When #MeToo Hurts

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When #MeToo Helps.....then Hurts

    It was mid-October when the words “Me Too” took us all by storm and shook the ground, as impassioned, strong voices broke through the earth to let their stories of sexual assault be heard and felt.  Survivors worldwide began disclosing their experiences, discussions about sexual assault began to spark, and together we all faced the brush fires stirring in our own communities. What started in Hollywood spread to our personal feeds and many were completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of loved ones who’d been affected by sexual misconduct in some way.  Brave, courageous stories were being told, honesty and openness was being more respected, and incredibly moving work was taking off at unprecedented speeds. While difficult, it offered a glimmer of hope to all those who’d been sitting in their silence since they were small children, ignored and mistreated for so long. This could be the turning page! “This could be the moment we’re seen. This could my chance to be believed! The adversity I face every single day just to make it through could lift! …someone will finally understand us!”  Unfortunately, over time survivors started to see that the movement that held, and still holds, so much promise was letting them down and, at times, even actively causing them pain. Survivors who were most broken by sexual violence were being left out, others were being unfairly characterized as the problem, and then there were those being lifted into the spotlight with whom most couldn't identify. What aimed to amplify the voices of those hidden and silenced the harshest, instead began doing the silencing and hiding.

 

    It’s been three months. Three months since we’ve begun having daily, public conversations about sexual assault, consent, harassment, power dynamics, manipulation, silencing, fear, coercion, and so much more. These topics are fiercely important. Yet, somehow we’ve gotten to where the conversation's moved on to the smallest of details, even to where we openly analyze the very minutia of one person’s assault, but somehow managed to just jump right over entire groups of men, women and children who are most affected by sexual assault. They were left out of the broader conversation entirely. Men have been almost entirely shut out. We had two famous men come forward with their experiences of assault, but even as more came forward against Spacey, those men devolved into just part of a number count - not people with names and stories, like each individual woman against Weinstein. You also had to work exceptionally hard to find anything about them. On another plane, it has already been well-observed but bears repeating, that people of color have been largely overlooked in favor of powerful, white, attractive women. However, those most neglected have been those abused as children and teens. So, if you are/were a little boy, or a child of color, forget it. Three months and no one with influence has taken the time to speak on your behalf or any of the populations most exposed to sexual/complex trauma.  Survivors themselves have been speaking, though. They’ve been sharing their stories, as well as their frustrations, their pain, their sense of invisibility, their disappointment, and their desire to just be seen and be given care. But, these strong souls are forced to talk mostly amongst themselves — with those who already get it. Any attempt at more public dialogue or even education has been so explicitly redirected or wholly avoided. And, that's unacceptable.

 

    Several weeks into the movement, we saw branches like #ChurchToo take off. This brought with it renewed hope for many, particularly the groups feeling most ignored. It felt like there was still a chance we’d get to them soon, to just give it time. Soon the spark will catch. But, then the compassion fatigue seemed more oppressive, sympathies were waning, and many felt their embers being snuffed out after watching it barely trend, never be given a hashtag icon, and the articles about it remain very few and far between (mostly just churches defending themselves). Over time, it seemed that concerns about the direction of MeToo - including its re-traumatizing and triggering effects - were either disregarded or met with hostility.  …as if by expressing concern, one was arguing against its necessity or importance as a movement. Which, is worrying at best.

    In the last month, MeToo has been increasingly described as a women’s movement. “Thanks to #MeToo, it’s the year of the woman,”  “#MeToo gave a chance for women to tell their stories,” “Stars are dressing in black to support the women affected by sexual assault.”. To add insult to injury, men were universally being characterized as the perpetrators. They were emphatically told it’s their turn to LISTEN. They’re told they aren’t to be doing any talking, just listening and taking notes on what they plan to do to help women. Male victims are an afterthought or a parenthetical to an article about women. They aren’t allowed to speak, just learn and don’t abuse. This is dangerous, toxic, and painful. It takes away their voices to come out as victims themselves, and re-impresses to ALL victims that, unless their abuse was at the hands of a male, they just shouldn’t come forward. Abuse perpetrated by women has been responded to wildly differently. Some have even said it’s “not the time for those stories because we’re trying to help women right now”. No. No, we aren’t. We’re trying to help victims of sexual assault. Humans. That includes men. That includes little boys. It includes teens, children and little girls. It means those hurt by women. It means we fight for those hurt for years and years by family members, those with multiple perpetrators, and those who’ve been trafficked, who are poor, who have nothing to their name, and those with no power elsewhere.

 

    THIS IS NOT A WOMEN’S MOVEMENT. IT’S NOT A POWERFUL-WOMEN EXCLUSIVE movement. IT IS NOT A MOVEMENT AGAINST MEN.

This is a movement for survivors of sexual assault. And, to exclude any group is to abuse them again. To say their voices aren’t important, their stories insignificant, motives impure, or not as glamorous a story for a magazine cover, is inexcusable. Being selective with the voices we lift up, and when, says to everyone else, “You don’t fit our agenda, your story is too messy or hard to hear, you can wait your turn”. Only, their turn won’t ever come if no one takes a stand for them. They cannot just be expected to talk amongst themselves indefinitely and expect anything to change. They need the world to see them, understand them, to HELP them.

 

More Evidence of Inequity

    We currently have one of the largest criminal cases of sex abuse against children, teens and adults the U.S. has seen in decades. The number of girls who have survived the abuse of Larry Nassar - former team doctor within USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University and Twistars - surpasses the number of Sandusky, Weinstein and Bill Cosby victims COMBINED. Yet, somehow, even in the era of #MeToo, it’s gotten a fraction of the coverage as each of those independently. 140+ girls and women were hurt by one man (as well as the organizations that employed him, and several individuals who specifically enabled his abuse) -- over the span of 3 decades, with many reports against him -- but somehow, the story and all of its lessons has struggled to have any lasting power in the media. Is it because many were children and teens when they were hurt? Because it wasn’t sexual harassment, or abuse to independent woman, and seen as off-topic? Was it too difficult to read? Too unbelievable? How about because they weren’t wealthy or powerful? ..not famous household names to get fired up about? It's because of all those reasons and more. Some of the more ludicrous-sounding ones even have evidenced behind them. There was a sudden uptake in interest, after a whole year of coverage and legal proceedings, only after McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles and, most recently, Jordyn Weiber, stepped forward in the case against Larry.  Only then was any attention paid to this case beyond the walls of the gymnastics community. It sent a very, very loud and clear message to the 135+ non-famous little girls, teens and adults that they were not really a priority. Their abuse, suffering and stories of survival weren’t something anyone wanted to hear or learn from unless they were already emotionally-invested as a fan. They weren't marketable, nor would they get the clicks -- not even in the days of #TimesUp. But once clout, power and celebrity were introduced, now we have interest. Yet, even so, these girls' fame and power is still not that of a Hollywood celebrity. They provided a bump in exposure, but only a bump. They, too, were given the message that their fierce, powerful, strong and also heartbreaking voices after years and years of abuse weren’t as meaningful as those retelling one night as a Hollywood elite. So, if that’s true for even them, it begs the question to survivors everywhere, sitting in their nondescript homes, with names no one knows, and traumas deemed “too bad”, “too gross” or “too complex”, “What chance do I have that anyone will care about me? Who will help me? Who will fight for me to make my life safer? Who helps make sure that what I'VE been through happens to no one else? Who will help me get the treatment I need but have been denied since I was young? When will anyone believe us? WHEN WILL SOMEONE EVEN JUST HEAR US?!”

 

    If that’s not a repeat dynamic to the questions they asked themselves as children victimized in their own homes, schools, daycares, and sports teams, I’m not sure what it is.  #MeToo, #TimesUp, and those championing them the hardest promised to fight for those who couldn't fight for themselves. Who can’t come forward. Who are scared, unseen, and voiceless. But so far, we’ve only witnessed stories of abuse to men, children and teens being pushed out of the discussion in favor of celebrities and those who have power elsewhere in their lives. It hurts. #MeToo hurts. And, I can promise you that was never part of Tarana Burke’s mission statement ten years ago.

 

 Looking Ahead

    Another thing that we MUST keep in mind as we continue to spotlight sexual assault and have extremely important conversations about the behavior of those who abuse — is how it invariably pushes those who are actively abusing individuals, especially children, further underground. …which typically involves worsened abuse. Fear of being caught leads to firmer punishments, deeper threats, drilling victims much harder about not telling anyone, convincing them no one will believe them, and instilling the fear of God (or death) into children who may even momentarily think of telling a loved one or teacher. Teens may be the most vulnerable because their abusers know they have access to the internet and may see these conversations about abuse in the media. They have a unique opportunity like never before to realize “them too” and want to seek help. Unfortunately, those who abuse only care about themselves and will not be scared into inaction; they will only abuse more violently and creatively to insulate themselves deeper. We need to remember that, while we cannot and should not be quieted just because these individuals exist, we need to do just that much more for those presently trapped in abusive environments. If we’re going to have these global conversations — and we MUST — we must also take thoughtful, intentional care of those who are still in danger. Those who are being further endangered by our mission to deconstruct the institutions that make abuse so prevalent deserve better. And, despite beliefs to the contrary, there are absolutely things that we can do on this front. There are actions we can take. We just need to remember to explore them and that this is not just about us sharing our stories and letting people know it’s an issue, but going out of our way to protect others from future victimization as well as rescuing those still in its vice grip.

 

   Above all, we must remember the most vulnerable. A movement FOR the broken, should not leave anyone more broken. Children and most teens are the truly voiceless. They cannot say #MeToo. They cannot put a post on social media and be enveloped in support and care. They may not even know what’s happening to them is even wrong yet. They’re terrified and afraid, just as so many who are now adults but were hurt as children remain.  Yet, they’re the ones left out of the global effort to create a better world for survivors right now. We must remember them always. And, we must remember men. The men who’ve been violated but still told to hush up and just listen. The men who were hurt as adults, as little boys, who were trafficked; men who were hurt by women. We must think about anyone who’s EVER been hurt at the hands of a female — who is struggling with that independently, let alone in the public sphere. We must think of those who are not wealthy, who are disabled, who don’t have jobs, who cannot go to court, who are not safe, who cannot share even their story. We must keep in mind every survivor who is too scared to speak against someone more powerful than them because having their motives questioned, being told they’re lying for attention, or are only seeking justice because they want money/fame is too great an assault on their character and integrity to bear.   We must keep in mind every survivor whose trauma was severe, unpretty, chronic and whose abuse left them with severe mental health issues. They are not crazy, they are not weak, they are not ‘bad’ or ‘gross’, they are not lesser than. They are just as important as anyone else with a trauma history they never asked to own.

 

    We need to get up close and personal with the fact that #MeToo is meant for everyone. Sexual assault is a HUMAN issue. And, if your movement doesn’t include those who are affected by it most, then it’s causing more harm than good. But it does not have to remain that way.

 

Our Commitment

    We want to re-confirm our stance to fight for men, women, children and teens today and forever — regardless of race, income level, ability, mental illness or severity of their story. We will never stop fighting for you and trying to create a better world for us all. That includes helping those already victimized to be seen as a whole and complete person, and to get the treatment and care they deserve. It also includes taking every step within our power to educate the public and clinicians on trauma, particularly complex trauma, and to prevent this from continuing. We have faith that this movement CAN shift in the right direction once more. These conversations are desperately needed. They are invaluable and the strength of each and every person who dared utter the words MeToo, as well as those who bear witness, can not be understated. But, we need to see this opportunity be extended to everyone. We believe that’s realistic, honorable, as well as possible. We also trust that the hope we were initially ignited with can be rekindled.

We are honored to be a part of that fight with you, and we will hold each and every hand - big and small - through the journey.


 

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MORE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:

  -  Did You Know?: 8 Things We Should All Know about C-PTSD and DID
 -  DID MythsDispelling Common Misconceptions about Dissociative identity Disorder
  -  Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
  -  Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
  -  Imagery 101Healing Pool and Healing Light

 

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Posttraumatic Grief: Healing from Childhood Neglect (with Sarah Flynn)

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Grief from Trauma with Sarah Flynn

   We are so excited and honored to bring to you yet another meaningful guest article - this time authored by therapist Sarah Flynn (MREM, MA, RCC), and coming to you all the way from Canada!  In this, Sarah compassionately addresses the often-overlooked grief that can stem from a childhood missed out on, or lost entirely, due to ongoing trauma.  Grief is so often thought of in a much different context, yet survivors so frequently feel this deep, painful ache and/or longing that most struggle to even find words for or verbalize.  It's grief.  And, this article lovingly and thoughtfully walks you through that realization and validation.  Sarah has been a lovely and very helpful individual to get to know, and the information she brings to the trauma community is invaluable. Be sure to read more about her below and visit all the places you can find more of her work!

 

Posttraumatic Grief: Healing from Childhood Neglect

  Most people think of grief as a response to the loss of a loved one, but grief can be a response to any type of loss, including the loss of something that never was (such as a happy childhood).  This post explores the experience of grief in the present as a response to having bad experiences (from abuse, neglect, or trauma) in the past as a child.  Grief of this sort is a necessary and restorative process that permits a person to bring new life and a renewed sense of hope to childhood hardship and deprivation.  Looked at in this way grief allows us to cleanse ourselves of hurt and loss and continue to grow and to expand our sense of ourselves.

   Many people do not realize that they may be suffering in the present from having been mistreated, deprived or traumatized as a child.  Partly this is the case, because it is hard to know that something is missing if one has never had the experience of its presence.  If you did not have loving, attentive, nurturing parents who were joyful about life and about you as their child, you might not know that this is something that you lacked.  If you were emotionally abandoned or neglected, you may not know what it is like to be emotionally accompanied or cared for.

   A child’s need for love and nurturing is as essential as a plant’s need for water and sunshine.  If you did not receive love, nurturing and attention consistently in your childhood, you may be experiencing pain in the form of grief as an adult and not realize that this is why.  Many children who were mistreated were led to believe that they do not deserve to be treated with love, respect and compassion.  Allowing yourself to fully feel the pain of what you did not receive in the past allows you to empty out these old hurts and disappointments to make room for experiencing joy and the promise of each new day.  As Pete Walker puts it, “…the broken heart that has been healed through grieving is stronger and more loving than the one that has never been injured.  Every heartbreak of my life, including the brokenheartedness of my childhood, has left me a stronger, wiser and more loving person than the one I was before I grieved.”

   Often a person does not begin to grieve their childhood losses until they have reached a point in their lives where in they can emotionally afford to do so.  This may be because the person has found a therapist with whom they feel safe enough or because they find themselves with a social support system that is stable and strong enough for the first time.  The self-compassion borne out of grieving the losses of your childhood makes it clear that you did not deserve the abuse or neglect that you suffered and that you are hurting now because you were hurt then and not because you were bad then.

   If you were neglected or abused as a child your emotional or intellectual development may have been truncated.  This may be because you needed to use your energy to protect yourself rather than to grow and develop naturally emotionally and intellectually.  There may not have been opportunities for you to participate in normal, age-appropriate activities such as playing, asking hundreds of curious questions, using your imagination, experimenting with language and cause and effect, or getting to know yourself and your own emotional internal world in an intimate way.  Moreover, these losses and the feelings of grief associated with them may have been unacknowledged or even actively denied by those around you.  In some cases the lack of acknowledgement of loss can be more emotionally devastating than the loss itself.  The grief associated with unacknowledged childhood loss may be outside your awareness, but actively affecting you to this day.


 

 


    Sarah Flynn (MREM, MA, RCC) is a counsellor in private practice in Victoria, BC, Canada
who specializes in complex post traumatic stress and dissociative disorders. She has
advanced training in several trauma therapies and has been working with those who suffer
from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
(CPTSD) since 2009. She offers counseling services by phone, Skype and in person. She
has several articles on dissociation and complex trauma on her website.

FIND SARAH ONLINE!

  Website  ✧              ✧  Facebook  

 

MORE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:

    DID MythsDispelling Common Misconceptions about Dissociative identity Disorder
    Did You Know?: 8 Things We Should All Know about C-PTSD and DID
    Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
    Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
    Imagery 101Healing Pool and Healing Light
    You Did Not ShatterA Message for Survivors with DID

 

FOLLOW BaB ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

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Trauma and Attachment (with Jade Miller): Part Two

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Trauma's Effect on Attachment Styles

   We are so honored and eager to bring to you Part Two from guest host and author, Jade Miller, who has created a three-part series on attachment and how it relates to trauma to share with you. If you missed the introductory article on Attachment Theory, as well as our goals with this series, you can check it out here.  But, fear not! There's enough of a recap here that you'll be able follow along if you've only got a minute - though we still encourage you to go back when you have time. So, let's just jump right into it! Please be sure to check out all the wonderful things you need to know about Jade below! We are truly thankful to her for allowing us to bring you her insights and wisdom, and want you to be able to locate and appreciate all of her other work, too.

 


 

Trauma and Attachment Styles
 

   In the last post, we discussed secure and insecure attachment and what each mean in terms of the inner beliefs a person holds as result of each. To review:

Secure attachment occurs when a caregiver consistently and appropriately meets a baby’s needs over a long enough period of time that the baby learns to expect a compassionate response. This causes them to internalize the belief that the world is basically a good place, that they themselves are worth caring for, and that others are willing to meet their needs.

Insecure attachment occurs when – for any reason – a caregiver is incapable of or unwilling to meet a baby’s needs predictably and in an appropriate way. Babies interpret this in slightly different ways, depending on their unique personality, and thus can result in one of three types of insecure attachment.  But the bottom line will be that their view of the world, themselves, and/or others is negatively affected.

   In this post I’m going to share how trauma affects people differently based on their attachment styles formed in infancy.

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   To put it very simply, trauma occurs when something happens to someone that is beyond their ability to process it in a healthy way, so the experience is not integrated correctly on a physical, emotional, or neurological level. (Some people prefer to understand it in terms of emotional and even physical energy that becomes trapped in the body with no way of being released.) In most cases, trauma happens when a person perceives a threat to their life, bodily integrity, or sanity

    It’s important to understand that the factors that cause an event to be experienced as traumatic are unique to each individual. No two people are the same, so even those who experience the same event (e.g. a natural disaster, or siblings who witness domestic violence in the home) may react to it differently according to their unique biological makeup as well as their individual personalities and sensitivities.

 

Trauma and Individuals with Secure Attachments

   People who are lucky enough to have a secure attachment to a caregiver as infants/children are at a significant advantage when it comes to experiencing a traumatic event. Sensitive caregivers are available and able to help them process the trauma so that it becomes appropriately integrated in their bodies, minds, and emotions.

   When a person experiences trauma, but has a secure attachment to someone, that attachment can restore their sense of security and counteract the effects of the trauma. When a child experiences something potentially traumatic, they seek comfort from their attachment figure. Secure attachments help children regulate emotional arousal that occurs in the face of a threat. Later, the attachment figure will help the child form a narrative about the event so that the brain can adequately process it. Rather than the event becoming stuck in the right brain as just experience and raw sensory data, a sensitive caregiver will help the child contextualize and understand what happened - which is one way of bringing the trauma into the left brain, synching the two halves, and helping the mind integrate the experience.

   Here is an example: Suppose a child is playing on the playground in the park, and suddenly a person walks by with an aggressive dog on a leash. The dog sees the child and lunges toward them, barking and growling, before being pulled away by its owner. 

   A child with a secure attachment will most likely run to its caregiver, crying, and the caregiver will pick up the child and comfort them. A sensitive and empathetic caregiver might say something like, “Wow, that must have been so scary! I’m sorry that dog scared you!” They will comfort the child by holding or hugging them until the child is calm. The very best way of helping a child integrate the scary experience they just had would be for the caregiver to actually put the experience into narrative form. They may say something like, “You were playing on the playground and then a big scary dog came by and barked at you. It scared you really bad. Then you came running over to Mama and I hugged you until you felt better.” The brain’s memory bank is sometimes described as an elaborate filing system. And, trauma has the potential to become stuck in a separate part of the brain, instead of being filed correctly. Forming a narrative helps the child make sense of what happened to them so the brain knows how to file the memory appropriately and can then “close out” of the “file,” so to speak, once it understands. With very young children, they may need to talk about the event and hear the story repeated over and over before they are able to finish processing it.

 

Trauma and Individuals with Insecure Attachments

   If a person without a secure attachment relationship experiences trauma, the event is more likely to remain unprocessed and unresolved from an emotional, physical, and neurological viewpoint. The person is often unable to regain their sense of safety in the world and may experience the threat of trauma as ongoing, even after the actual threat has subsided. In the face of unrelenting hyper-arousal, dissociation is often next in line as the person attempts to cope.

   It’s important to understand that without a secure attachment style, an overwhelming event is more likely to be perceived as trauma, no matter whether the person is still a child or not. People who grow up securely attached have developed much-needed skills to help them process overwhelming events and reduce the likelihood that they will become traumatized by something. However, this does not mean that securely attached people are never traumatized. It simply means the risk that something will be experienced as traumatic is lower, and the amount of time it takes for them to recover from a genuine trauma is often less than those with insecure attachment styles.

   People with an insecure attachment styles do not have a healthy template with which to relate to others, the world, and themselves. They are more likely to experience something overwhelming as a trauma, because they lack the internal (and often external) resources with which to process it. Below are the tendencies of each insecure attachment style in how they cope with emotional distress (traumatic or otherwise).

 

  People with an avoidant attachment style often see other people as a source of apathy, fear, or discomfort. So traumatic experiences do not drive them to seek help from others. Rather, they withdraw internally even more, and attempt to utilize their own resources to cope with an overwhelming event. Many attachment experts theorize that people with this attachment style are more likely to develop addictions. Those with the avoidant attachment style see people as a source of indifference or distress rather than a source of help, so they turn instead to ways of comforting themselves that do not involve other people.

  People with the insecure attachment style see other people as a helpful resource, but their low self-esteem creates a seemingly bottomless void of need. These people are often drawn into co-dependent relationships because they see others as their only source of comfort and soothing. They have not internalized the ability to self-soothe because their early interactions with caregivers were inconsistent or confusing. They did not receive comfort consistently enough to learn how to comfort themselves, so they feel the constant need for contact and connection to others when they are overwhelmed.

  People with the disorganized attachment style – as noted previously – do not have any consistent way of responding to emotional upset. They view others as dangerous or scary, and themselves as unworthy of help. They have never formed a reliable strategy to deal with powerful emotions, so they are often haphazard in their attempts to cope with overwhelming events. They may seek comfort from others at times (although such comfort is rarely internalized), or they may withdraw. At other times, they may seem unaffected or numb to the traumatic experience, and they are prone to dissociation as a defense mechanism. (Please note that anyone with any attachment style can utilize dissociation; the disorganized style is just more prone to it.)

   In the example of the child on a playground, lunged at by a big scary dog: those with insecure attachment styles, if faced with the same situation, could be at risk of a lifelong phobia of dogs. Or, they could be triggered to an anxiety attack by the sound of a dog barking or growling. The fear and panic they felt then, if experienced as trauma and left unintegrated, could cause all kinds of symptoms in their adult life. 
 

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If you are interested in learning more about emotional development and/or attachment and trauma here are some links: 

・・ Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self: The Neurobiology of Emotional Development (Allan Schore)

・・ Joystarters.com – Please note that this is a faith-based blog, but there are some great articles on attachment, crisis, and neuroscience

・・ The Link Between Types of Attachment and Childhood Trauma

・・ Neuroscience Attachments & Relationships



Stay tuned for Part Three of the Trauma and Attachment series, coming soon!

 


    Jade Miller would describe herself as a blogger, artist, SRA survivor, peer worker, and member of a poly-fragmented DID system.  ..who also desires to bring education and awareness about the reality of SRA/DID to the public and increase the number and availability of resources to survivors for healing.  We would firmly agree, and also add that she's a fantastic advocate, with an abundance of passion, knowledge and experience of which we can all benefit.  Her blog is not only an invaluable resource, but she's also a published author with some must-read material.  Notably for survivors are her two illustrated books for younger parts of DID systems called Dear Little Ones and Dear Little Ones (Book 2: About Parents)!  You can even listen to her read it on YouTube, and see the illustrations.  She's also written books on Attachment and Dissociation, and has also compiled her experiences of struggle and healing into more personal books in the past.  All of these are very well worth your time, and we strongly encourage you to seek out all of her published work as well as her online presence (listed below).  We are super honored to partner with her to bring you this series and deeply value her support to us, and to survivors everywhere!
 

FIND JADE ON ALL HER PLATFORMS!

  -  Thoughts From J8  (blog)         -  Amazon Author Page
  -  Facebook                                    Pinterest
  -  Twitter                                       -  LinkedIn

 

MORE INFORMATIVE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:

  -  DID MythsDispelling Common Misconceptions about Dissociative identity Disorder
  -  Did You Know?: 8 Things We Should All Know about C-PTSD and DID
  -  Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
  -  Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
  -  Imagery 101Healing Pool and Healing Light

 

FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

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Trauma and The Body 101: Introduction

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    After sharing a post on social media earlier today, we thought it was very much worth bringing here since it's an informative, cursory introduction to the topic of trauma and its effect on the body.  ...a topic we're rather passionate about because it is quite a challenge to find a trauma survivor with C-PTSD or DID who doesn't also struggle with their physical health in some way (some more profound than others). Too often, the survivors we help are often put in the unfair position of having to decide whether to spend their time, money and energy addressing their chronic health conditions first, or putting that same effort into therapy first.  It is possible to do both, simultaneously, and can be quite beneficial to do them in tandem, but only in the hands of experienced, trauma-informed clinicians who TRULY understand the mind's relationship to the body.  For now, hopefully this will at least get some of the wheels turning and we can dive into this topic more deeply in the future!

    For decades most of us have been well-aware of the psychological ramifications that can come post-trauma, but for some reason the depths of physical unwellness have largely been left out. Trauma in and of itself is an attack not only on the survivors mind, but their neurological system. And, what follows in the coming months and years, frequently causes an ADDITIONAL kind of damage to their bodies. The welling fear and anxiety, the hypervigilance, the emotional outbursts, and/or spontaneous crying are often each suppressed to the best of the survivor's ability, with intense commitment. "It's not appropriate to cry in public", "If I dive under my desk at work after a sudden sound, I could get fired", "If a co-worker pranks me or comes up behind me and I turn and whack 'em in fear, they could press charges", "If I lash out at my loved one, I'll hurt them and they might leave me". All these concerns and more keep us shutting off these physiological responses our bodies are cued to make as they navigate the circuitry of a traumatized brain. But, in having to exhaust such energy and physical stamina to pull this off, as well as emotionally numb ourselves from our natural responses, the distress it causes the body is remarkable.

    You'll be hard-pressed to find a long-term trauma survivor who doesn't have some kind of unexplained pain, fibromyalgia, migraines, allergies, autoimmune disorders, intense insomnia, or chronic fatigue -- and the number of survivors with POTS, EDS, or some other form of dysautonomia (autonomic nervous system dysfunction) is something of note in many trauma circles. The majority of these conditions come as the result of a collection of physical and psychological processes that tell our bodies how to respond, as well as us ignoring those responses, and how drained of its resources the body becomes over time. It's why it's crucial for therapy to address the whole body, and for the body to find some way to get all this energy OUT.  ...be it through some kind of movement, rhythm or other expression. Talk therapy does wonders for cognitive understanding and processing through traumatic material, but can at times embed these traumatic responses deeper into our bodies (especially as we pretzel ourselves up tight and try stifling some of the terror and/or emotion that spills out into our bodies when we talk about it). The suppression of all that intensity and not allowing the adrenaline and neural energy to process out, find a place to go or level itself out naturally, leaves our bodies having to find their own creative ways to do so (or just makes it harder and harder for it to ever find homeostasis on its own). ...which often leads to some of these chronic illnesses.

   The good news, however, is that there are ways to find wellness again - physical and psychological. Treating the whole body, honoring its natural responses while finding a safe and healing place to channel them, and even just simply recognizing what your body is experiencing more, can all make a dramatic difference in your recovery. Finding therapists and physicians who are aware of this mind/body connection in trauma can also go a very long way in leading you to the proper care your body needs and deserves. And, we also can't recommend enough looking more into this topic in the meantime.  Bessel A van der Kolk, and many of his colleagues, have done some really amazing work and research in this field, and we still firmly believe The Body Keeps the Score is a brilliant and invaluable book on the topic.

    We are sending you an abundance of love and compassion, hope this was helpful, and hope you remain eager for a few upcoming posts we have planned.  From new imagery skills for flashbacks, emotions and intrusive symptoms; to Jade's continued series on Trauma and Attachment; and even doing a slightly deeper dive into Healing is Not Linear!  We'll see you soon!

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MORE INFORMATIVE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:

  -  DID MythsDispelling Common Misconceptions about Dissociative identity Disorder
  -  Did You Know?: 8 Things We Should All Know about C-PTSD and DID
  -  Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
  -  Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
  -  Imagery 101Healing Pool and Healing Light

 

FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

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Trauma and Attachment (with Jade Miller): Part One

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Understanding Attachment Theory

   We are so honored and eager to bring to you guest host and author, Jade Miller, who has created a three-part series on attachment and how it relates to trauma to share with you here.  We know the words 'attachment theory' can sound foreign or intimidating to those without a psychological background, or even sound like something that doesn't really pertain to you or matter much.  But, it truly does, and our goal throughout the series is to demystify it in a way that is very approachable and can teach you valuable things about yourself and your healing.  It is so helpful for survivors (especially those with C-PTSD and Dissociative Disorders), as well as their loved ones and supporters, to truly understand the complexities and nuances of attachment, because they play such an integral role in how these disorders come to be and why they're so multidimensional beyond just the PTSD.  While the trauma itself is disruptive, it's the attachments we have not only to our perpetrators but with everyone else on the outside that further impact how we internalize that trauma and how we view the world around us.  We truly hope this series is both enlightening and helpful as you continue on your path of understanding and wellness.  And, we are truly thankful to Jade for allowing us to bring you her insights and wisdom.  Please be sure to check out all the wonderful things you need to know about her below! 

 

Attachment Theory in a Nutshell

  Attachment theory is the theory that humans are born with an innate tendency to seek care, help and comfort from members of their social group when they are facing overwhelming danger and/or are in physical or emotional distress. The group of behaviors used to solicit caregiving behaviors from others is known as the “attachment system.” In infants, the primary attachment-seeking behaviors would include crying, and (when old enough) what is known as an “approach” method - which seeks physical closeness to, and comfort from, the attachment figure. (The attachment figure is usually the mother and father, but can sometimes be another relative or whoever takes care of the baby’s physical and emotional needs most often.) If you’ve ever had the chance to people-watch in a place where there are children, you’ll probably notice that very young children stay close to their parent. And if they do venture away – on a playground, for example – and something scares them, they will run or crawl quickly back to their parents. This “approach method” is an attachment-seeking behavior. The opposite of carrying out an attachment-seeking behavior is trying to “avoid” something in the environment that is perceived as threatening. Attempts to avoid a threat usually involve the baby either ignoring it or actively seeking distance from it, rather than trying to approach it.  The behavior of approaching a caregiver when distressed is simply part of our survival instinct as a species.

 

What is important to understand about the attachment system is:

1) it is primal and innate, as it has been linked to evolution and survival, and forms the patterns by which the person relates to others in the future,

2) it is formed during the earliest development of an infant through interactions with the mother, father, and/or primary caregiver(s), and

3) the attachment system is powerfully activated during and after any experience of fear and of physical or psychological pain. This is why it matters so much in relation to trauma.

  So now that you know what it is, let me briefly describe the types of attachment that can be formed, depending on those crucial early interaction patterns.


 

Attachment Styles - Secure and Insecure


To break it down for you, there are 2 types of attachment: secure and insecure.

   Secure attachment is (or should be) the goal of all parenting behaviors and interactions between mother/father/caregiver and child, from birth to independence and beyond.  Securely attached infants develop positive, healthy, and relationally-effective internal working models (called IWM’s by the psych folks) that become the blueprint – or software, if you prefer – for the way they interact with people and the world at large, generally speaking, for the rest of their lives. It also affects, to no small degree, their perspective of themselves and their own lives. The securely attached infant’s IWM is based on the belief that the world is a good place and the infant is a good person; they are forming the belief that others are capable of and willing to meet their needs, and that they are worthy of having their needs met. Securely attached babies may express distress when they are separated from their caregivers, but they readily accept comfort when the caregiver returns to them.
 

Insecure attachment, on the other hand, breaks down into 3 subgroups:  

  Insecure-avoidant is the infant that may appear content – or even indifferent – in regard to their caregiver.  Sometimes these infants are even mistaken by people unfamiliar with infant development for securely attached children because they do not react to separation from their caregiver. They do not react to reunion either; they appear indifferent to their caregivers’ presence or absence. The truth is that these infants have closed themselves off to the world. Their IWM summary – if they were able to think abstractly – would be “the world is a bad place but I am a good person, so I will shut out the world.”  They do not turn to other people for help or comfort.  Brain scans of these babies, when placed in a situation that would normally cause distress, show that despite the fact that they do not cry or fuss, they truly are distressed and their level of distress – as shown by the brain activity on the scans – is the same or greater than their peers who are securely attached (or insecurely attached but in a different subgroup); they have simply learned to suppress it.  They don’t actively seek caregivers’ attention.  They turn inward and search for internal resources and solutions that do not involve other people.

  Insecure-ambivalent is the infant that seeks their caregivers’ attention when distressed, but is not readily comforted despite their caregivers’ attempts to do so.  Their IWM would be summarized: “The world is a good place but I am a bad person, so external comfort cannot help me.”  These infants exhibit attachment-seeking behaviors but when the caregivers try to comfort them, it takes much longer to calm them down, if calming can be achieved at all.  They seek outside help but simultaneously view such help as ineffective.

  Insecure-disorganized infants have not managed to organize their reactions in any enduring way.  Sometimes they appear avoidant, sometimes they appear ambivalent, and other times they appear secure.  Their reactions to separation or distress are unpredictable and un-enduring over time.  These infants’ IMW would be summarized thusly: “The world is a bad place and I am a bad person, there is nothing I or anyone else can do to help me.”  They are unpredictable and seem confused. They sometimes exhibit both attachment-seeking and avoiding behaviors simultaneously or in rapid succession, as if they are trying to pursue two incompatible goals at the same time.  They do not seem to know what they want or how to get it.

 

  Attachment theory is a topic that I am very passionate about, because I believe the early blueprints we develop, which become our beliefs about the world and ourselves, inform every future relationship we have with others and even ourselves. A person’s attachment style, and the availability of healthy people with which they can bond, profoundly affect the impact a traumatic experience will have on someone. I will write more about that in the next blog post.

  If you want more in-depth history and discussion of attachment theory, the research is plentiful and easy to find. If you don’t like any of those links, Google “attachment theory” or “John Bowlby” and/or “Mary Ainsworth” and you will have an abundance of reading material. Their methodology for establishing the foundation for their theories is also available, which I’m not going to discuss here because it’s not pertinent to the material at hand and I’m already attempting to condense plenty of information. If you do want a breakdown of the methodology, Google “The Strange Situation," in conjunction with Bowlby/Ainsworth.
 

In the next post I will talk about why attachment style matters and how it affects a person’s response to a traumatic experience.

 


   
   Jade Miller would describe herself as a blogger, artist, SRA survivor, peer worker, and member of a poly-fragmented DID system.  ..who also desires to bring education and awareness about the reality of SRA/DID to the public and increase the number and availability of resources to survivors for healing.  We would firmly agree, and also add that she's a fantastic advocate, with an abundance of passion, knowledge and experience of which we can all benefit.  Her blog is not only an invaluable resource, but she's also a published author with some must-read material.  Notably for survivors are her two illustrated books for younger parts of DID systems called Dear Little Ones and Dear Little Ones (Book 2: About Parents)!  You can even listen to her read it on YouTube, and see the illustrations.  She's also written books on Attachment and Dissociation, and has also compiled her experiences of struggle and healing into more personal books in the past.  All of these are very well worth your time, and we strongly encourage you to seek out all of her published work as well as her online presence (listed below).  We are super honored to partner with her to bring you this series and deeply value her support to us, and to survivors everywhere!
 

FIND JADE ON ALL HER PLATFORMS!

  -  Thoughts From J8  (blog)         -  Amazon Author Page
  -  Facebook                                    Pinterest
  -  Twitter                                       -  LinkedIn
 

 

MORE INFORMATIVE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:

  -  DID MythsDispelling Common Misconceptions about Dissociative identity Disorder
  -  Did You Know?: 8 Things We Should All Know about C-PTSD and DID
  -  Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
  -  Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
  -  Imagery 101Healing Pool and Healing Light

 

FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

  -  Facebook
  -  Twitter
  -  Instagram