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

1 comment:

Sicilian said...
copy and paste this link about Jacyee Duggard.
If this young girl can come out of that terrible situation, you too can come out of your situation.
I can't wait until she is ready to write that story out.
It is something that is unimaginable to most of us.
You have experienced a lot of terrible things, but you are strong.
Talking through this stuff is half the battle.
We need to Skype sometime.