Saturday, February 27, 2010

"The ability to escape is central to whether or not we develop PTSD"

[email to Smitten 2/22/2010 3:11 PM]

you [Smitten] will already know most of what is in this article

the critical take-aways are after the sentence/paragraph beginning with:

"Emotional trauma can have a negative impact on early development"


How Do We Learn to Self Regulate?

. Nature and Nurture: Each tiny interaction between parent/caretaker and child actually lays down the neural wiring that becomes part of our brain/body network.

. As the parent interacts with the child, the child learns the skills of relating and regulation which are then laid down as neural wiring.

. The child takes this new learning into his world of relationships, experiments with it, gets continued feedback and continues to lay down new wiring based on what he is seamlessly picking up from his environment and the relationships in it.

. Early experiences knit long lasting patterns into the very fabric of the brain's neural network. (Lewis) And these neural patterns form the relational template from which we operate throughout life.

. As children, if we get frightened or hurt, for example, we look to our mothers, fathers and close people to sooth us, to help us to feel better, to bring us back into balance.

. We learn to "tolerate" our intense feelings when young and as we get older, .holding environment.

. When our skills of self regulation are well learned during childhood, they feel as if they come naturally, as if we always had them.

. When they are not well learned, we may reach to sources outside of ourselves to restore the sense of calm and good feeling that we cannot achieve ourselves, namely drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling and so on.

. The ACOA/ACOT [adult children of alchoholics/trauma] syndrome can reflect problems with early attachments or relationships. Children who learn the skills of relating and regulation from unstable parents internalize unstable patterns.

What is the Limbic System?

The limbic system is the body/mind neural network that governs our emotions. Our moods, appetite and sleep cycles are some of the areas of functioning that fall under its jurisdiction.

The limbic system

. .sets the mind's emotional tone,

. filters external events through internal states (creates emotional coloring),

. tags events as internally important,

. stores highly charged emotional memories,

. modulates motivation,

. controls appetite and sleep cycles,

. promotes bonding

. directly processes the sense of smell and modulates libido. (Amen)

Our emotions circulate throughout our bodies as brain/body mood chemicals that impact how we feel.

Problems in our limbic system may manifest as:

. When we have problems in our deep limbic system they can manifest as moodiness, irritability,

. clinical depression,

. increased negative thinking,

. negative perceptions of events,

. decreased motivation,

. floods of negative emotion,

. appetite and sleep problems,

. decreased or increase d sexual responsiveness or social isolation. (Amen)

. an impaired ability to regulate levels of fear, anger and sadness,and may lead to chronic anxiety or depression.

. substance or behavioral disorders,

. problems in regulating alcohol, eating, sexual or spending habits

All of this is what impacts our emotional sobriety.

How is emotional sobriety undermined?

Emotional trauma can have a negative impact on early development. It can both interfere with our ability to use our thinking brains to decode our emotions and it can create problems in our limbic systems.

Our limbic systems get set on "high" we are over sensitized to stress and hence, we over react to it.

Our bodies don't really distinguish between physical danger and emotional stress.

The natural fear response associated with our fight/flight apparatus will cause the body to react to physical or emotional .crisis,. by pumping out sufficient quantities of what are known as .stress. chemicals, like adrenaline, to get our hearts pumping, muscles tightening and breath shortening, in preparation for a fast exit, or a fight.

But for those where the family itself has become the proverbial "saber toothed tiger", for whom escape is not really the issue, these chemicals boil up inside and can cause physical and emotional problems. And family members may find themselves in a confusing and painful bind, ie.,wanting to flee from or attack, those very people who represent home and hearth. If this highly stressful relational environment persists over time, it can produce what is called cumulative trauma .

Because the limbic system governs such fundamental functions as mood, emotional tone, appetite and sleep cycles, when it becomes deregulated it can affect family members in far ranging ways.

Problems in regulating our emotional inner world, can manifest as:

Homes that aren't calm, that are in, what we might, call chronic chaos, undermine our body.s ability to maintain a regulated state. Over time, we lose the ability to tolerate intense emotion so that we can think about what we're experiencing on a feeling level. At the most extreme level thought and emotion become disengaged. When this happens, our thinking selves and our feeling selves become out of balance, split off from each other. This undermines our ability to use our thinking to understand what experiencing on a feeling and sensory level. At the most basic level, we lose touch with ourselves. [italics mine - cadbury]

Why Children Can.t Understand What's Happening to Them

. There are three significant points of brain development that greatly influence how a child processes stress. They are reflected in the development of the amaygdala , the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex.

. At birth, the child.s amygdala , which is part of our fight/flight/freeze or survival brain, is fully formed. Because it is fully formed, infants and children are capable of a full blown stress response from birth on. (Uram)

. However, the hippocampus or the part of the brain that interprets sensory input as to whether or not it is a threat, is not fully functional until between four and five years of age.(Uram)

. And the prefrontal cortex , which is where we have the ability tothink and reason, is not fully developed until around age eleven. (van der Kolk).Because of these three factors, when small children get frightened and go into fight/flight/freeze, they have no way of interpreting the level of threat nor of using reason to modulate or understand what is happening around them. They can not use their sensing or thinking to help to regulate their level of fear.

. Small children have no way of assessing whether or not they need to be scared, nor how scared they need to be. Kids look to a caring adult to woo them back to a sense of calm and equilibrium when they get scared. They depend on what scientists call "an external modulator", namely the parent, to restore their sense of inner calm because they lack the developmental maturation to calm themselves or to understand the source of their fear.

PTSD: When Escape is Not Possible

. Whether or not escape is possible (van der Kolk) The ability to escape is central to whether or not we develop PTSD. When we can.t get away from a traumatizing circumstance, when we can.t .escape. we're more likely to develop long term effects in what is now called a post traumatic stress reaction. This is partially related to the freeze response and it.s affect on the body/mind system.( van der Kolk)

. The meaning the child made out of painful events. Children are .magical thinkers. their reasoning is immature and not always grounded in reality. It is based on their developmental level. They need the adults around them to help them make sense and meaning of painful circumstances. Without this, they come up with their own meaning based on their level of development at the time the problem occurred.

. The basic genetic makeup of the child (Krystal) What biological strengths and vulnerabilities the child is born with.

. The length and severity of the stressor, how long did stressful events persist and how serious were they ? (Krystal)

. The age of the child at the time stressful events were occurring, young children are more vulnerable to being affected by stress than older ones.

. The quality of attachment with the mother/parent (Schore), A secure attachment with a parent can act as a buffer to stressful events.

. Whether the child has access to sources of support, one bonded relationship in their young life is shown to be he single most important factor in having resilience, and (Werner) a secure attachment with the mother, is the strongest predictor of success in adulthood of any other factor.

The Importance of Repair

. Repair can cause neuronal growth as new pathways integrating both problems and the solving of problems get laid down

. Repair also allows our shame response, (Shore?) to become part of personal growth. We learn from our mistakes. Something went wrong and we learn ways of setting it right, of mending what was broken or restoring a lost sense of connection. This process, that occurs in the context of a relationship, creates new neural wiring just as any learning does.

. This type of interaction gives the child meaning that makes sense to him so that he can let go of his fear, so that he doesn.t have to hold a low level of anticipation and fear and remain hypervigilant, waiting for the next problem to show itself.

What is Relationship Trauma?

The kind of emotional and psychological trauma that occurs within the context of a relationship, usually a primary relationship such as those within the home.

One important thing to understand here is that even well intended parents can cause significant emotional and psychological pain for their children. As we discussed in our previous chapter, the child's limited brain development and their total dependency on their parent, can make them very vulnerable to being hurt.

I use the term relationship trauma to describe the set of symptoms that directly result from experiencing the types of abusive and demeaning relational dynamics that mobilize our fight/flight responses on a persistent enough basis, so that emotional and psychological damage occurs.

Characteristics of Trauma and/or Relationship Trauma

Following is a list of some of the traits or characteristics someone who has grown up with addiction and trauma may exhibit.

. Problems with Self- regulation and emotional sobriety We go from 0 - 10 and 10 - 0 without intermediate stages, no shades of gray.

. Emotional Constriction Numbness and shutdown as a defense against overwhelming pain. Restricted range of affect or lack of authentic expression of emotion.

. Learned Helplessness When we feel we can do nothing to affect or change the situation in, we may develop what's called, learned helplessness. Learned helplessness means that we form a pattern of helplessness, we give up,

. Loss of Trust and Faith (van der Kolk) When our personal world and the relationships within it become too unpredictable and unreliable we may experience a loss of trust and faith in relationships and in life's ability to repair and renew itself.

. Hypervigilance (van der Kolk) When we are hyper vigilant we carry a low level of anxiety around with us. We may scan our environment and relationships for signs of potential danger or repeated relationship insults and ruptures. We may over read signs from others, even a raised eyebrow or a look in someone.s eyes can cause us to want to spring into a defensive posture. We "wait for the other shoe to drop", we "walk on eggs shells"

. Easily Triggered/Hyper-reactive This population can be very hyper-reactive, they can over responding to relational stress, blowing conflicts that could be managed out of proportion into unmanageability, particularly if they are feeling vulnerable. Their brains/body has become over sensitized to stress, they over react to it.

. Depression The limbic system regulates mood. When we are deregulated in our emotional system we may have trouble regulating feelings such as anger, sadness and fear, all of which may contribute to depression . And high levels of coritosol which are associated with the fight/flight response arealso found in high amounts in people who report feeling depressed.

. Distorted Reasoning When our family unit is spinning out of control, we will tell ourselves whatever is necessary to allow ourselves to stay connected. This kind of reasoning can be immature and distorted. It can also produce core beliefs about life and relationships upon which we build more distorted reasoning and that we live out throughout our lives.

. Loss of Ability to Take in caring and support from others (van der Kolk) The numbing response along with the emotional constriction that are part of the trauma response may lead to a loss of ability to take in caring and support from others. Additionally, as mistrust grows, so does our willingness to accept love and support

. High Risk Behaviors (van der Kolk) The clients that I see who are engaged in chronic high risk behaviors seem to be trying to do a couple of things. One, they seem to be trying to jump start a numbed out inner world, to feel something. Or they appear to be acting out intense emotional and psychological pain. Another dynamic that appears to be operating is that they are trying to alter their mood, that the high risk behavior serves to get them .high. by stimulating a rush of .feel good. body chemicals. Speeding, sexual acting out, spending, fighting, drugging or other behaviors done in a way that puts one at risk are some examples of high risk behaviors.

. Survival Guilt The person who .gets out. of an unhealthy family system while others remain mired within it may experience what is referred to as "survivor's guilt". Tendency to Isolate People who have felt traumatized may have a tendency to isolate themselves. They may have trouble reaching out for help, they have a pattern of feeling hurt and vulnerable-reaching out for help- getting ignored or put down.

. Development of Rigid Psychological Defenses People who are consistently being wounded emotionally and are not able to address it openly and honestly may develop rigid psychological defenses to manage their fear and pain. Dissociation, denial, splitting, repression, minimization, intellectualization, projection are some examples.

. Cycles of Reenactment The reenactment dynamic is one of the core features of how trauma from one generation gets passed down through subsequent generations. We tend to recreate those circumstances in our lives that feel unresolved or unconscious.

. Relationship Issues Relationships are where relationship trauma takes place. They tend also to be where the effects of relationship trauma reemerge. Some of the ways in which they reemerge are in being easily triggered, bringing old patterns into new relationships (reenactment patterns), transferences onto partners or children, transferences onto friends or authority figures, being hyper vigilant hence creating an emotional atmosphere of anxiety and suspicion or being easily triggered hence creating instability within the relationship and unnecessary pain.

. Traumatic Bonding Traumatic bonds, may develop between parent and child or siblings in alcoholic homes, for example, may be left to care for each other and older siblings may have too much power over their younger siblings.

. Desire to Self Medicate These are misguided attempts to quiet and control a turbulent, troubled inner world through the use of drugs and alcohol or behavioral addictions.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"...torture will trigger a survival instinct..."


this information was discovered while i was trying to find a reference to rigid thinking - rigid thinking is one of the elements of the psychological make-up of a person who is likely to experience traumatic bonding and the entrapment and abuser identification it entails, and post traumatic stress disorder

i had rigid thinking - not because i am not open in many ways - i didn't ever think of myself as rigid thinking - it was, and is, quite uncomfortable for me to say, to admit, that in many ways i am/was rigid in my thinking

what was i rigid about? i had/have a number of hard cast ideological positions:
- men are bad, self-centred, rude, uncaring, blindly focused on goals with little regard for the feelings of others
- men are lazy
- women are better, caring, nicer, kinder, more insightful than men
- women are hard working
- i am a man, i am bad
- i am usually wrong
- others know more than me
- women have special insight into people

while i still consider myself a strong feminist, my experiences as a child, and my early exposure to feminist thought and activism (and the pages of redbook, women's day, cosmo [my sister's], and even playboy), as well as the fact that the political men around me WERE egotistical jerkwads, and the fact that the ladies treated me very well - they were nice - the men weren't - led me to a fair level of self-hatred

more rigid thinking:

- i will be a different kind of man
- caring
- loving
- decent
- considerate
- able to cook
- able to plan a dinner party
- able to organise events
- able to sew
- able to clean
- able to care for children
- i will be the kind of man women wish for

- i am loyal
- i am committed
- never will i waver from my relationship commitments
- never will i waver from the goal of making my marriage work
- i will not fight
- i will not belittle or denigrate my partner
- i will always be supportive and understanding
- i will always engage
- i will always search for the source of my partners feelings
- i will never belittle "feelings", i will always treat them as real and valuable and in need of full consideration

you know much of the list from reading he blog so far - it would take too long to detail it and i'm getting sick of how long the list is...

so, yeah - this list and my own dysfunction were just waiting for a whack job to come along and exploit it/me...

[An Email To Smitten - Monday, February 22, 2010 02:54 pm]

[after the previous email I Feel Good, previously posted]

---- the email ----

a discussion about torture by someone who studied it in detail - underwent torture, and traveled around the world to meet torturers and those who had been tortured

and yes - if you are wondering - this email is not about people being tortured by the U.S. (well, it is - peripherally) - it is about me

it is about understanding the abyss

it's about more lignin and cellulose attaching itself to the trunk of the mighty oak - understanding the cracking - understanding the forces that press - understanding the need for flexibility - not rigidity

[edit for blog: this is about understanding why i didn't fight back, didn't leave, didn't fight or flight. about making sure i understand the answer to the overarching question: WHY? why could i be abused and tortured like i was - how?]

[speaking mostly about waterboarding]

"Torture in captivity simulation training reveals there are ways an enemy can inflict punishment which will render the subject wholly helpless and which will generally overcome his willpower. The torturer will trigger within the subject a survival instinct, in this case the ability to breathe, which makes the victim instantly pliable and ready to comply. It is purely and simply a tool by which to deprive a human being of his ability to resist through physical humiliation."

- Malcolm Nance, Small Wars Journal
former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE)

Waterboarding is Torture… Period

---- outtakes from his words ----

Torture in captivity

reveals there are ways an enemy can inflict punishment which will render the subject wholly helpless and which will generally overcome his willpower

The torturer will trigger within the subject a survival instinct

the victim [is] instantly pliable and ready to comply

[torture of a captive is] a tool by which to deprive a human being of his ability to resist through physical humiliation

---- background material not in the email to smitten, but sent to her prior ----

"...a stalking cheetah leaps from its cover of dense shrubbery. As if it was one organism, the herd springs quickly toward a protective thicket at the wadi's edge. One young impala trips for a split second, then recovers. But it is too late. In a blur, the cheetah lunges toward its intended victim, and the chase is on at a blazing sixty to seventy miles an hour.

At the moment of contact (or just before), the young impala falls to the ground, surrendering to its impending death. Yet, it may be uninjured. The now limp animal is not pretending to be dead. It has instinctively entered an altered state of consciousness shared by all mammals when death appears imminent. Many indigenous peoples view this phenomenon as a surrender of the spirit of the prey to the predator, which, in a manner of speaking, it is.

Physiologists call this altered state the 'immobility' or 'freezing' response. It is one of the three primary responses available to reptiles and mammals when faced with an overwhelming threat. The other two, fight and flight, are much more familiar to most of us. Less is known about the 'immobility response.' However, my work over the last twenty-five years has led me to believe that it is the single most important factor in uncovering the mystery of human trauma.

Nature has developed the immobility response for two good reasons. One, it serves as a last-ditch survival strategy. You might know it better as 'playing possum.' Take the young impala, for instance. There is a possibility that the cheetah may decide to drag its 'dead' prey to a place safe from other predators; or to its lair, where the food can be shared later with its cubs. During this time, the impala could awaken from its frozen state and make a hasty escape in an unguarded moment. When it is out of danger, the animal will literally 'shake off' the residual effects of the immobility response and gain full control of its body. It will then return to its normal life as if nothing had happened. Secondly, in freezing, the impala (and human) enters an altered state in which no pain is experienced. What that means for the impala is that it will not have to suffer while being torn apart by the cheetah's sharp teeth and claws.

Most human cultures tend to judge this instinctive surrender in the face of overwhelming threat as a weakness tantamount to cowardice."

- Dr. Peter Levine, creator of the Somatic Experiencing therapy regime, in his book Waking The Tiger

three reactions, not two

flight, flight, AND freeze


"...I believe that the key to healing traumatic symptoms in humans lies in our being able to mirror the fluid adaptation of wild animals as they 'shake out' and pass through the immobility response and become fully mobile and functional."

"It's About Energy

Traumatic symptoms are not caused by the ''triggering'' event itself. They stem from the frozen residue of energy that has not been resolved and discharged; this residue remains trapped in the nervous system where it can wreak havoc on our bodies and spirits. The long-term, alarming, debilitating, and often bizarre symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develop when we cannot complete the process of moving in, through and out of the ''immobility'' or ''freezing'' state. However, we can thaw by initiating and encouraging our innate drive to return to a state of dynamic equilibrium.

[bold mine]
Let's cut to the chase. The energy in our young impala's nervous system as it flees from the pursuing cheetah is charged at seventy miles an hour. The moment the cheetah takes its final lunge, the impala collapses. From the outside, it looks motionless and appears to be dead, but inside, its nervous system is still supercharged at seventy miles an hour. Though it has come to a dead stop, what is now taking place in the impala's body is similar to what occurs in your car if you floor the accelerator and stomp on the brake simultaneously. The difference between the inner racing of the nervous system (engine) and the outer immobility (brake) of the body creates a forceful turbulence inside the body similar to a tornado.

This tornado of energy is the focal point out of which form the symptoms of traumatic stress.
To help visualize the power of this energy, imagine that you are making love with your partner, you are on the verge of climax, when suddenly, some outside force stops you. Now, multiply that feeling of withholding by one hundred, and you may come close to the amount of energy aroused by a life-threatening experience.

A threatened human (or impala) must discharge all the energy mobilized to negotiate that threat or it will become a victim of trauma. This residual energy does not simply go away. It persists in the body, and often forces the formation of a wide variety of symptoms; i.e., anxiety, depression, psychosomatic and behavioral problems. These symptoms are the organism's way of containing (or corralling) the undischarged residual energy.

Animals in the wild instinctively discharge all their compressed energy and seldom develop adverse symptoms. We humans are not as adept in this arena. When we are unable liberate these powerful forces, we become victims of trauma. In our often unsuccessful attempts to discharge these energies, we may become fixated on them.

- Dr. Peter Levine, Waking The Tiger

---- end extra background ----

"Of course, when you waterboard you get all the magic answers you want - because remember, the subject will talk. They all talk! Anyone strapped down will say anything, absolutely anything to get the torture to stop."

"On a Mekong River trip, I met a 60-year-old man, happy to be alive and a cheerful travel companion, who survived the genocide and torture . he spoke openly about it and gave me a valuable lesson: .If you want to survive, you must learn that .walking through a low door means you have to be able to bow... He told his interrogators everything they wanted to know including the truth. They rarely stopped. In torture, he confessed to being a hermaphrodite, a CIA spy, a Buddhist Monk, a Catholic Bishop and the son of the king of Cambodia. He was actually just a school teacher whose crime was that he once spoke French. He remembered .the Barrel. version of waterboarding quite well. Head first until the water filled the lungs, then you talk."




no escape

no defense

strapped to the board

unable to resist

---- extra not in the email ----

captive - parents, siblings, school, church, political party

- parents who picked apart every detail of what i did
- a brother who literally tortured me (kneeling on my biceps, sitting on my chest, - slapping my face, taunting me for hours at a time after school when i was 10, 11, 12)
- schoolmates who made a game each recess and lunch hour out of making my nose bleed, knocking me down, and kicking and beating me
- parents and school teachers who would not help me, telling me to quit being a whiner and to fight my own battles (hey - it was the '70s...)
- a sister, 5 years older, who took great pains to belittle my thinking in order to brown-nose to my parents
- a brother who did the same
the constant refrain "are you ever stupid" - yeah, maybe, but i was also littler than them - developmentally speaking, how would i ever catch up until i became an adult?
- parents who promoted competition and rewarded only success with love, attention, and affection
- a priest at the church (catholic school) who actually told the other altar boys to rough me up as punishment for my dad's politics, and who preached against my dad from the pulpit
- a political party that was full of backstabbing and skullduggery (and we were the nice party...)
- being a child warrior in that political party and engaging and assisting in vile character assassination, edge of the line tactics, and using my status as a child to do things like listen in to conversations in order to "help"

nowhere was i safe - not at home, not at school, not at church - and my life experience as a political "child soldier" taught me that anything you can say can be used against you any time

and parents who were products of violent households themselves - who did the best they could but neither they, nor their society had the tools, nor the information to heal them

parents who fought all the time - viciously verbally (no physical violence until about, i think, 6 years ago - dad hit mom with a towel - one blow - two occasions)

i hate fighting sooooooooo much

i would do anything to avoid it. even now when they fight it makes me freeze and be nauseous. and dad tries to drag me in to their fights all the time, he is always phoning trying to organise the 3 of us kids to "put pressure on your mother to act a little better" as though some kind of political maneuver will fix their marital problems...

---- end extra material ----

"Characteristics of Adult Children of Trauma and Addiction

Children of Alcoholics are traumatized living in an addicted family.
Discover the behavioral characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics.

Learned Helplessness: A person loses the feeling that they can affect or change what.s happening to them.

Depression: Unexpressed and unfelt emotion lead to flat intenal world . or agitated/anxious depression. Anger, rage and sadness that remain unfelt or unexpected in a way that leads to no resolution.

Anxiety: Free floating anxiety, worries and anxieties that have no where particular to pin themselves or look for a place to project at, phobias, sleep disturbances, hyper-vigilance.

Emotional Constriction: Numbness and shutdown as a defense against overwhelming pain. Restricted range of affect or lack of authentic expression of emotion.

Distorted Reasoning: Convoluted attempts to make sense and meaning out of chaotic, confusing, frightening or painful experience that feels senseless.

Loss of Trust and Faith: Due to deep ruptures in primary, dependency relationships and breakdown of an orderly world.

Hypervigilance: Anxiety, waiting for the other shoe to drop . constantly scanning environment and relationships for signs of potential danger or repeated rupture.

Traumatic Bonding: Unhealthy bonding style resulting from power imbalance in relationships and lack of other sources of support.

Loss of Ability to Take in Caring and Suppport: Due to fear of trusting and depending upon relationships and trauma's inherent numbness and shutdown.

Problems with Self Regulation: The deregulated limbic system can manifest in problems in regulating many areas of the self system and thinking, feeling and behavior. Go from 0 - 10 and 10 - 0 without intermediate stages, black and white thinking, feeling and behavior, no shades of gray as a result of trauma.s numbing vs. hi-affect.

Easily Triggered: Stimuli reminiscent of trauma, e.g., yelling, loud noises, criticism, or gunfire, trigger person into shutting down, acting out or intense emotional states. Or subtle stimuli such as changes in eye expression or feeling humiliated, for example.

High Risk Behaviors: Speeding, sexual acting out, spending, fighting or other behaviors done in a way that puts one at risk. Misguided attempts to jump start numb inner world or act out pain from an intense pain filled inner world.

Disorganized Inner World: Disorganized object constancy and/or sense of relatedness. Internal emotional disconnects or Fused feelings (e.g., anger & sex, intimacy and danger, need and humiliation).

Survival Guilt: From witnessing abuse and trauma and surviving, or from .getting out. of an unhealthy family system while others remain mired within it.

Development of Rigid Psychological Defenses: Dissociation, denial, splitting, repression, minimization, intellectualization, projection, for some examples or developing rather impenetrable .character armor..

Cycles of Reenactment: Unconscious repetition of pain-filled dynamics, the continual recreation of dysfunctional dynamics from the past.

Relationship Issues: Difficulty in being present in a balanced manner; a tendency to over or under engage, explode or with draw or be emotional hot and cold. Problems with trusting, staying engaged or taking in love and caring.

Desire to Self Medicate: Attempts to quiet and control turbulent, troubled inner world through the use of drugs and alcohol or behavioral addictions.


* From Trauma and Addiction, Dayton 2000 (van der Kolk 1987, Krystal 1968)"

- Characteristics of Adult Children of Trauma and Addiction

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I Feel Good

[An Email To Smitten - Monday, February 22, 2010]


I feel good this morning

Panic and adrenaline shock and fear and anxiety are trying to work their way into my psyche, but I have been able to hold them off so far - no - not hold them off... Have them blow around me - like the curved walls of a monolithic dome

It's still a wall - and the pressure is still there threatening - but it passes differently

Not quite the mighty oak I want to be - you see, when trees flex in the wind - like muscle being damaged by exercise - it makes tiny breaks in the cellulose structure of the tree which when healed makes the tree thicker and stronger

That's what I want - the flexibility in spirit to become stronger through adversity

Not the rigidity of having to fight

The difference between a seawall and a mangrove swamp

But, because I only have you to trust, I cannot be a cypress tree with interlocking roots helping support all the trees to survive the onslaught

So, for now I am the mighty oak (wanna be anyway... fake it 'til you make it... visualisation exercise...)

Perhaps if I were "surrounded by like minded people" I could be a cypress tree - then it wouldn't matter that we were living in the swamp - and swamps are full of life and sound and diversity - it would be our environment and we would be nourished by it's teeming life and energy

Because we would be living

In a place that was/is alive - full of sound - life - vitality

Much better than a desert - whether concrete and urban or the sand kind

Or the semi-arid, semi-desert that is [where we live] - waiting for a little rain - a little sunshine - a little warmth - to bloom for the week that we do - to wither and die until the next year we have the chance to bloom in the desert


I listened to music this morning and enjoyed it

It has been awhile

Music, except for very mellow background stuff (like Sade), has irritated me for months - except when exercising when it is just a beat - even then - much of it irritated me and I kept forwarding through songs on the player

Now music is ok

Monday, February 22, 2010

Took a boat....


[edit note - the word "score" has been replaced in most instances with "jumping obstacle" (like in horse show jumping) to better reflect my intent]

Took a boat Sunday, down by the sea
It just felt so nice, you and me
We didn't have a problem or a care
And all around was silence, everywhere

You are the reason I was born
Be with you through all seasons
I'll always hear you when you call
We'll keep the love light shining
Through each night and day
A lonely life behind me
Oh what a change you've made

So down here on the ocean we will stay
Went through a lot of changes
Turned a lot of pages
When I took a boat Sunday

To know you as I know you now
That is all I need
And we will get along somehow
If we both believe

So down here on the ocean we will stay
Went through a lot of changes
Turned a lot of pages
When I took a boat Sunday

Smitten and I took a trip to the Caribbean. Some of you will have seen my videos of the event.

The trip is the culmination of decades of wishing. I have been enthralled by the Caribbean since I was in my early twenties. I had visited Africa in my late teens and early 20s and loved the tropics. I have been around a good chunk of the world (and had been by the time I met the STBX).

The warmth in Africa was incredible. Being in a place that has never known a glacier or freezing on more than a freak basis is beyond words. I live in a place where the ground is frozen 8 months of the year. Everything in life is clustered around preparing to survive these gawd-awful miserable winters - 20 to 40 below zero before you add the wind chill for months at a time.

To encounter the slow baked warmth - it is like the difference between beans that have been cooked for an hours, and beans that have been baked for days... A whole land that is totally cooked - totally warm... You may not understand just how cold it gets, and just how the weather permeates every element of the society and culture I live in. We are pretty much all only a single generation (well, to be precise, 80% according to Statistics Canada in 1997) off the land (farm or Indian reserve). The weather is everything when it comes to survival.


We have an annual festival of cultures in my city. At the Caribbean pavilion I first encountered Caribbean roti. As I ate my first roti filled with beef curry, and a side of red beans and rice, i knew that any culture that could create food like that was one I wanted to be a part of.


Being on the island we were on felt like home to me. More than here.

Being in the sun (even if i was sweating a lot) and the humid air was pure tonic for my scarred and still bleeding psyche.

Being naked on the beach with only a few people some distance away was comfortable and pleasant. Being in the salt water in that sun, warmth, and air was like nothing else. this trip is the first time I have been in the warm ocean (north sea/english channel/northern europe previous - didn't get in the water in Australia) - never made it in all my travel. Water here is cold. The beach here is quite uncomfortablely cold for me... not the Caribbean. I could feel the rhythm and the energy of the ocean and the waves. It was like being immersed in pedialyte... (that probably sounds really weird). The warm ocean made my body tingle like after i have ingested electrolyte balancing solutions.

Smitten said that she has never seen me live more in the moment than in that ocean, in those waves. Never seen me happier or more expressively joyful in the simple joy of my own existence.


I had put together this trip for my own needs - and to further my agenda of moving to the Caribbean - AND (this a a big "AND") - to "prove" to Smitten that I could "provide". That i could follow through on a promise - the promise that we would go - that all the batshit crazy ideas and dreams (which she has never thought were batshit crazy) of moving to an island in the sun could be real. that i really would cough up a trip and not an excuse as to why we couldn't go (yes, baggage, baggage, baggage...)

because i still believed (and still sort of believe [but i'm workin' on it...]) that i really wasn't worthy of her company, that she is (you'll recall my first thoughts on meeting her) "waaaayyyyy out of my league" - i had a bunch of activities planned to show her that i could at least provide awesome entertainment and a good time (in my younger years i called it "the hustle" when i was workin' the ladies...). new activities that might provide some incentive for her to keep me around (yes, yes, yes - i'm in therapy for these issues...)

(remember - this is honesty talking here - real self-image crap - not the front a person puts forward - i can rationalise with the best of them, but why bother?)

so, we went on a big trip.

(we had also just returned from a trip to Texas driving my parents to their winter place and getting over the border to Mexico (jumping obstacle 1 cleared for cadbury) - Smitten was bowled over. missed seeing Sicilian because we got delayed driving down (my Mom forgot her money belt with passport and stuff one morning [4 hours lost time]) - but that will be fixed sometime this year i hope). a big thank-you to Sicilian for finding a place that served the best fresh pecan pie we have ever tasted (smack dab in the middle of Texas pecan country) for Smitten to enjoy after she was suddenly able to eat more than brown rice and eggs again after we discovered the diagnosis and medication (us - not the doctors... they just agreed with us...)

got to meet Pissy (yay!!!). got to see historic Atlanta and a historic graveyard Smitten (and Pissy) loves graveyards - her ex-husband never wanted to go see graveyards with her (jumping obstacle 2 cleared for cadbury). MEGA shout out to Pissy for finding one with ultra-cool gargoyles and huge mini-church mausoleums and civil war graves and stuff.

went to south Florida and met some other friends. took a 10 passenger stretch limo sedan from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach. just the two of us. way cool. Smitten had never been in a stretch limo before (and neither had i...) and had always wanted to (jumping obstacle 3 cleared for cadbury) i figured the best way to do florida would be to indulge every bit of cheesy fantasy and visuals from all the movies and tv shows - so a limo on the freeway was a no-brainer - i was trying to impress the lady, after all...

awesome hotel (cha-ching price, though...) in WPB (jumping obstacle 4 cleared for cadbury).

went for a helicopter excursion as Smitten had not ever been on a helicopter before (jumping obstacle 5 cleared for cadbury). it was cool - i got to fly it - the place doing the excursion was a flight school, so they threw it in as a surprise bonus (it also allowed them to count it as flight training time for their instructor to keep up with certifications and such [there is a recession on and helicopter flight training is a bit of a luxury...]. it's also a great sales tool "want to fly a helicopter - we give lessons, you know...")

that would be the cheesy visual from "Miami Vice" in the '80s - flying along the beach with all the big houses and stuff...

went for cuban food in the number one cuban restaurant north of Miami (jumping obstacle 6 cleared for cadbury) with great friends of mine (who recommended the restaurant)

flew to Puerto Rico and had good sport in the airport there waiting for our next flight - and while a kind of rattley dinged up turbo-prop aircraft is often considered less cool than a jet - it added to the adventure of the trip (jumping obstacle 7 cleared for cadbury)

arrived at the eventual island. it was great. a little rushed, confusing, and disorientingly fast coming at us - but still way cool. With the rush and bizarreness of the island and coming in at night after a long day, Smitten and I forgot her bag with her medication in the taxi (and my new $600 video camera, and her passport), though. That was a very bad bit of time - the medication is the only thing that allows her to eat like a normal human and not be in danger of serious angioedema. that was the most worrying . i was able to arrange/handle our way through the eventual recovery of the bag. yay! for honest taxi drivers and large tips that make them feel positive about the white folks they just dropped off... (jumping obstacle 8 cleared for cadbury)

(i expect you are getting sick of me counting the score and the self-congratulations - but there is a point to it)

the next morning was spectacular. the hotel was locally owned and a little less five star, but was sheer perfection from an adventure standpoint (jumping obstacle 9 cleared for cadbury). the view was breathtaking. the coffee was incredible (imported Haitian/French).

the innkeeper took us around the island personally as out tour guide so we didn't have to worry about being ripped off (better rates than the tour/taxi operators)

new year's eve in the warm

the mega-yacht harbour tour on the other end of the island

and, we took a sailing yacht tour. Smitten loves water. She loves sailboats. She used to live on the west coast of Canada and got to go on ferries, but not on sailboats - and not on a classically made - hand made - Caribbean sloop.

and not on a private tour with 3 staff (yes more than passengers), with a provided lunch on the boat and snorkeling and "rolly waves" (it was a big waves, gorgeous, sunny day).

in a word: perfection

she looked so incredibly beautiful to me. i was moved every moment of that day.

when she asked me what i was feeling, i told her: "if i die at this very moment - my life is fulfilled. you are everything i have dreamed of in my life. being here with you today, is everything i have dreamed of in my life."

the day ended with a trip to a hilltop restaurant that served amazing local cuisine (i had the curried conch, Smitten had a baked fish dish)

when we arrived back at the inn, she told me she was tired and got ready for bed. she said that she didn't know how long she would be able to stay awake.

i did nothing.

i copied the day's pictures and videos to the computer and left her alone.

that's what my programming told me to do.

tired is a code word in my programming for "stay away"

you see, i was filled with anxiety that i was not making the mark. that i was not up to snuff. i felt fat. i felt sweaty. i felt less than the goddess i was with.

the idea of anything else was so outside the box for me, it was inconceivable. in my mind i was lucky that she would even deign to spend time with me.

so when she was hurt that i didn't finish the "perfect romance" of the day by wanting to make love with her... it was like getting hit by a log on a chain.

so much for score 10 for cadbury

the perfect day sailing on the ocean still didn't make me good enough to be with her

i was, in what the kids on the bulletin boards would call, total fail


the next day around noon it occurred to me

without having millions of dollars

this was about as close to perfection a trip could ever be - the only thing that could beat a custom built wooden sloop and a private cruise might be hot-air ballooning in southern France (yes - that, as well, has long been on the list of things to do to impress Smitten). Smitten herself called this Caribbean adventure "the trip of my [her] life".

and if it still wasn't good enough - if this trip and all the stuff i had arranged - all the cool activities - how could anything i ever do be enough?

(you see- that was the hustle with the ladies - always being able to one up my last gig - my last bit of exotic excitement - and it would fall apart when i ran out of things to impress them with - when there was only me left - well - i was never good enough - and the anxiety would crush and destroy me... and then there was the stbx - who demanded bigger and better every single event - and punished the living shit out of me if it wasn't fully unique every Christmas, birthday, valentine's day, vacation... and demanded that the bigger and better only ever cost 4 bucks...)

and i knew that it was in my head

that i was the one that didn't measure up to my expectations of me

and i realised

and i decided

that if the ultimate awesomo trip couldn't make me feel secure enough in being with Smitten, then nothing would

and that at some point i would have to give up

because i wasn't going to be able to top this one (very often...)

i would have to give up and let her decide whether she wanted to be with me

to accept that i was either good enough or not

that i was good enough

worthwhile enough

just as a human being

for her to want to spend time with me - just for who i am

not for what i can do for her

to begin to understand, to begin to accept, that i really am intrinsically a worthwhile human being


So down here on the ocean we will stay

We will stay

We will stay

Went through a lot of changes

Turned a lot of pages

When I took a boat on Sunday...

been hiding

[adapted from an email to another friend]

with best of intentions, i have wanted to be around here, and around your blogs

but, i haven't been around anywhere too much

been hiding - literally

without going into the long details of the universe or any further historical whinefest - i have PTSD - stuffing the emotion and stress associated with a violent school environment as a kid, the repression of natural child exuberance from being part of a political household (always on display...), and then a violent and emotionally abusive 20 year marriage - resulting in fibromyalgia as well

i am in therapy to address the issues. i am in a new kind of therapy called somatic experience where the therapist leads you through reconnecting to your body.

positive from a healing perspective, but fucks me over a bit with bodily reactions and so on. because i can actually feel parts of my body that i haven't felt in years, and addressing some of my psychological firmament, and because i am rejecting the control methods i used previously, actually physically feeling parts of my body/muscles that were in spasm, numb, or partially paralysed leaves me a little emotionally rocky...

the team of therapists i am working with are experimenting with my treatment - the treatment and techniques themselves are experimental - they haven't had anyone as messed (the trauma healing techniques have been primarily used in relation to car accidents and stuff like that) that is as intelligent, self-aware, and motivated to hard and go fast as me. i'm told most folks are more resistant to changing themselves. they are working with a group of counselors from around north america to try different nuances and applications of what to this point have been theories with minimal real world application/verification

some of the people in the larger group are working with people returning from the wars so there is a keen interest in a subject who is from a disciplined background, moving fast, highly aware, knows the jargon and is able to feed back into their technique honing

but it's hard sometimes

so i hide

luckily i am good enough at what i do, and my workplace is understanding enough (being a medical facility and all...), that i can hide and do the behind the scenes stuff at work without having to come out

so, that's the story

as i said - i had positive intention - but that was before the alterations to my being from the new therapy. and i wait until it passes

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gmail Google Privacy Leak

go into your gmail settings and disable google buzz completely until they have fixed the privacy problems
"One problem that immediately caused concern was Google's decision to automatically give users a ready-made circle of friends based on the people they most frequently e-mailed. Unless users changed settings in their profile, this list could automatically be made public, allowing anyone to see who a user corresponded with most frequently. [P]rivacy experts immediately pointed out this could cause problems for journalists, businesses or even people having an illicit affair."

google: buzz privacy

and then click on "news" to read about it

here is a Washington Post article:

Google Buzz Privacy Issues Have Real Life Implications

here is an excerpt from a now made private blog:

"See for example this story of an anonymous woman who writes a (self-proclaimed) feminist blog, which she started after leaving an abusive marriage. (found on Hacker News)Hint: the title is 'Fuck you, Google'.An excerpt:I use my private Gmail account to email my boyfriend and my mother.There?s a BIG drop-off between them and my other ?most frequent? contacts.You know who my third most frequent contact is?My abusive ex-husband.Which is why it?s SO EXCITING, Google, that you AUTOMATICALLY allowed all my most frequent contacts access to my Reader, including all the comments I?ve made on Reader items, usually shared with my boyfriend, who I had NO REASON to hide my current location or workplace from, and never did."