One would think that of all disciplines, the ones that address hurting humans would be the least inclined to bureaucracy. Wrong. They get totally locked up in certain terminology, then the alphabetical acronyms of the same, then getting the particular concept listed in the official DSM-V (which is revised annually, frankly subject to change in the culture). Sometimes they can create a clever diagram and a few sayings, which allows them to market seminars for thousands of dollars.
In the meantime, a person can’t search for resources unless you know the magic “open sesame” that applies to the issue or even are able to remember whether it officially exists or not. Thankfully, working against all this impersonal paraphernalia is YouTube -- straightforward vids of people talking so you can get a feel for them as human beings. I was particularly impressed by this woman, Dr. Christine Courtois.
I found the vids at first on PsychAlive, as quoted below:
PsychAlive, hosted by Dr. Lisa Firestone, posted this collection of short video clips featuring trauma and PTSD expert Dr. Christine Courtois discussing various aspects of trauma and recovery.
Among her many books are Treating Complex Traumatic Stress Disorders (Adults): An Evidence-Based Guide (2009), and Healing the Incest Wound: Adult Survivors in Therapy (Second Edition) (Norton Professional Books) (2010).
There is a very good introductory essay on complex PTSD (what has traditionally been known as Borderline Personality Disorder) at the Gift From Within site, Understanding Complex Trauma, Complex Reactions, and Treatment Approaches.
Courtois is clear, sensible, and sympathetic, a good role-model in a field full of half-healed wounded healers, wannabes and hoaxes. In fact, I think part of the reason for all the bureaucracy is an effort to control this fungal proliferation. I sometimes need reassurance that I’m not among them, Though I have no professional practice with psych clients -- I’m a writer -- I do have the bare bones ministerial training. And I do share the world of Cinematheque where boys have suffered beyond what Courtois is used to dealing with and who are not exactly verbal, so that one must approach them with image.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7F8Zf6eXAs Here’s another man, Bessel A. van der Kolk, M.D. (If you go there, YouTube will likely offer a whole seminar.) Suddenly Tim’s international work with kids via picture Skype becomes sensible. He’s is breaking dissociation by supplying empathy and a consoling interpretive voice which they can carry with them from that time on. A boy the other day needed to be told, “You are not a monster!” Now he will hear Tim’s voice saying that every time he self-accuses and thereby paralyzes himself.
Don’t you have a fund of mentally replayed voices (possibly with faces) from your childhood? I sure do and some of them are not at all positive. “Why don’t you ever finish what you start?” “You are so selfish.” Often they are about small things: “Why do you make a fist with your thumb inside?” in an exasperated voice. Many of the phrases in my head are questions. Many of the more recent and more positive words come from Tim, either through video or through his writing which I “hear” in his voice.
Among the strange little clinicians’ phrases and terms that unlock access to ideas are “trauma bonds”, “attachment”, and “dissociation.” When put into search engines they are “pot handles” for phenomena that most people don’t even know exist. For example, the terms in these vids:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WV6d1nAgBNI&feature=related This set is about “attachment disorders.” They are trying to get at the problems created by early childhood neglect, parental undependability, over-attachment, abuse, abandonment, etc. These are not just emotional, but physically determine the way neurons connect, how the little sorting centers form themselves, and what that does to thinking. (Some are still resisting these demonstrable phenomena.)
During preparation for ministry in the early Eighties I was told I had a borderline personality disorder -- without explanation. The real research didn’t happen until the Nineties, so there was little anyone could tell me about it. Now I see it in my appreciation of solitude, my flares of temper, and what one counselor called my lack of emotional defenses. (Which turns out to BE a defense -- a kind of surrender.) I see the origins in impatient caregiving, because my parents were little overwhelmed and had an unjustified expectation that I would be just like them and want to be like them. a kind of rural family pride. I don’t just have a short fuse, I have fusion issues. They were not the reason I left ministry, but they didn’t help.
“Trauma bonds” is the most sensational of these ideas and developed to describe how captives feel about abusive captors. It’s sometimes called “Stockholm Syndrome. According to Wikipedia (whoever that really is), “the FBI’s Hostage Barricade Database System shows that roughly 27% of victims show evidence of Stockholm Syndrome.” It’s not inevitable. Few of us are used to thinking of it in terms of family loyalty where a loved and admired parent is the abuser. Obviously children are hostages to their families. And whores are hostages to pimps. Employees to bad bosses. Air Force newly enlisted women to abusive trainers.
The logical hatred might be displaced onto outsiders or possibly onto the non-abusive but passive parent. In the best of all possible worlds, that ability to bond with people in spite of negative treatment might later enable the person to help hostile victim children who resist help. Not everyone can tolerate clients who spit, kick, hit, insult, and destroy, even if they are only kids. A “nice” counselor might be totally ineffective, impatient.
Among people who have explored the intimacy of punishment are the serious S/M practitioners. I cannot remark because they are secret, far from what has become trendy exhibitionism. But there are literary explorations of torture victims and their tormentors. The modern world seems to offer a lot of examples to ponder. Not all s/m is physically violent.
Attachment can be a kind of faithfulness, a loyalty that refuses to let one’s own family be blamed or punished, while at the same time displacing that judgment onto the whole category of family. Or nation. Or God. Which does sort of explain and certainly describes how people can be so attached to a God who, if he existed, would have to be labeled a sadist. Maybe it has something to say about sainthood, why we value people who suffer as better than others. Think about the relationship between a separating tribal member and how he or she thinks about a quarreling, violent tribe. (One branch of my family is actual Hatfields.)
This man is addressing “Avoidant Attachment” which he describes as parents who really don’t want to know their children and won’t listen to them, thereby “blinding them to the sea inside.” It sounds like Asberger’s syndrome. which makes emotional relationships invisible, inoperable. I have vivid memories of coming to my mother when she was ironing, because she wouldn’t leave then, and chattering away about my life. She was sunk in her own thoughts and became annoyed, tried to drive me away. So I learned to tell her exciting things about the neighborhood. Then she was interested -- and I had started being a writer.