Tag Archives: Regression

What Inner Child?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just Take It on Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flunking Out at Bonding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Footnotes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder

How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all
#1 in my book series; originally published July 18, 2013

Brousblog1a Perry brains X-secAre parts of your brain dark?  Silly, you say.  Well, did you ever have a broken heart?  Closer to home?  Hey, I had such a successful global career that I didn’t know it for decades, but parts of my brain were dark, and my heart was ‘way far broken.  [3-Year-Old Child, Left: Normal; Right: Attachment Disorder [FN1]]

So goes Attachment Disorder – and it turns out maybe 50% or more of Americans have some brand of it.  No wonder we’ve got a 52% divorce rate and a Congress that can’t seem to function (not to mention the ratty odds in internet dating). [FN2]

Science has only recently demonstrated that unless kids (and other mammals) are given deep emotional connection (“attachment”) from birth by parents or others, infant neurological systems just don’t develop well.  The infant brain literally requires programming by an adult’s eyes and facial expressions to begin to program its own neurons.

When a mother doesn’t respond to her baby with strong positive emotions (she’s being battered, has stress at work, is unable to attune to others), the infant’s instincts read that as a survival threat.  This floods its bloodstream with fight/flight stress chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol.  But a baby is helpless to use these to act in self defense.  If some adult doesn’t make the baby feel safe, stress chemicals overwhelm its brain and within 45 minutes the baby goes into clinical shock (dissociation). [FN3]

What began as emotional stress ends in physical brain damage.  We can now do brain scans showing that whole chunks of neurons in some brain regions don’t fire.  I felt this as “parts of my brain are dark.”  There is literally a “hole in me.”  You can see the black holes in the brain scans above.

The resulting Attachment Disorder causes intense emotional pain to be transmitted by the brain stem to the neurons around the heart and other viscera, producing, literally, a broken heart – and it hurts, big time.

This means a lot more of us do need to have our heads examined; we need help!  Yet, it is definitely not “all in our heads.”  Attachment Disorder is a medical condition at the interface between the emotions and the body.

I performed with apparent success as an international business gal and opera singer (in several languages) for decades, without the faintest notion I might be shrink fodder.  Suddenly in 2007 I was in divorce from a 27-year marriage to my college sweetheart which left me bankrupt. I ran like hell, 3,000 miles from back east to California.  Then both my parents died and I had two bad rebound affairs – five life disasters in 18 months.

It felt like being hit by two cars, two trucks, and a jet airplane. I came to where my father died in 2008, and I couldn’t cry.

“You need to have your head examined,” me, myself, and I decided. I saw one therapist who listened helplessly, a second who said “grow up,” and then I read enough studies on the incompetence of psychotherapy to barf.

So I quit therapy in 2009 and opted for do-it-yourself.

Brousblog1b Flatten MeA friend gave me a book on grief and, heeding the ancient wisdom that forgiveness clears heart and mind, I began to write Grief Forgiveness letters to my ex, mom, and dad [FN4].  I drew myself a cartoon, “This is going to flatten you for a few days (to face all this pain),”  but then  I’ll be ready to re-marry.  No need to jump off my second floor balcony.

Grief, however, doesn’t do take-out orders.  I sobbed over my feelings towards my ex for 18 months, even held a funeral for my lost marriage. Yet after a week’s relief, intense “break-through” grief about my dad suddenly surfaced. Taking a breath, I had at it again, but the more grief I addressed, the more and deeper layers of emotional pain surfaced.

The feelings coming up, I gradually saw, were those of a younger and younger me. As I wrote forgiveness letters to my ex, I felt feelings from my twenties. As I wrote letters to my dad, I felt feelings from grade school; the voice of a five-year-old girl literally popped up speaking in my head at times.  (I’d sung Joan in Verdi’s opera “Joan of Arc” in 1996 but this was a stretch.)

Then as I wrote letters to my mom, I went back, and back, and back – but where was the bottom, with a mom?

Drilling the Grand Canyon

Drilling the Grand Canyon

There were so many deep layers, it felt like falling through miles of rock layers as deep as the endless striated walls of the Grand Canyon.  Some days I made jokes and friends took pix of me moving striped mountains.

Some days I began to feel emotional pain, with physical chest and gut pain, of an intensity resembling nothing so much as a 24 x 7 bone marrow transplant, no anesthesia, which went on for about three years.

It was all an accident. I didn’t mean to do it, a point I never tired of making later to astonished doctors and in prayer (God took it in stride).

But once I was falling through the layers of the Grand Canyon, there was no way to stop – short of alcohol or the like, which disgusted me – or suicide.

Jumping off my balcony often did seem quite attractive, it turned out.  Imagine my annoyance when I had to give up even that, after seeing suicide’s nasty effects on a friend whose spouse took that route.

I literally had No Exit and it stank – so down and down I went, down through the layers of flash-backs and pain until one 2011 morning at 2 am I found myself on the bedroom floor in a fetal position, clutching a large stuffed dog, and eyeing a soggy toothbrush with which I had not even been able to brush my teeth before crumpling.

The phrase “She’s not old enough to be dropped off at school” kept repeating in my skull. I crawled to the sink, but had to hang on to the stuffed animal to stand up and brush.

Somewhere in a textbook I had read about regression, the devolution of the mind back through childhood development stages.

With my extensive notes of the last few years, I staggered into yet a third therapist’s office a week later, presented the goods, and asked, “Do you think I’ve just accidentally regressed myself back to infancy?”  Upon examination, he leaned forward, eyes wide, and nodded solemnly, “Yes. Aren’t you scared?”

You said it, brother, but not nearly as scared as I was gonna be. Since the sperm hit the egg, I’d had traumatic Attachment Disorder, and bad.

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

Footnotes
FN1 
Perry, Bruce, MD, “Overview of Neuro-sequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT),” www.childtrauma.org, 2010.  See also FN5
FN2  Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, MD, has said that the US Congress is “dissociated,” or they’d feel the simple human compassion to know that sending youth to war brings back a flood of PTSD suicides.  (That means 50% of Congress has attachment problems, which is why they made a career of trying to control others. ) See van der Kolk, Bessel, MD, “What Neuroscience Teaches Us About the Treatment of Trauma,” June 6, 2012 webcast, National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM), footnote 9 in http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/developmental-trauma/
FN3  Herman, Judith, “Trauma and Recovery,” Basic Books, New York, 1992
FN4   James, John W., Friedman, Russell, “The Grief Recovery Handbook,” Harper Collins, New York, 2009 (original 1998)
FN5  Brain scan source: Perry, BD and Pollard, D., “Altered brain development following global neglect in early childhood,” Society For Neuroscience: Proceedings from Annual Meeting,New Orleans, 1997  at https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/earlybrain.pdf . The PDF says: “These images illustrate the negative impact of neglect on the developing brain. In the CT scan on the left is an image from a healthy three year old with an average head size. The image on the right is from a three year old child suffering from severe sensory-deprivation neglect. This child’s brain is significantly smaller than average and has abnormal development of cortex. These images are from studies conducted by a team of researchers from the Child Trauma Academy (www.ChildTrauma.org) led by Bruce D. Perry, M.D., PhD. ”   This article also cites Perry, B.D., Pollard, R., Blakely, T., Baker, W. & Vigilante, D. (1995), “Childhood trauma, the neurobiology of adaptation and ‘use-dependent’ development of the brain: How states become traits,” http://www.childtrauma.org/ctamaterials/states_traits.asp Also in Infant Mental Health Journal, 16 (4), 271-291, 1995.

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