could use emotional support, too. Can’t we do that for each other and just be mother and daughter?” I asked.  But no.  Now, the years of hang-ups were about to be explained.

“I’m not interested in emotional support.  Your sister helps people every day. What have you done with your life?” Mom said. “You have a brilliant mind and we gave you everything. It’s your own fault you married Larry.

homeless woman color2 crop“It was a wasted life, a wasted life!  You deserve what you got.  Emotional support doesn’t mean a thing.  The only thing which means anything is money.  If you care about someone that’s what you give them.”

Again we ask: am I imagining this, projecting my own neurosis onto Mom?  I wish.  And who brings a voice recorder into the hospice with their Mom?  Yet not only did she say it – I believed she was right.

I even called my sister to ask desperately:  “Is it true, is it true, did I really waste my entire life?” Sis was kind and said, “Of course not,” but she was so preoccupied with Mom’s illness that that was it.  My situation simply was not that important.

In fact it was the logic of history. It’s not as if I disagreed with Mom.  I’d long heard her say “I don’t like you,” and to a kid, Mom is Authority.  The Authority must be right, so I must be Bad.  I’d felt that forever, long before my first therapist Dr. Matt spelled out the science that “rejection creates a false belief structure deep in a child’s subconscious that ‘I am bad.’ ”

I must have led a wasted life.  In fact, I had fully internalized that – taken it into my heart – ever since I could remember:  Mommy doesn’t like me, so I must be worthless.

It’s Not My Coat

Ugly Coat 1 Poster 59129_641416799242577_626162796_nOn days like that (most days) my cell phone kept me alive. I placed a lot of calls from that hospice to friends in California and Virginia. When my sister couldn’t help me, I was reduced to calling my ice-queen second therapist Dr. Rita. “Is it true, did I have a worthless life?” I asked her in panic.

Dr. Rita had always refused to talk by phone, but under these circumstances she agreed.  I figgered my shrink must be the sane one since by now I sure did feel as if I were going stark staring mad. And God is merciful.  Dr. Rita actually did help some; she gave me one of her textbook examples that’s had lasting catch-phrase value.

“No one cries for 25 years for someone else; it’s all nonsense,” Dr. Rita said. “Your Mom projects her psychological problems onto you, and you take it on yourself.

“If she’s so miserable, then she’s the one with the failed life and she’s crying for herself, not you. If she wanted to go to medical school, she should have gone herself, not tried to break you over over it, to force you to do something she wanted to do herself. Why should she make you a pariah for marrying anyone? This is her psychic garbage, and you’ve been assuming it for years.

Ugly Coat Yellow _570xN.383387044_cpv2“It’s like a big ugly hairy coat that comes in the mail that you didn’t order. You open the box and find a coat in some horrid shade of orange or vomit yellow-green, with things sticking out of it. Your mother says, “I ordered it for you, it fits you perfectly, this coat is You!  You must try it on.”  So you try it, you walk around for her, you hate it.  You hate the style, the color, it does not fit you at all – but she makes you wear it.

“It’s time for you to take off the coat and say:  ‘Mom, this coat does not belong to me.  This is not my coat.  I did not order it – you did.  I think it will fit you better; please wear it yourself.’  Tell her to wear it.  Let her be responsible for her own resentments and complaints.  Or send it back, because the point is:  This is not your coat.

“This trip to Miami is an opportunity for you, if properly taken. You have a better chance of pulling yourself together now, to separate yourself from Mom now, while she’s still alive. This is not your coat. You’ve got to take it off and emotionally separate from her.  Do not tear yourself to pieces.  Use humor. Step back.  Go out and take a walk.  Take deep breaths, don’t let it all choke you.”

Fabulous insights, I now see, typing up my 2008 hand notes; if only I had been able to “get it.”  Back then I did see the logic; it did help logically.  It’s a great story.  But it didn’t calm my heart for beans.

Because this was the same Dr. Rita who also told me to lock myself up alone and relate to myself by myself. That had shut my emotions down with a bang. Without any bonding with Dr. Rita or anyone else, I still was so alone, terrified, and in a state of clinical shock that I couldn’t “get” much of anything – except that I hurt like hell.

And Rita still wasn’t doing emotional support.  Instead she concluded the call with her same old “go support yourself” Inner Child mantra. “When you have these panic attacks, you must talk to the Inner Child inside you and tell her ‘That authority figure was ridiculous.  Mom was ridiculous, you don’t treat a daughter like that.’

“Just disengage,” Rita concluded.  Terrific.  I was alone in Miami, 1,200 miles from my sister in New York, 3,000 miles from Rita and any new friends in California, sleeping in Mom’s retirement complex surrounded by people on walkers, completely isolated from the rest of Planet Earth.  Go tell Daniel to “just disengage” from the lions.

—————————–

This is from Kathy’s forthcoming book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment DisorderHow I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Tags: Adult Attachment Disorder, Adult Attachment Theory, Adult Attachment Interview, Emotional Support, Grief, Incubation, Inner Child, Therapy, Unplanned Pregnancy

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Isolation Row

#14 in my ongoing book blogs from “Don’t Try This at Home”

Last week my second therapist Dr. Rita was telling me to “heal yourself” to where I was reduced to singing Verdi arias about being doomed to live alone in a cave forever.  So I just felt worse.

isolation cell blueYet Rita continued drumming in the isolation message. “You don’t need Dan,” she scoffed about the rebound guy.  “You don’t need anyone else.  What you need is, to stop trying to heal the child who’s sick, with some guy’s d–k.  Just heal yourself.”

No, I may have New York potty mouth, but that did not come from me.  Yes, you did see that in this polite book on brain science, because that, verbatim, was the instruction from a therapist, at my great personal financial and emotional expense.

That is a quote directly from this refined, soft-spoken, highly educated lady, right in the middle of her technical shrink-speak in my 2008 notebook – and I doubt she coined the rhyme.  It must be standard trade jargon in some PhD circles.

Note the irrational but seamless segue asserting that only total isolation can work.  Going to other people, anyone at all, is linked to the disgust and mortification of “going to some guy’s d—k.”

I’d never heard of different ways to “go to other people” back then, but what about Dr. Rita?  Had she never heard of a middle ground somewhere between an isolation cell, and a “d—k?”  Say, go to a pastor, a divorce seminar, a women’s group, or a girlfriend?

Or maybe, gasp, go to your therapist for emotional support?  I sure never wouldda thunk of that at the time!  By then, that would have sounded to me like a nice outing to visit Torquemada. “Why do they call him Torquemada?” asks Mel Brooks.  “Because you can’t torq him outta anything!” [FN1]

While it did turn out to be true that neither sex nor romance can heal childhood emotional pain, can it be done by lying alone on a sheet covered in applesauce?  (Oct. 11 blog)

 Death Sentence

Mel Brooks Torquemada crop best”But this is a Death Sentence,” my emotional limbic brain, otherwise known as my heart, responded forcefully from deep within. “This feels like a Death Sentence,” I kept telling Rita, “This isn’t working!

“I do need someone else to love me!” I would go to her in tears saying.  “If you tell me do it myself, that means I’ll be alone forever!  Something feels terribly wrong!  It makes me queasy to say I have to do it myself, like I’m not good enough that someone else would love me enough to help me.  It’s a sinking feeling.  You’re telling me that no one else is going to love me enough to help me, which means I must be intrinsically unlovable.”

By making clear to me that they wouldn’t work with me unless I found a phantom inner child I just could not find, both my first and second therapist were in fact telegraphing just that. “You’re the problem, everyone else can do it, you’re uncooperative, we can’t work with you, you’re a failure.”

Not too far from “unlovable,” is it?

I joke now about Mel Brooks pronouncing death sentences (above).

But back then, as I searched for an inner child, all I could feel was a bottomless well of emotional pain and terror like something out of the real Inquisition.  I’d find something really horrifying deep inside which I was afraid to look at, and have repeat nightmares about dead fish with horribly dead eyes (or worse unmentionable themes).  No inner child, just horror.

Is that horror, me? Am I a freak with some kind of inner dead fish or inner monster, instead of a “normal inner child”? The whole time, I can find no mention in my notes of the word “trauma.”  But what, I ask you, was all of this, if not trauma?

The only thing I could do, once in this  down-spiral result of the isolation, was to sit in my room hugging a pillow, and repeat to myself how badly I wanted to be held by someone, anyone — anyone at all.  Then I’d think of how Dan the rebound guy held and caressed me head to toe for hours and days on end, for the first time ever in my life.  (For some reason my ex preferred tennis rackets, and my parents were too busy.)

In particular, I would recall the overwhelming sense of relaxation I experienced with Dan, in a way that bowled me over.  Granted, a funny way to talk about relaxation.  But it was that big a contrast to my “normal” of the time, which after all was a very high- performance, finish-off-the project and bring home the bacon “normal” more suitable to someone as relaxed as, say, Donald Trump (possibly the least relaxed being on Earth.)  “You just take all the tension out of my body” I used to tell Dan.

It got to where I’d walk into his room after work, take off my watch and literally throw it against the far wall – hard, because it was a really big room – at which point we would both dissolve into gales of laughter.  Temporarily.

Romance vs Therapy?

But now all that was gone, and I was the living opposite of relaxed.  Now the original Dan emotional pain which drowned out my Dad’s funeral, blew out my transcontinental air budget, hijacked my world and sent me running into therapy would start all over again, in an endless loop of grief.

True ManhoodCertainly my thinking brain was growing dimly aware that for all his tractor-drivin’, gun-slingin’ he-man manners, Dan was not much of a real man when it came to women.  Somewhere in the same 2008 notes I also wrote quite reasonably that his no- attachment credo couldn’t be right because “if all men treated women that way there would be no one to care for the children and no more human race.”   Wouldn’t a real man stand up to protect a woman (from guys like him) ?

Yet go tell that to my emotional limbic brain while it was locked up alone.  Ha.

How was I to stay away from men, when romance was the only thing left on the planet which appeared to offer some semblance of holding?  I felt sure this kind of holding must be “bonding” (aka attachment). [FN2]   I had been totally unaware of the existence of this wonderful thing until the “Inner Child Workbook” revealed it to me, and also revealed that I lacked it so utterly.  Now, all I could think of was:  couldn’t I please get some bonding before I die?

Around this time without even thinking I wrote something in a notebook, then blanked out on it completely and put it away.  A few months  later going over my notes, I noticed it with a shock and here is what I wrote:  “Dan loved me more than anyone in my entire life has ever loved me.”

Huh? An astonishing thing to say, given Dan’s predatory behavior and utter lack of regard in throwing me out of his farm house days after my dad’s death.

Still, I stared at that sentence for a long time: “Dan loved me more than anyone in my entire life has ever loved me.”  And then I had to admit to myself despite all reason, that it was true — not that I’d dare tell another soul, least of all my, er, therapist.

I just flat out did not feel as though I had gotten anything near the kind of love that Dan had given me, however meager, in the almost two years we were together, from my mom, dad, ex, or anyone in my life before.

A sad statement on the state of my soul but still the truth is the truth.

And hey, compared to both my therapists, Dan did love me a heck of a lot more. What after all, did they give me? No wonder I kept trying to crawl back into Dan’s arms in subsequent romances – at least from Dan I got something!

Where were the diagnostic tools – or any diagnostic method? Where was the Adult Attachment Interview, I ask again? Hadn’t Dr. Rita read any Adult Attachment Disorder books or anything on adult Attachment Theory or adult Attachment Disorder?

Once again I thought, Fall, 2008 surely was the end of my world.  Surely it could get no worse than this.

————————————–
This is from Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.  Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about adult attachment theory, attachment disorder in adults, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1  Mel Brooks, “History of the World Part I” (film), 1981; Brooks plays Grand Inquisitor Tomas Torquemada (among others).

FN2  Technically there is a fine distinction between”bonding” and “attachment” in recent psychiatric literature, but for years therapists used the terms interchangeably.

Tagged With: Adult Attachment Disorder, Adult Attachment Disorder Books, Adult Attachment Theory, Attachment Disorder in Adults, Adult Attachment Interview, Divorce, Rebound, Emotional pain, Grief, Inner Child, Therapy, Trauma, Limbic Brain

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Down the Rabbit Hole

#13 in my ongoing book blogs from “Don’t Try This at Home”

When Dr. Rita heard about my exploits last week with “The Inner Child Workbook” and the applesauce caper, she said, “Well, I thought you could do some reading, but we don’t recommend doing those exercises unsupervised.” Now you tell me; the damage was done. [FN1]

I was terrified by my lack of bonding (attachment) which the Workbook had revealed.  But from my notes, I was too terrified to realize that I should try to describe it to Dr. Rita.  Anyway, she had her own agenda, which caused more damage.

Inner Child Garden w. fairyIn guided imagery, a professional creates a script for a sort of dream sequence and has the patient imagine it, to uncover feelings locked in the subconscious.  It’s a fine tool in the right situation, but this weren’t it.

“Close your eyes,” she said, “and imagine you’re going down, down, down below the ground. You emerge onto a path to a secret garden. You see a little girl about 5 coming toward you. Imagine you take the child’s hand; notice how tiny it is.”  She had me sit with the girl by a stream awhile “to get used to each other,” then lean against a tree to “see whether she’d sit on my lap.”  But I still could find no child inside me; trying just created more anxiety.

Next Dr. Rita said “Let’s ask the child some questions. Respond without thinking, from the gut. What’s your first memory of Father?”  “A pair of slacks going behind a closed door,” I mumbled.  Spontaneous, yes, and I’d never said that before, but that was me talking.  No child involved.

“What’s your first memory of Mother?”  “I got a B in kindergarten and I was afraid to go home.  So I hid in the class bathroom trying to erase it.  I wrote an A over it, but I got caught and it was really awful.” Again it came spontaneously, but this was me talking, and it was an incident I’d remembered all my life.  I can still see the inside of the class bathroom door and feel the fear.  But I’d just tried to forget it since Mom was a fact of life, like the weather.

“You had to put on a front because they didn’t accept the real you,” Dr. Rita announced.  Me, I never would have thought of any of this.  She, however, had a whole analysis: “Both your father and mother abandoned and rejected you.” Gosh I never would have thought of that, that sounds really embarrassing!

“You have ‘repetition compulsion’- you’re compelled to find men who abandon, so you can recreate the problem ‘on stage.’  So you can go back and fix it,” Rita went on. “But you didn’t break it – you don’t have to fix it.” I wrote that motto on a large 5 x7 file card and it’s still on my desk today.  It sure sounded like plausible and useful data.

But where was the Adult Attachment Interview, needed to diagnose anyone starting therapy?  It’s been around since 1996. Why didn’t she tell me about Attachment Disorder in adults like me, as well as in children? That might have given words to my terror at my lack of bonding. [FN2]

Instead it was all head talk, and the solution was even more head talk.  Dr. Rita, my second therapist, concluded with the same advice verbatim that my first therapist gave at the end of my Oct. 11 blog: “Just let it go,” she said.

“Just stop trying to fix it with men, and let the past go. It’s an act of will.” Just think your way out of it.  But “trying to fix the heart using the head, is like trying to paint with a hammer—it only makes a mess,” as I later learned – much later. [FN3]

Isolation Again

Then Rita lowered the isolation boom—again. “You are the one who has to do it,” she intoned. “You have to feel the little girl in your heart and comfort her, love her, and heal her.  She wants you to be the one to make her feel safe and be the Mom she never had.

“You have to do it alone, that’s the whole point. If you go to other people, she’ll be frightened, because she’ll think you don’t love her, if you’re running to others. You’ll scare the little girl away if you go to anyone else. A child will always run from anyone other than Mom.  Especially from men.  If you go to men she’ll be terrified.”

Forza-zinka-milanovStill, there was absolutely nothing that felt like a child inside me.  I tried and tried; I was paying good money for all this! I listened to Rita’s “Garden Path” imagery over and over on a tape I’d made of her, and did all the exercises; no result but despair.  It was more like “down the Rabbit Hole.”

I got out Verdi’s epic “La Forza del Destino” in which Leonora is consigned to live alone in a monastery cave unto death, to repent of her ill-fated love affair. I sang her farewell aria until I sobbed. I took it all very seriously, and Zinka Milanov (right) rocks as Leonora. But I felt worse and worse.

“I can’t do any of this if I can’t find a child!  Is there any way to put a structure on this process?!” I actually said the following week.

What I meant was “Have you no methodology?  I’m drowning over here!” The more I look at my notes, the less I can understand why no one could understand my protest.  It was a really loud call for help.

My emotions may have been shot, but my thinking brain could still perform.  My notebooks show it all.  I had just worked 30 years to restructure the global monetary system, build rail and water infrastructure projects, and launch billion dollar satellite systems.  So if Rita’s RX made sense, I could get it.  If I could find an inner child, I would. My predicament was bizarre, but no one listened.

Where were the diagnostic tools – or any diagnostic method? Where was the Adult Attachment Interview, I ask again? Hadn’t she read any adult attachment disorder books or anything on adult attachment theory or adult attachment disorder?  But no.

————————————–
This is from Chapter 2 of Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.  Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about adult attachment theory, attachment disorder in adults, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1  Taylor, Cathryn L. MFCC, “The Inner Child Workbook,” Penguin Putnam, New York, 1991

FN2  Main, Mary,  “The Adult Attachment Interview: Fear, attention, safety and discourse processes;” also titled “The Organized Categories of Infant, Child, and Adult Attachment: Flexible vs. Inflexible Attention Under Attachment-Related Stress,” Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 2000, 48:1055-1095. At: http://70-40-200-36.bluehost.com/documents/Main.pdf
–This is a very difficult topic to research, so I did it for you; check my blog on it, with more footnotes at the end: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/adult-attachment-interview-aai-mary-main/

FN3  James, John W., Friedman, Russell, “The Grief Recovery Handbook,” Harper Collins, New York, 2009 (original 1998)

Tagged With: Adult Attachment Disorder, Adult Attachment Disorder Books, Adult Attachment Theory, Attachment Disorder in Adults, Adult Attachment Interview, Divorce, Rebound, Emotional pain, Grief, Inner Child, Therapy, Trauma, Limbic Brain

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What Inner Child?

#12 in my ongoing book blogs from “Don’t Try This at Home”

In my last post, group therapy put me through the floor. “Start with the wounded child inside you,” Dr. Matt repeated. “Then introduce your care-giving adult to your hurting child,” so the adult can “take care of” it.  But the more I tried it, the sicker I felt.

inner child moonlight hurtI just couldn’t find a “child.”  Was he talking about my grade school voices coming up from the back seat of my parents’ car decades ago (Book Blog 11)?  They just popped up and disappeared, a one-shot shock ‘way out of my control.  But I couldn’t find a “child” as a person.

My Dad died, but I couldn’t cry, remember? That’s why I took the plunge and went to therapy. Yet that grief failure was never addressed; instead came this “child” agenda. And all I knew was: here I’d gone for help, but I was feeling worse.

Where was the Adult Attachment Interview, needed for anyone starting therapy?  It’s been around since 1996. [FN1]

Finally I told Matt, “My husband didn’t love me for nearly 30 years, the rebound guy didn’t love me, and now it looks like maybe my parents didn’t do emotions much either. And you’re telling me ‘Go love yourself”? At least with the rebound guy I didn’t feel so alone.  I can’t feel any such child, and the more I try, the more anxiety I feel. It’s like being asked to go have a homosexual relationship with myself; there’s something pornographic about it.”

“If you really find hugging your own child to be pornographic, you have severe trauma and need serious help,” he said. It didn’t sound like, “That’s bad, we need to get you more treatment.”  More like, “You’re uncooperative, try harder, or you don’t fit in the group.”

Think of me as a frog on a lab table, torso slit open in front. Delving into my 2008 notes today, I can see what happened and report it. But at the time, all I knew was it felt like my belly was being slit—and no one could understand that simple fact when I told them, nor tell me what to do about it.  They treated me like a broken widget refusing to behave as expected.  Never any question about their methodology.

The emotional pain was bewildering, so back I went to the web and the phone.  On August 1, I got a second opinion from Pam, a divorce counselor at a local church. “Your hurts go too deep and are too many,” she said with empathy on hearing my story. “Support groups are inadequate.  Stop the Superwoman act and take care of yourself; get individual therapy.”

Now it was deep in the Crash of 2008, I was out of work, and horrified at the expense. But Pam convinced me by a sheer compassion which stood out like a lighthouse in the pitch dark of all others’ indifference.  I never forgot that call; to this day I love her.  She even found me a referral to a local agency.

I was in a second therapist’s office for individual treatment on August 5, the emotional pain was that intense.

Just Take It on Faith

Dr. Rita like Dr. Matt was full of useful textbook wisdom. “Your ex and Dan (the rebound) were exactly the same: neither could make an emotional connection,” she pointed out to my dismay. “Larry was all intellect, no sex.  Dan was all sex, no intellect. Neither were emotionally available.  There was no pillow talk, no emotional intimacy, no ‘I love you.’  That’s why neither of them could even think of sharing children with you.

Shrink knitting my brain“You need emotional change, which only occurs with emotional connection,” she said. “Intellectual insight is not emotional cure; you are too consumed with trying to understand intellectually. You do what your ex did, hide your emotions behind your intellect.”  She urged me to stop taking so many notes in session. “That’s a way to block emotional change.”
All true thus far, it seemed.

But she didn’t want to deal with my Dad grief, either. “If your father never came home, it’s like the death of a stranger,” she dismissed it. “Don’t feel bad you can’t cry for him.”

So with whom should I make an emotional connection? “Make an emotional connection with yourself,” Dr. Rita said. “To find the pieces of yourself, you must love yourself… Make a connection with your inner child, that’s the theory.”

I was neck deep in emotional pain, not to mention the Crash of 2008 and my ex’s credit card debt.  So it took me several weeks to realize but I eventually noticed I’d heard it before.  Dr. Matt hadn’t mentioned a theory, but was doing just this when I left.

“Inner Child Theory,” Dr. Rita expanded, “has a documented history of success. A part of you is a hurting child inside. You’ve got to learn to comfort that child yourself.” She went on in detail about what is the inner child, vs the other adult part of us who must understand the task of comforting the child. I wrote it all down, but still couldn’t feel either. I had even less of an idea what she meant by “comfort.”

Feed myself chicken soup?  Chocolate?  Find a hot tub?  (I’d never had children, so that’s all “comfort” meant to me.) “Take two chickens and call me in the morning”?  How  does that solve my problem: I’m alone in the world and feeling horribly ill? What is the difference between that and “stuff it”?

For weeks I tried to explain the disconnect to Dr. Rita. “Stop taking notes and let yourself feel it!” she’d command. “Huh? feel what?” I’d say. “The inner child, of course,” she’d reply.

“You’ve got to go deep within and feel the inner child’s shame, her guilt, her anger… ”  “What shame, guilt or anger?  I don’t have any of that,” I kept saying. “I go right to panic!”  That always drew a blank.

Desperate to get across my state of loneliness so profound it felt like a mortal threat, I brought her my poems about Dan. “Beautifully written,” she said, “but there’s a common theme of victimization; this is all the self pity of a victim.

“Aren’t you sick of it yet? Why don’t you just stop being a victim – and start being victorious instead? Why don’t you stop emotionally blocking and just comfort the child? You can’t do it because you’re not willing to give up being the victim!”

“Get down on your knees and comfort the child!!,” Dr. Rita finally exclaimed one day (thank heaven I did take all those notes so I can unravel this mess). “There are books on the Inner Child you can read, there are exercises we can give you. It’s your emotional block which is the problem!

“You just have to take it on faith and give it a try.”

If that makes no sense to you, fine – it made no sense to me in 2008.  But how could I buck Dr. Rita? I was in no position to figure it out myself—that’s why I went for help! No wonder top psychiatrists are writing critiques of their profession. [FN2]

Where was the Adult Attachment Interview, I ask again? Why didn’t she tell me about Attachment Disorder in adults like me, as well as in children? Where were the diagnostic tools – or a diagnostic method?

But I didn’t know any of that then.  I told myself, “At least now I’m getting individual treatment, and now she’s explaining the theory in detail.” So in September 2008, after receiving the same RX twice, I caved to the parchments on their walls.

Flunking Out at Bonding

Inner Child Workbook -TaylorOn hearing that my own backward emotional blocks were the culprit, down I slunk in remorse to Barnes & Noble to buy “The Inner Child Workbook” and do my homework like a good little, er, child.  It put me through 36 pages of exercises. First I was to interview my relatives to ask how my parents were with me as a child, then interview my body to find out where the emotional pain sat. [FN3]

“I could never understand why your mom was so mean to you,” my older cousin Bonnie said – just like that. “I noticed it when you were about 5.  I used to ask her, ‘Why are you so mean to that little girl?’  She was mean to you in public, the aunts saw it, everyone saw it.  But then she was mean to your father in public.  I guess she just wasn’t a very nice person.”

I knew Mom didn’t like me much but had taken it for granted forever, like the weather.  Now I began to recall incidents which hurt, but had just been put out of mind.  I remembered a day before my sister was born, which puts me under age five, when Mom said of my playmate, “I don’t love Michelle; she’s not my daughter, but I like Michelle. I love you – but I don’t like you.” It stung so I never forgot it, I can still see the family dining table where this happened.

There was another memory of a small ring Mom had given me which slipped off my hand washing up in fifth grade class.  She wouldn’t talk to me for weeks afterward.  The guilt felt awful.

Some of this data may have been useful in some context, but in this isolation, with no context, it just produced more anxiety.

Finally on page 37 the Workbook reports as fact that “infants need attachment,” a concept neither of my doctors ever mentioned.  (Try the Adult Attachment Interview?)   “From birth to 18 months, the developmental tasks you needed to master were bonding with mother, nurturing and trust,” Taylor writes.  (There’s a fine distinction between attachment and bonding but many therapists use them interchangeably.)

“If you were left for long periods of time to cry… if the arms that held you were rejecting and rigid, you would not have felt safe.  If you did not feel safe, you would not have been able to bond enough to develop trust… You would most likely grow up either compulsively seeking closeness or habitually avoiding it,” Taylor goes on.  “Many of your relationships terminate due to your neediness.” [FN3 Opcit]

Terror struck.  I had no information on my first 18 months (in fact no one can remember it) — but something deep in my gut knew in that moment:  my problem was a lack of bonding.

Wham, it hit me:  I had failed to accomplish the task of infant-mother bonding.  For months I couldn’t feel the “child thing” — but this I could really feel.  Suddenly I had jumped from conscious memories of age 5 or 10, to what felt like entirely subconscious ghosts of memories in a dark place before time.

I had flunked bonding.  The failure notice felt like a death sentence.  And I had only myself to blame for my gross infant incompetence, and only myself to fall back on.  But I and myself were the ones who were broken; how could I fix it? [FN4]

Now what? Could I bond with myself? Is that what they’re trying to get me to do? Or could I get bonding from a book? Or somewhere else? Say, Wal-Mart? Or for a price, Nordstrom’s?

On and on the Workbook went, detailing the many damaging ramifications of an infant’s failure to bond. If we flunked bonding as kids, now as adults we’re empty inside and too needy for attention. I wrote in the margins over and over “I’m screwed…I’m just screwed.”

Hadn’t my ex and Dan both said I was too needy? Weren’t the latest books and flicks like “He’s Just Not That Into You” saying just like Dan, that women who want relationships are too needy and that “relationship” itself is a dirty word in today’s fast-track world?

Aren’t leading “dating advisers” like Christian Carter making millions advising women to stop being needy and stop needing men, because men don’t do emotions and just don’t get close?  Weren’t they saying that my need for bonding was a character flaw, that I had to wipe out such childish needs? [FN5]

How was I to do this? No surprise, the Workbook’s RX was the same issued by my two therapists: hole up alone and heal your own child.

Dr. Taylor instructs us to lock ourselves in a room alone, and do a series of exercises. First, lie down on a sheet on the floor and get in touch with the child by sucking on a baby bottle or eating applesauce by hand as if unable to wield a spoon, smearing yourself with it. “Find out what it feels like to be a helpless infant,” she advises. If that’s not regression, what is?

I underlined chapter after chapter, scrawled reams of notes in the margins, and forced myself through the exercises all by rote.  My thinking brain couldn’t understand it.  But every time I picked up this book, I felt like committing suicide.  My deep subconscious emotional brain understood all too well.

After a month I hid the Inner Child Workbook under a stack of other books where I physically couldn’t see it.  Over a long education and global travel, I have read hundreds of books spanning three thousand years of world literature including Dante’s depiction in Italian of the Inferno, a very scary place.  But this Workbook is the only book I have ever hidden.  Looking at it even now sends a shiver down my spine.  Some days a book burning didn’t seem an out of line idea.

So where was the Adult Attachment Interview? Hadn’t the doctors read any adult attachment disorder books or anything on  adult attachment theory or adult attachment disorder?

———————————
This is from Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment DisorderHow I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.  Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1  Main, Mary,  “The Adult Attachment Interview: Fear, attention, safety and discourse processes;” also titled “The Organized Categories of Infant, Child, and Adult Attachment: Flexible vs. Inflexible Attention Under Attachment-Related Stress,” Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 2000, 48:1055-1095. At: http://70-40-200-36.bluehost.com/documents/Main.pdf
–This is a very difficult topic to research, so I did it for you; check my blog on it, with more footnotes at the end: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/adult-attachment-interview-aai-mary-main/

FN2 Lewis, Thomas, Amini, Fari, Lannon, Richard; “A General Theory of Love”, Random House, 2000. See:
www.paulagordon.com/shows/lannon/

FN3 Taylor, Cathryn L., MFCC, “The Inner Child Workbook: What to do with your past when it just won’t go away,” Penguin Putnam, New York 1991

FN4 “You cannot apply Self-Help to a problem from which the Self that’s trying to provide the Help still suffers,” I read years later in Norwood, Robin, PhD, “Daily Meditations for Women Who Love Too Much,” Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam/Penguin Books, New York, 1997

FN5 Carter, Christian, “Catch Him and Keep Him,” Audio CD set, 2006

Tagged with: Adult Attachment Interview,  Adult Attachment Theory, Adult Attachment Disorder, Adult Attachment Disorder Books, Attachment Disorder in Adults, Anxiety, Emotional pain, Grief, Group therapy,  Inner Child Theory,  Rebound, Regression, Suicide, Therapy

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