Tag Archives: insecure attachment

Neurofeedback works: Van der Kolk

Bessel website pix vanderKolkportrait1Psychiatrist and trauma expert Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, MD posted a neurofeedback webinar August 9 that changes the map on trauma healing: http://neurofeedback2015.kajabi.com/fe/79711-rewiring-the-brain-free-ce-seminar . [Or try this link to a 5 min intro. His  72-min seminar is below at “Click Here to Begin Your Free One Hour:” http://neurofeedback2015.kajabi.com/fe/80095-support-neurofeedback-research-2015]

Please forward this to your lists of therapists, colleagues, anyone interested in healing. Dr. van der Kolk has promoted EMDR, yoga, and body work for decades.  Now folks with early trauma can check out neurofeedback.

I’ve so far done 10 months of neurofeedback and the healing is enormous. But it’s not known enough or funded. Getting word out could stop suffering.

At minute 20, van der Kolk shows graphics on how Sebern Fisher introduced him to neurofeedback. “She showed me drawings that traumatized kids did of their families (stick figures), then how they developed after 20 weeks of neurofeedback (real people), after 40 weeks (an attached group), and I was blown away by their development,” he said.

“There’s nothing I know that can do that,” he said. “When you see something like that, you pay attention. Can my psychoanalysis do that?  Can my acceptance and commitment therapy do that?  Can my friends who do EMDR or Somatic Experiencing do that?  No.  Nothing I know of can do THAT.  Time to learn new things.”

Don’t hire just any provider. A neurofeedback practitioner with 1. Five-ten years’ neurofeedback; 2. A certificate from EEGSpectrum.com or EEGInfo.com; and 3. Familiarity with attachment issues, is a good place to start.  A good neurofeedback therapist won’t do “one size fits all.”  Ask to be sure that they carefully adjust it to each individual and keep re-adjusting.

My blog on neurofeedback with links to Sebern Fisher interviews is here: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/neurofeedback/

Find a Neurofeedback Practitioner Online Directories are here:
1. EEG Spectrum International: http://www.esiaffiliatesforum.com/providers  2. EEG Institute Directory: http://directory.eeginfo.com/
Sebern Fisher says both are fine. Only #2 had a provider near me; he’s great. He’s got all 3 features above.  My insurance covers it for a $35 copay.

Am I In Tune — Or Not?

Neurofeedback Before & After mirasol.netAs for me, I feel calmer, more centered, less frightened, and less easily triggered every day. It works on long-term issues.

Still, I felt shocked as van der Kolk described “ways of being” which I have in spades, but never knew are symptoms of brain disorganization. This knocked me for a loop:

“Our brain is shaped by human interactions, by the way that people respond to us, to rhythms, voices, touch, sounds, how we make music together,” he said. “We are rhythmic machines; I talk to you and move my hands, my face, and I image you responding in kind.

“But if you talk to your partner and they freeze their face, your mind goes blank — because we need feedback… If the world does not respond to you, if people do not smile at you, if as a little kid  when you come home people say, “Oh, you again”?  You miss the experience of being in tune with people. It goes to the very core of our central nervous system.”

At this point (6 minutes in) I had to lay down and sob for 10 minutes. Feeling what he said totaled me.  I had no attunement experiences until I was 4  1/2 and my sister was born. No responses, no rhythm.

“If you have many attunement experiences,” he said, ” when you get scared, someone’s there so the feeling gets repaired; someone gets mad but soon they repair it, then you get a sense of flow with other people. You know we can do things together, we can work things out. You know I can have a voice because my voice has an impact on you. You can have a voice because your voice has an impact on me.”

Again I was sobbing.  What is he talking about?  Have a voice, what’s that?  I never had an impact. Work things out?  Unheard of.  I’m terrified at mis-attunement.  I have no experience that what I feel matters.

In abuse or neglect, he said, “these neural rhythms get broken. The most important parts of the brain to grow in first years of life get you in tune with people, tell you what to be scared of, when to feel safe, how to connect, how to be in synch.”  I was never in synch.

At minute 15:30 he shows astonishing brain scans (click on graphic above). When normal people hear a strange sound (“eeek”), he says, they need to figure out what it means, “so all the different parts of the brain synchronize to focus on that. They’ve developed an N-200 filtering wave that says ‘ignore your phone, your hunger… just pay attention to this sound.’

“But traumatized people have enormous problems filtering out irrelevant information. They are hyper-stimulated by sounds, sights, images, body sensation, have a terrible time filtering them out. As you see here, traumatized people have very different wave forms. Different parts of the brain are not in synch… which explains why they have such a hard time learning from new experiences… taking new information into the brain, paying attention, taking in life as it comes, learning from it.”

That’s me. I’m hyper-stimulated by sounds, sights, images, body sensation. Half the time I can’t filter them out.  This last point really concerns me.  I had no idea that most people can filter out these things.

I just called my neurofeedback therapist and told him that I need a lot more help. “I’m afraid both of us under-estimate how disorganized my brain is,” I said. “You may want to try other areas of my brain for your sensors and/or other procedures” during neurofeedback.

Thank Heaven for neurofeedback and fighters like Dr. van der Kolk.

——————

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 Neurofeedback Journey, 2

Tina Hahn ACEs Too High photoMy Neurofeedback Journey, 2 of 2
by Tina Marie Hahn
— as told to Kathy Brous

Tina added on July 11: I am experiencing major changes in my brain functioning so fast with neurofeedback, although as of this writing, I have only been doing it for three months. But in six months I seriously don’t think I will recognize myself anymore, and I say that after decades of struggle.  I truly recommend checking out neurofeedback, for anyone who has failed all the traditional approaches to trauma. Now back to my journey…

Major Trauma Release

On April 27, it had been about three weeks that I’d been working with the BrainPaint® desktop home neurofeedback machine.  I’ve been doing about 1.5 hours of neurofeedback a day. That turned out to be a little too much for me as a beginner, so I gave myself a break the last two days.

After my second “Alpha-Theta” training April 19, I could not stop sobbing during the session, or after — for 4 hours straight. It was cathartic. During the session my body was shaking — like really shaking. It reminded me of Peter Levine’s discussions and the video he has of the polar bear shaking after it was attacked and then later it came out of the trauma. It was incredible. I wasn’t just thinking this poison was coming out of my body — I was feeling it. I was shaking worse than if I had been locked for several hours in a deep freezer…

It really was amazing… I let go of a lot of stuff. I saw that my mother did the best she could. I could see myself letting go of the residual anger.

Then, the anger was replaced with a tremendous well of grief and loss. I realized that I was full of so much grief over what could have been and how my life might have been different if this had not happened to me — how my mother’s life would have been different if she had been able to feel love from her children instead of being so stressed that she allowed the most horrific things to happen to her kids.

I thought about how my brother wouldn’t be psychotic if he hadn’t been hurt so much…. How he could know happiness instead of his constant fear…..

And please know: it might not be good for most people to do this alone, as the title of your book says, “Don’t Try This at Home.”  For me, I’ve been working on confronting my childhood for decades, so I have an ability to tolerate this intense experience.  But for most people, unless you are willing to take chances and you’re pretty strong, a person might get really shaken up. It would probably be good to have a therapist to discuss what is happening and to process those deeply brain stem based emotions — or a group of healing friends. To have someone with you to support you would be helpful.

I might be doing better if I had a therapist too, but like Kathy I’ve had bad experiences with therapy so my confidence in it is low and anyway I’m in a rural area without much available.  But I think many people with severe childhood trauma like me who are considering neurofeedback might want to use it with formal support such as therapy or a support group.

For me, I wasn’t re-traumatized. That is all I want to say for now except I think this is a powerful tool!

Getting More Relaxed

By May 6, I found that we need to give the neurofeedback some time to settle into our brain, let the brain settle into new patterns. That’s why I’m not posting as much: I just don’t feel the need to reflectively respond to everything, and that means everything in general.  For someone with trauma, that’s progress.

I have been able to work through my anxiety and though it seems strange, send the emails and make the telephone calls that I need to make but generally procrastinate on. I have been cleaning and organizing. Usually I am so disorganized I am not good at this.

Now I am less reactive. I am certain of it.  When talking to others and they say something that would generally trigger me – I might still become triggered but there is more of a second or two to contemplate first.

I stopped doing several hours of neurofeedback per day. I think so much was making it very confusing for me to determine what was going on in my brain.  While I think generally it has all been effective, I like the general stabilizing non-linear protocol I began with.  I have done several more sessions of the “Alpha-Theta.” That is the type that has the capability to take us into the deep meditative state.

I haven’t had anymore of those really emotional spells during the “Alpha-Theta,” but my dreams have been more colorful. Actually last night I had the first dream in color and it was sad, but more positive.  Usually my dreams have always about big mean things trying to kill me.  So that is great, too.

I feel like I am better able to sit back, take in others point of view, back off from feeling like I have to do everything myself. I really feel this is great.  I also attribute it to the neurofeedback.  I feel like I could talk to people much easier now and have a great interactive conversation without feeling strange and out of place inside.  This is all awesome to me.

And I am feeling like moving into other areas of healing like meditation which I am not good at because of a “way too busy mind that is always quadruple tasking”.  I actually sat down and did about 15 minutes of sitting meditation yesterday and that was good.  So I think all in all this has been a very positive process for me.

I have also been taking others suggestions or at least listening and then making I think more informed decisions based on information from others. To me this is the start of trying to connect.

Also, though I don’t use Facebook much, I have been posting on Facebook more recently and will see people I know. Before, I would be afraid to send a friend request — I would be too afraid because I’m a bad person, that person wouldn’t want to be my friend.  But now, I have been taking chances, sending friend requests and guess what – people have been accepting.  I just find this totally weird for me.  I don’t look out of control outside but now, I am starting to feel more competent instead of “out of control inside.”  By that I mean that strange anxiety when you feel like you don’t belong, like you are an alien to a foreign species.  But now I’m starting to feel I do belong more, I’m feeling more human.

A Breakthrough or Epiphany?

On June 8, I wrote that I haven’t posted on my use of the BrainPaint® neurofeedback system for a month for a few reasons.

Good reasons: I felt so much better due to neurofeedback that I got too busy!  I’ve been out a lot, creating and attending meetings about the ACE Study and regional trauma-informed schools, and I’m writing several articles.  I’ve begun working on key things I used to procrastinate on, that’s also getting better with neurofeedback…  I can feel a real improvement in my impulse control and affect regulation (my ability to regulate my emotions is growing nicely.)

I still feel neurofeedback benefiting me in daily activities, for example if I want to write something that makes a point, I do it so that it’s not impulsive, and is worth reading.  My new ability to do that is part of the neurofeedback.

But I also missed a lot of BrainPaint® sessions. On the one hand, we do need time for the neurofeedback changes to settle into our brain. But I got 2-3 weeks behind so let me note: For anyone who decides to do home neurofeedback, it is important to follow the BrainPaint® policy to rate your goals and answer the assessment questions before each session, and also be careful to keep up with the updates they issue to their computer system.

I got behind on that because my cursor wasn’t working properly, I was blaming myself, so I missed a lot of sessions. Finally I called my BrainPaint® home neurofeedback coach and we learned it wasn’t my fault — the program needed an update, so it was updated June 5.

Then we reviewed and updated the BrainPaint® assessment together that calculated new protocols and she told me to stop trying to do everything on my own, to please call for help. I promised to follow the directions and did so over the weekend and — wow, did my brain move with the new protocols the system created!

In fact, as I was doing my session with the directed protocols, I came to what I have to call an epiphany.  Something has happened to me which feels weird, in fact it feels absolutely crazy (compared to how I used to feel).

I want to report it because it must be the neurofeedback which is really helping me. OK:

I’m often scared to take my dogs to the vet because the office is on a main highway, and the dogs jump out of the car as soon as a door is opened. I’ve been afraid one would jump out and get hit by a car. I have to put them in the back of the RAV4 when driving or I get a 60 or 45 pound dog in my lap, but I couldn’t get them out the back door due to trouble with the auto-lift gate.

Now yesterday while I was doing neurofeedback, for the first time in my life it hit me: Hey, I could go inside the vet’s office and simply ask a front desk person to help me so my dogs don’t jump out and get hurt. This sounds so stupid but it isn’t — it means for the first time in my life I considered asking another person for reasonable help!

That means believing people are supposed to help each other and that some people can be approached for help.

That’s a first step in trust. Amazing.
So I began to weep, really weep.
Let me explain why this feels so weird and crazy and amazing to me.

As many of us with a high Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) score, people have horribly hurt me. I’ve come to feel, I want no part of mammalian attachment to people (you call that “fur”) — even if it is the only way to heal. Trusting people is horribly scary for me for reasons like this:

When I was 7 or 8, I was with my dad in the car about an hour away from our trailer.  I never asked my dad for anything because he was incredibly mean. My dad smoked in the car with us kids inside.  But on this winter day, I had a cold, and as he is smoking, I suddenly couldn’t breath.  I am scared to death because I cannot breath. I timidly ask him “Dad could you please stop smoking? I cannot breathe.”  His response was “If you don’t like it, I can drop you off here right now and you can walk home!”  A very typical response. I don’t know how I managed to escape with my life in that small car for an hour as he puffed away while I was close to respiratory arrest… but I never forgot the incident or the horrible insensitivity.

From that time forward, I could not ask for anything reasonable – I could not ask for something reasonable to save my life.

To others, asking for assistance may seem like a no-brainer. But for me, tremendously hurt by my parents for years starting at a young age — to consider in the middle of today’s neurofeedback session that I could ask the vet for reasonable help — it made me weep.

And I’m going to try to no longer react immediately, even to such epiphanies, as I want to be more reflective going forward — another amazing plus of neurofeedback.  But wow, I have experienced an amazing movement of my brain that I don’t think could have occurred any other way.

I may even be able to move to where attaching to people becomes okay.
Oh and as I had this epiphany – my dogs ate my dinner and I didn’t get mad!

———————————

Kathy’s blogs and Guest Blogs explore the journey of recovery from childhood trauma by learning about Adult Attachment Disorder in teens and adults, Adult Attachment Theory, and the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.

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My Neurofeedback Journey, 1

Tina Hahn, 30 monthsMy Neurofeedback Journey, 1 of 2
by Tina Marie Hahn
— as told to Kathy Brous

I am Dr. Tina Marie Hahn, MD, advocate for Trauma-Informed Care and Communities, and survivor of actually ten Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). As a pediatrician, I screen parents and children alike for childhood trauma. That’s me at 30 months old and my background story is here: http://acestoohigh.com/2014/05…-her-ace-score-is-9/

I’ve been excited for some time to try neurofeedback, after listening to a talk given by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk and Sebern Fisher and reading Dr. van der Kolk’s latest book “The Body Keeps the Score” and a blog on Sebern Fisher’s work with neurofeedback here at http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/neurofeedback/   I then read three books on neurofeedback, including Dr. Fisher’s book “Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Developmental Trauma: Calming the Fear-Driven Brain” and decided to research several electronic neurofeedback systems for home use.

I report as a user/patient, not as a doctor or expert, because my experience so far has been fairly stormy — I’m just starting out, so I don’t know where this will go and I am not an expert. I feel I should warn readers: if you have experienced severe infant and childhood developmental trauma as I did, neurofeedback seems like a very rewarding method for healing — but it has intense risks if not done with care.

Please if possible, as Kathy’s book says: “Don’t Try This at Home.” Neurofeedback is designed to be done in a trained practitioner’s office. So for most people with trauma, probably it’s best not to do neurofeedback alone at home. Please try to do it with access to formal support, hopefully a good attachment-based psychotherapist who is very compassionate, so you can discuss what is happening and process these deeply brain stem based emotions with another human. If therapy is really impossible, maybe you could create a group of healing friends or at least have a friend come regularly to be with you while you do it or afterward. Some type of support would be key.

I had to opt for a home-use neurofeedback system because I am in a rural backwater where everyone knows everyone so I don’t feel comfortable sharing incredibly strong emotions. I’ve also had prior bad experiences with psychiatry plus right now there aren’t good practitioners anywhere near where I live. In fact, I might be doing better if I had a well-trained therapist possessing extensive knowledge of developmental trauma.

As to the level of pain in my healing with neurofeedback so far: I have been working on this level of emotional pain for decades, so (thus far) it seems I have an ability to tolerate this intense experience. (I won’t know how much I can tolerate until I go further, who knows.) But I did want to note that unless a person is willing to take chances and is pretty strong, they might get really shaken up.

The Fear-Driven Amygdala

I wanted to specifically treat my fear-driven amygdala that I have from being terrorized as an infant and child. I found one home system, which looked good, but it did not allow one to use different protocols to specifically calm down an overactive amygdala.

So I chose BrainPaint®, which did, and I was excited to get my BrainPaint® home neurofeedback system in the mail April 6. BrainPaint® sent an excellent 47 minute video tutorial showing me how to set up the system and before the first session, I had an 1.5-hour phone tutorial. The system is very easy to set up and use. Also we get 45 minutes of assistance by phone every month we rent the system, and we can pay extra for more telephone help if we need it. I will be texting or calling my BrainPaint® “assistant” to help me as I become ready to change protocols based on symptom improvement.

BrainPaint® is not cheap but mental health and well-being? Priceless. The BrainPaint® set I got has a minimum two months rental at $675 per month for shipping and a deposit; I initially paid $1,875. The deposit comes back when you send the rental back. Here is an introductory YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7s0AFjRVfmk

I did my first session April 7; it starts with a symptom checklist. I had lots of symptoms checked. The protocol chosen initially was to calm my right amygdala— but because it looked like so many areas were out of whack, I did something called “non-linear on T3 and T4″ (right and left temporal) to get the brain hemispheres in synch.

My first session was 7 minutes….. It was interesting.. Looking at a screen with fractal patterns and auditory inputs. After the first 7 minutes, I fell asleep for 2 hours. For me that is amazing because I don’t take naps and don’t sleep well… I feel relatively calm and just completed a second session for 14 minutes. I am now pretty tired.

I don’t know the outcome of this process, but I have a strong feeling that neurofeedback is going to help rid me of my low self esteem, my rough edges and though I am really tired, I think this is going to really make some good changes. It already did something, as normally looking at a computer screen would never make me take a nap.

More Good Results

On April 8, I had more good results:  I did a few more BrainPaint® sessions throughout the day. Then last night I slept the best I have in months!

On April 20, I did an “Alpha-Theta” session on BrainPaint® and had a rather weird experience so here’s what happened:

I am stuck inside an ostrich shell. I am really stuck. I am little but grown. I am pushing on the shell. It doesn’t move and all around me is space …. lots of space.. me in a shell… then I flash into the basement…. it is dark but there is a window a small window that is in the basement and I look outside trying to see the outside where it is light and bright and trees and leaves and I am stuck…

I don’t fight, I just flash back into the eggshell… then I think I cannot push this open… I will try to melt it away into infinity ..the infinity of equanimity ….. then it was done….

I suppose this is what we experience in the early sessions.

Coming July 24: Part 2 of Tina’s amazing report

———————————

Kathy’s blogs and Guest Blogs explore the journey of recovery from childhood trauma by learning about Adult Attachment Disorder in teens and adults, Adult Attachment Theory, and the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.

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My Neurofeedback Journey – Dr. Tina Hahn

Tina Hahn, 30 monthsMy Neurofeedback Journey
by Tina Marie Hahn
as told to Kathy Brous

[Tina added on July 11:  I am experiencing major changes in my brain functioning so fast with neurofeedback, although as of this writing, I have only been doing it for three months. But in six months I seriously don’t think I will recognize myself anymore, and I say that after decades of struggle.  I truly recommend checking out neurofeedback, for anyone who has failed all the traditional approaches to trauma.]

I am Dr. Tina Marie Hahn, MD, advocate for Trauma-Informed Care and Communities, and survivor of actually ten Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). As a pediatrician, I screen parents and children alike for childhood trauma. That’s me above at 30 months old and my background story is here: http://acestoohigh.com/2014/05…-her-ace-score-is-9/

I’ve been excited for some time to try neurofeedback, which I began on April 6, after listening to a talk given by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk and Sebern Fisher and reading Dr. van der Kolk’s latest book “The Body Keeps the Score” and a blog on Sebern Fisher’s work with neurofeedback here at http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/neurofeedback/   I then read three books on neurofeedback, including Dr. Fisher’s book “Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Developmental Trauma: Calming the Fear-Driven Brain” and decided to research several electronic neurofeedback systems for home use.

I report as a user/patient, not as a doctor or expert, because my experience so far has been fairly stormy — I’m just starting out, so I don’t know where this will go and I am not an expert.  I feel I should warn readers: if you have experienced severe infant and childhood developmental trauma as I did, neurofeedback seems like a very rewarding method for healing — but it has intense risks if not done with care.

Please if possible, as Kathy’s book says: “Don’t Try This at Home.”  Neurofeedback is designed to be done in a trained practitioner’s office.  So for most people with trauma, probably it’s best not to do neurofeedback alone at home. Please try to do it with access to formal support, hopefully a good attachment-based psychotherapist who is very compassionate, so you can discuss what is happening and process these deeply brain stem based emotions with another human. If therapy is really impossible, maybe you could create a group of healing friends or at least have a friend come regularly to be with you while you do it or afterward. Some type of support would be key.

I had to opt for a home-use neurofeedback system because I am in a rural backwater where everyone knows everyone so I don’t feel comfortable sharing incredibly strong emotions. I’ve also had prior bad experiences with psychiatry plus right now there aren’t good practitioners anywhere near where I live. In fact, I might be doing better if I had a well-trained therapist possessing extensive knowledge of developmental trauma.

As to the level of pain in my healing with neurofeedback so far: I have been working on this level of emotional pain for decades, so (thus far) it seems I have an ability to tolerate this intense experience. (I won’t know how much I can tolerate until I go further, who knows.)  But I did want to note that unless a person is willing to take chances and is pretty strong, they might get really shaken up.

The Fear-Driven Amygdala

I wanted to specifically treat my fear-driven amygdala that I have from being terrorized as an infant and child. I found one home system, which looked good, but it did not allow one to use different protocols to specifically calm down an overactive amygdala.

So I chose BrainPaint®, which did, and I was excited to get my BrainPaint® home neurofeedback system in the mail April 6.  BrainPaint® sent an excellent 47 minute video tutorial showing me how to set up the system and before the first session, I had an 1.5-hour phone tutorial. The system is very easy to set up and use. Also we get 45 minutes of assistance by phone every month we rent the system, and we can pay extra for more telephone help if we need it. I will be texting or calling my BrainPaint® “assistant” to help me as I become ready to change protocols based on symptom improvement.

BrainPaint® is not cheap but mental health and well-being? Priceless. The BrainPaint® set I got has a minimum two months rental at $675 per month for shipping and a deposit; I initially paid $1,875. The deposit comes back when you send the rental back.  Here is an introductory YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7s0AFjRVfmk

I did my first session April 7; it starts with a symptom checklist. I had lots of symptoms checked. The protocol chosen initially was to calm my right amygdala— but because it looked like so many areas were out of whack, I did something called “non-linear on T3 and T4″ (right and left temporal) to get the brain hemispheres in synch.

My first session was 7 minutes….. It was interesting.. Looking at a screen with fractal patterns and auditory inputs. After the first 7 minutes, I fell asleep for 2 hours. For me that is amazing because I don’t take naps and don’t sleep well… I feel relatively calm and just completed a second session for 14 minutes. I am now pretty tired.

I don’t know the outcome of this process, but I have a strong feeling that neurofeedback is going to help rid me of my low self esteem, my rough edges and though I am really tired, I think this is going to really make some good changes. It already did something, as normally looking at a computer screen would never make me take a nap.

More Good Results

On April 8, I had more good results:  I did a few more BrainPaint® sessions throughout the day. Then last night I slept the best I have in months!

On April 20, I did an “Alpha-Theta” session on BrainPaint® and had a rather weird experience so here’s what happened:

I am stuck inside an ostrich shell. I am really stuck. I am little but grown. I am pushing on the shell. It doesn’t move and all around me is space …. lots of space.. me in a shell…
then I flash into the basement…. it is dark but there is a window a small window that is in the basement and I look outside trying to see the outside where it is light and bright and trees and leaves and I am stuck…

I don’t fight, I just flash back into the eggshell… then I think I cannot push this open… I will try to melt it away into infinity ..the infinity of equanimity ….. then it was done….

I suppose this is what we experience in the early sessions.

Major Trauma Release

On April 27, it had been about three weeks that I’ve been working with the BrainPaint® desktop home neurofeedback machine.  I’ve been doing about 1.5 hours of neurofeedback a day. That turned out to be a little too much for me as a beginner, so I gave myself a break the last two days.

After my second “Alpha-Theta” training April 19, I could not stop sobbing during the session, or after — for 4 hours straight. It was cathartic. During the session my body was shaking — like really shaking. It reminded me of Peter Levine’s discussions and the video he has of the polar bear shaking after he was attacked and then later came out of the trauma. It was incredible. I wasn’t just thinking this poison was coming out of my body — I was feeling it. I was shaking worse than if I had been locked for several hours in a deep freezer…..

It really was amazing…. I let go of a lot of stuff. I saw that my mother did the best she could. I could see myself letting go of the residual anger.

Then, the anger was replaced with a tremendous well of grief and loss. I realized that I was full of so much grief over what could have been and how my life might have been different if this had not happened to me — how my mother’s life would have been different if she had been able to feel love from her children instead of being so stressed that she allowed the most horrific things to happen to her kids.

I thought about how my brother wouldn’t be psychotic if he hadn’t been hurt so much…. How he could know happiness instead of his constant fear…..

And please know: it might not be good for most people to do this alone, as the title of your book says, “Don’t Try This at Home.”  For me, I’ve been working on confronting my childhood for decades, so I have an ability to tolerate this intense experience.  But for most people, unless you are willing to take chances and you’re pretty strong, a person might get really shaken up. It would probably be good to have a therapist to discuss what is happening and to process those deeply brain stem based emotions — or a group of healing friends. To have someone with you to support you would be helpful.

I might be doing better if I had a therapist too, but like Kathy I’ve had bad experiences with therapy so my confidence in it is low and anyway I’m in a rural area without much available.  But I think many people with severe childhood trauma like me who are considering neurofeedback might want to use it with formal support such as therapy or a support group.

For me, I wasn’t re-traumatized. That is all I want to say for now except I think this is a powerful tool!

Getting More Relaxed

By May 6, I found that we need to give the neurofeedback some time to settle into our brain, let the brain settle into new patterns. That’s why I’m not posting as much: I just don’t feel the need to reflectively respond to everything, and that means everything in general.  For someone with trauma, that’s progress.

I have been able to work through my anxiety and though it seems strange, send the emails and make the telephone calls that I need to make but generally procrastinate on. I have been cleaning and organizing. Usually I am so disorganized I am not good at this.

Now I am less reactive. I am certain of it.  When talking to others and they say something that would generally trigger me – I might still become triggered but there is more of a second or two to contemplate first.

I stopped doing several hours of neurofeedback per day. I think so much was making it very confusing for me to determine what was going on in my brain.  While I think generally it has all been effective, I like the general stabilizing non-linear protocol I began with.  I have done several more sessions of the “Alpha-Theta.” That is the type that has the capability to take us into the deep meditative state.

I haven’t had anymore of those really emotional spells during the “Alpha-Theta,” but my dreams have been more colorful. Actually last night I had the first dream in color and it was sad, but more positive.  Usually my dreams have always about big mean things trying to kill me.  So that is great, too.

I feel like I am better able to sit back, take in others point of view, back off from feeling like I have to do everything myself. I really feel this is great.  I also attribute it to the neurofeedback.  I feel like I could talk to people much easier now and have a great interactive conversation without feeling strange and out of place inside.  This is all awesome to me.

And I am feeling like moving into other areas of healing like meditation which I am not good at because of a “way too busy mind that is always quadruple tasking”.  I actually sat down and did about 15 minutes of sitting meditation yesterday and that was good.  So I think all in all this has been a very positive process for me.

I have also been taking others suggestions or at least listening and then making I think more informed decisions based on information from others. To me this is the start of trying to connect.

Also, though I don’t use Facebook much, I have been posting on Facebook more recently and will see people I know. Before, I would be afraid to send a friend request — I would be too afraid because I’m a bad person, that person wouldn’t want to be my friend.  But now, I have been taking chances, sending friend requests and guess what – people have been accepting.  I just find this totally weird for me.  I don’t look out of control outside but now, I am starting to feel more competent instead of “out of control inside.”  By that I mean that strange anxiety when you feel like you don’t belong, like you are an alien to a foreign species.  But now I’m starting to feel I do belong more, I’m feeling more human.

A Breakthrough or Epiphany?

On June 8, I wrote that I haven’t posted on my use of the BrainPaint® neurofeedback system for a month for a few reasons.

Good reasons: I felt so much better due to neurofeedback that I got too busy!  I’ve been out a lot, creating and attending meetings about the ACE Study and regional trauma-informed schools, and I’m writing several articles.  I’ve begun working on key things I used to procrastinate on, that’s also getting better with neurofeedback…  I can feel a real improvement in my impulse control and affect regulation (my ability to regulate my emotions is growing nicely.)

I still feel neurofeedback benefiting me in daily activities, for example if I want to write something that makes a point, I do it so that it’s not impulsive, and is worth reading.  My new ability to do that is part of the neurofeedback.

But I also missed a lot of BrainPaint® sessions. On the one hand, we do need time for the neurofeedback changes to settle into our brain. But I got 2-3 weeks behind so let me note: For anyone who decides to do home neurofeedback, it is important to follow the BrainPaint® policy to rate your goals and answer the assessment questions before each session, and also be careful to keep up with the updates they issue to their computer system.

I got behind on that because my cursor wasn’t working properly, I was blaming myself, so I missed a lot of sessions. Finally I called my BrainPaint® home neurofeedback coach and we learned it wasn’t my fault — the program needed an update, so it was updated on Friday [June 5].

Then we reviewed and updated the BrainPaint® assessment together that calculated new protocols and she told me to stop trying to do everything on my own, to please call for help. I promised to follow the directions and did so over the weekend and — wow, did my brain move with the new protocols the system created!

In fact, as I was doing my session with the directed protocols, I came to what I have to call an epiphany.  Something has happened to me which feels weird, in fact it feels absolutely crazy (compared to how I used to feel).

I want to report it because it must be the neurofeedback which is really helping me. OK:

I’m often scared to take my dogs to the vet because the office is on a main highway, and the dogs jump out of the car as soon as a door is opened. I’ve been afraid one would jump out and get hit by a car. I have to put them in the back of the RAV4 when driving or I get a 60 or 45 pound dog in my lap, but I couldn’t get them out the back door due to trouble with the auto-lift gate.

Now yesterday while I was doing neurofeedback, for the first time in my life it hit me: Hey, I could go inside the vet’s office and simply ask a front desk person to help me so my dogs don’t jump out and get hurt. This sounds so stupid but it isn’t — it means for the first time in my life I considered asking another person for reasonable help!

That means believing people are supposed to help each other and that some people can be approached for help.

That’s a first step in trust. Amazing.
So I began to weep, really weep.
Let me explain why this feels so weird and crazy and amazing to me.

As many of us with a high Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) score, people have horribly hurt me. I’ve come to feel, I want no part of mammalian attachment to people (you call that “fur”) — even if it is the only way to heal. Trusting people is horribly scary for me for reasons like this:
When I was 7 or 8, I was with my dad in the car about an hour away from our trailer.  I never asked my dad for anything because he was incredibly mean. My dad smoked in the car with us kids inside.  But on this winter day, I had a cold, and as he is smoking, I suddenly couldn’t breath.  I am scared to death because I cannot breath. I timidly ask him “Dad could you please stop smoking? I cannot breathe.”  His response was “If you don’t like it, I can drop you off here right now and you can walk home!”  A very typical response. I don’t know how I managed to escape with my life in that small car for an hour as he puffed away while I was close to respiratory arrest… but I never forgot the incident or the horrible insensitivity.

From that time forward, I could not ask for anything reasonable – I could not ask for something reasonable to save my life.

To others, asking for assistance may seem like a no-brainer. But for me, tremendously hurt by my parents for years starting at a young age — to consider in the middle of today’s neurofeedback session that I could ask the vet for reasonable help — it made me weep.

And I’m going to try to no longer react immediately, even to such epiphanies, as I want to be more reflective going forward — another amazing plus of neurofeedback.  But wow, I have experienced an amazing movement of my brain that I don’t think could have occurred any other way.

I may even be able to move to where attaching to people becomes okay.
Oh and as I had this epiphany – my dogs ate my dinner and I didn’t get mad!

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Kathy’s blogs and Guest Blogs explore the journey of recovery from childhood trauma by learning about Adult Attachment Disorder in teens and adults, Adult Attachment Theory, and the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.

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A Pastor’s Battle with Childhood Trauma

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Neurofeedback: Healing the Fear-Driven Brain

Sebern FisherPsychotherapist Sebern Fisher gave a great webcast on October 22, 2014 in the NICABM series, about neurofeedback (biofeedback to the brain), which gives us access to our brain function frequencies.

Neurofeedback, she said, is a computer program therapists use in their office, training clients on it to get them in touch with their own brain waves, learn what’s good for the brain, and calm their thoughts.

The brain is organized from the womb in oscillatory patterns, Ms. Fisher says, so we with developmental trauma, early neglect and abuse, have disorganized and dysregulated brains.  Our fear circuits dominate.  Neurofeedback can calm these erupting circuits and even grow neural connectivity, which helps us create a more coherent sense of self, so we feel safer and more centered. [FN1]

Folks with difficult parents often grow up with a “fear-driven brain” as I did — and it’s a huge relief to find out we’re not freaks — we’re a chunk of the mainstream.  In fact, maybe 50% of Americans have some degree of this “attachment disorder” due to parents who were too scary to attach to. Of course it’s not their fault either; odds are, our grandparents were too scary for our parents to attach to, and so on back, inter-generationally.

I was particularly struck watching Ms. Fisher’s NICABM video as she repeated again and again how many people are walking around with a “fear-driven brain.”  Her 2010 radio interview “Attachment Disorder, Developmental Trauma and Neurofeedback” says she spent decades trying to heal kids with early attachment wounds, but found we can’t talk to the parts of the brain formed from conception to 36 months; those parts have no speech. So she made no progress until she tried neurofeedback in 1996. It can talk to those parts: http://www.futurehealth.org/Podcast/Sebern-Fisher-Attachment-by-Rob-Kall-100516-497.html

I’d bet maybe 20% of us have “developmental trauma” like that, as I do, which means that life was one continuous trauma “since the sperm hit the egg.” For what it looks like when Mom is too scary for her child to attach, check http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/developmental-trauma-2/

I was moved to tears by Ms. Fisher’s more recent interview “Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Developmental Trauma,” as she described how deeply necessary love and attachment are to the creation of a human brain. It’s because we crave the regulation of our nervous system which love can bring, that our brains respond to neurofeedback signals which feel calmer and even loved: http://shrinkrapradio.com/452-neurofeedback-in-the-treatment-of-developmental-trauma-with-sebern-fisher-m-a/

And: here’s an amazing blog by Dr. Tina Hahn MD, “My Neurofeedback Journey,” on the BrainPaint® home neurofeedback system she’s using.

Find a Neurofeedback Practitioner: Online Directories:
1. EEG Spectrum International [Ms. Fisher’s husband John Fisher was president of this co.] Directory: http://www.esiaffiliatesforum.com/providers
2. EEG Institute Provider Directory: http://directory.eeginfo.com/

Trauma, Up Front and Personal

Ms. Fisher got into therapy and attachment work in the first place because she herself had developmental trauma.  She also had a lot of head injury and traumatic brain injury.  One of the first things to be healed when Ms Fisher began neurofeedback herself were her terrible migraines, which have never returned.  She still uses neurofeedback because, she says, “I have had a lot of head injuries so I am at a greater risk of Alzheimer’s than other people, but all of the signs of head injury and traumatic brain injury that I had are all gone.”

Here are some salient quotes from Ms. Fisher’s  NICABM interview:

“Neurofeedback is biofeedback to the neuronal activity of the brain. It is a computer interface where you pick up the firing of the brain in the EEG (electro-encephalogram) in real-time, scrolling for a therapist and client to look at together. By challenging their brain through feedback, we can see that the EEG is changing,” she starts.

“And obviously the change that I am most concerned about is change in levels of fear. Mostly what I am concerned about is quieting fear, so let’s take that situation. We know that the fear circuits are in the temporal lobe and that survival’s fear circuit, the survival amygdala, is in the right hemisphere. We’re trying to say to the brain – not to the person– “Stop practicing that fear-driven over-arousal. Chill. Get quiet!”

“Now, if people could do this on their own, they wouldn’t need the game or the neurofeedback. [So she’s never harsh on the person; she just re-trains their brain.] We have to find the frequency that works for that particular individual – it’s going to be different for everyone. They tell me two or three days later that, on the whole, they have been calm, they have been sleeping, they are less reactive, and/or they are making easier eye contact. That is what I mean by works….

“I had a young woman, who had been adopted from a third-world country. She had been in an orphanage after having been delivered in a shoebox from a police station. They fed her with an eyedropper, not ever expecting that she was going to live. She had every possible level of disorganization: she couldn’t read; she bumped into doorjambs; she had a very difficult time negotiating through life.

“I was now meeting her out of a mental hospital, and she was in her twenties. [After neurofeedback training] she comes in and tells me this story. She was always the last one chosen for any sports team, as you can imagine, when she was a kid, and now she’s stabilized enough to be dating. She is out with a guy, they are waiting to go to a movie, and they go to a batting cage – she hits 90% of the balls. Therapy could never get somebody from bumping into walls to being able to hit 90% of the balls! Her boyfriend was very impressed…

“Neurofeedback is deeply organizing to the nervous system. This goes deep into the nervous system; neurofeedback is healing deep into the CNS, the central nervous system, and through the brain.

“I had one patient who was given the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder and had been hospitalized multiple times. She very much wanted to do neurofeedback training because she felt like she had gone as far as she could with psychotherapy, and she still wanted to drive off a bridge every day!  We used two different protocols: the eyes-open protocol – it doesn’t matter what the specifics were for her – but she got stabilized in 20 sessions, and then we did the alpha-theta protocol. She did 30 or 40 sessions. All together, she had about 60 sessions, then it was over. She did not meet any criteria for Borderline Personality and she no longer wanted to jump off a bridge.

“She actually got married and had a baby, and went on to advance her career. I saw her once after that ending, and it was when a pet that had been her primary object of attachment, was killed in a freak accident. She came back in and she was very distressed. An additional trauma can also throw the brain back into its known pattern of firing. So we trained about four times, to address the state she was in, and she very quickly reorganized and was off again.

Repair of Attachment with Neurofeedback

(Interviewer Dr. Buczynski): “How do you think of attachment and repairing of attachment in regard to neurofeedback?

Fisher: “Oh, that’s a wonderful question, and it is somewhat amazing that this happens. In my experience, what I have seen is that people always seem to want relational connection.

“Things can get in the way – if you are having something akin to a seizure and you’re constantly living in fear; it is very difficult to imagine relationship as a primary part of your life. But we are social creatures; we are meant to relate to one another. That is our safety; that is our harbor, as my patient said, and when you find a way to quiet the fear-driven brain, what emerges quite spontaneously are the attachment circuits.

“I had one patient who was self-abusing and dissociative when she came into sessions. She had not seen her mother nor talked about her mother – so this wasn’t a result of conversation – but her mother had not behaved ideally. She came in one day [after neurofeedback treatment] and said, “I think you might be interested in this: I called my mother last night.” It was spontaneous, and now we could talk about the reality of her mother’s trauma.

“Now, this had been presented to her multiple times, and it even occurred to her, but the dysregulation and high arousal of her nervous system made it pretty meaningless. I see that happening a lot. I see spontaneous family reunion that I have nothing to do with orchestrating, and often, without even talking about it, I see it happen with people who train their brains.”

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Kathy’s 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 “Neurofeedback: Soothe the Fear of a Traumatized Brain: How a New Intervention Is Changing Trauma Treatment,” Sebern Fisher, MA, BCN, Psychotherapist and Neurofeedback practitioner, Private Practice, Northampton, MA;  10-22-14 Webinar interview by Dr. Ruth Buczynski, National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM), http://www.nicabm.com/treatingtrauma2014/post-info/

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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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Dreaming of a Safe America – Laura Kerr

Safe America Dream Laura KerrThis guest blog by Dr. Laura Kerr, PhD, Stanford University, really struck me.  For Americans as people, and our government, she notes, “unconscious dreams and unresolved traumas influence our defensive reactions to threat, much like the child that suffers chronic traumatization is altered by conditions of abuse and neglect.”  Dr. Kerr is a  mental health scholar who writes about trauma, grief and loss — and the social cost of our often not knowing they exist, or how to heal them.

“Dreaming of a Safe America,” by Dr. Laura Kerr

The airstrikes against the Islamic State, a decidedly violent and oppressive group, are deeply unsettling, bringing forth memories of 9/ll and the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, along with fears that America will never extract itself from this region of the world, or be safe from revengeful terrorist groups. At such times, it’s natural to become defensive, fearful, and even hopeless.

One of the things that makes America a wonderful place to live is that we feel entitled to freedom and safety and feel others are entitled to freedom and safety too. Yet rarely do airstrikes like the ones on Syria feel like a simple exercise in the protection of human rights. America has too many unresolved traumas, too many unspoken desires, for the public to trust a motive as simple as the preservation of freedom and safety.

In this blog post, I try to understand how unconscious dreams and unresolved traumas influence our defensive reactions to threat, much like the child that suffers chronic traumatization is altered by conditions of abuse and neglect. I believe we are at a time in our nation’s history when we must examine the disparity between what we have dreamed of becoming and deal with the reality of what we are: stressed, even traumatized, increasingly fragmented, yet also passionate, resourceful, and capable of honest evaluation. But first we have to let go of our defenses. Even during times of war.

American Dreams

The United States, perhaps like all nations and all people, is caught in unconscious, conflicting drives and denied vulnerabilities. In Dreaming Up America, historical novelist Russell Banks identified three dreams at the heart of America’s unconscious conflicts, dreams that originally drew people to America:

There was El Dorado, the City of Gold that Cortez and Pizarro dreamed of finding. And then there was Ponce de Leon’s dream of the Fountain of Youth, where you could start life over again, and the New England Puritan dream of God’s Protestant utopian City on a Hill, the New Jerusalem…. We can think of there being three braided strands, or perhaps three mutually reinforcing dreams: one is of a place where a sinner can become virtuous, free from the decadence of the secular cosmopolitanism of Old Europe; another is of a place where a poor man can become wealthy; and a third is of a place where a person can be born again.” (2008, pp. 6-7)

The three conflicting impulses of these dreams — renewal, materialism, and spirituality — shape the nation, its institutions, social life, and the American psyche. They determine the myths Americans attempt to live, the fantasies that grab our imaginations, the ideals we hold, and our expectations for the future. These dreams also have a shadow side. They contain the unresolved traumas of past generations, and thus also perpetuate fear, shame, addictions, and disavowed needs. Without healing the shadow side of these dreams, the United States has no other option than to play out its conflicting state of impulses in unhealthy and destructive ways.

These disparate dreams of wealth, rebirth, and redemption have been with the American people since the country’s inception, although according to Banks, they became a source of internal tension after the Civil War. The United States emerged from this conflict as a nation state, which implied, at least in principle, the resolution of internal conflicts for the purpose of creating an integrated and interdependent nation. However, as we know all too well, this was not the case.

Following the Civil War, the United States was incapable of true integration. For one thing, the Civil War was particularly gruesome. Over 620,000 people died — far more Americans than in any other US-involved conflict. (About 1,264,000 soldiers have died in the nation’s wars.) And although the Civil War ended slavery, it did not end racism or inequality, and thus failed to uphold the ideal of universal, inalienable rights laid out in the Constitution, the doctrine intended to unite us all as equals.

Thus, after the Civil War, there was a false sense of integration. To use psychological parlance, we could say the US created a false self. The creation of a false self is common to trauma survivors. It hides the split off aspects of experience and identity that either the survivor is unaware of, or fears retribution for, if others were to know the traumatized parts and the memories they hold. And Americans have suffered many traumas — including the numerous wars, slavery, oppression, racism, sexism, as well as family violence — and all reveal the failure of democracy to create a country of safe and equal citizens.

When caught in a habitual cycle of denying or dissociating parts of ourselves, event the faintest reminders are susceptible to unconscious projection onto others. When traumatic memories are particularly offensive, and contain overwhelming feelings of shame or helplessness, the need to rid oneself of the offending and unacceptable traits and emotions can lead to a search for a scapegoat, someone or something to contain the overwhelming feelings that otherwise might shatter the fragile persona that keeps them at bay.

And indeed, the United States often functions much like the trauma survivor who projects the wounded parts of itself onto scapegoats rather than risk the uncertainty of facing a traumatized past. Scapegoating happens in relation to other countries and peoples when we demonize them, and in our own country when people are devalued or brutalized due to their ethnic origins, their gender or their sexual orientation, the region of the country they live in, or their lack of resources. And often those who have been victimized later become the ones seeking scapegoats.

For the rest of this post and its invaluable footnotes, CLICK HERE: http://www.laurakkerr.com/2014/09/24/dreaming-safe-america/

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Kathy’s news blogs expand on the ideas in 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 Kathy and her guest bloggers write about attachment disorder in adults, trauma, grief and loss, adult attachment theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

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Allan Schore: What is the “Self”?

Allan Schore 2In March 2013 I was standing unknown in a crowd of professors and therapists at a UCLA conference, and noticed a quiet gentleman on my right.  I’d seen his photo online.  “Dr. Schore?” I asked.  “Yes,” said Allan Schore, turning calm eyes on me.

“I’m so grateful for all you’ve done to show that babies can’t control emotions, that’s the mother’s job to model, and emotions are ok,” I blurted,  suddenly in tears. “I’m writing a book on what it feels like on the inside, when we don’t get that as an infant.”

Dr. Schore didn’t flinch; his eyes grew wide with empathy. He got it.  He got a total stranger, right by the conference stage, got that I had walked through a hell of emotional pain to study this. He got that I was feeling love for him because he’s shown there’s a scientific reason for the pain.  He got that “emotions are ok” and only emotions from a caring other can heal this, so he gave me emotions: presence and compassion. On the spot. “We see it every day,” he said.

Just sayin’: He walks the walk.

UCLA professor Allan Schore is a world leader in Attachment Theory. He’s known as “the American Bowlby” after British psychiatrist John Bowlby who first wrote about attachment in the 1950s. [FN1]  Schore was among the first to put together the latest brain science on how an infant’s brain forms biologically (“developmental neuroscience”), with the early psychology of the infant mind (“developmental psychoanalysis”).

Dr. Schore’s 9-28-14 Oslo speech “The Most Important Years…the Right Brain and Its Importance” is a must-see to understand infant developmental trauma. He calls it  “trauma in the first 1000 days, conception to age two.”  Schore reviews how the theories he’s published since the 1990s are being proven to be hard science by today’s scanning technologies (content starts minute 8): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KW-S4cyEFCc

Schore is known for documenting the “origin of the self”– what, scientifically, is the “Self”?  What is it that makes me, Me?

He calls it “the origin of the early forming subjective implicit self.” It’s entirely subjective; each infant has a different experience.  It’s “implicit memory” because the self forms in infancy when memory is only subconcious. It all happens years before we have thought and conscious “explicit memory” at age two or three.

This isn’t mere geek-speak; the mental, emotional, and physical health of all humans depends on it. We can’t remember what happened before age 3 when our self was formed, but the experience had massive impact. It’s all still “down there,” driving our feelings and behavior big time for the rest of our lives. When the self is damaged during formation in early infant and childhood, a person can feel miserable all their life. The ACE Study shows this often leads to biological disease and premature death.

The Self and Emotions : Secure Attachment

brousblog4c Claire+MosesBabies are born with a massive level of emotions; Schore showed they are also overwhelmingly dependent on the mother to show them how to handle it all. An infant’s brain doubles in size “from the last trimester of pregnancy through the second year” Schore says. “At birth, there are hardly any cortical (conscious thinking brain) areas that are myelinated and online… so it’s impossible for the baby to regulate its own emotions…

“The mother is the regulator of that baby,” he says, and this shapes its entire brain. “Over the first year… the mother’s interactions are also shaping the very wiring of those higher regulatory centers… Attachment communications which are emotional are forging the connections in the early developing right brain… The right brain literally is imprinted by these attachment relationships while it is being created…”  FN2

It’s all subconscious. With “secure attachment,” when a baby cries, the mother “attunes” to it. An “attuned” mother doesn’t say “think” or “ought to.”  She feels a strong, emotional urge to comfort her baby; she subconsciously intuits whether her baby cries because it’s hungry, wet, or tired. “The mother is able to pick up the baby’s communications,” Schore says. “She is not doing this by language, there is no thinking or language before age two.  She is picking up bodily-based nonverbal communications:  facial gestures, auditory tone of voice, and tactile expressions.  The attachment communication is more than between the mother and the infant’s minds; it’s between their bodies…

“She is psychobiologically attuning to the internal rhythms… of the baby’s autonomic nervous system and central system arousal…  It’s an attunement of mind and body. In doing so, she is regulating the baby’s rhythms and allowing the baby to create different emotional states that are associated with these different rhythms. This is not a matching of behavior; it is more of an intuitive matching of the internal rhythms of the baby.

“The baby is expressing these internal rhythms through the emotional communications it is sending back to the mother, in the prosody of the baby’s voice, or in the cry, or in the expression on the baby’s face, or in the gesture.  They are matching each other’s subjective state. Now, when two people match their subjective states, there is a sense of empathy, there is a sense of a bond; a sense that ‘someone’s body is exactly resonating with my body.’  When that occurs there is an amplification of arousal, and this amplification of arousal leads to things like joy states. ”

Infants also have no sense of self.  Instead, Schore adds, there’s a “mother-baby continuum” for at least the first six months of life where the “dyad” (mother and child) often don’t know (and don’t care) where one person ends and the other begins.

We begin life as a sea of emotions, and then mom models for us again and again, that she can comfort our wild emotions. Unconsciously we pick up that skill. After we cry and mom comforts us for the millionth time, one day we feel our way to stop crying because we’ve “internalized” mom’s comfort. We subconsciously learn to manage emotions, to both enjoy good emotions, and also –very important — to tolerate and be able to fully feel negative emotions, without fearing or repressing them.

This is also called “Emotional Object Constancy.”  Mom was an external object, but now we’ve taken her image inside us, so we feel loved and emotionally secure 24×7, even when we’re alone.

Our “self” begins when we first start to “regulate” our own emotions (“affect”) this way. When we realize we can feel our emotions and also modulate them, without screaming for someone else to do it for us? That’s when we first realize that we are not just an appendage of mom. We’ve got some independent “self.” “Essentially, one’s self-concept is focused around a positive sense of emotionality in the self,” says Schore.

Insecure Attachment and Trauma

Still Face Experiment 2Or not.

Back to that baby born with a massive level of emotions. Babies are supposed to receive all that attuning above, then they’re fine.

Or not.

What if we’re an “Or Not” baby? What if we cry but no one comes?  Or what if someone comes but can’t  attune?  That baby learns that there is no comfort, that emotions are terrifying, and the world is a scary place.  Dr. Schore’s friend Ed Tronick shows this graphically with his “Still Face Experiment;”  click for video.  [FN3]

That baby often does not develop much of a self.  To the extent no one showed it how to manage emotions, the day couldn’t come when it could “regulate like mom.”  That is really uncomfortable; it’s what’s behind the feeling that “I have a hole in me.”

Schore says this is the root of developmental trauma.  “In trauma there is an intense negative state about the sense of self” with “extremely high states and low states of arousal, an inability to internally regulate their state or to use other people to help them regulate their state and bring them into a sense of comfort.”

With insecure attachment, he says, “there are problems that the caregiver is having emotionally…  There is anxious insecure attachment, where the mother is preoccupied or unpredictable… There is also avoidant insecure attachment, where the mother is mostly cold…

“And there is ‘mind blindness,’ so to speak. There are some mothers who cannot read the tone of the baby… We know depressive mothers have problems reading facial expressions, especially the facial expressions and the gestures of the baby. You see inter-generational transmission of these deficits …”

Schore first showed this scientifically in his three blockbuster books “Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self,” “Affect Dysregulation and Disorders of the Self,” and “Affect Regulation and the Repair of the Self.” FN4

“Affect Regulation” means we can freely feel our emotions without being emotionally blocked, we can enjoy our emotions – yet also be “on top”of our emotions, so they don’t feel overwhelming, painful or frightening.  If not, we suffer “Affect Dysregulation ” i.e., some level of emotional chaos.

We all know people who either can’t or won’t access their emotions, or others whose emotions go out of control to where they and those around them feel miserable.  Others  swing to both extremes, but never simply enjoy their emotions without freaking out or hurting people.

The good news is: there is repair, as Dr. Schore’s third book lays out in detail. At a support group, Al Anon meeting, therapist’s office, or with friends, repair means doing exactly what Schore did for me on the floor of that conference: being present emotionally with another emotionally-attuned human being.

If we can sit for an hour and attune to another human willing to share our emotion state and help us learn to gradually shift and modulate it, we learn to “regulate.”  Brain scans now show that we can literally repair the same neural circuits which got out of tune when it didn’t go right for us as kids.

It takes time, perseverance, courage, and real human beings like Allan Schore.  I’ve met them, they’re out there.  Find them.

——————-

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  Bowlby, John, “The Nature of a Child’s Tie to His Mother,” British Psychoanalytical Society, London, 1958; “Attachment and Loss,” New York, Basic Books, 1969

FN2  Schore, Allan N., PhD, “Affect Regulation and Mind- Brain-Body Healing of Trauma,”   National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM), June 15, 2011
Schore, Allan N., “The right brain implicit self lies at the core of psychoanalysis,” Psychoanalytic Dialogues  21:75–100, 2011 www.lifespanlearn.org/documents/2011Handouts/Schore/Schore%20Psych%20Dialogues%2011.pdf
Interview with Allan Schore – ‘the American Bowlby,’  by Roz Carroll, UK ;  The Psychotherapist, Autumn 2001, www.thinkbody.co.uk/papers/interview-with-allan-s.htm

FN3  Dr. Ed Tronick of the U Mass Boston’s Infant-Parent Mental Health Program did his first “Still Face Experiment” work in 1975; his 2007 video  has over 1.3 million hits.  First a mother and child play in a responsive, attuned way, so the baby learns to interact with the world. Then she suddenly stops attuning. Video at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=apzXGEbZht0&feature=youtu.be

FN4  Norton Textbook Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology:
Schore, Allan N., “The Science of the Art of Psychotherapy,” April 2012; 480 pages
Schore, Allan N., “Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self,” Norton textbook May 2003; first edition 1994; 432 pages

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