I came across a discussion about trauma yesterday. About a year ago, I had a 6 yr old molar tooth pulled. The dentist even gave me 6 mos to get used to the idea. 6 mos after that yanking out of my tooth, in a follow-up with my dentist, I admitted that it traumatized me. I quickly added that I knew he was a sensitive and caring person and that there was nothing he could have done to prevent my feeling traumatized. I said, since I have been learning about adoption related trauma as I have learned more about both of my parents as adoptees, I think I was just more aware of it.
I knew nothing about Doris Brothers at the time nor did I know about ACE scores. What I learned about her is that Doris Brothers urges a return to a trauma-centered psychoanalysis. Making use of relational systems theory, she shows that experiences of uncertainty are continually transformed by the regulatory processes of everyday life such as feeling, knowing, forming categories, making decisions, using language, creating narratives, sensing time, remembering, forgetting, and fantasizing. Insofar as trauma destroys the certainties that organize psychological life, it plunges our relational systems into chaos and sets the stage for the emergence of rigid, life-constricting relational patterns. These trauma-generated patterns, which often involve denial of sameness and difference, the creation of complexity-reducing dualities, and the transformation of certainty into certitude, figure prominently in virtually all of the complaints for which patients seek analytic treatment.
Below this is what I read yesterday, that struck me as relevant, though the discussion was not about adoption.
“Yesterday I read an interesting article by Doris Brothers about traumatic attachment, dissociation, and the intergenerational transmission of trauma. Part of what she conveyed was the idea that in a traumatized system dissociation operates to reduce complexity, which serves a salutary function insofar as it functions to eliminate from consciousness that which interferes with the reestablishment of order and predictability in needed relationships.”
“Dissociation may be understood, in part, as a means of simplifying experience through a radical reduction of experiential complexity. . . . To experience such complexity might well heighten what is already a level of uncertainty about psychological survival that is close to unbearable. As complexity is dissociatively reduced, a traumatized person’s relational world comes to be ruled by simple, rigid SECs [systemically emergent certainties] [a concept similar to organizing principles] that are clung to with desperate ferocity.”
“In the absence of trauma, SECs are subject to change according to the shifting needs of the constituents of the systems in which they arise; they are, in other words, context sensitive. Trauma-generated SECs are strikingly different. Emerging within systems dominated by the desperate need to halt the spread of chaos and tormenting uncertainty, they tend to be impervious to the changing environment.”
Moreover, Brothers observes that “traumatic attachments tend to be rigid, constricted and highly resistant to change,” and that “the more trauma, the more risk of inflexibility.”
Brothers also observes that “attachment patterns that form in the context of unbearable experiences of existential uncertainty in one generation may influence the attachment patterns that emerge in the next,” and that “dualities and dichotomies” often characterize traumatized systems.
~ Doris Brothers Ph.D. (2014) Traumatic Attachments: Intergenerational Trauma, Dissociation, and the Analytic Relationship, International Journal of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology, 9:1, 3-15.
From the person raising the discussion – “All of which got me to thinking about those who promote dichotomous ideologies and Manichean worldviews. Ordinarily, I pull no punches when thinking or talking about these people (especially when they are jockeying for political positions that could affect my life and the lives of people I care about). But if I withdraw for a moment from the impulse to ridicule, I reflect that these may be people whose lives, whose organizing principles, are the product of trauma, maybe even trauma that didn’t happen to them directly, but to their parents. Seen in this light, the impoverished either/or thinking, the insufferably reductive and punitive moralities take on a different hue, that of involuntary affliction, sequelae of a prior generation’s trauma, and those saddled with such worldviews suddenly appear more understandable and less blameworthy.”
Manichaeism was a major religion founded in the 3rd century AD by the Parthian prophet Mani, in the Sasanian Empire. Manichaeism taught an elaborate dualistic cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness. Clearly, humanity has not progressed very much in reality.
Many adoptees tell stories of a variety of degrees of abuse. An ACE score is a tally of different types of abuse, neglect, and other hallmarks of a rough childhood. According to the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, the rougher your childhood, the higher your score is likely to be and the higher your risk for later health problems.