Tag Archives: Suicide

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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No Shame in a Broken Brain

#3 in the news blog series – Original post on ACEsConnection, September 19, 2013

No Shame in Broken Brain“There’s no shame when any other organ in your body fails – so why do we feel shame if our brain is broken?”  This was one of the latest tweets by Pastor Rick Warren at #WarrensOnCNN.

He is so correct.
Emotional pain + failure of our mental health system = Tragedy.

In the wake of his son Matthew’s suicide, Pastor Rick of Saddleback Church, one of America’s largest, said in a July 26 statement:  “America’s mental health system is irreparably broken.”  The system, he said, “failed Matthew with misdiagnosis and wrong treatments his entire life…America’s mental health system needs far more than repair.  It needs to be reinvented and revolutionized.”

Matthew, his dad said, was mis-diagnosed as having bi-polar disorder when he actually had Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).

On September 17, Pastor Rick and his wife Kay spoke out on their grief on CNN’s Piers Morgan.  It was the couple’s first media appearance since Matthew’s passing, and, it seems, the start of a much-needed public education drive:

Rick & Kay Warren posted 9-12-13“Matthew was not afraid to die. He was afraid of pain,” Pastor Rick said.

“I remember 10 years ago, when he was 17, he came to me sobbing,” said Pastor Warren.  “He said, ‘Daddy,’ he said, ‘it’s really clear, I’m not going to get any better.

” ‘You know, we’ve gone to the best doctors, the best hospitals, the best treatment therapists.  Everything … prayer, everything you could imagine … good support.’  And he says, ‘It’s real clear I’m not going to get any better, so why can’t I just die? ‘ ”

Asked by the host for Warren’s reaction to his son at that time, the senior pastor of Saddleback Church shared his message:

“I said, ‘Matthew, the reason why, is there is a purpose, even in our pain.  And I am not willing to just give up and say that the solution isn’t there.  You might give up, but as your father, as your mother, we’re not ever giving up, that we won’t find the solution,'” he explains to Piers Morgan.  “I really believe Matthew could have been a great advocate for children in the world.  He was an amazingly compassionate kid.”

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When Family Doesn’t Get It, Recovery Partners Will

#4 in the news blog series; original post on ACEsConnection, September 26, 2013

When we’re hurting, we all want and need those closest to us to “get it,” but please take comfort from the statistic that it usually does not happen that way.  Why?  Therapist and scholar Jack Kornfield says, “Even Buddha and Jesus had a lot of trouble with their families when they went home!  So did Mother Theresa.  Holding up the ring nuns wear as brides of Christ, she told a journalist: ‘ I’m married, too, and He can be very difficult… ‘  ”

That’s because when we humans get close, to those closest to us, that proximity turns on the fight-flight paranoia in all concerned (in everyone, not just in me).  Why? That’s where humans get the most vulnerable, so that’s where (our bodies and paranoid brain stems feel) we could potentially get really hurt.  There is a lot of literature on this problem – please don’t feel alone on this!  You are exactly normal.

Henry Cloud & John Townsend

Henry Cloud & John Townsend

This is why we have support groups and that is why therapists exist.  In my experience it’s instead my recovery partners, my trauma-informed therapist, and trauma-informed folk such on ACEsConnection who get it.  And that’s a life-saver.

Dr. John Townsend says: “There will be people who are marked, at the same time as you.  Find them.”

Find people who are in the same boat, who are not in denial, who do get it– and spent a lot of flight time sitting with them, face to face.  That’s where the real healing is.

When I did that work, I didn’t know about ACEsConnection, the  private Facebook  of the ACE Study.  ACE is the top research on childhood emotional pain and health;  it shows Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) actually create most medical, mental health and emotional issues in adults.

What I did in 2009 was to get relief by piling on many extra hours of “flight time” sitting with my Recovery partners, one whose parents were dying, and another whose spouse committed suicide.  The emotional pain was excruciating, but the process worked — because we were in the same boat.

We used the “Grief Recovery Handbook” by John James & Russell Friedman and wrote “Grief Letters” as the book assigns. It’s an arduous method and they do caution:  Don’t do this alone!

So arduous, we were advised by the pros to “schedule in the flight hours” with a Grief Partner — and we met in pairs every single Wednesday night for 3 hours and Saturday afternoons for even longer — for three years.  We just read our Grief Letters to each other.

Grief Recovery Handbook,+20th+Anniversary+Expanded+EditionWe shared everything, and I do mean everything, the deepest of grief.  One hour sharing by each of us of our letter of the week, sharing in turn, while the other sat with mouth shut (that’s why “Hello Kitty” has no mouth) and practiced compassionate listening.  After sharing 1 hour each (no one can take more than that in a day!), we’d have a snack and chat, or go walk on the beach on Saturdays.

I can not possibly say in mere writing how deeply healing that was – it saved my life!

This can not be done by email or telephone.  It’s the eye contact that heals the brain; ask Dr. Bruce Perry:  the eyes literally carry the image of the soul from one human into another. That’s how mothers co-create their babies’ brains, and that is the only thing that can heal us for the rest of life.  “It’s all about the face time.”

But our family members were just not in the same boat (or in denial; they might be in the same boat but couldn’t face it; denial harmful to all concerned).  So trying to get from them, something they simply do not have, was just not the best use of our truly valuable time.  Sooner or later, they will get it — but probably later.  I had one family member in denial who lives 3,000 miles away, and that was all the family I had;  I had to wing it from scratch.  That was a big ouch by itself.  It still stings.

Then I “accidentally” met my recovery partners in choir.

If no recovery partners appear magically in your ‘hood,  join ACEsConnection.com — nation-wide and world-wide– and go to or form an ACE meeting.   Or find or form a support group at your local house of worship or county health organization.  I’ve tried all the groups from DivorceCare to GriefShare, Codependents Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery (aka CR, Pastor Rick Warren’s national group), and even Al Anon.

It was incredibly painful because so many just do NOT get it — but I became a gold mine of ideas on how to find recovery partners.  Message me, I’ll help you — I found them, I did recover — and now I feel great most of the time.

If all else fails there are weekly Al Anon meetings in every city in America and they are not just for families of addicts. They will be there for anyone who is hurting and needs loving acceptance; just walk in and admit to that tiny streak of co-dependency that lurks in all of us.

Plus: Here is an incredibly fruitful link I just found on http://acestudy.org/faqs
Q:  I’m a survivor and/or perpetrator of child abuse in search of help; what should I do?
A:  Talk with your physician, and ask for a referral.  No matter what your age, if you do not currently have healthcare coverage, contact the nearest children’s hospital or children’s advocacy center and ask for help. This jumps to the National Children’s Advocacy Center at http://www.nationalcac.org/locator.html and to illustrate, I put in my zip and got 5 matches within 50 miles such as:
1. Child Abuse Services Team (CAST), 401 The City Dr., Orange, 92868  (714) 935-7599
2. Miller Children’s Abuse and Violence Intervention Center, 2865 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach, 90806  (562) 933-0590
3. Children’s Advocacy Center for Child Abuse, 363 S. Park Ave. Ste. 202, Pomona, 91766  (909) 629-6300
4. Riverside Child Assessment Team, 26520 Cactus Ave., Lower Level Moreno Valley 92555  (951) 486-4345
5. Palomar Pomerado Forensic Health Child Abuse, 121 N. Fig St., Escondido 92025  (760) 739-2156

Building a Life Team

I’m no stranger to emotional pain so bad it can lead to suicide. My new book “Don’t Try This at Home: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder” notes the pain was so intense, it nearly did.

Rick & Kay Warren, Matthew 9-28-13In fact this blog resulted from a Sept. 17 interview with Pastor Rick Warren on his son Matthew’s suicide this year. Pastor Warren told CNN, “Matthew was not afraid to die.  He was afraid of pain.”

Pastor Warren and his wife Kay have been passionately calling for a change in our mental health system to recognize and deal with the fact that this happens too often, starting with a July 26 statement calling for complete mental health system reform.

Among the comments I received after posting this warning about how bad the pain can get, were these:

“Thank you for sharing.  I have Major Clinical Depression myself and I can totally relate to what his son went through. Many times, even the people who say they love you the most, don’t really get what it’s like to go through such intense emotional pain that you want it to just stop no matter what the cost.  Then, those you have no choice but to turn to for support–actually work against your recovery by saying and doing things that are counter productive.  It’s the worst ‘Catch 22’ I can imagine being in.”

The next comment was:

“So very well stated! And when folks don’t get that they are acting in a counter-productive way, the person in need is getting re-traumatized again; it’s a mini-re-traumatization. Not unlike a micro-aggression or micro-inequity.

“Micro-aggressions/micro-inquities are usually attributed to minority experiences.  There is a ‘dose-response effect’… a cumulative effect of these and other traumas that create a heavier burden for the person in need as time goes by.  The fundamental essence is that the person is alienated from ‘the group.’  Being a part of one’s social group is a biological need of all mammals ! ”

I replied, “No, most people can’t get what it’s like ‘to go through such intense emotional pain that you want it to just stop no matter what.’  It’s so hard, that Catch 22 you talk about.  Many times in 2008-2011 I was in Matthew Warren’s shoes.  But I had to see a friend every day whose spouse had committed suicide, so I had to look the results in the eye. That is the only reason frankly I survived.

“I’ve been thru micro re-traumatizations like that for decades. This is why I so appreciate ACEsConnection.  Because there, I can be 100% my real self, trauma and all, and everyone ‘does get it;’  you get the real me.   So no re-traumatizations.  Priceless!”

Feel like you’re at the End of the Line?  Here’s the proverbial bottom line:

It is SO important for us to simply be heard saying the truth of what we feel, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – and then to , receive a totally accepting response.

As in “you belong, no matter what you are feeling. ” And it’s just very difficult to get family to do that;  it’s too intense for them.  It’s just human nature; let’s accept it.

That’s why Dr. John Townsend also advises that we all create a “Life Team” of seven people who are not family – Seven “Recovery” team partners – so we can call someone every day and share how we really feel, no bull, and be accepted and validated.

He says it’s only by bringing our “bad parts” into relationship with other humans, that we can heal them. Amazing. You should see what his list of “bad parts” includes, it’s astonishing.  He’s for sharing every not-good thing we feel under the sun.  Even horrid sexual impulses.  Talk about the emotions, so that we can feel it and heal it – then we dissipate the impulse and don’t act out.

Make the Call !  Get Your 5 Supplements…

Dr. Townsend says everybody, every day, requires — as a physiological need — what he calls the Five Supplements:

Grace, Empathy, Validation, Acceptance, and Encouragement.

Can you imagine that?  As an ACE survivor, the first time I heard him say this, I thought:  “This shrink is out of his mind.”  I’d never had such a wonderful experience in my life – let alone every day of my life — and as a doctor-certified requirement of the human soul.

OK, so we need a list of seven people who will do this for us – because obviously, we are also going to be there for them and do it for them!  That’s what “General Theory of Love” calls “100%-100%” agape. I’ve been doing this and it really works.

But then: we have to make the call. That’s usually the worst part, we are so mortified.

harlow-monkey-getty sm, better ResolutionI once told my therapist: “Last night I felt like the Harlow’s monkey shown in ‘General Theory of Love’. ”  It’s a baby monkey huddled up in a ball of agony like a spider about to die — after it was removed from even the terry cloth mother monkey and left in a cold bare wire cage.

But I had called a recovery friend the night before, and simply told them that.  And got accepted telling it.  My doctor replied:  “That’s the point.  The monkey couldn’t make the call.  YOU made the call!”  And I felt better.

To which our team of commentators responded:

“Saying one’s truth and being ACCEPTED as in “belonging” is just spot on! Again, it’s a biological need.  Mammals NEED to belong.  Dr. Gabor Mate states this often.

“Sadly, an excellent example is bullying.  It’s why so many young kids take their lives when bullied.  Being ostracized from the group is to inject disease (or as some would point out “dis-ease”) into the victim; denying one from BELONGING. Then one looks at Dr. Daniel Siegel’s work and understands that individual biology is modulated by interpersonal experiences (click the link).”

And:

“I REALLY appreciate what you’ve both shared with us.  It has a ring of truth to it (resonating loudly within me) and I wish there was a way to TEACH that to every single person on the planet.  It’s as basic a need as food, water, clothing, shelter.  Our society suffers when WE suffer — rejection and isolation are such HUGE barriers to self-esteem, feeling loved, being accepted.”

So that’s it:  Everybody, every day, requires, as a physiological need, Dr. Townsend’s Five Supplements:

Grace, Empathy, Validation, Acceptance, and Encouragement.

Then, let us build our Life Teams, and let us keep working together here in dialogue.

And remember: the monkey couldn’t make the call – but we can make the call.  So make the call!

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The Greatest Study Never Told

#1 in my news blog series; original post August 30, 2013

BrousBlog7a ACE pyramid I’d heard of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study — but never asked why does their logo pyramid top with “Early Death? [FN1]  Then last week I stumbled onto a highly-informative website, ACEsConnection.com, social media site for the ACE Study, which has the story and then some. [FN2]

In the ACE Study, 17,337 middle class adults at an average San Diego HMO were asked during 1995-97  if they’d had bad childhood experiences, physical or emotional.  Results were shocking.  Two-thirds (64-67%) had one or more types of child trauma, and 38-42% had two or more types.  In 2016, the same survey in inner city Nashville showed that 71% had four or more types and 51% had six or more.  I believe a true national average would show some 50% of Americans suffer childhood trauma. [FN3]

The ACE Study then compared ACE scores to whether subjects developed serious bio-medical conditions as adults – and found a major correlation.  As the ACE Pyramid shows, Adverse Childhood Experiences lead to impaired thinking, unhealthy behavior, disease, disability, and early death.

“Adverse childhood exposures showed a graded relationship to … adult diseases including ischemic heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, skeletal fractures, and liver disease,” study co-directors Dr. Vincent Felitti MD and Dr. Robert Anda MD reported in 1998. [FN4]

They also showed a “proportionate relationship between ACE score and the likelihood of developing autoimmune diseases decades later in adult life.”  Emotional disorders?  They found “depression, suicidality, chronic anxiety, amnesia, and hallucinations were directly proportionate” to ACE  trauma.

“It’s not about ‘them’ – it’s about us,” said Dr. Anda of these huge percentages and widespread lethal results.  ACEs are “the leading determinant of what happens to the health of a nation’s population,” says Dr. Felitti.

The ACE Study began in 1995 at Kaiser Permanente, the largest  HMO in California, jointly with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  But this rigorous research hasn’t woken up medicine and psychiatry, despite the fact that Felitti, Anda et. al. have published over 75 medical articles on it.  [FN5]

You’ve likely never heard of this, ‘tho we all should know about 20 years of official study on 17,337 citizens.  I never heard of it even as a Kaiser Permanente client in 2010-11.  So ACEsConnection is going to the grass roots, some states are doing ACE surveys, and social service agencies are training staff  in “Trauma-Informed Care.”

Dr. Felitti never dreamed of any of this.  He was an internist who fell into it all by accident. Kaiser had an obesity clinic, it was failing, and Dr. Felitti wanted to know why.  Suddenly, by interviewing people who quit, this data jumped into his lap.

Vincent Felitti

Now instead of retiring to the Bahamas after a long career, Dr. Felitti travels the world making speeches like “Why the Most Significant Factor Predicting Chronic Disease May Be Childhood Trauma” [FN6]

He insists that “contrary to conventional belief, time does not heal all wounds, since humans convert traumatic emotional experiences in childhood into organic disease later in life.” One does not “just get over” this, “not even 50 years later,” he says, without serious efforts and treatment.  [FN7]

Baby Casey: the Attachment Disorder ACE

This is not an academic issue.  Fifty percent of the American population has some degree of attachment disorder (see Blogs #1-4), and attachment disorder is a major component of many Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE).

Baby Casey fr video crop2On ACEsConnection.com, created by journalist Jane Stevens, the first thing I saw was a video of a baby in a Polish orphanage that turned me inside out (click here & scroll down page). [FN8]

This is what the physical pain of attachment failure looks like. Left alone for months in the Warsaw facility, Baby Casey did not get the “face time,” physical holding, emotional attunement, or any of the interactions required for an infant’s brain to grow. Humans from birth require a constant stream of “emotional, spiritual, psychological, and physical inputs” from another loving human, says trauma specialist Mary Jo Barrett — just as we require air, food, and liquid.” [FN9]

A child left without this input stream learns that its own hard-wired biological needs are terrifying.   “I learn that what I experienced internally and expressed externally with a cry, was met by a response that didn’t make any sense,” says neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Siegel. “I learned: it doesn’t matter what I’m feeling, because people don’t get what I need.  Ultimately, I’ll become disconnected, not only from other people, but even from my own internal bodily self. ”[FN10]

Babies are also hard-wired to be flooded with stress chemicals when those needs are not met, Dr. Bruce Perry explains. And the flood can go on for decades. [FN11]

The emotional pain and terror are so intense that the child will do anything to distract itself from those needs. “In states of distress I can only comfort myself in ways that are maladaptive – I bite myself, rock myself perpetually, so I’m distracting myself from my needs,” Siegel says.

The fight-or-flight stress chemicals flood the bloodstream at a level which feels so terrifying, that the baby would rather pass out — or even die — than to feel it. “The baby thinks it’s going to die,” as Dr. Nancy Verrier puts it. [FN12]  I saw this video and said, “That baby’s trying to knock herself out.”

Turning Gold into Lead

BrousBlog7c Gold into LeadLeft unhealed, all those stress chemicals and panic feelings begin to physically destroy  body parts.

“The ACE Study findings suggest certain adverse childhood experiences are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death in the US,” the CDC reports. “As the number of ACE increase, risk for the following health problems increases in a strong and graded fashion:

Ischemic heart disease
Cancer
Chronic lung disease
Liver disease
Skeletal fractures
Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
Depression
Fetal death
Early initiation of smoking
Illicit drug use
Multiple sexual partners
Risk for intimate partner violence
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
Unintended pregnancies
Abortion
Suicide attempts…”

“The odds of having cancer before 50 among women increased twofold for those who had 2+ ACEs versus those with no ACEs,” confirmed a 2012 study of over 6,000 Britons born in 1958, “Childhood adversity as a risk for cancer: findings from the 1958 British birth cohort study,” published by the British Medical Council.

“This is the largest study of its type which has ever been done to examine the effect of ACE on physical health, over the course of a lifetime,” Dr. Felitti says. All 17,337 participants will be followed up for life.

“We’re asking, ‘How do you get from Here [slide above] to Here.’  From a newborn infant with total potential — to a man who is broken, bio-medically, psychologically and emotionally.

“We found that ACEs are remarkably common – what is uncommon is their recognition, or their acknowledgment. They are well-concealed by time, by shame, by secrecy, and by social taboo. They turn out to be strong predictors of what happens later in life in health risks, disease, and premature mortality. The combination of their high prevalence, and their great power, makes ACEs the leading determinant of what happens to the health of a nation’s population.”  [FN13]

“In no way could you dismiss this as a marginalized population,” Dr. Felitti says of his 17,337 patients. Most of them are white middle class; 47% had attended college; they all had jobs and health insurance; they were at Kaiser.

“ACE are the risk factors which underlie the 10 most common causes of death in the U.S. With an ACE score of zero, you have a very medically uninteresting population – no internist has a chance of making a living with that group,” he notes.

“Swiss psychoanalyst Alice Miller says: ‘The truth about our childhood is stored up in our bodies, and lives in the depths of our souls.  Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings can be numbed and manipulated, our perceptions can be shamed and confused, or our bodies tricked with medication. But our soul never forgets. And because we are one, one whole soul in one body, some day, our body will present its bill.’

“In this study, we are looking at it literally. The cost of this is truly enormous. Whoever would have thought that pediatrics is the breeding ground for internal medicine,” Dr. Felitti concludes.

Feel like you might have an ACE or two up your sleeve?

You can go to http://acestudy.org/faqs and take the ACE Survey, to see how many ACEs you might have. If you feel really awful, go to your family doctor, bring him this report, and tell him you want to see a specialist because you are a normal human responding to abnormal experiences. If you do not have health coverage, no matter what your age, you can contact the nearest children’s hospital or the National Children’s Advocacy Center’s local office and ask for help. At www.nationalcac.org/locator.html, I used my zip code and found four places right near my home, just so I could report to you that they probably have facilities to help near you.

To read more, join ACEsConnection.com, the community of practice “private Facebook” network designed to prevent ACEs & further trauma and to increase resilience. Just sign up, fill out your profile, and go to “My Page” to start adding information about what you’re doing or thinking about these issues. If you’re looking for others doing what you want to do, join a group, or start a group and invite people to join. I joined, and I formed a Southern California ACEs group; here’s my SoCal ACEs page: http://www.acesconnection.com/profile/399727599840151624

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Excerpts 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  are posted here most Fridays, unless current events beg an interruption. Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book, in which she explores her journey of recovery and shares the people and tools that have helped her along the way.

Footnotes
FN1 CDC ACE Study pyramid: http://www.cdc.gov/ace/pyramid.htm

FN2 Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “ACE Study DVD Pre-View movie,” 3-minute version: http://www.acesconnection.com/blog/ace-study-co-founders-tell-story-on-dvd-here-s-an-intro

FN3  Dr. Felitti reports   67% of participants had one or more types of ACEs, and 42% had two or more types of ACEs. The CDC website states that 64% had one or more types of ACEs, and 38% had two or more types of ACEs; http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/prevalence.html    These percentages varied depending on when readings were taken as more subjects joined the study in the second “wave.”
Note: all these refer to “types” of ACEs. Thus, if 38-42% of the middle class Kaiser population had at two or more types of ACEs, each likely suffered multiple incidents of that type, be it abuse, neglect, or more.
In less privileged populations, far higher percentages suffer two or more types of ACEs as shown in Nashville, TN by The Family Center in 2016: http://www.familycentertn.org/our-impact

FN4  “Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults: The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study,” by Vincent J Felitti MD, Robert F Anda MD, et al,  American Journal of Preventative Medicine, May 1998, Vol 14, Issue 4, p 245–258
http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797%2898%2900017-8/fulltext#back-BIB65

FN5  Felitti, Vincent, MD, “Adverse Childhood Experiences” www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQwJCWPG478

FN6  Felitti, Vincent, MD, official speaker biography at www.apbspeakers.com/speaker/vincent-felitti

FN7  Stevens, Jane, “The Adverse Childhood Experience Study” — the largest, most important public health study you never heard of — began in an obesity clinic”  also published by Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jane-ellen-stevens/the-adverse-childhood-exp_1_b_1943647.html

FN8  Brooks, John, “Video of Baby Casey in the Orphanage,” Warsaw, Poland, 1991, from Brooks, John, “The Girl Behind the Door: An Adoptive Father’s Lessons Learned About Attachment Disorder,” at http://parentingandattachment.com/the-girl-behind-the-door/.  Baby Casey video at http://acestoohigh.com/2013/08/02/the-early-heartbreaking-rages-of-a-baby-with-attachment-disorder/. Original video at http://parentingandattachment.com/meet-my-casey/.

FN9  Barrett, Mary Jo, MSW, “How to Treat the Patient Without Further Trauma,” NICABM webinar June 29, 2011, NICABM.com.  She is a professor at the University of Chicago; founder and director of the Center for Contextual Change; co-author of “Systemic Treatment of Incest;” and co-editor of “Treating Incest: A Multiple Systems Perspective.”

FN10  Siegel, Daniel J., MD, “Early childhood and the developing brain,” “All in the Mind,” ABC Radio National, Australia.

FN11  Perry, Bruce, MD, PhD, “Born for Love: The Effects of Empathy on the Developing Brain,” speech at conference “How People Change: Relationship & Neuroplasticity in Psychotherapy,” UCLA Extension, Los Angeles, March 8, 2013. See also “Overview of Neuro-sequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT),” www.childtrauma.org, 2010

FN12 Verrier, Nancy, PhD, “Coming Home to Self: The Adopted Child Grows Up,” self-published, Lafayette, CA, 1993

FN13 Op Cit Footnote 3, Felitti 13 minute video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQwJCWPG478

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