A Huge Disappointment

The author of this book has completed Day 1 of a 2 Day conference on trauma. His book had previously been recommended in my all things adoption (which includes foster care) group. It is impossible to accurately convey how disappointed those who view the first day’s live event are with this man’s perspectives. I just signed up for free as there is still Day 2 to go this day and then, there are supposed to be recordings, if one misses the live event. Here is the link – The Body Keeps Score.

From the registration site –

Dr Bessel van der Kolk presents his signature presentation on treating the imprints of trauma on the body, mind, and soul.

He claims – “I’m presenting this training to serve as both a guide and an invitation—an invitation to dedicate ourselves to facing the reality of trauma, to explore how best to treat it, and to commit ourselves, as a society, to using every means we have to prevent it.”

Dr van der Kolk shows you how to apply proven methods and approaches like neurofeedback, EMDR, meditation, yoga, mindfulness, and sensory integration in your clinical practice — so you can experience the satisfaction of helping even your toughest client heal from deep-rooted trauma.

Some comments from my all things adoption group after watching Day 1 –

There were some horrific comments about foster children being dangerous and difficult and burning houses down. Not as specific cases. Foster children in general.

Of the 8 or so hours, I can probably boil the helpful info down to about 3 sentences and none of them are new.

Assumptions that all adopters are very nice and that any problems with adoption trauma must be due to the first mom drinking during pregnancy. I’m exaggerating. But not by much.

He also said that combat veterans with PTSD don’t benefit from Prozac because they’re too invested in blaming PTSD for all their problems. He also claimed that Prozac always works for everyone who isn’t a combat veteran.

Therapists are victims and powerless, that DSM is “a piece of sh*t”.

He also thinks everyone should take tango lessons and that it would solve their trauma better than therapy.

I hope people only ever access his works thru pirating and only to laugh at him and that his empire crumbles under his feet.

Let me guess he said adoption trauma isn’t real lol Most people think that children when adopted are clean slates, and our minds and bodies can just start over but that’s not even true, even for babies.

He spent AGES showing a video and talking about how traumatic it was for a non adopted child to be away from his mom for a day or two while younger sibling was being born. But oh gosh if it’s adoption, then adopters are very nice people and are absolute saints for putting up with difficult adopted children.

A lot of people are just uneducated and adoption trauma doesn’t exist to a lot of the world.

He also made a comment that assumed all foster children are correctly and justly taken from their families because they’ve all been abused by their first families.

A questioner asked should I skip reading the book ? The answer was – the book itself is great. Just not the adoption aspect, but overall.. worth a read!

His bigotry made me unwilling to financially support his business.

As an adoptee my response to him is: how f***ing dare you assume all adoptees are difficult and dangerous and all adopters are saintly and amazing for putting up with us ? How dare you, you overprivileged white man, one who feels entitled to say that colonizing wasn’t that bad and China is a miserable place to be ?

He is drunk on his own power and has no capacity for critically thinking through his bigoted views.

I have read the book. The book is not all about adoption, in fact, if I was describing the book I wouldn’t even discuss that part. It is about the bodies physiological, neurological and biological response is trauma. It is a very important way of understanding regarding why people respond they way they do. It’s been a while since I read it but I’m sure there are some generalized and probably offensive statements for adoptees but overall it’s extremely helpful in understanding how trauma effects all the multiple systems of the body.

I was told flat out by a Guardian ad Litem that my children needing glasses was due to my drug use during pregnancy. Never mind the fact that I’ve never had a drug problem, never failed a drug test and was drug tested during, before and after my pregnancy… Couldn’t be that every member of mine and my husband’s family needs glasses and sometimes children just have vision problems. It must be drug use (meant sarcastically).

Keep in mind that over 50% of psychological research cannot be replicated. (Over 50% actually according to a top scientific journal – Nature magazine.) While therapists can be beneficial, there are a lot of quacks who present as authorities in the field. Some of the most well-known people in the field can be the most problematic such that their work cannot be replicated, but they ride the coat tails of their notoriety and most people don’t know how to keep them accountable.

Just a note, that 50% number is not quite accurate and most of the psychology quacks aren’t the ones actually doing research. There have been a lot of critiques of that article since, including the kinds of studies they chose to try to replicate and the conditions under which they claimed replication failed. I’m not saying it isn’t a problem, but that article almost certainly overstated it.

I’m a PhD in psychology. We have a giant problem with public communication of our science.

Someone suggested the book – The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Nadine Burke Harris MD. From a review at NIH website – Hans Selye, a Hungarian-born physician, developed the concept of the General Adaptation Syndrome as the first neurohormonal model of physiologic stress implicating pituitary and adrenal function in the etiology of many chronic diseases, and the associated sickly appearance of those suffering. claimed the physiologic life is fundamentally a process of adaptation to the totality of one’s experience, with real health and happiness being the successful adjustment or adaptation to those ever-changing conditions. Failure to adapt to the stress burden resulted in disease and unhappiness. In 1985, Vincent Felitti, MD, Chief of Preventive Medicine at Southern California Permanente Medical Group, San Diego, added mightily to Selye’s work with his findings of the profound, destructive, multi-organ system consequences of adverse childhood experiences. Nadine Burke Harris, MD, discovered Felitti’s pioneering work later, yet immediately understood the potential power of its lessons if implemented in her pediatric practice. She describes well her newfound understanding of the pathogenesis of ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) and the excitement of potential, effective therapeutic interventions. The Deepest Well is the story of how Burke Harris transformed herself into a champion persuader of truths difficult for others to hear, and a better clinician.

Bessel van der Kolk was booted by The Trauma Center (which he helped establish) because of his issues. The Boston Globe from March 7 2018 – Allegations of employee mistreatment roil renowned Brookline trauma center.

This doesn’t surprise me in the slightest (I’ve met Bessel before and my old boss worked under him at the Boston Trauma Center when he was in charge… he went down with Me Too NOT because he’s a sexual predator, but because he’s such an a**hole that he got more or less ousted from the PTSD community). It’s really a shame because his work is SO important and good and foundational in the complex PTSD world but he’s such a horrible person it overshadows it a lot of the time. I didn’t realize his what views were re: adoption etc, but I did know his insane levels of narcissism and his general tendency to bully.

Another one says, I met him at an International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies conference as well, in 2012 or 2013, I remember him being rude, though I had no idea he had any specific views about adoption in particular.

I’m so very disappointed to hear this. I read his book and it was so very eye opening for me. His work seems so foundational to the study of the affect of trauma on people. It is so very disappointing and even more frustrating.

What is C-PTSD ?

Most of us have heard of PTSD but until this morning, I didn’t know there was a more severe version called Complex-PTSD.

Most people who have looked at adoption very closely already know that trauma is an aspect of having been surrendered to adoption for most adoptees.  I’ve become so steeped in it that I can recognize effects now in statements made by an adoptee that to them a vague issues they still don’t know the source of.  This lack of awareness occurs most often in teenagers and young adults.  Most mature adoptees have worked through many of these and may have had some counseling or therapy to help them uncover the underlying emotions and possible sources of these.

Complex PTSD, however, is specific to severe, repetitive trauma that typically happens in childhood – most often abuse.  On the surface, both PTSD and C-PTSD both come as the result of something deeply traumatic, they cause flashbacks, nightmares and insomnia, and they can make people live in fear even when they are safe.

The very heart of C-PTSD – what causes it, how it manifests internally, the lifelong effects (including medically), and its ability to reshape a person’s entire outlook on life – is what makes it considerably different.

PTSD typically results from “short-lived trauma”, or traumas of time-limited duration. Complex PTSD stems from chronic, long-term exposure to trauma in which a victim has limited belief it will ever end or cannot foresee a time that it might. This can include: child abuse, long-term domestic violence, being held in captivity, living in crisis conditions/a war zone, child exploitation, human trafficking, and more.

The causal factors are not all that separates PTSD from C-PTSD. How their symptoms manifest can tell you even more. PTSD is weighted heaviest in the post-traumatic symptoms: nightmares, flashbacks, hyperarousal/startle response, paranoia, bursts of emotion, etc.

C-PTSD includes all the symptoms of PTSD as well as a change in self-concept. How one sees themselves, their perpetrator, their morals and values, their faith in others or a god. This can overhaul a survivor’s entire world view as they try to make sense of their trauma and still maintain a belief that they, and the world around them, could still be good or safe.

When an adult experiences a traumatic event, they have more tools to understand what is happening to them, their place as a victim of that trauma, and know they should seek support even if they don’t want to. Children don’t possess most of these skills, or even the ability to separate themselves from another’s unconscionable actions. The psychological and developmental implications of that become complexly woven and spun into who that child believes themselves to be — creating a messy web of core beliefs much harder to untangle than the flashbacks, nightmares and other post-traumatic symptoms that come later.

The effects are usually deeply interpersonal within that child’s caregiving system. Separate from both the traumatic events and the perpetrator, there is often an added component of neglect, hot-and-cold affections from a primary caregiver, or outright invalidation of the trauma, if a child does try to speak up. These disorganized attachments and mixed messages from those who are supposed to provide love, comfort and safety – all in the periphery of extreme trauma – can create unique struggles.

Credit for this blog and for the beginning of my education in this new concept goes to Beauty After Bruises.