Over the last few months I have done a lot of reading about healing from being raised in a neglectful family. If we are going to assume that neglect is included under the umbrella term of abuse I found a meagre pile of resources, some of them moderately helpful. If we define neglect as a beast of its own as some people researching in the field do, I have found nothing I can recall from the top of the head that was even moderately helpful. Despite seemingly remembering that neglect is by far the most common way to acquire a mental injury no one seems to talk about it, no one has any healing to offer. The neglected, oh irony of ironies are still neglected.
From the aforementioned meagre pile of somewhat constructive advice I compiled this:
– being raised in any version of a non supportive household will cause your brain to develop differently
– among the dramatic difference in development is a loss of natural tendency to explore and learn, instead all energy is funneled towards mere survival (which is still not achieved by many nonsurvivors…)
– to date there is no known healing tool available that actually rewires the brains of those hurt by the people they are required to trust the most
– since the people you grow up with are usually your only possible way of acquiring food, shelter and mentoring you learn that whatever they do is safe and are conditioned to seek out similar people in later life
– any healing that can take place is essentially geared towards rewiring as in unlearning and relearning every experience you made in early life
– usually being raised in a non supportive household means that even finding ways of starting your journey to a healthier life is severely difficult because you were conditioned to fear, hate and run from supportive things
How cPTSD is treated as if it were much less severe than it actually is to preserve the therapists/societies “sanity”
After all this I actually feel better about myself. If your trauma was long lasting and often associated with people you relied on and trusted you develop a version of trauma which is now slowly being called and recognised as complex post traumatic stress disorder or cPTSD. One of the diagnostic criteria of cPTSD is that the patient feels a sense of brokenness. The way this is presented always felt like gaslighting to me. As if we aren’t actually broken we just *feel* that way. It’s all in our nonbroken head and that can be healed. I sense diagnosticians being way to uncomfortable with our reality and thus trying to whitewash it into something that looks nicer to them.
Another diagnostic criteria I’m having a beef with is the one that talks about losses of previously sustaining beliefs. That always sounded off to me. How the hell can I loose any previous beliefs when the onset of the traumatising events in my life are in early infancy? Which I might remind you is one of the core groups of people this particular diagnostic tool is geared towards. Arguably the onset of the traumatic events is quite possibly years before belief systems even develop. How can one loose what one never had? Again I spy diagnosticians who are in denial about how pervasive early onset trauma is.
People like us have faced the fact that not every parent is a good parent and not every way people tell themselves they are loved and good enough is actually true. In fact some parents are malignant narcissists, psychopaths, neglectful to the point of starving their children to death, driving them towards suicide. Some parent are not quite that obviously horrible, they specialise in torture that is unseen and thus can be ignored much more easily. And that is what people do. They ignore that their sustaining beliefs do not hold up when faced with the ugly side of some humans nature. Those aforementioned parents/torturers are humans, as much as you’d like to paint them as monsters. They are part of who we as a species are.
Wikipedia has a very interesting list of cognitive biases. That is constructs of the world that all of us carry with us without them being proven right. The last time I checked the article discussed how some depressed people are particularly insusceptible to certain cognitive biases (often involving illusions of ones own importance unsurprisingly). I say the same is true for traumatised people. In a way what I so often hear is true in this context: we are the sane ones. We know we are not that important, we know we can be wrong, we know not to trust other humans all that much…
I often sense a deep deep sense of being fundamentally unsettled by people who have not seen the horrors I and so many others have seen. It is very human to want to believe everyone is special and worth it. It is even more human to want to defend this belief even in the face of early child deaths at the hands of their parents or preventable diseases. I do not envy such people and unless I’m having a particularly dark day I am not angry at them either. It is of course easier to live in such ignorance. We all have to ignore uncomfortable facts to maintain a basic functionality, contribute to our own well being and that of society at large. This is the insanity we all need to subscribe to in order to live well.
The high art of self parenting
I sense many tools used by psychotherapists in order to heal us are designed to draw us back into this blissful unawareness. That is them again assuming we ever were that unaware. One technique I’m particularly alienated by is self parenting. The idea is that while your actual birth parents failed spectacularly at their job when you were a helpless child you are now not a helpless child anymore but a competent adult and can raise yourself. While I agree that I am not a child anymore and thankfully independent from my birth parents toxic influence I am not competent.
Defendants of self parenting say that we still have seen proper parents in action and we can copy them. Uhm… you know
1. I think the somewhat universal experience of cPTSD affected people is that they do not feel safe around healthy people. They tend to run and hide, so they never experience it much.
2. one of the diagnostic criteria of cPTSD is amnesia: we tend to forget massive chunks of our life. In my case this means I can’t remember anything from my life that isn’t mentioned in the photobooks I have. I am living in the room of a stranger, frequently finding items here that I have no idea how they got here and sometimes do not even know what they are used for. I’m good with remembering facts that do not have emotion attached to them but good luck remembering anything to do with people, particularly ones that were not toxic…
3. in order to recognise healthy parenting one needs to have an idea what one is looking for. By now I am slowly, ever so slowly understanding what parenting is actually about. How you are supposed to mentor your child and support them in their interests, help them sort through emotions and find healthy ways to connect to people. I know there was one fellow university student that may have fit that bill but I never saw him parent nor do I remember much about him other than how he just seemed to ooze “I love being a father!”. Naturally I spent my student days not with him but selfish, immature and bossy people…
4. the tools you are supposed to be teaching yourself because you are your own parent need to be available to you to teach them to someone. As detailed above it is highly unlikely you know these tools.
5. The fundamental issue that all traumatised people have is that they were not good enough to their own parents. Which hopefully in time many grown up survivors will realise is not an inherent flaw of theirs but a shortcoming of their so called parent. While cognitively this makes sense emotionally you were still a helpless little kid, reliant on grown ups and no one was there to lean on. No one defended your perspective and helped you feel your own feelings. This does not only pertain to your parents but also all the other authority figures from whom you dutifully hid your troubles. Your teachers, priests, therapists, family members, schoolmates parents all looked away. You were not good enough to anyone to even interfere on your behalf. Self parenting will not change that you are not good enough for anyone as broken as you are. Self parenting will mean you are good enough for yourself, which will lead to self absorption and arrogance if left at that.
a tentative alternative to heal
To me it all points in a different direction at the moment, one infinitely more complicated and full of inherent logic flaws as well. The most important part is to chill it. No one knows how to deal with people like me, for all their boasting and pretending no one denies that cPTSD is notoriously hard to treat. So maybe I will never be even remotely alright. And that is the fault of the people who did not protect the little kid from their abusive parents when it happened. It’s so much easier to look away. No one can blame the very same kid now all grown up not being what they want me to be. They failed me, badly. When I needed them the most.
Who knows in another world I may have gone on to cure cancer or solve ISIS, develop a society system more human than capitalism and less oppressive than communism, you know the things these geniuses do, that happen once a century. People sure seem to think I have the cognitive ability to be one of them. Maybe I still will. But right now I will take care of me and me only to make the years to come worth my while. No one ever was blind enough to deny I had potential (my mother tried, but failed, some things even she could not touch).
But not one lifted a finger to help me achieve anything. It was always pressure, criticism and not being good enough. Their problem. A part of me is by now vindictive and bitter enough to say that they shall rot in the soot of their own making, die miserably from some terrible disease I might have cured if they had been better people. For the truth is the humans I dealt with as a child were egoistical and self serving. They were complicit in ruining a part of me forever. This wasn’t just my parents. Other grown ups let this happen.
But the point is we were hurt by people, we need to be healed by people. The big red screaming danger in this scenario is of course that we are highly likely to simply repeat the patterns of the past, become involved with the wrong crowd, make it worse instead of better. So somehow there needs to be a step before this that ensure we will not make the wrong choices.
Atm I went a rather drastic route, one I’m not sure many people can pull of and it may not work for me but it’s better than what used to be: I cut off almost all contact to humans.
Sure I still need to see my GP and there are loose friend I chat with once a months, and there is the odd fb friend I’m playing some game with with whom I’ll exchange a line or two every other day but by now I have decidedly only superficial relationships. Many days I do not talk at all because there is no one to talk to. I meet people when out for a walk and talk about their dogs and my expartners dogs and my exparents cat and whatnot but that’s it. Nothing personal.
My idea is that through this time I can detox much more thoroughly from the abusive messages that I’m so good at finding in every human I come in contact with as a way of repeating the shit my ever loving and giving parents threw at me. There are so many things wrong with me that as it stands human contact will make it worse. I have done a lot of research about the effects of trauma and in the end what it comes down to is that my confidence and connection to myself were destroyed thoroughly. I need to learn to feel myself again first. And for that I need to cut of everyone who starts to try and own me, thoughts, feelings, deeds and all. Being who I was conditioned to be that’s every human being. I do not know any other way to connect to humans right now. Everyone triggers me, everyone makes me feel bad about myself provided we talk more than 3 sentences.
So for now, I’m selfish and antisocial to undo the artificial unselfishness and sociability I displayed in order to physically pretend to survive the period other people use to learn about the world and themselves. I need to distance myself from who I pretend to be to have a chance to find who I actually am. I read a very clever statement during these last months about our emotions defining who we are. So that is what I search for, my emotions.
Once I have found them I can maybe work on building a social circle that helps me dealing with them, (otherwise known as friends?). I have begun to understand that there is no reason why people either are confident or are not other than other people told them to be that way for arbitrary reasons. So the second important part that was destroyed in me, confidence was destroyed for arbitrary reasons. At some point I will need to work on that somehow. I also read that the opposite of confidence is anxiety and now I’m starting to see how I might be anxious ALL the time even if I do not feel it.
I hope I might be organised enough one day to be able to take care of a cat or a dog, because I think this is my best bet on recovering. Animals do not trigger me. I’m completely fine with being owned by a cat or a dog because I know the do not have issues which drive them to want to own your thought process. I strongly suspect they smell how we feel and thus they do not gaslight. They can’t. It’s plain as day to them how we feel and they are not as stupid as humans and work on destroying that. It’s funny how cats with all their glorious reputation for being selfish and uncaring suddenly become little cuddly teddybears when they sense their hyoomin is disturbed. Never seen a human do that.
Maybe one day my idea, my tentative plan will work out and I will find a way to properly connect to humans without pretending and loosing myself. Maybe it won’t. I’m slowly starting to entertain the thought of just giving up on all that and become a hermit. In the end I’m starting to understand I do not own anything to anyone. As it stands I have no interest to delude myself into being unrecognisable in the ignorant crowd of people who never happened to have been through times harsh enough to fundamentally question the benevolence of the gods they believe in and the people they are surrounded by. I was always destined to stand out.