Sunday, September 09, 2012


Paintings by Alice Miller, trauma specialist extraordinaire.

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An illuminating conversation yesterday with a good friend about motivation.  He understood my complaints about not getting myself to do the things I want to.  He had the same problem.  He asked if I would get on my case about my inactivity.  I said, "Are you kidding?!?  I think I'm the biggest piece of shit on the earth!"  We talked and talked and eventually circled around to sharing stories of our childhoods, including each of us having near-death experiences at the hands of an abusive parent.  Part of his humiliation was being told that he was never wanted, and that he would amount to nothing.  Mine: being called weak and lazy, and accused of not being able to stand anything.

We both admitted that in various ways we had come "to terms" with what happened.  But what I do know is that the body remembers, even if the rational mind survives and in many ways thrives.  The cells, the muscles remember the paralysis, the tension, the contraction brought about by abject fear.  I still must monitor what I expose myself to.  I am triggered adversely by those sounds, sights, behaviors which at a subconscious level alert my nervous system that what is occuring is dangerous, or brings about the memory of danger.

He has severe IBS, which started at 15.  He was told by a family doctor at that time when taken for examination that he needed to get away because his father was killing him.  I was told by a social worker in my 20s that the best thing I could do was to get as far away from my mother as possible.  My friend is now close with his father; but I don't believe he has ever had psychotherapy.  My mother has passed, and I've had decades of all types of therapy, and currently am on several prescription drugs for anxiety, depression, sleep.  He did have some protectors: his mother, and then his step-mother.  I had no protectors.  Both of our abusive parents denied any recollection of what they did.

It was Andrew Solomon who said, "The opposite of depression is not happiness.  The opposite of depression is vitality."  That's what trauma takes away.  A vitality for living.  My friend and I both acknowledged that whenever we make plans to do something, there is always a dread before the event.  We don't want to go.  It seems too much work.  Once we are there, we have a good time, but the default setting is to stay isolated, unengaged, and, on some deep level, protected.

I watched the movie "The Hurt Locker" again yesterday.  It's brilliant, engrossing, disturbing.  A woman directed it.  A woman edited the footage.  A male journalist embedded with US troops in Iraq wrote the screenplay.  The opening screen states that "War is a drug."  Violence is a way of life.
I've often thought that if everyone had a shoulder rub the first thing in the morning, there would be no war.  Or violence.  It is embedded in most world cultures that corporal punishment of children is the norm, that it is natural and desirable to hit them to get them to submit.  This is horribly horribly wrong.  It is criminal.

Alice Miller's work on childhood abuse and trauma is some of the very best.  I used to read her during my worst times because she valildated how I felt.  It would, oddly, calm me.

My favorite aunt once wrote me that she thought as I child I did not get enough attention.  She said, you were so sweet.

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