For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.

Transgenerational Trauma : How Effects Of Trauma Are Passed Down Generations

Those who experience severe trauma (including, of course, childhood trauma) and develop significant and chronic symptoms as a result (e.g. alcoholism, drug abuse or severe psychiatric conditions such as anxiety, complex PTSD and PTSD) may, in turn, traumatize their own children who then themselves develop psychological / emotional / behavioral problems which, in continuation of this destructive cycle, adversly affects their children…and so on. This domino effect refers to the phenomenon known as transgenerational trauma (transgenerational trauma is also sometimes referred to as intergenerational trauma).

This harmful cycle can be broken, however, if family members gain insight into the process and obtain effective therapy.

One well known study (Solomon et al., 1988) which elucidates the process of transgenerational trauma has demonstrated that even if a child brought up by a parent who is suffering from PTSD manages to reach adulthood in a state of psychological health, s/he is still at greater risk of developing PTSD in later life as a result of a severely traumatic experience than an individual who was brought up by parents free of PTSD (all else being equal).

INTERGENERATIONAL TRAUMA AND EPIGENETICS :

It has also been theorized that the effects of trauma may be passed on due to a process known as EPIGENETICS ; this process involves genes being ‘switched on’ or ‘switched off’ as a result particular experiences. In this way, severe trauma may set off such epigentic changes which are, in turn, inherited by the individual’s child / children.

An animal study that helps to illustrate how the process of epigenetics works involved mice that were given electric shocks whenever they were exposed to the smell of cherries. In this way, they ‘learned’ to fear cherries whenever they smelt them, even when the electric shocks were no longer administered ; this is known as conditioned fear.

It was found that, through epigenetic processes, the offspring of these mice also showed signs of fear whenever they were exposed to the smell of cherries, as did the offspring of these offspring, even though neither of these two latter generations of mice had NOT been conditioned to fear the smell of cherries. In other words, the study suggests that the epigenetic changes caused by the conditioned fear of cherries in the first generation of mice were passed on to the subsequent two generations.

TREATMENT :

Methods that can be useful to help break the destructive cycle of transgenerational trauma include :

  • A) providing families that are in danger of getting caught up in the transgenerational trauma process with appropriate therapy such as Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS). Key strategies employed in such therapy are as follows : repairing dysfunctional communication patterns within the family ; treatment that is culturally informed, and allowing trauma within the family to be therapeutically expressed and articulated (Sells, 2018). You can read more about Sell’s approach to treating the traumatized child using the family systems approach in his excellent book : Treating the Traumatized Child: A Step-by-Step Family Systems Approach. (In relation to Family Systems Theory, you may also be interested to read my previously published article entitled : Family Systems Theory And The Family Scapegoat).
  • B) educating the public about this pernicious process in order to help them develop insight, which, in turn, can encourage positive changes.
  • C) training more healh professionals, in particular those working directly with those suffering from trauma, in the understanding of how the effects of trauma may be passed down the generations and how to intervene effectively in families in which this process is in danger of being played out.

eBook : A Beginner’s Guide To Childhood Trauma.

a-beginner's-guide-to-childhood-trauma

Above eBook now available for instant download from Amazon. Click here for more details.

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

BPD, The Love-Hate Relationship And Neuroscience

love=hate

We have seen from several other articles that I have published on this site that one of the hallmarks of borderline personality disorder is the tendency of sufferers of this devastating psychiatric condition to flip suddenly from idealizing / feeling love towards individuals and demonizing / feeling hate towards them (which, of course, is a major reason why BPD sufferers also tend to have severe difficulties with their interpersonal relationships). This tendency is sometimes referred to as ‘SPLITTING.’

Intriguingly, a study (Zeki et al.) carried out at University College, London, may help to elucidate this tendency to suddenly ‘switch’ betwen loving and hating the same person from a neurological perspective (i.e. in terms of brain’s physical organization and biological functioning).

THE STUDY :

The study invoved 17 individuals who had their brain scanned under two conditions :

CONDITION 1 : Brain scans were taken whilst the individuals were looking at photos of people they loved.

CONDITION 2 : Brain scans were taken of the same individuals in Condition 1 whilst they were looking at photos of people the claimed to hate.

NERVOUS CIRCUITS IN THE BRAIN :

Researchers found that some of the brain’s nervous / neural circuits involved in generating feelings of hate are ALSO INVOLVED IN GENERATING FEELINGS OF LOVE.

More specifically :

The region of the brain known as the putaman seems to be activated both when an individual is experiencing feelings of love and when s/he is experiencing feelings of hate including disgust, contempt and aggression.

The region of the brain known as the insula also seems to be activated both when an individual is experiencing feelings of love and when s/he is experiencing feelings of hate,

THE CEREBRAL CORTEX :

Furthermore, research findings suggest that regions of the cerebral cortex are deactivated both when an individual is experiencing feelings of love (the regions deactivated when we are experiencing feelings of love are involved in reasoning and judgment) and also when s/he is experiencing feelings of hate.

However, it should also be noted that fewer regions in this part of the brain are deactivated when the person is experiencing feelings of hate.

This finding may help to explain the neurological underpinnings of the origin of the expression that ‘love is blind’ (i.e. when feeling intense love, all reasoning and judgment tends to go out of the window and we are, to put it colloquially, liable to be led irrationally by the heart rather than rationally by the mind).

Furthermore, the fact that fewer regions of this brain region seem to be deactivated when people experience feeling of hate may be a kind of safely mechanism to prevent them from, for example, resorting to excessive, unnecessary and perhaps, ultimately, self-defeating violence in response to these feelings.

Indeed, the author of the study suggests that the cerebral cortex is less deacivated when people feel hate than it is when people feel love because when they feel hate they need to be able to reason effectively so that they can be sufficiently calculating when it comes to exacting revenge! Such calculation, more relevant to our ancient ancestors, may involve judging if a physical fight could potentially be won and what it would be necessary to do in any such fight to win it – alternatively, it might be necessary to judge whether a violent attack on an opponent will backfire as said opponent is of vastly superior physical strength.

One can, perhaps, tentatively infer from this that evolutionary processes have determined that we are less rational in response to feelings of love than we are in response to feelings of hate.

In any event, it seems the fine line between love and hate, and the propensity, especially in the case of BPD sufferers, to flip suddenly between the two has a neurological basis.

RESOURCE :

Increase Your Emotional Intelligence | Self Hypnosis Downloads.

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

Attitudes Of Medical Professionals Towards BPD Sufferers

childhood-trauma

We have seen from other articles I have published on this site that if we suffered significant and protracted childhood trauma we are, as adults, at increased risk of developing borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Many specialists in the field are of the view that of all psychiatric conditions, BPD causes its sufferers the greatest amount of mental pain and anguish – indeed, this is borne out by the generally accepted statistic that approximately 1 in 10 BPD sufferers will eventually kill themselves.

It is particularly tragic, therefore, that it seems that there still exists a great deal of prejudice towards BPD sufferers. And I don’t just mean amongst lay-people who lack understanding of, and education about, the condition, but also amongst those who should know better : namely those who work within the medical profession itself and are responsible for their care and safety.

This unfortunate state of affairs is exacerbated further when one considers that many BPD sufferers have been demonized throughout their lives (including, often, by one or both of their parents) and have come to internalize such demonization, seeing themselves as intrinsically and irredeemably ‘bad’ ; so to meet with similar disparaging attitudes amongst those to whom one turns, often in absolute desperation, for support can be devastating and can potentially tip BPD sufferers over the precipice (most BPD sufferers are perpetually living their lives on the edge of said precipice most, or all, of the time).

RESEARCH PROVIDING EVIDENCE OF STIGMATIZATION OF BPD SUFFERERS WITHIN THE MEDICAL PROFESSION :

STUDY 1 :

Reseachers (Black et al.) surveyed 706 clinicians who were responsible for treating BPD patients and found that a large minority expressed a preference not to work with such patients.

STUDY 2 :

An Italian study (Lanfredi et al.) investigated caring attitudes towards BPD sufferers amongst 860 mental health professionals (these included social workers, educators working in social health, nurses, psychiatrists and psychologists). It was found that :

  • nurses and social workers scored significantly lower on caring attitudes towards BPD sufferers than psychologists, psychiatrists and social health educators.
  • those mental health professionals who had more years experience in mental health and those who had had training in working with BPD patients, overall, scored higher in terms of their caring attitudes towards BPD sufferers compared to those with fewer years of experience / no training in working with BPD sufferers.

The researchers who conducted the above study concluded that training in working with BPD sufferers should be targeted at those clinicians who are less experienced and professional groups for whom such training is less accessible.

STUDY 3 :

A study carried out by Imbeau et al., looked at the attitude of General Physicians and Family Medicine Residents towards patients with a BPD diagnosis.

In total, the study involved 35 General Physicians and 40 Family Medicine Residents. Their attitudes towards their BPD patients was measured using the ATTITUDES TOWARD PEOPLE WITH BPD SCALE (ABPDS; Bouchard, 2001).

This scale is divided into 2 subcales :

SUBSCALE ONE : COMFORT WHEN INTERACTING WITH SOMEONE WHO HAS BPD.

SUBSCALE TWO : POSITIVE PERCEPTIONS ABOUT BPD.

It was found that the attitudes of General Physicians towards people with BPD was similar to the attitudes of mental health professionals towards people with BPD.

However, it was also found that Family Medicine Residents’ attitudes towards people with BPD were less positive than the attitudes displayed by General Physicians and mental health professionals.

Furthermore, and reinforcing the findings of Lanfredi et al’s study, it was found that less experienced clinicians had less positive attitudes towards BPD sufferers than their more experienced colleagues.

This also serves to emphasize the conclusion drawn from Lanfredi et al’s study, namely that training of clinicians dealing with people with BPD needs to be a key focus to help ensure these highly vulnerable and anguished patients receive the treatment they deserve.

STUDY 4 :

A Spanish study (Castell) also found negative attitudes within the medical profession and, like the studies cited above, also stressed the importance of training such mental health professionals so that the gain a better understanding of the causes of, nature of, and treatment for borderline personality disorder.

OTHER USEFUL ARTICLES :

You may also wish to read my previously published articles about dialectical behavior therapy, other treatment options for BPD , BPD and psychodynamic therapy and BPD and remission.

eBook :

bpd ebook

Above eBook now available on Amazon for instant download : CLICK HERE.

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

A Letter From A Disgruntled BPD Sufferer To His GP

An open letter (although names have been redacted to preserve anonymity).

Dear Doctor ****

Thank you for seeing me on Friday. At the end of our consultation, I asked if I should make another appointment and you said, ‘No, just touch base.’ I was not sure what you meant by this (finding the comment ambiguous) so I thought the best thing to do was write. I will keep it brief as I can so as not to tale up too much more of your time.

First, allow me to place this letter in context :

As consultation of your notes will no doubt confirm, I have a diagnosis of BPD. This, of course, is a very serious condition. Indeed, the best research indications are that 10 per cent of BPD sufferers will eventually die by suicide. I do not know if this statistics is reflected by your practices own statistics, or even if it records such data.

Despite this alarming statistic, you may also be aware that, according to several studies published in academic journals of high repute, there exist within the medical profession many negative attitudes towards BPD sufferers

However, there is now overwhelming body of evidence suggesting that the disorder is related to abnormal brain development brought about by developmental trauma (i.e. trauma during childhood, particularly early childhood).

Furthermore, specialists in the field are of the view that of all psychiatric conditions, BPD inflicts the greatest mental pain and anguish on sufferers.

Anyway, that’s the conrext of the letter set. I now turn to a consideration of the consultation you were kind enough to provide me with today.

Because I am acutely aware of time restrictions in consultations, I came prepared with a list (though by no means an exhaustive one) of some of my main symptoms. Obviously you cannot be expected to recall the symptoms this list and I am not sure whether or not you kept a record of them. Therefore, to refresh your memory, I reproduce the list below :

1) Severe sleep disturbance, including extremely frequent waking, extremely disturbing nightmares / vivid dreams and thrashing about in sleep (sometimes tesulting in knocking things off my bedside tabe).
2) Frequent exteneded periods of hyperventilation.
3) Severe head pain / feelings of profound psychological distress the nature of which is difficult to articulate.
4) Periods of feeling extremely on edge / hypervigilant / overloaded by feelings of stress
5) At other times, periods of such deep exhaustion and lethargy that I stay in bed for 20 hours at a time but only sleep very fitfully and shallowly or else am in a state of that feels like a kind of very unpleasant, semi-conscious delerium.
6) Distressing intrusive, circular and ultimately futile thoughts and negative ruminations.
7) Concerns about the possible effects of many years of severe chronic stress on my physical health (e.g. excessive cotisol production and inflammation) particularly when one also takes into account my inability to stop smoking, tendency to try to calm myself with carbohydrtaes, and possible detrimental biological effects of anti-psychotic medication ; as you know, I already have diabetes.

I suggested I see a sleep specialist or neurologist but you doubted this would be helpful or even possible. 

I also suggested I was suffering from Complex PTSD and explained that I have reason to hold this view, in large part (though other factors of course will have been of play), because I suffered severe developmental / childhood psychological trauma This, however, did not appear to be a theory you were keen to pursue (although I accept this might have been due to time pressures).

After our discussion, the treatment you did recommend was the joining of an exercise and wellbeing class that I think runs on Friday afternoons. I have not yet signed up for this but thank you for idea which, as I said to you, I thought would be of potential benefit.

However, I seem to recall from a while back that during an appointment with Dr —— it was suggested that I might be able to obtain EMDR therapy on the NHS (even though there would inevitably be a long waiting list. I wonder if this is still available. Alternatively, can I obtain dialectical behaviour therapy, mindfulness-based CBT, cognitive analytic therapy or biofeedback training on the NHS?)

As I alluded to above, I am aware of various peer-reviewed studies published in academic journals that suggest there can be a certain level of prejudice, within the medical profession itself, towards those who have been diagnosed with BPD even to the extent that it can lead to deliberate avoidance of BPD sufferers, deeming them unworthy of help and admitting to not acting in their best interests ; if you have reason to concur, or feel I might be subjected to such discrimination in the future, I would appreciate your support.

Because I have mentioned Dr ——- in this letter, I shall, as a matter of courtesy, send her a hard copy of it. For the surgery’s records, I shall also send a hard copy of it to your Practice Manager.

Thank you again for seeing me and for your offer to join the Friday exercise class.

Yours sincerely,

P.S. When I told you about my negative ruminations, you responded that cows ruminate but only because they don’t have digestive systems. I am still pondering the relevance of this enigmatic observation.


Posttraumatic Growth : Trauma And Creativity

childhood-trauma

I have written elsewhere on this site in several previously published posts how, ultimately, even extremely serious and protracted trauma can lead to what is termed posttraumatic growth which involves an individual developing in ways that would not have occurred had it not been for his / her traumatic experiences.

One such positive outcome which may follow trauma is that of a transformation of the pain one has sffered into acts of creativity – three examples that spring immediately to mind are Dostoevsky’s The House Of The Dead, Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning and Wilde’s De Profundis.

David Aberbach, author of the highly recommended book Surviving Trauma : Loss And Literature, has made a study of the association betweeen trauma (specifically, unresolved grief) and creativity and, in so doing, has drawn several interesting conclusions. I summarize these conclusions below :

  • creativity in response to trauma provides a much needed sense of control after the traumatic experience itself has undermined one’s sense of control.
  • distressing emotional activity can be positively channelled – there is a quote from Virginia Wolfe which reflects this idea :

How many times have people used a pen or paintbrush because they couldn’t pull the trigger?’ – Virginia Wolfe.

  • one becomes aware of qualities that exist within oneself that have been lying dormant and that would not have been revealed were it not for the traumatic catalyst.
  • the trauma itself may not be fully mastered, but a sense of compensation for this can be achieved by mastering something else of significance.
  • the creative work may be of great value to others – so somethiong positive has come out of one’s negative experiences, reducing our self-destructive feelings that the time spent living through the trauma has been wasted.

STUDY OF 234 PROFESSIONAL PERFORMERS :

A longitudinal study carried out at California State University found that those who had suffered significantly traumatic childhoods were more likely than those who had experienced relatively stable childhoods to experience intensely creative impulses (as well as psychological pathologies, as firmly established by a vast array of other research, much of which is examined on this site).

The study involved 232 participants comprising :

  • 20 musicians and opera singers.
  • 129 dancers.
  • 83 actors, directors and designers.

Using self-reports provided from the participants, the researchers found those who had suffered extremely high levels of childhood trauma were more prone to internalized shame, anxiety and fantasies.

They also found that this group of participants were more engaged with creative processes and more likely to experience feelings of inspiration.

Furthermore, these individuals were found to be particularly receptive to art in general and had a greater appreciation of the transformational power of creativity.

Based on these findings, the researchers hypothesized that the creative process may be realted to an individual’s resilience in the face of adversity.

CHILDHOOD TRAUMA, THE BRAIN, DISSOCIATION AND CREATIVITY :

We have seen from numerous other articles that I have previously published on this site that those who have suffered severe and protracted childhood trauma are at risk of suffering impaired physical development of the brain in regions such as the hippocampus and the amygdala due to the excessive need to be hypervigilant (because of constant fear of a parent or primary caretaker becoming abusive – either emotionally or physically – which can lead to us becoming trapped in a perpetual state of ‘fight or flight’ ; this, in turn, can lead to the brain being over-exposed to adrenalin as we are growing up, which is one of the factors that cause the physical harm).

However, in such circumstances, the brain can also protect itself by inducing in the trauma victim feelings of dissociation (in relation to this, you may wish to read my previously published articles ; ‘Two Opposite Ways The Child Responds To Stress : Hypervigilance And Dissociation’ or ‘Is Your Predominant Response To Trauma Flooding Or Dissociation?’).

Dissociation is a defense mechanism which helps the individual to disconnect mentally from the reality of their traumatic circumstances – so it can be viewed as a self-prorective mental escape which may, for example, include going into a ‘fantasy world’ or developing ‘imaginary friends’, (both of which psychologically protective techniques are themselves forms of creativity) – and research suggests (e.g. Ross) that such psychological processes may help protect the brain from physical hatm (or, more specifically, from astrophying).

Indeed, there is also increasing evidence of a link between acute dissociative states, ‘hyperassociative cognition’ / ‘fluidity of association’ and creativity (Van der Kloet et al. 2013 / Chakravarty, 2010). Interestingly, too, this area of research has produced evidence suggesting that those who suffer from severe dissociation as a result of trauma are also prone to sleep disturbance and may experience less deep sleep and more R.E.M. sleep (R.E.M. sleep is the stage of sleep in which we dream / experience nightmares – dreaming / experiencing nightmares, too, of course, are forms creative activity, albeit an unconscious ones).

All that we see and seem is but a dream within a dream. I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.‘ Edgar Allan Poe.

OTHER THEORIES :

  • Forgeard (University of Pennsylvania) suggests that those suffering from mental anguish may use creative activities as a form of self-therapy.
  • ‘Orpanhood Effect’ : This term refers to the theory that those individuals orpahaned early in life are more likely than the average individual to develop creative talents (especially as writers). According to Csikszentmihalyi, this phenomenon may be due the fact that losing one’s parents early in life can lead to social isolation which, in turn, may mean the individual is less likely to be indoctrinated with the kind of socially conventional thinking which could inhibit creativity.
  • Shattered Assumptions Theory : If we suffer severe trauma, a frequent effect is that our ‘pre-trauma’ view of the world is ‘shattered’ and, as a result. we see the world ‘through new eyes.’ This can lead to the kind of new and original insights that fuel creativity.

Boost Your Creativity and Realise Your Creative Potential

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

Reframing The Past : How To Reframe Traumatic Memories

childhood-trauma

THE INDOCTRINATION OF NEGATIVE CORE BELIEFS :

Many of us who have experienced significant and protracted childhood trauma have, as adults, suffered from the inadvertent internalization of our parents’ (or caretakers’) attitude and feelings towards us as we were growing up and, as a result, may have come to develop deeply painful core beliefs about ourselves ; commonly, these beliefs revolve around a deeply entrenched self-concept of being ‘unlovable’ and ‘bad‘, particularly if we were rejected (either explicitly or implicitly).

Compounding this problem, for reasons I have explained elsewhere, we may have idealized our parents – even if we were badly abused by them, making our internaliztion of their damaging attitudes and behaviors even more unshakable and tenacious.

One way we may be able to address our fixation upon these debilitating, self-lacerating ideas about ourselves, instilled in us when we were profoundly vulnerable, and to free ourselves from the feelings of torment they induce, is by REFRAMING THE PAST.

WHAT DOES REFRAMING THE PAST ENTAIL ?

Reframing the past involves giving ourselves the power to see our true potential, unsullied by what our parents (either deliberately or as a function of their lack of sensitivity / insight) might have taught us to believe (e.g. that we are worthless and uncceptable as a human being).

In so doing, we can potentially be free from viewing ourselves through the distorted lense we have so far, through no fault of our own and as if hypnotized by an evil mesmerist, gaze through.

In this way, we can hopefully start to see what we may really be able to achieve in important areas of life, such as relationships and work. opening up opportunities for ourselves that may otherwise have been denied us.

THE RELEVANCE OF THE CONCEPT OF POSTTRAUMATIC GROWTH :

According to the psychiatrist, Harold Bloomfield, author of the excellent book : ‘Making Peace With The Past’, whilst we are obviously impotent to change the past, what we are able to do is to change how we experience it, our attitude to it and how it emotionally affects us from now on by changing our (hitherto) habitual response to it.

In relation to this, Bloomfield advises us to reinterpret the implications of the traumatic events of our childhood by asking ourselves questions such as how the experiences have made us stronger and what wisdom we have gained from them.

Indeed, there is a whole field of study devoted to investigating how traumatic experiences can actually, ultimately, improve us as an individual called posttraumatic growth (about which I have published several articles on this site previously – e.g. you may wish to read my post entitled : The Main Elements Of Posttraumatic Growth.).

You may also wish to read my related post : Posttraumatic Growth : Reconstructing The Life Story We Tell Ourselves.

CONVERSATIONAL REFRAMING COURSE FOR THERAPISTS | UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE : CLICK HERE.

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

Migraine And Its Link To Childhood Trauma

childhood-trauma

We have seen from many other articles that I have published on this site that those of us who suffered severe and protracted childhood trauma, particularly if our esperiences have led us to develop such mental health issues as complex posttraumatic stress disorder or borderline personality disorder, are at much increased risk of developing constant feelings of hypervigilance as adults. This is because our childhood experiences have led us to develop the core belief (on either a conscious or unconscious level) that the world is essentially an unsafe place (see ‘Shattered Assumptions’ Theory) necessitating that we are perpetually alert to impending danger (whether such danger is real or, as it is far more frequently, imagined).

Indeed, according to Mobbs, overactivity in the brain’s fear circuitary may be a fundamental feature of complex posttraumatic stress disorder ,as well as other psychiatric conditions.

migraine

One such other condition is, according to Nick Potter, a pain specialist and author of the excellent book -‘The Meaning Of Pain’ that of migraine which Potter regards as being fundamentally caused by the continuous activation of the fear respone in the brain stem – leading to what he refers to as ‘physiological hypervigilance‘ – which, in turn, spreads to regions of the brain’s cortex.

Although Potter identifies numerous factors that may increase a person’s risk of suffering from physiologicaj hypervigilance, and, thus, accodingly increase his / her risk of suffering from migraines, he also draws attention to his view that it is important to consider factors in the migraine sufferer’s childhood that may be responsible; these include : having a parent who is an alcoholic, losing a parent (through death or divorce), having emotionally distant parents, having manipulative or narcissistic parents or having rigidly religious parents (amongst other significant childhood traumas).

Given the possible relevance of an individual’s disturbed childhood to their suffering from migraines, Potter advocates the benefits of making the patient aware of this possible connection so that, if deemed necessary, more appropriate therapeutic interventions (i.e. those that address the childhood trauma) may be selected.

You may wish to read my related articles :

Combat Migraines Before They Start | Self Hypnosis Downloads

Overcome Hypervigilance | Self Hypnosis Downloads

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