Category Archives: David’s Personal Experiences

Effects Of Homophobia In Schools

homophobia in schools

When I was about fifteen, I drew a heart in a notebook I kept on my desk in my bedroom and, within the heart, wrote ‘ I love…’ followed by the name of a boy in my year at school (complete with drawing of arrow piercing the heart, and, for good measure, a few dollops of blood seeping from the wound – yes, I know!)

Of course, I always kept the notebook shut and in a drawer, to keep it safe from prying eyes (as I naively believed at the time), concealed by other books, innocuous books placed on top of it.

Some weeks later, I arrived home from school (still never having even spoken to the boy – I was mysteriously struck dumb whenever in his presence), and, as was my habit, beat a hasty retreat to the solitude of my bedroom (to avoid having to interact with my stepmother who despised me).

Imagine my horror when I saw on my bed the notebook which I always so carefully kept concealed! And worse, oh, so much worse, open at the ‘incriminating’ page.

This was, of course, my stepmother’s handiwork (nobody else had been in the house all day) calculated to cause me maximum shame, humiliation and embarrassment. Well, It worked (and then some).

To make the matter even more sinister and insidious, she never mentioned it – nor, of course, did I. (Preferring, instead, to skulk around the house looking sheepish).

Her communication of the hatred she felt for me, epitomized by this both shameful, and shaming, incident, continued in its usual vein – tacitly, implicitly and by insinuation – making it impossible for me, as a callow young teenager, directly to identify or effectively defend myself against.

Indeed, if I attempted to, I would be accused of paranoia (this is a well known psychological technique known as gaslighting which undermines the victim’s sense of reality and can, when chronically sustained, eventually induce psychosis).

As teenagers we long to be accepted as part of the group, and, whilst things are much better than they were three decades ago when I myself was a teenager, teenagers today still, sadly, experience homophobia.

Needless to say, this discrimination, leading to exclusion from the group, can be very traumatic, particularly as being singled out due to something as sensitive as one’s sexuality can be especially devastating (teenagers are, after all , at a stage in their lives when they are especially self-conscious and in need of acceptance).

Homophobia Leading To Mental Suffering :

A recent study carried out by Benigui found that young people who experience homophobia, including discrimination, prejudice, bullying and verbal attacks, have elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol flowing in their blood streams and are at increased risk of suffering from anxiety and depression.

And, most concerningly, they are fourteen times more likely to commit suicide than the average person their age.

homophobia in schools

Internalization Of Anti-Gay Attitudes :

It is likely that one of the main reasons for these findings is the fact that these victimized young people internalize the negative views others express towards them. This can result in the young person becoming what is technically known as an ego-dystonic homosexual (i.e. his/her homosexuality causes him/her mental distress).

Resilience:

However, the study also found that the young person could develop resilience against the negative effects of homophobia if :

– s/he had good emotional support from friends

– good emotional support from family

Conclusion:

The main conclusion drawn from the study was that much work still needs to be done to increase acceptance of, and respect for, diversity in the home, at schools and in the community in general, notwithstanding the significant advances made over recent decades.

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

 

 

 

Koro (Or The Incredible Shrinking Manhood).

It has taken me a very long time indeed to pluck up the courage to write this post, such was my embarrassment; you may understand why when you read what follows below.

Male readers will be familiar with the fact that when it is very cold, or when one is extremely anxious or fearful, the penis can partially retract.

Whilst I know this now, I didn’t know it when I was ten years old.

One day, whilst staying at my father’s home for the weekend (my parents were divorced) when I was around this age, I noticed, whilst in the bathroom, that my penis seemed smaller – whether due to the bathroom being cold, or high anxiety, I don’t recall.

Immediately, I went into a terrible panic which had the effect of causing my penis to retract further into my body, thus setting up a vicious cycle.

As some readers will be aware from other posts that I have published on this site, I had already developed clear psychological problems by this age and became hysterical with fear due to the ‘fact’, as I perceived it at the time, that my penis was about to permanently disappear.

Koro_fear of penis disappearing

Terror stricken, and crying uncontrollably, I begged my father to drive me to the doctor’s. At first he refused, but, when it became abundantly clear that my hysterical condition was intensifying rather than abating, he reluctantly relented.

During the ten minute drive there, I remember, sitting in the back seat, I kept the flies of my jeans open, allowing me monitor the situation, fully expecting my penis to disappear altogether; my older brother was in the front seat, mocking me and sneering at me, absolutely true to form.

When we finally arrived at the surgery, we found that it was closed.

At this point, my memory of the incident shuts down. However, I do know I never did get to see a doctor about the incident, nor did my father ever arrange counselling for me as a result (typically) perhaps due to the fact that this might have obliged him to admit to any such counsellor that he had left me living with a highly disturbed, unbalanced and psychologically abusive mother.

As an adult, I was surprised to learn that this fear of the penis disappearing is a recognised psychological condition (referred to as Koro) related to extreme anxiety, which, for those who are interested, can be read about by clicking here

 

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

My Humiliating Psychosomatic Response To Childhood Trauma

childhood_trauma

I have thought about writing this article previously on many occasions but have been prevented by what I realize is an irrational sense of shame. This helps to illustrate, I think you will see, how pervasive and enduring the legacy of such irrational shame, stemming from a traumatic childhood and universally felt by those who experienced it, can be.

The story I am about to recount relates to the phenomenon of children experiencing psychosomatic symptoms (such as headaches and, in this particular case, stomach complaints) as a result of intense stress and anxiety.

I have mentioned before that when I was about ten years old (about two years after my parents’ divorce) my mother started a relationship with a schizophrenic who was frequently in and out of prison (for things like drink driving – whilst already banned from driving for the same offence – and car theft; he stole cars to visit his family in Scotland – a family we did not know existed at the time of the incident I am just about to relate.

When he came to live with us, he told us his name was Iain McDonald; after about a year, however, this was revealed to be an alias; his real name transpired to be John Lee.

One day (when I was still about ten years old), I was sitting in the back seat of our car with my mother driving and Iain McDonald (as he was at this time still styling himself) sitting in the front passenger seat.

My mother and ‘Iain’ were involved in one of their terrifying rows and, after a while, I started to feel sharp, excruciatingly painful stomach cramps.

Due to an very urgent need to use the bathroom, I pleaded with my mother to drive me home as quickly as possible, as you might well imagine.

However, ‘Iain’ insisted my mother first drivee him to a shop, involving a time consuming and, for me, agonizing detour, to buy cigarettes.

I protested, screaming my need to get back to our house and its urgently required bathroom post haste (although I did not use that particular expression at the time, of course).

To whom did my mother defer? You guessed it, her deranged, criminal, alcoholic live-in lover (if I may be permitted to employ an expression popular at the time).

The result? Predictable : let’s just say, euphemistically, that on the way to get the cigarettes I had a deeply humiliating ‘accident

Actually, having written this, I feel a strong sense of relief. A relief I was prevented from feeling at the time, sadly.

DH. 16.5.2016.

Why A Part Of You May Have Remained Very Child-Like.

effects_of_childhood_trauma

As a teenager, when upset, under stress or in conflict with my parents/step – parent (and at any given time, it seems, retrospectively, I was in at least one of these states) my behaviour could become regressive (i.e. I would act in a manner far more typical of a much younger child).

This regressive behaviour, in my case, included raging tantrums, uncontrollable sobbing and, once, even, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, shutting myself in a wardrobe, when I was about fifteen years old, after an argument with my father and stepmother.

I could go on, but you get the general picture, I imagine.

If we suffer significant trauma at an early age, it can result in part of us remaining child-like. This childhood part is cut off and separate from the main part of our personality (psychologists call it a dissociated part) and represents a phase of our childhood that was severely disrupted due to psychological and emotional turmoil.

Depending on the phase of our childhood was disrupted, this part of us may be infant-like, toddler-like, child-like or adolescent-like.

As the part of us in question as a dissociated part (as explained above) it can often remain hidden, both from ourselves and others.

However, at times of stress, this part of us may rise to the surface and express itself in an overt manner. When this happens, we both feel and act like an infant / toddler / child / adolescent.

inner_child

In accordance with this temporary transition we may, for example :

– suck our thumb

– cling to a soft toy

– hide under a table (or, in my case, shut ourselves in a wardrobe – see above)

– feel an intense sense of vulnerability

– feel exceptionally dependent on others and emotionally ‘needy’ with an overwhelming desire to be protected, loved and cared for

– display tantrum-like behaviour

Whilst we should aim not to indulge such aspects of ourselves in ways that are ultimately self – destructive, it is important that we acknowledge they exist and accept them in a spirit of self-compassion.

We need, too, to grant ourselves permission to grieve for our unmet childhood needs, and look for ways to satisfy these needs in the here and now that are not self – destructive and which do not compromise our adult lives (e.g. holding a soft toy at home OK, but probably not a good idea to take it to the board of directors’ meeting at work, sit it next to you at the table and provide it with a name tag embossed with the moniker Ted E. Bear).

For advice about managing our ‘inner child’, a useful link can be found by clicking here.

Resource:

EBook – click image below:

 

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

 

Empathetic Stress And Its Effects On Babies’ Psychological Development.

Empathetic_stress, emotional_contagion

When I was about twelve, after my parents had been divorced for about four years, my mother took it upon herself, apropos nothing in particular, matter-of-factly and with a (retrospectively) disturbing lack of shame, to furnish me with the knowledge that I was only conceived because her psychiatrist suggested to her that having another baby (ie. me) might save her intensely acrimonious and rapidly deteriorating marriage to my father.

Leaving aside the psychiatrist’s dubious grasp of professional ethics (or, indeed, any other type of ethics that I’m aware of), suffice to say it did not work. In fact, as the young are inclined to put it, it was an epic failure.

My mother’s explanation for this failure was that she, in fact, had wanted a girl.  Therefore, it seems my prenatally planned mission to save my parents’ marriage was doomed to failure from the start, due to my obstinate and self-centred insistence as a foetus/embryo to develop into a male of the human species, no doubt.

Apparently, my father once informed me, very soon after my birth, my mother’s mental health, already worryingly precarious, went further downhill, and at an alarming rate.

I now understand that, because of this, my first few months of existence may have been extremely damaging to my emotional and psychological development due to a phenomenon known to psychologists as empathetic stress which I elaborate on below:

Empathetic Stress:

When we observe the stress of others, cells in the brain known as mirror neurons are activated; as their name implies, these specialized neurons cause our emotional state to ‘mirror’, or replicate, an approximation of the emotional state of the distressed person we are observing. This gives rise to the psychological state that we refer to as empathy.

empathetic_stress

Indeed, the effect of these mirror neurons is so powerful that we don’t just experience the other person’s distress on an emotional level, but, also, on a biological level : the stress hormone in our body known as cortisol increases, for example.

Study Of Empathetic Stress In Babies:

The psychologists Waters et al made a study of 69 mothers and their 12 to 14 month old babies.

It was found that when the mothers’ stress levels became elevated and, in this stressed state, they picked up and held their babies, the babies’ stress levels became similarly elevated (for example, the babies’ heart rates increased significantly).

It is thought that the babies were able to sense their mothers’ increased stress levels through various means including the mothers’ tone of voice, breathing rhythm, muscle tension, heart-rate, facial expressions and other subtle indicators. Sometimes psychologists refer to this harmful process as emotional contagion.

This finding is very important as we have seen in other posts that I have published on this site that if we experience significant stress in our early lives the physical development of our brains may be adversely affected.

Sadly, highly sensitive and empathetic young  individuals are likely to be at particular risk of being harmed in this manner.

Resources:

eBook:

brain damage caused by childhood trauma

Above eBook now available on Amazon for instant download. Click here.

 

MP3 Audio:

Control_empathy. Control Empathy. Click here.

 

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

Childhood Trauma Leading To The Need To ‘Self-Medicate’.

self medication

Until a few years ago I consumed excessive amounts of alcohol (leading to some appalling consequences that I will describe in future posts). Two main reasons for this most ill-advised and, above all, desperate behaviour are both clichés: one: I drank to reduce my social anxiety and, two: I drank to numb my intense and intolerable psychological pain.

The root cause of my social anxiety and psychological pain derived, I feel sure, from my traumatic childhood. Indeed, such childhood trauma is very often the root cause of why people in general use alcohol, and other psychoactive substances such as illicit drugs, to self-medicate (ie. attempt to ameliorate their emotional and psychological pain).

A main reason that many find it so hard to stop or reduce their reliance on such self-medication is that they are unaware that the origin of their addictive need to self-medicate lies in their traumatic childhood experiences and that the adverse psychological consequences which they seek to numb by excessive drinking or drug taking are symptoms of this trauma.

This lack of insight leads to the root cause of the particular addiction remaining untreated, making it much harder for the individual to recover from his/her reliance on mind-altering substances.

Very sadly, other people, perhaps ill-informed family members, who also are unaware of the true origins of the problem, may, due to their lack of understanding, blame the individual for his/her, as they may erroneously perceive it, ‘weakness of character’ and ‘selfishness’ (it is not selfishness – being addicted to, for example, alcohol is hardly fun or enjoyable; one does not choose to suffer from such an addiction, by definition).

self medication

Equally sadly, the addict may blame him/herself, adding to his/her depression and worsening yet further his/her already extremely low self-esteem, thus, in all likelihood, aggravating still further his/her addictive disorder.

Whilst the afflicted individual may sometimes enter stages of incipient recovery, if his/her childhood trauma remains therapeutically unaddressed, s/he is likely to relapse when events in his/her life trigger traumatic memories and flashbacks.

It is useful to provide some statistics in connection with the idea of childhood trauma leading to self-medication as an adult: for example, intravenous drug users are 1000% (one thousand per cent) more likely to have suffered childhood trauma than non-intravenous drug users. A second example is that (in the USA) female alcoholics are twice as likely to have suffered significant trauma compared to their non-alcoholic counterparts.

The Role Of Adrenaline:

Those suffering from the effects of severe trauma, such as those who have been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), have been found to produce in their bodies excessive quantities of the hormone adrenaline which significantly contributes to their feelings of deep anxiety and general psychological distress.

It is hardly a coincidence, then, that one of the illicit drugs they can become dependent upon is heroin as this drug is highly effective at shutting down the brain’s adrenaline center – the locus coeruleus.

Other drugs that have a similar effect are Valium, alcohol and benzodiazepines (the latter is a drug which played a role in the shamelessly hounded and persecuted musical genius Michael Jackson’s tragic and untimely death – it is well documented that he was traumatized by his childhood, not least because his father, Joe Jackson, would allegedly whip his son if he made mistakes during rehearsals when he rehearsed with his older brothers who made up the Jackson Five).

Conclusion:

Therapies for those who have experienced significant childhood trauma and are consequently addicted to the sort of substances referred to above are far more likely to be successful if they do not ignore the root cause of the problem – namely the afflicted individual’s childhood traumatic experiences.

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

 

 

Why It’s So Hard To Talk About Our Experience Of Severe Trauma

Language is a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity.’

Gustave Flaubert

 

Whenever I have become highly emotionally upset about my traumatic childhood experiences, in the presence of another person, I have found I become highly inarticulate, unable to communicate coherently what I am feeling and why I am feeling it.

It is as if there is some kind of mental blockage, rendering me incapable of conveying verbally my state of mind in any meaningful way. Essentially, I seem to regress, leaving myself with the verbal dexterity of the average three- year- old (albeit, perhaps, on occasion, a three- year- old with a precocious knowledge of swear words).

As it transpires, it would seem there is a scientific and neurological explanation for this loss of articulacy when in such emotional distress relating to one’s traumatic experiences:

Our inability to verbalize our feelings about our traumatic experiences is most powerful immediately after the traumatic experience itself and during periods in which we are experiencing flashbacks (when we experience flashbacks, the brain reacts in much the same way as it did when we experienced the original trauma).

During such periods, research has revealed that the part of the brain responsible for language production, known as Broca’s area, all but shuts down. In some cases, the traumatised individual may enter a kind of speechless daze.

Broca's area

In calmer moments, traumatised individuals may talk about their traumatic experiences, but in a superficial way that does not remotely capture the intense distress, rage and mental agony their experiences may have evoked – language cannot adequately convey what it is like to experience such feelings.

Because we can’t communicate properly what our experience of trauma was like, or how it has made us feel, we can start to feel extremely isolated and cut-off, emotionally, from the ‘normal’, everyday world.

No -one can understand what happened to us or how it affected us as our experiences are, quite literally, beyond words; this produces, in many of us, an especially intense and profound sense of loneliness.

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

The Vital Importance Of Having Our Traumatic Experiences Validated.

validation of childhood experiences

Research has established, beyond doubt, that, all else being equal, the greater our experience of childhood trauma, the worse both our physical and mental health are likely to be during our adulthood, and the more likely we are to die prematurely.

Research has also shown that having our perception of our childhood trauma, and its adverse effect on us, validated is an essential part of our recovery.

Surrounding my own childhood experiences there has always been a conspiracy of silence by family members. My feelings about my early experiences have been met variously with evasion, denial, contempt, disdain, cold dismissiveness, minimisation, stone-walling, passive -aggression and straight- forward lies.

When our experiences are NOT validated, or, worse still, shamelessly refuted, recovery becomes almost impossible : insult is added to injury, with the likely outcome that our condition will actually become worse .

When our experiences and their effects remain NON-VALIDATED, our very sense of reality is undermined which puts us in danger of developing psychosis (a condition in which we become pathologically detached from reality).

child trauma

When we are told things such as ‘stop harping on about the past’ or, ‘you sound like a broken record, let it go’, it is this very contemptuous dismissal of our feelings that perpetuates our condition. The tacit implication is that we are self-absorbed, self-pitying, egotistical and should stop blaming our problems on our childhooods as this is wrong and selfish. But let’s examine the logic (or lack, thereof) of this rebuffal to our fundamental beliefs about our early traumatic experiences:

Can we take seriously the suggestion that a child who was frequently beaten to a pulp by a drunken father (as a hypothetical example), or the person whose brain development was impaired by emotional abuse (as another hypothetical example), and develops psychological problems in adulthood as a result, is somehow being weak and self-indulgent, and is wrong and unentitled to suggest his/her childhood may be linked to his/her adult difficulties?!

Of course we can’t. In fact, it takes an awful amount of inner, mental strength to face up to and acknowledge the harm done to oneself by one’s childhood, and doing so is absolutely key to one’s recovery. 

Recent research has shown that if a person’s feelings about their traumatic experiences in childhood are just sympathetically listened to and validated, and their pain and suffering as a result of their trauma is acknowledged and authenticated, their condition improves, even in the absence of any additional, active therapy.

This is powerful evidence that having our feelings about our childhoods validated is absolutely essential in order for us to recover from our adverse experiences.

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