Childhood Trauma : The Manipulative Parent

 

the manipulative parent

There are many ways in which the parent may manipulate their offspring, including: 

– emotional blackmail

– threats (explicit or implicit)

– deceit

– control through money/material goods

– positive reinforcement of a behaviour which is damaging to the child

– coercion

Because parental manipulation can take on very subtle guises, when we were young we may not have been aware that we were being manipulated; we may only come to realize it, in retrospect, with the extra knowledge we have gained as adults.

POSSIBLE EFFECTS OF PARENTAL MANIPULATION :

If we have been significantly manipulated, it can give rise to various negative feelings such as :

– self-doubt

– resentment/anger

– shame/guilt

– a deep and painful sense of having been betrayed

EXAMPLES OF PARENTAL MANIPULATION :

– causing the child to believe that s/he will only be loved by complying with the parent’s wishes at all times; in other words, there is an ABSENCE of unconditional love.

– causing the child to feel excessive guilt for failing to live up to the parent’s expectations/demands

– with-holding love as a form of punishment to cause emotional distress

– direct or implied threats of physical punishment

– physical punishment

– making the child feel s/he is ‘intrinsically bad’ for not always bending to the parent’s will

– spoiling the child and then accusing him/her of ingratitude

– making the child believe s/he is ‘uncaring’ for not fully meeting the parent’s needs

manipulative parents

 

WHY DO SOME PARENTS BEHAVE MANIPULATIVELY?

The reasons a parent manipulates his/her offspring are often subtle and complex. However, explanations may include

– the parent is narcissistic (click here to read my article on this)

– the parent has a grandiose self-view (often linked to above)

– the parent has low self-esteem/feelings of inadequacy and so abuses the power they do have as a form of overcompensation for own shortcomings

– failure of the parent to view the child as a separate, distinct and unique individual, but, rather, to view him/her as an ‘extension of themselves’ so that the child feels responsible for the parent and becomes ‘enmeshed’ in the relationship (this is also linked to the narcissistic personality – click here to view my article entitled :’HOW NARCISSISTIC PARENTS MAY ‘PARENTIFY’ THEIR CHILD’)

SOLUTIONS :

The effects of having been significantly manipulated by a parent in early life can have serious negative consequences in terms of our emotional development ; these consequences may be very long -lasting.

As adults, if we are still in contact with the parent, it is likely that the relationship remains problematic. We may have pointed out their propensity to manipulate, but to no avail – indeed, perhaps only making things worse.

So, what is the best way to cope with the manipulative relationship?

Essentially, we are less likely to be manipulated if we :

– develop good self-esteem (click here)

– develop a strong self-concept/sense of identity (click here)

– developing strong assertiveness skills (click here)

– being confident enough to refuse to do what we don’t want to do

– being confident enough to ask for what we do want

– have the confidence to act according to our own values and convictions

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

What Is Psychic Numbing?

 

what is psychic numbing?

Severe emotional distress and trauma can lead to a psychological defense known as psychic numbing.

Psychic numbing occurs when our conscious experience becomes so overwhelmingly, mentally painful that our feelings, in effect, ‘switch themselves off;’ the result is a kind of psychological ‘escape from reality’ – a reality which has become too terrible to tolerate.

Those who experience psychic numbing may use metaphors in an attempt to describe their condition such as : ‘It’s as if I’ve turned to stone,’ or, ‘it’s like my heart’s become made of stone.’ Sadly, in this state, the person may feel s/he no longer cares about him/herself or others – even close family members / previously close friends.

This may sound a distressing state to be in in itself, but part of the condition of psychic numbing means, too, that the person may also not care that s/he doesn’t care.

How Long Does Psychic Numbing Last?

The condition may be a relatively transient response following a severely traumatic incident or it may become a long-term in response to protracted exposure to traumatic conditions especially, for example, if one has developed complex posttraumatic stress disorder as a result of a traumatic childhood. In such cases, the sense of psychic numbing may persist (in the absence of effective therapy) for years or even decades.

what is psychic numbing?

Are Both Good And Bad Feelings Affected?

Generally, yes. Whilst the condition may arise as a defense against bad feelings, the ability to feel anything good tends also to greatly diminish, including the loss of the ability to gain pleasure from food and sex (for more about the inability to experience feelings of pleasure, see my article about anhedonia).

The Sense Of ‘Anesthesia.’

When one is in the grip of psychic numbing, it can feel not only as if one has been given an ’emotional anesthetic’, but, sometimes, too, as if one has also been physically anesthetized as the body itself can become relatively numb to the sense of pain.

Research Into Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) And Psychic Numbing :

Some researchers have suggested that the symptom of psychic numbing is intrinsically bound up in the biological responses which form the foundation of PTSD.

Psychic numbing is also closely related to depersonalization and a sense of loss of identity.

eBook:

CPTSD ebook

Click image above for details.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Effects Of Parental Divorce Before Child Is Five-Years-Old

effects of divorce on children

 

I have already written more generally about the effect of divorce on children elsewhere on this site (click here to read one of my related articles). However, this article considers the effect on children who are particularly young (under the age of five years) with specific reference on how it affects the security of their relationships with their parents once they themselves become adults.

A study conducted by Fraley and Heffernan (2013) examined the injurious psychological and emotional effects of parental divorce on very young children in comparison with those sustained by children who were older when their parents divorced.

In essence, it was found that if parents divorce when the child was very young (defined as being 0 to 3-5 years of age) then, once the child becomes an adult, s/he is likely to have a more difficult (specifically, more insecure and less trusting) with his/her parents than those adult individuals whose parents divorced when they were older.
Adverse Effect On Relationship With Father Compared To Adverse Effect On Relationship With Father :
The study also found that parental divorce tends to effect the individual’s relationship with his/her father more negatively than his/her relationship with his/her mother (again, in terms of feelings of trust and security).
It was hypothesized that this finding may be accounted for by the fact that the mother, in most cases, retains custody of the child which tends to mean that there is less damage done to the level of security a child feels with his/her mother compared to that which s/he feels with his/her mother.
Indeed, a further study by the same pair of researchers seemed to bear this hypothesis out as it was found that :
  • if the mother was awarded custody of the child, the child was more likely to have a damaged relationship (in terms of feelings of security) with his/her father
  • however, if the father was awarded custody, the child’s relationship with the father (in terms of security) was relatively less damaged.

Effect On Adult, Romantic Relationships :

The study also found (though the evidence here was rather more tenuous in statistical terms) that those individuals whose parents divorced during his/her childhood were at more likely (though certainly not guaranteed) to be adversely affected by anxiety in connection with adult, romantic relationships in later life.

Resource :

 

eBook :
depression and anxiety

Childhood Trauma And Its Link To Depression And Anxiety, by David Hosier MSc.

Click on image above for further details.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Structural Dissociation Theory

structural dissociation theory

Structural dissociation theory was developed by Van der Hart, Nijenhuis and Steele (2006).

Essentially, this theory relates to the idea that many of the behaviors that you may feel uncomfortable about, ashamed of, guilty about, or hate are likely to be the behaviors you unconsciously learned as a child to survive in an environment which was hostile, unpredictable, threatening and unsafe. In the present, these behaviors are likely to be triggered by any occurrences or events which, even remotely, resemble the events which once threatened your safety (psychological or physical) as a child.

In other words, the vulnerable, frightened child continues to live within you, trapped in the past, and responding to events now as if they (or, rather, what these events symbolize) were happening then (during your traumatic childhood).

These behaviors, then, can be seen as adaptations : behaviors that allowed you, as a child, to survive; I repeat : they are the legacy of the child within you that, under extreme circumstances, managed to survive and, as such, should cause neither guilt nor shame. THE BEHAVIORS WERE ESSENTIAL AS A MEANS OF PSYCHOLOGICAL SELF-PROTECTION.

 

Structural Dissociation Theory In Terms Of Neurobiology :

In terms of neurobiology (the physical/biological workings of the brain) the theory states that when events occur that we find threatening (on either a conscious or unconscious level) because they trigger implicit memories of our traumatic childhood :

the right half (hemisphere) of the brain and the left half (hemisphere) of the brain become disconnected to a degree that they no longer communicate with one another in an effective manner.

What Are The Functions Of The Left And Right Hemispheres Of The Brain ?

For the sake of simplicity,we can confine ourselves to the functions most pertinent to the theory :

  • The brain’s left hemisphere is involved with day-to-day functioning and is relatively logical, permitting us to struggle on despite internal, mental conflict.
  • The brain’s right hemisphere ‘contains’ the responses that you were forced, by extreme and hostile circumstance, to learn as a child in order to ensure psychological survival, including hypervigilance for imminent danger and perpetual readiness for fight/flight/freezing/fawning – whatever was necessary to avert danger (real or perceived).

structural dissociation theory

Splitting / Fragmentation :

The personality of the individual who has experienced severe childhood trauma can become split / fragmented so that when events occur that cause stress / fear / make the individual feel threatened / remind the individual, however tenuously (on a conscious or unconscious level), of their childhood trauma the responses stored in the brain’s right hemisphere are triggered (fight/flight/freeze/fawn responses) whereas the brain’s left hemisphere guides ‘normal’ everyday behavior, allowing the person, to some degree at least, to function. To simplify :

  • Stress, threat, fear etc / implicit reminders of childhood trauma = right hemisphere dominant
  • Everyday functioning = left hemisphere dominant

Compartmentalization and Self-Alienation :

Whilst such compartmentalization may allow our day-to-day functioning to continue under one guise or another, there is, however, a price to be paid : the individual can suffer from intense feelings of self-alienation, self-loathing, shame (that s/he is ‘concealing’ a ‘bad,’ ‘secret’ self) and a sense of being a ‘fake’ and ‘fraudulent’ person.

My next article (Part Two) will look at how we might best overcome this problem.

eBook:

.  

Above ebooks now available from Amazon for instant download. Other titles by same author available. Click here for further information.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Effects Of Trauma Should Be Addressed Rather Than Its Events

addressing effects of trauma

According to J Fisher, PhD, Assistant Educational Director of The Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute and author of the book Healing The Fragmented Selves Of Trauma Survivors, it is of greater importance to address the effects of a person’s traumatic past rather than its specific events. Why should this be?

Sigmund Freud, often referred to as the ‘father of psychoanalysis’, originally treated his patients by helping them to remember, and piece together, their childhood traumatic experiences, the memory of which had been largely repressed.

The idea was that by talking about what had happened to them during childhood, and bringing their traumatic memories into conscious awareness, they would be able to develop a coherent narrative relating to their adverse experiences which would, in turn, alleviate their psychological distress and the symptoms pertaining to their early life trauma.

This kind of therapy is usually referred to as talk therapy or psychodynamic psychotherapy.

Possible long-term effects of childhood trauma

Above : Possible long-term effects of childhood trauma

However, various researchers (e.g. Herman, 1992) have highlighted the fact that many therapists who have adopted this approach to treating their traumatized patients / clients have found that these same patients / clients are made worse rather than better by this ‘talking cure’ strategy.

Specifically, it had been found that patients / clients, when treated in such a way, can become flooded and overwhelmed by the myriad implicit memories this form of therapy is prone, inadvertently, to trigger. To read my article about trauma and implicit (also referred to as non-declarative) memories, click here.

In her book, Fisher takes the view that, rather than bringing into conscious awareness the ‘full narrative’ of our childhood trauma and replaying it in its raw form until we can ‘face-up’ to it, it is more important to learn how to deal with the effects /symptoms of the trauma, such as learning to feel safe,  secure and relaxed in the here and now and to ameliorate present feelings of fear and panic.

Fisher recommends the following cutting-edge therapies for addressing the effects of trauma : mindfulness a based therapies, internal family systems therapy, sensorimotor psychotherapy and clinical hypnotherapy.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Childhood Trauma And Non-Declarative Memory

childhood trauma and non-declarative memory

Our long-term memory can be divided into :

1. Declarative Memory (sometimes called explicit memory or narrative memory) – it is the part of our memory that we use for the conscious recall of facts or events.

Declarative memory depends upon language in order to organize, store and retrieve the information that it holds.

2. Non- Declarative Memory (sometimes called implicit memory, procedural memory or sensorimotor memory) – it is this part of our memory that allows us to automatically retrieve information connected to something we have learned without conscious deliberation.

Non-declarative memory

For example, we can get on a bike and ride it without having to concentrate on exactly how we’re doing it or go over in our minds the steps involved in how we learned to do it; indeed, we need not even remember when or how when learned to do it (I certainly don’t) – nevertheless, the necessary ‘know-how’ has been unconsciously, permanently retained.

Non-declarative memory, unlike declarative memory, does not depend upon language for the organization, storage and retrieval of information. Because of this, non-declarative memories are frequently very hard indeed to describe in words (try explaining all the tiny body and muscle adjustments necessary to maintain balance whilst riding a bicycle – yet the memory of exactly how to do this has been faithfully, unconsciously stored, courtesy of your non-declarative memory!).

TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCES ARE FREQUENTLY STORED AS NON-DECLARATIVE MEMORIES :

Due to their their utterly overwhelming nature, we often can’t completely and linguistically, mentally process our traumatic experiences which prevents them from being stored in declarative memory ; when this happens, the traumatic experiences are instead stored in our non-declarative memory.

THE FRAGMENTARY NATURE OF INCOMPLETELY PROCESSED TRAUMATIC MEMORIES :

The incompletely processed traumatic memories stored in non-declarative memory tend to be very fragmentary in nature. As we have seen, too, they are not stored in linguistic form but, instead, often in the form of :

bodily sensations (e.g. muscular tension, increased heart rate, hyperventilation)

images (e.g. these might come to us in nightmares or intrusively and unheralded during our waking hours as a result, often, of unconscious triggers – see below)

emotions (e.g. extreme anger or fear)

Also, our unconscious, non-declarative memories may express themselves through chronic, seemingly inexplicable symptoms and behaviours.

WHY WE FIND IT HARD TO ARTICULATE OUR TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCES :

Because the memory of our trauma has not been properly processed at the linguistic level we are likely to find ourselves unable to articulate our traumatic experiences in any coherent manner. (Click here to read my article on how we find it difficult to talk about our trauma).

TRIGGERS :

Bodily sensations, images, emotions, symptoms and behaviours linked to our non-declarative memories of our original, childhood trauma may be triggered whenever anything even remotely reminds us of this trauma.

In this way, we may find ourselves re-enacting aspects of our original trauma in our everyday lives months, years or, even (in the absence of effective therapy), decades after the actual experience of our childhood trauma is over.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

BPD And Being Thin-Skinned

BPD and being thin skinned

If we have developed borderline personality disorder (BPD) as a result of our traumatic childhood, then one of the main symptoms we are likely to have developed is difficulties with interpersonal relationships. Most often, too, part of this difficulty resides in the fact that we are likely to be extremely thin-skinned. 

Our being thin-skinned can, most frequently, be explained by our having experienced severe negative attitudes expressed towards us as children (most commonly by a parent or primary carer), rejection, abandonment, emotional abuse or some combination of these.

BPD and being thin-skinned

Thus, in an unconscious, desperate attempt to protect ourselves from further psychological pain, we become hypervigilant in connection with being on the look out for further signs that someone may be a threat to our psychological welfare by emotionally hurting us.

Rather like a dog who has been regularly beaten, we ‘snarl’ at  (or ‘run away’ from) anyone who remotely seems to represent such a threat lest they harm us like we were harmed before.

Do Those With BPD Imagine Others Are Behaving Negatively Towards Them When, In Reality, This Is Not The Case?

Do people with BPD constantly imagine slights against their character when, in reality, such slights have not occurred?  In fact, this doesn’t seem to be the problem (or, if it is a problem, not the main problem). Rather, people with BPD, due to their hypervigilant state when interacting with others, perceive real negative attitudes towards them which others may not be perceptive or sensitive enough to pick up on or let pass over their heads.

The problem from here is often how those with BPD react once they have picked up on such negative attitudes.

How Do Those With BPD Tend To React In Such Situations ?

In such situations, those with BPD tend to feel intensely hurt and misunderstood ; this can then lead to becoming highly emotional or, as a form of self-protection, detached. Unfortunately, neither of these reactions tend to be useful in terms of resolving the situation; indeed, such reactions most often serve only to compound the BPD sufferer’s interpersonal difficulties.

 

Useful Link :

 

 

 

Resources:

 HOW TO STOP BEING DEFENSIVE : click here for further details.
eBook :

 

borderline personality disorder ebook

Click on image above for more details.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

 

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Health Anxiety : Its Link To Childhood Trauma

health anxiety

We have already seen that, all else being equal, an individual who suffers significant childhood trauma is at greater risk than average of developing an anxiety disorder in adulthood. In this article, I will look specifically at health anxiety and what types of childhood experiences may put individuals at increased likelihood of developing it. With regard to this, the first question to answer, of course, is :

What Is Health Anxiety?

Health anxiety used to be referred to as hypochondria; however, this term is becoming increasingly obsolete due to its somewhat pejorative connotations. For a person to be diagnosed with health anxiety (and such a diagnosis, of course, can only be carried out by an appropriately qualified professional) s/he generally has to be preoccupied with thoughts centering around illness (i.e. a belief s/he is ill or an overwhelming conviction that s/he will imminently become ill) despite reliable, medical reassurances that this is not the case.

Furthermore, this preoccupation causes the individual significant distress and impairs normal, day-to-day functioning.

What Childhood Experiences Make It More Likely That An Individual Will Develop Health Anxiety?

First, individuals who suffered a serious illness as a child and were traumatized by the experience are at increased risk of developing health anxiety in adulthood.

Second, those who, in childhood, had a primary-carer who was excessively anxious about their health, or more generally overprotective, are at increased risk of developing health anxiety in adulthood.

Third, those who, in childhood, experienced a close family member (such as sibling, mother or father) being seriously ill are at increased risk of going on to develop health anxiety.

Fourth, people who, as children, had parents who excessively shielded them from the reality of health problems (e.g. parents who never talked about their own illnesses or the illnesses / deaths of other family members, including never allowing the child to attend funerals) are more likely to go on to develop health anxiety

Finally, growing up with parents who, to an excessive degree, feel the need to continually (and with excessive frequency) emphasize the vital and crucial importance in life of having one’s health.

Other Factors That Can Contribute To The Development Of Health Anxiety:

Childhood experience is not the only factor connected to the development of health anxiety in later life ; other factors that may contribute or be involved include :

1) Personality traits (characteristics) : e.g. a proneness to worry or intolerance of uncertainty

2) Chemicals in the brain (especially low serotonin activity)

3) Abnormal brain processes associated with low serotonin activity leading to excessive rumination (over-thinking)

health anxiety

 

Above : examples of the excessive ruminations that a person with health anxiety may have.

4) Genetic predisposition : it is possible some people may genetically inherit a tendency towards obsessive-like thinking.

Therapies :

Therapies available for the treatment of health anxiety include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and trauma-focused therapy (CFT). However, sometimes (depending upon the individual’s particular constellation of psychological problems) other forms of psychotherapy may be more appropriate.

Also, because it is thought that serotonin-level abnormalities may sometimes be involved with health anxiety, antidepressants are sometimes prescribed for its treatment (under the guidance, of course, of an appropriately qualified professional).

RESOURCE :

Overcome Fear Of Illness (downloadable self-hypnosis MP3 or CD).

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Somatic Experiencing Therapy : Healing The Dysfunctional Nervous System

somatic experiencing

Dr Peter Levine’s somatic experiencing therapy is predicated upon idea that the disturbing symptoms of PTSD are substantially caused by the adverse effect our traumatic experiences have had on the way our body and nervous system works.

In essence, Levine contends that if we are suffering from PTSD it means we have become stuck’ in the fight/flight/freeze response.

In order to understand this, consider how wild animals respond to danger; let’s use the example of a zebra :

If a zebra is stalked by a tiger, it will enter the flight/fight state and run away. Whilst running away, it is in the fight/flight state, meaning that it will be highly physiologically aroused (e.g. fast heart rate) in order to provide it with the energy to (hopefully) escape.

If it is lucky enough to escape to safety, the zebra’s level of physiological arousal will quickly return to normal because the immediate danger has passed.

In other words, the zebra only remains in fight/flight mode for a short period of time to deal with immediate danger.

Below – The Physiological Effects Of Being In Fight/Flight Mode :

somatic experiencing

Getting ‘Stuck’ In Fight/Flight/Freeze Mode :

However, in sharp contrast, individuals suffering from PTSD have, like the zebra had their fight/flight response triggered by their traumatic experience but, unlike the zebra, remain stuck in this state of heightened physiological arousal even though the danger has passed; it is this, according to Levine, that causes the distressing symptoms of PTSD.

The Root Cause Of The Symptoms Of Trauma : Trapped ‘Survival Energy’ :

Levine states that, in those suffering from PTSD, the initial great stress caused by our traumatic experience, whatever this may have been (including the complex, cumulative effects of childhood trauma such as emotional abuse) leads to the production of ‘survival energy’ which is not discharged once the traumatic experience is over but remains bound up and trapped in the body.

It is this trapped survival energy that, according to Levine, is at the root of the debilitating symptoms of traumas

The Need To Discharge The Trapped ‘Survival Energy.’

Levine suggests that discharging the trapped survival energy held in our bodies will allow our heightened physiological state and the operation of our nervous systems to return to normal and thus alleviate our symptoms of trauma.

Levine’s somatic experiencing therapy is designed to help us achieve this therapeutic discharge of survival energy.

In order to find out more about somatic experiencing therapy you may find the link provided here useful.

Resource :

   Complete Stress Management Pack. Click here for further information.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

 

 

 

 

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery