Tag Archives: Inner Child

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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Thanksgiving in Cambodia

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

Cambodia Napalm“Once again”  I thought, “Fall 2008 surely was the end of my world. Surely it could get no worse than this.”  So ended “Isolation Row,” my last post three weeks ago from my book.  Little did I know that 2008 could, and did, get a whole lot worse.  The gods of Pain had barely gotten started on my file.

By September 2008 I couldn’t take any more isolation row as prescribed by my first two therapists or I’d have bonked one. Meanwhile back in the real world the bills were mounting, so I worked out my nervous energy (read “anxiety”) in a whirl of new business projects. Remember the Newport Beach financier who took me on as her protege to write her book – but then all her banks collapsed?  Like writing a book about nuclear war in the middle of a nuclear war?  Well, I just went at it again.

Wrestling my demons to the bathroom floor, I forced myself to write a three-page memo to a company in San Diego, offering to market their power plants in Asia.  I e-mailed it to the Vice President, left a message, and nearly passed out when he returned my call next day.  He said the memo was “brilliant,” and two days later I was in his office.  Negotiations with his staff, however, dragged on for months as they did not have his vision, to put it mildly. They wanted to await the November 2008 election as they worried the new Administration wouldn’t support nuclear energy (it didn’t). They worried the banking collapse meant there would be no financier appetite for new ventures (there wasn’t).

Meanwhile my friends at the South Korean central bank were calling in a tizzy (wouldn’t you), worried the U.S. financial system melt down would take them with it. They had a Seoul government rep in Los Angeles take me to dinner. He asked me to write a white paper for South Korea to take to a world financial summit next spring on how to prevent the meltdown of the global foreign exchanges. No pressure, of course, just in my spare time. This minor project didn’t resolve neatly or quickly either.

In other words, “nuclear war” just kept happening, which did little to bolster my nearly-expired self-confidence or bank account. At least it pushed therapy with its “Inner Child” poppycock off my agenda during September-October 2008, easy to do because all that failed therapy only made my emotional pain worse.

And now for Mom

BVH-00701395 Then back on the East Coast there began a train of events which pushed me, my crisis, and any emotional needs for help (not being met by failed therapy anyway) well and truly off the agenda. Actually more like buried my stuff under a very large landslide.

Mom.

Mom had been “home alone” in Florida since Dad passed away in June and my younger sister the Wall Street lawyer in New York thought we should check on Mom regularly. In mid-September, in the middle of furious negotiations in San Diego over the fate of the national electricity grid, it was my turn to make a two-day visit.

Mom was never eager to see me (a long story for next week), so sis and I made my trip a surprise. Landing in Miami, I hopped a cab and phoned Mom en route to her place to say, “Surprise! I’m on the way.” Her reaction shocked me, even at that late date. “You can’t do this to me,” she yelled, “I don’t want you here! I don’t want to see you, leave me alone!” By the time she hung up she was in hysterics.

I phoned sis in New York from the cab. “Could you talk to Mom?” I said. “I’m afraid to give her heart failure, plus now I feel really awful; maybe this wasn’t a good idea?” But my poor sister Linda had spent so much time in the last six months commuting to Florida to tend our parents that she was worried about the stress on her job. Someone had to see Mom, and I was elected.

The problem was that if I couldn’t make it work, I was the problem.

“Why do you always have to fight with her? Couldn’t you just be sweet?” sis wanted to know.  Now, my sister is a famously nice person with a permanent glowing smile through thick and thin — but not when it came to anything which upset Mom. No one in our family would dispute a cousin’s recent statement that “your mom was a very strong-willed person, and a very emotional person.” Well, when Mom wasn’t happy, no one was happy, as the saying goes (it’s hackneyed for a reason).

It had to be my bad if things weren’t going swimmingly. “I can’t leave work any more and it’s your job to visit Mom so just get it done,” sis said point blank. Naturally I agreed; I thought it was our job to make Mom happy and so it must be my fault if she weren’t. I didn’t even notice until years later when I finally put this incident under a microscope that there was no room for anyone to even consider the collateral damage to me.

Doing the Right Thing, I ignored the arrows lacing into my heart and the terrified looks from the cab driver and dissolved in silent sobs in the back seat. We duly arrived at Mom’s place, whereupon she had to calm down so as not to cause any lifting of eyebrows amongst the upscale neighbors. The visit proceeded in an uneasy truce and I returned to my project negotiations in California.

Mozart’s Requiem – Again

Kathy @ 2008 Requiem AnaheimOn October 5, 2008 I again performed Mozart’s Requiem, this time as soprano soloist, in Anaheim.  After the previous events of 2008, you can already see my glazed stare in this photo taken minutes after the performance.

Three days later, as my last dream to accomplish something with my life by reestablishing my international business was in play, my phone rang again from back East, just as it had the day after I sang the “Requiem” the previous May.

This time it was my sister, calling to say Mom had been hospitalized in Miami with chest hemorrhaging and heart failure. She had smashed her ribs in a bad fall at home while the live-in nurse was watching TV.  Yes, this actually happened a second time.  Whenever I sing Mozart’s Requiem, a parent begins to die.

Again, time to leave the biz meetings and get back on the plane from California to Florida; truth is verily stranger than fiction. I would be afraid to ever sing that Mozart piece again, if I had any more parents.  Mozart’s Requiem was my favorite work for most of my life, and I don’t have any more parents, but I have not sung it again to this day.

Now my emotional crisis, the battle royal in therapy, the economic disaster, and my high-stakes attempts to jump-start my career were wiped off the agenda.  Now it was all about Mom in earnest.

I’d worried over the years that Mom lacked perspective; one rarely heard her speak of the eternal nature of love or the immortality of the soul.  I’d long been concerned that she might not be at peace when the time came.  Indeed.  Peace, to paraphrase Henry Kissinger, was the light at the end of the tunnel which turned out to be an oncoming train.

October and November 2008 with Mom in Florida were my psychological Cambodia.  It was going to get a whole lot worse, and “better” had just been summarily wiped off the agenda.

First came the genocidal doctors with the insurance hounds at their heels. Their sole concern seemed to be to remove Mom from whichever ward she was on, before the Medicare police could find her and cut their funding to the hospital in retaliation for the doctors allowing Mom to stay anywhere too long. They moved Mom from ward to ward, forcing her to undergo vigorous physical therapy to prove she should be hospitalized at all, which for a woman her age in her condition was in fact brutality. Finally Mom collapsed after physical therapy.

As a result our intrepid doctors summarily booted her out of the regular hospital wing and moved her to the hospice wing, where they said, mincing no words, she had an allotment of a few weeks before she’d have to leave, one way or the other.  Ouch.  “Welcome to the U.S. health care system” said my sister by phone.

To be clear, no one thought Mom would die; she had a bright mind and a strong constitution. Rather, my sister was up north working the retirement homes in New York 24 x7 to find a place into which to move Mom. We all thought she was just headed for a stressful plane flight.

Where’s My Daughter?

Adam & Eve Expulsion_from_GardenBut then there was Mom herself, who in essence began to snarl when I arrived back in Miami and continued to do so for six weeks. It wasn’t that she was in pain; the nurses saw to her meds.  She said herself that she was not in pain.

Mom, simply put, did not want to see me, as she had in fact clearly stated earlier and for decades. In fact about seven and a half minutes into each of my weekly Sunday phone calls to her, Mom had had a certain habit of hanging up on me – for about 25 years.

Curiously now, however, Mom was also hanging up on her friends and relatives as they called.  She folded the phone even on bridge partners from the retirement home who sounded anxious to see her and terrified that they themselves were next for hospice. But Mom flat out refused to see them, didn’t care anymore what anyone thought and did precisely as she felt.  Not only with me, but with all sorts of folks.

Mom had always been known to put on a happy face and be entertaining with her jokes to friends at her retirement complex or with shoe store clerks.  Now, actually it was remarkable to watch the change.  Apparently she was done with appearances, for why bother?

The nurses and I kept telling Mom in detail how we were going to get her to New York, I’d fly with her on the plane, she’d be fine with Linda.

The problem was, however, that Mom had never been willing to discuss questions such as “why and for what do we live.”  She’d always dismissed them as impractical nonsense from fools who haven’t worked as hard for a dollar as she.  She was pragmatic to the point of scorning theory as idiocy.  But in life as in science there’s a reason for theory, and when the time came for faith and belief, Mom didn’t seem to have enough inside upon which to base a view of ‘Now what?’

“Oh God, it is fearful thing, to see the human soul take wing,” as Byron put it, especially when it doesn’t have a wing to wing it.

Mom seemed to get no comfort from God, nor even be aware of the subject, for starters.  She also seemed to get no comfort out of seeing my sister’s loving smile.  Even the appearance of Linda’s two handsome sons from New York did almost nothing to lighten Mom’s face.  She seemed to get no comfort out of having brought her family, and my sister’s family, into being, of having friends (who never set foot in the hospital due to the hang-ups) of having a very long and until just these weeks, healthy and prosperous life, nice clothes, fine homes, and international vacations.  All of the things she always said were so important didn’t seem to bring her much joy in the end.

I had to spend a lot of hours watching this and felt driven to make sense of it.  As best I could grasp, Mom was terrified of something but I couldn’t dismiss it as fear of death since people do die in peace.

All this would have been gut-wrenching to watch just as an observer.  But then, I was not an observer.  I was the designated pin cushion.  Mom had made no bones for decades that she pretty much didn’t want me anywhere, least of all in that hospice at the end.

It got to where I’d arrive in her hospital room each morning and Mom would roll over and turn her face away.  When the nurses were dressing her or when she wanted something, she would raise her voice and say, “Where’s my daughter?” whether I were standing right before her, or down the hall on a business call to San Diego or Seoul.  When I’d say, “I’m right here, Mom,” she’d growl, “Not you. Where’s Linda?”

Now look, Adam and Eve had a Perfect Parent, but a 50% failure rate when producing their kids. Moral: Babies are really easy to damage.

Yes it felt bad at my end – but what if this were my paranoia?  What if Mom in reality was a fine (if not Perfect) parent, but I (like Eve) were somehow damaged, and had some mess in my head which made me project my own neurosis onto Mom?  I sure didn’t want to do a re-run of that dreadful “Mommie Dearest” or demonize my own mother…

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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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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.

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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.

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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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