Category Archives: Anger And Violence

Often Aggressive? Is Your Sensorimotor System Primed To Deal With Threat?

sensorimotor system

Are You Easily Provoked Into Angry And Aggressive Behavior?

After my mother threw me out of her house when I was thirteen years old and I was reluctantly taken in by my father and step-mother (which I have written about elsewhere in this site, so I won’t repeat the details), I was quickly labelled by my unwilling new custodians as ‘morose’ and ‘hostile ‘ (amongst other less than complimentary descriptors); whilst perhaps less than helpful, I am forced to confess that these two adjectives had not been applied to me wholly inaccurately.

Whilst I see now that my ‘moroseness’ and ‘hostility’ were directly symptomatic of my experiences during my early life (I have also written about this elsewhere), this basic inference was emphatically not drawn by my father and new wife. To them I was just a ‘bad’ child, possibly even ‘evil’ (my step-mother was intensely, pathologically religious and, soon after I moved in I recall, as vividly as if it were happening now, her shouting at me in some utterly indecipherable way and in no language I had ever heard before ; she was, in fact, speaking in what she believed, or pretended to believe and wanted me to believe, were ‘tongues’).

But back to my hostility, or, more accurately, to a consideration of individuals in general who are more than averagely  prone to hostile / aggressive / angry behavior.

If we, in our early lives, were habitually threatened and made to feel unsafe  by our parents / primary caregivers then, over time, our sensorimotor system may have become ‘primed for threat’ (this is the case because it would have been evolutionary adaptive for our distant ancestors).  In other words, it may have become highly sensitive and driven into overdrive in response to the smallest, perceived provocation.

This, in turn, means that as adults, when we perceive a threat that in any way reminds us (usually on an unconscious level) of our frightening childhood experiences (even though we are, objectively speaking, in no danger in the present)  our sensorimotor system is liable to become automatically activated (e.g. discharge of the sympathetic nervous system, increased adrenalin production, increased heart-rate, tensed muscles etc, all of which, in turn, stimulate emotional arousal) in such a way that we become, whether we like it or not, disproportionately and inappropriately aggressive.

Such behavior is automatic and beyond conscious control because when such reminders of past dangers occur (often called ‘flashbacks’), cognitive processing is inhibited (i.e. our rational thinking processes essentially ‘shut down’) and we become devoid of the reasoning capacity necessary to realize that we are, at the present time, in fact, safe.

Instead of realizing we are safe, we automatically become hyperaroused and experience strong impulses to lash out verbally or even physically). This can be regarded, as far as our unconscious motivation is concerned) asdefensive aggression‘ ; we are overtaken by a desperate need to ensure we are not hurt again in the way we were hurt as children (I stress again that  we often will not be consciously aware that this is the driving force behind our overly aggressive and hostile reactions).

For survivors of childhood trauma, such automatic responses can cause myriad problems including frequent, destructive, impulsive behavior. This can lead to individual to feel profoundly ashamed and to see him/herself as seriously, psychologically flawed, unstable and often incapable of rational reflection, unaware of the underlying problem : how his/her sensorimotor system has been, due to early-life trauma, conditioned (now maladaptively) to operate.

 

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

Antisocial Personality Disorder – A Psychodynamic Explanation

antisocial

Antisocial Personality Disorder And The Early Life Of Sufferers :

According to Meroy (1988), those who go on to develop antisocial personality disorder as adults have frequently experienced a dysfunctional relationship with their mothers during infancy, including a failure to form a healthy emotional bond with her – this could be for a variety of reasons that include maternal mental illness, emotional deprivation, rejection, abuse and/or neglect.

Stranger Self-Object :

Meroy also suggests that the person suffering from antisocial personality disorder has a self based upon an ‘aggressive introject’, referred to as a ‘stranger self-object.’

An introject can be defined as : an unconscious defense mechanism in which an individual (especially a child) absorbs , and replicates in himself, the personality traits of another person into his/her own psyche.

The aggressive introject is referred to as the stranger self-object because it reflects the child’s experience of the parent as a kind of ‘stranger’ who cannot be trusted and who harbors nefarious intent towards him/her (i.e. the child).

As a child, the future antisocial personality disorder sufferer perceives his/her primary caregiver (usually the mother) as being unloving, cruel, emotionally distant and cold, unempathic, uncaring and a threat / aggressive / prone to hurting him/her ; s/he then introjects (see above) these characteristics.

Failure To Develop Meaningful Empathy Or Internalize Rules :

Furthermore, s/he generalizes the negative characteristics s/he perceives to exist in the harmful primary- caregiver onto others so that his/her basic template for relating to other people in general excludes trust, empathy and healthy emotional bonding.

This, in turn, leads him/her to be unable to develop meaningful empathy with others, making it possible for him/her to hurt these others without experiencing feelings of remorse.

Failure to identify with parents due to early life dysfunctional relationships with them can also frequently lead to non-internalization of rule based systems which, in turn, makes it far more likely that the child will grow up without respect for the rules of society in general (which is, of course, a hallmark of the antisocial personality).

‘Sadistic’ Attempts To Bond :

Because of the failure of emotional bonding in early life with his/her mother, the antisocial personality disorder sufferer, as an adult, becomes essentially emotionally detached from his/her relationships and any attempts s/he does make to bond with others are frequently sadistic (based upon control and other destructive behaviors).

‘Superego Lacunae’ :

Because those suffering from antisocial personality disorder do not experience remorse when they hurt others, some psychodynamic theorists speculate that they are also unable to experience true depression (in relation to this idea, you may wish to read my article entitled : Do Only Good’ People Get Depressed?). Kernberg (1984) suggests that such individuals usually have severely underdeveloped superegos and that even high functioning antisocial individuals, who do, in fact, have some nascent and perfunctory development of their conscience, still have very substantial deficits in relation to it which Kernberg referred to as superego lucanae.

Kernberg also put forward the notion that those who suffer from antisocial personality disorder :

  • do not tend to be interested in rationalizing their behavior
  • do not tend to be interested in morally justifying their behavior

RESOURCE :

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Infanticide And Mental Illness

infanticide

What Is Infanticide?

At the severest end of the spectrum of childhood maltreatment lies the extremely rare and tragic act of infanticide which is defined as the killing of the child in his or her first year of life. The main focus of this article will be to examine parental infanticide (i.e. cases in which the infant is killed by a parent) together with how mental illness is frequently associated with this deeply disturbing phenomenon.

How Common Is Infanticide?

Infanticide is extremely rare. In the U.S., it is estimated that approximately 350 to 700 acts of infanticide are committed each year which is the equivalent of between about one and two cases per day on average.

Five Categories Of Perpetrators Of Infanticide :

According to the researchers Meyer and Oberman, there exist five main categories of women who commit infanticide (the sample they used for their study was made up of females from the U.S.). These five categories are as follows :
1) Those who kill their baby during the twenty-four hours immediately following birth (this is technically known as neonaticide). The researchers also suggested that the females in this category can be further divided into two, more specific, sub-categories :
  • those who have kept their pregnancy a secret and do not want it discovered that they had ever had a baby.
  • those who are severely afflicted by the psychological states of denial, dissociation and depersonalization

2) Women who kill their infant, aided and abetted by a physically abusive partner.

3) Women who kill their infant indirectly through gross neglect.

4) Women who have lost control of ‘disciplining’ their infant to such an extreme degree that this has actually resulted in his/her death (e.g. angry and violent shaking of the infant in a fit of frustration and rage).

5) Deliberate infanticide which may be linked to severe mental illness in the mother such as :

  • postpartum depression
  • postpartum psychosis
  • schizophrenia (especially in cases in which the individual has discontinued their medication against medical advise).

N.B. However, it is worth reiterating the fact infanticide is an extremely rare crime and that in the vast majority of cases those suffering from mental illness pose no danger to others.

Infanticide, Mental Illness And Legal Implications :

Spinelli (2004) points out that in the UK the Infanticide Law provides probation and makes psychiatric treatment mandatory in the case of mentally ill mothers who commit infanticide, whilst, in the United States, similar individuals may face the ultimate punishment – the death penalty.
Furthermore, Spinelli informs us, recent neuroscientific research demonstrates that women afflicted by postpartum psychosis and who commit infanticide require treatment rather than punishment and that such treatment is effective in reducing the probability that the individual will repeat her crime in the future.

Conclusion :

Finally, Spinelli concludes that, in light of the above, psychiatrists play a crucial role in diagnosing postpartum psychosis (and similar psychiatric conditions) and then providing appropriate treatment. Additionally, she suggests that there should be greater sharing of knowledge between the psychiatric community and the legal community about the effects of mental illness on behavior so that, where appropriate, punishment of individuals is replaced by effective treatment.

 

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

BPD Sufferers Need To Be ‘Held’ According To Theory

holding

Buie And Adler :

Buie and Adler propose that the pathology displayed by sufferers of borderline personality disorder (BPD) such as instability, uncontrolled rage and anger, can be attributed, primarily, to early dysfunction in the relationship between the individual as a young child and his/her mother.

More specifically, Buie and Adler hypothesize that, as a young child, the BPD sufferer was insufficiently ‘held’ by the mother, particularly during the rapproachment phase of interactions.

What Is Meant, In Psychotherapy, By ‘Holding’?

In psychotherapeutic terms, the word ‘holding’ does not necessarily entail literal, physical holding (although, ideally, of course, a mother would physically hold her young child when s/he was distressed and in need of comfort), but can also involve its emotional equivalent (verbally comforting and soothing the child, for example).

However, because of the mother’s failure to sufficiently ‘hold’ (physically, emotionally or both) the BPD sufferer when s/he was a young child in distress, s/he never had the opportunity to internalize adequate maternal ‘holding’ behavior so that now, as an adult, s/he lacks the ability to self-soothe in response to the further distress that s/he will inevitably experience as an adult.

self-soothe

Profound Feelings Of Aloneness :

Buie and Adler further propose that the BPD sufferer’s inability to ‘self-sooth’ at times of high stress leads to a pervasive and profound sense of aloneness ; indeed, Buie and Adler consider this deep sense of loneliness to be a core feature of the BPD sufferer’s psychological experience and describe it in the following manner :

‘an experience of isolation and emptiness occasionally turning into panic and desperation.’

Projection :

Also, according to Buie and Adler, BPD sufferers use the psychological defense mechanism of projection in relation to their profound feelings of inner isolation which means, in short, that they project these feelings onto the external environment, and, as a result of this, perceive the outside world, and life in general, to be empty, meaningless and devoid of purpose.

Longing To Be Held By Idealized Others :

Furthermore, Buie and Adler propose that this inability to self-soothe and self-nurture (due to the original failure to internalize maternal holding behavior, itself a result of the mother’s dysfunctional interaction with the BPD sufferer when s/he was a young child) leads to intense, desperate longing and desire to be ‘held’ by idealized others.

Separation Anxiety :

Additionally, according to Buie and Adler, such longings perpetually leave the BPD sufferer vulnerable to feelings of extreme separation anxiety.

Rage :

Because of the BPD sufferer’s proneness to idealize others (see above), Buie and Adler point out that this can lead to him/her (i.e. the BPD sufferer) to develop extremely exacting expectations of such idealized others that it is not possible for them (i.e. the idealized others) to live up to.

This inevitable failure of the idealized others to live up to the BPD sufferer’s stratospheric expectations can then induce feelings of extreme rage and anger in him/her (i.e. the BPD sufferer) directed at the ‘failed’, idealized other.

Implications For Therapy :

In line with their theory, Buie and Adler put forward the view that it is the role of the therapist to provide the holding and soothing functions that the BPD sufferer is not capable of providing for him/herself. The ultimate goal of this is that the BPD sufferer is eventually able to internalize these functions (holding and self-soothing) so that s/he learns to provide them for him/herself in a way that s/he was unable to as a child due to the defective nature of the mothering s/he received.

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

 

3 Core Unmet Needs Underlying Emotional Pain

3 core unmet needs underlying emotional pain

Core Unmet Needs

Many of us who have suffered significant childhood trauma experience intense emotional pain as adults; such pain my present itself as severe anxiety, depression or anger, for example.

According to Timulak et al., 2012, three core unmet needs underlie such emotional suffering; these are :

  • unmet needs for safety and security
  • unmet needs for love and meaningful connection to others
  • unmet needs for acceptance, validation and recognition by others 

Sadly, such unmet needs frequently stem from growing up in a  dysfunctional family. (To read my previously published article : Dysfunctional Families : Types And Effects, click here).

 

Core Feelings Associated With Core Unmet Needs :

Timulak elaborates on the above by stating that these three core unmet needs are associated with corresponding core feelings as shown below :

  • unmet needs for safety and security are associated with feelings of fear and insecurity
  • unmet needs for love and meaningful connection to others are associated with feelings of sadness and loneliness
  • unmet needs for acceptance, validation and recognition by others are associated with feelings of shame and worthlessness

emotional pain

Secondary Distress And Obscured Core Unmet Needs And Feelings :

Timulak also alerts us to the fact that when individuals suffering from emotional pain present themselves to therapists, their core unmet needs and corresponding core feelings may be obscured and concealed because these are overlayed by surface, ‘secondary distress’ (i.e. distressing, surface feelings that have their roots in the underlying core unmet needs and associated core feelings).

Examples of such ‘secondary distress’ / ‘surface feelings’, Timulak states, include :

  • feelings of helplessness
  • feelings of hopelessness
  • feelings of depression
  • feelings of anger
  • feelings of anxiety
  • somatisation (e.g. insomnia, physical tension, exhaustion, teeth grinding, stomach pains, chest pains, loss of appetite, headaches, dizziness etc.)

Conclusion :

It is important for patients and therapists to consider the possible core issues that may lie beneath adverse surface feelings (secondary distress). Often, these core issues will have their roots in childhood trauma.

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

 

Three Types Of Child ‘School Shooter.’

school shooters

Is Dismissing ‘School Shooters’ As ‘Evil’, Whilst Entirely Understandable, Too Simplistic?

In the wake of another tragic school shooting in Florida, USA, it is utterly understandable, of course, that many choose to explain such appalling tragedies using phrases such as ‘it was simply an act of pure evil.’ However, do such explanations (based on entirely natural emotional responses with which we all sympathize) prevent us from looking for more complex, deep-rooted causes? And, if there are more complex and deep-rooted explanations, shouldn’t they be studied so as to help prevention of future, similar occurrences?

Langam PhD, in his excellent book, ‘Why Kids Kill’, attempts to do exactly this. Based on his research, he has theorized that those individuals whom he terms ‘school shooters’ fall into three main categories (though he accepts there may well be other categories that his own research has, as yet, not identified).

what causes school shooters?

Three Categories Of ‘School Shooters’ :

The three categories of ‘school shooters’ identified by Langam are as follows :

  1. Individuals who are psychopathic
  2. Individuals who are psychotic
  3. Individuals who are traumatized

Let’s look at each of these three categories in turn :

  1. Psychopathic ‘school shooters’ :

Langam describes certain personality features of psychopathic ‘school shooters’ which may contribute to their lethal behavior. First, he says, they are egotistical, meaning that they consider themselves to be in some way fundamentally and intrinsically superior to ‘the mere mortals’ with whom they are infuriatingly forced live alongside. Second, they are egocentric, meaning they are highly focused on placing their own needs far above the needs of others. 

Furthermore, Langam describes this category of ‘school shooters’ as being amoral, lacking a conscience (including the capacity to feel guilt or remorse), lacking empathy for the feelings of others and as having problems controlling anger.

Also, Langam points out, psychopaths may be superficially charming, thus making their true intentions much more difficult to detect and making it easier for them to manipulate others.

Finally, Langam states that, whilst not all psychopaths are sadistic, those he examined during the course of his own research were sadistic. A person with a sadistic personality shows an enduring propensity to indulge in aggressive and / or cruel behavior, enjoys witnessing the suffering of others, and is prone instil fear in others in order to be better able to manipulate them. They may also enjoy deprecating, demeaning, devaluing, disparaging and humiliating others.

Notwithstanding the above, however, sometimes so-called psychopathic traits in adolesents may be symptomatic of profound feelings of inner, emotional distress.

          2. Psychotic ‘school shooters’ :

Those suffering from psychotic illnesses lose touch with reality’ (although this may only happen occasionally and need not be a permanent state) and the main symptoms of psychosis are delusions and hallucinations.

Hallucinations are most commonly auditory (frequently referred to as ‘hearing voices’) but may also be visual (self-explanatory), tactile (e.g. feeling as if insects are crawling over one’s skin), olfactory (‘smelling’ odors e.g ‘of dead people’ when such smells are, in fact, utterly absent), gastatory (sensing ‘tastes’ in the absence of a physical stimulus e.g. believing one can ‘taste poison’ in one’s food) or proprioceptive (hallucinations of posture e.g. feeling one is floating, flying, having an ‘out of body’ experience, believing part of one’s body to be in a different location or feeling the ‘presence’ a limb that has been amputated (phantom limb syndrome).

Delusions are blatantly false beliefs that are held with absolute conviction, unalterable (even in the face of powerful counterargument and contradictory evidence), and, frequently, bizarre and / or patently untrue (Karl Jasper).

Langam states that, amongst ‘school shooters’, common delusions are :

  • DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR
  • PARANOID DELUSIONS

In the group of ‘school shooters’ which Langam based his research on, he reports that delusions of grandeur held by these individuals included beliefs about being ‘godlike’ and that paranoid delusions that they held included believing that ‘people, gods, demons, or monsters were intending to harm or kill them.’

3. Traumatized ‘school shooters’ :

Langam reminds us that traumatized / abused children trquently suffer consequences that include ‘anxiety, depression, hostility, shame, despair and hopelessness‘ and that they may, too, suffer a ‘reduced capacity for feeling emotions‘ and ‘feel cut off and detached from othersthreatened…and paranoid‘. And, further, they may suffer from constant ‘hypervigilance‘ (constantly anticipating danger / a feeling of being permanently in a sate of ‘red-alert’), self-destructiveness, self-harm, suicdal ideation and a propensity to behave violently.

It almost goes without saying, therefore, that the above provides yet further compelling evidence for the necessity to therapeutically intervene at the earliest possible opportunity when young people are displaying symptoms of emotional turmoil, traumatization and incipient mental illness (although, of course, it should, equally, hardly need saying that most such individuals are of no danger to others and are far more likely to be a danger to themselves due to self-harm (including heavy drinking, binge-eating, drug-taking, heavy smoking, anorexia and suicidal ideation / behavior) and general self-destructive behavior.

eBook :

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Above eBook now available for instant download from Amazon. Click here for further details or to view other titles.

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

 

What Types Of Parents Are More Likely To Physically Abuse Their Children?

why do parents physically abuse their children?

Stith’s (2009) Meta-Analysis :

A study carried out by Stith et al. (2009) reviewed 155 other studies (this is called a meta-analysis) that had already been carried out in order to identify factors that put the child at risk of physical abuse by his/her parents.

In order to identify these factors, one part of Stith’s study examined which particular characteristics of the parent put that person at increased risk of physically abusing his/her child. I list these characteristics below :

Characteristics Of Parents That Increase The Probability That They Will Be Physically Abusive Towards Their Child/Children (according to Stith’s, 2009 meta-analysis of 155 previously published studies) :

  • alcohol abuse by parent
  • the parent is single
  • the parent is unemployed
  • the parent abuses drugs
  • the parent approves of corporal punishment as a means of instilling discipline in / control over the child
  • parent has poor coping skills
  • parent has health problems
  • parent has poor problem solving skills
  • parent lacks social support
  • parent is involved in criminal behavior
  • parent is under significant stress
  • parent suffers from significant anxiety
  • parents suffers from mental illness
  • parent suffers from depression
  • parent suffers from low self-esteem
  • parent has problems controlling own anger
  • parent had dysfunctional relationship with own parent/s
  • parent suffers from hyper-reactivity / has poor control of emotions

Which Of The Above Are The Biggest Risk Factors?

According to Stith’s (2009) research, of the 18 risk factors listed above, those which put the parent at highest risk of physically abusing his/her child were as follows :

  • parental hyper-reactivity
  • parental problems controlling own anger

Other Considerations : Family Factors :

Stith also found that, in addition to the above factors, certain factors relating to the family could also increase the risk of a parent physically abusing his/her child. These were as follows :

  • poor level of family cohesion
  • significant conflict within the family
  • low level of marital satisfaction
  • violence between the spouses
  • low socioeconomic status
  • the family includes a non-biological parent
  • size of family
Which Of These Family Factors Put The Child Most At Risk Of Being Physically Abused Within The Home?

According to Stith’s (2009) research, of the seven risk factors listed above, those which put the parent at highest risk of physically abusing his/her child were as follows :

  • significant family conflict
  • poor level of family cohesion

Resources :

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eBook :

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Above eBook now available for instant download from Amazon. Click here for further details and/or to view other eBooks available by David Hosier MSc.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

Controlling Emotions : The Emotional Regulation System

controlling emotions

 

We have seen from other articles that I have published on this site that if, as children, we experienced, significant and protracted trauma we are at increased risk of developing various psychological difficulties as adults, including an increased risk of developing borderline personality disorder (BPD) and complex posttraumatic  stress disorder.

One of the hallmarks of BPD, as we have also seen from other articles, is that the sufferer of the condition finds it very difficult indeed to control intense and volatile emotions. In effect, the emotional regulation system of individuals diagnosed with BPD is out of kilter and dysfunctional.

What Is The Emotional Regulation System?

The emotional regulation system is fundamentally comprised of three interacting parts of the brain ; these are as follows :

  1. THE THREAT SYSTEM (detects and reacts to threats)
  2. THE DRIVE SYSTEM (motivates us to identify and seek resources)
  3. THE SOOTHING SYSTEM  (helps balance the two systems above and engenders in us a sense of well-being, satisfaction and contentment)

Each of these three systems is neither good nor bad per seas long as they are in balance and interacting in a healthy and functional way. However, each system is vulnerable to becoming dysfunctional (as occurs in the case of those suffering from BPD, for example). TO READ ABOUT WAYS IN WHICH THESE SYSTEMS CAN BECOME DYSFUNCTIONAL AND THERAPIES THAT CAN HELP, YOU MAY LIKE TO READ ANOTHER OF MY POSTS ON THE EMOTIONAL REGULATION SYSTEM BY CLICKING HERE.

how to control emotions

THE ROLE OF NEUROPLASTICITY IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE EMOTIONAL REGULATION SYSTEM :

The way in which the brain is shaped and develops depends, to a large degree, upon our early life experiences ; this is because of a quality of the brain known as neuroplasticity which you can read about by clicking here.

Because of the brain's neuroplasticity, if, when we are young, we are constantly exposed to fear and danger because, for example, of the abusive treatment we receive from a parent or primary care giver, the THREAT SYSTEM is at very high risk of being constantly over-activated in a way that leads it to operate in a dysfunctional manner ; this dysfunction takes the form of the 'fight/flight/freeze; response becoming hypersensitive, resulting in the affected individual developing grave difficulties keeping related emotions (such as anger, fear and anxiety) in check. Without appropriate therapy, such dysfunction may last well into adulthood or even for an entire lifetime.

On the other hand, if, when we are young, we experience consistent and secure love, care and emotional warmth from our parents / primary caregivers, our SOOTHING SYSTEM is 'nourished' and becomes optimally (or close to optimally) developed resulting in us becoming more able to cope with life's inevitable stressors, less vulnerable to feelings of anxiety and fear, and more able to calm ourselves down and 'self-sooth' than those who had who were brought up in an environment in which they were constantly exposed to fear and danger.

However, even if we have had a traumatic early life and have problems regulating our emotions, there are various, simple things we can do to us control our feelings (see below).

 

  • AVOID REACTING IMMEDIATELY / IMPULSIVELY : For example, if someone triggers our anger, rather than making a reflexive response (such as saying something we'll deeply regret later) it is better to wait until the rage has subsided - this may involve calming physiological symptoms like fast heart rate and tense muscles by using relaxation exercises such as deep breathing and visualization ; we may, therefore, need to remove ourselves for a while (if possible) from the presence of whoever it may be that has upset us.
  • MAKE POSITIVE ALTERATIONS TO THE SITUATION GIVING RISE TO OUR NEGATIVE EMOTIONS (although this will not always be feasible, of course)
  • ALTER FOCUS OF ATTENTION (e.g. undertaking a distracting activity)
  • ALTER WAY IN WHICH WE ARE THINKING ABOUT THE SITUATION : A therapy that can help with this is COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY (CBT).

USING NEUROPLASTICITY TO OUR ADVANTAGE :

Although the brain's quality of neuroplasticity can work against us if we experience a traumatic early life, we can also take advantage of it later in life to help reverse any damage that was done to the development of our young and vulnerable brains. In order to learn more about how this may be possible, you may wish read my article MENDING THE MIND : SELF-DIRECTED NEUROPLASTICITY.

DIALECTICAL BEHAVIORAL THERAPY (DBT) :

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a therapy that was designed primarily for those who are suffering from borderline personality disorder (see above). A particularly useful skill taught within this therapy is called DISTRESS TOLERANCE which can be very helpful for those experiencing emotional distress due to intense, negative feelings.

COMPASSION FOCUSED THERAPY (CFT) :

Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) can also be an effective therapy for those suffering from emotional dysregulation.

 

RESOURCE :

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further information.

 

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

Were You An Intensely Angry Child? A Possible Explanation.

intensely angry children

Anger displayed by traumatized children differs markedly from anger displayed by non-traumatized children. The anger exhibited by such traumatized children (in comparison with how anger tends to be exhibited by non-traumatized children):

  • is more extreme and intense
  • comes on more suddenly
  • is more difficult for carers of the child to calm
  • is more out of control
  • has a more ‘primal’ / visceral quality to it
  • can give rise to more obvious physiological changes (such as dilation of the pupils and tension of the facial muscles)

Why Does Such Extreme Anger Occur In Developmentally Traumatized Children?

Reasons for such extreme anger responses may occur because :

  • it is instinctive and hard-wired into the brain as a DEFENSE MECHANISM / SURVIVAL MECHANISM
  • the experience of severe and protracted trauma damages the biological development of the brain leading to extreme impairment of the child’s ability to regulate (control) his/her emotions
  • the child’s conscious and unconscious memories of his/her previous traumatic experiences
  • the child feels a deep sense of betrayal by his/her parents / primary caregivers
  • the child has fantasies of revenge against the parents / primary carers

causes of anger in children

Anger Result Of Underlying Fear And Need For Self-Protection :

The intense anger that traumatized children show is due to both conscious and unconscious fear. This fear does not only relate to perceived danger of being physically hurt, but also of being emotionally hurtthe latter is frequently linked to fear of rejection or of being over-powered and controlled.

The Pre-emptive Nature Of Intense Outbursts Of Rage :

To those who do not understand the child, his/her explosive outbursts of rage often seem very disproportionate to the precipitating event. However, there are actually logical reasons (even though the untutored observer may view the child’s behavior as ‘irrational’ and ‘illogical’) for the way in which the child reacts and the reasons are these : based both on the child’s conscious and unconscious memories of how s/he has been physically and/or emotionally endangered in the past, s/he is constantly on the alert for signs that further danger may be imminent.

Subtle Indications Of Imminent Danger :

This self-protective state of alert works on a ‘better safe than sorry’ basis which means the child is likely to react angrily / aggressively (and, I stress again, the anger / aggression functions as a defense, summed up by the maxim, ‘attack is the best form of defense’) to even very subtle signs that this danger may exist (such as slight changes in facial expressions or intonation which may be barely detectable to others.

A Desperate Need To Feel In Control :

As already alluded to above, the traumatized child’s proneness to extreme anger may frequently stem from a desperate need to be in control. This acute need is likely to relate to the child’s past experience of his/her parents / primary carers having abused their control and power over him/her in the past, resulting in physical or psychological injury to him/her. Therefore, the child is terrified  (on an either conscious or unconscious level) that not being in control will make him/her vulnerable to being harmed yet further.

The Need For Empathy :

Rather than being punished, children who have problems controlling their intense feelings of anger need their parents / primary carers to understand and empathize with the underlying reasons for the behavior and, based upon this understanding and empathy, to respond compassionately rather than judgmentally. Children who have been traumatized very frequently (and irrationally) blame themselves and are wracked with feelings of self-hatred. Their anger is a symptom of their trauma and being punished for it is likely to perpetuate their feelings of worthlessness and psychologically damage them further.

 

RESOURCES :

eBook :

childhood anger

Above eBook now available from Amazon for instant download. Click here for further information.

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

 

A Study On The Childhoods Of Murderers

childhoods of murderers

Childhood Of Murderers

A study conducted by Lewis et al (1985) and published in the American Journal Of Psychiatry examined the childhoods of nine convicted murders with the aim of discovering what characteristics (if any) they had in common. The main characteristics identified fell into four main categories :

  1. Acts of violence as children
  2. Psychiatric / medical history
  3. Psychiatric history of parents / first-degree relatives
  4. History of parental abuse

ACTS OF VIOLENCE AS CHILDREN :

All of the nine individuals in the study had perpetrated extreme violent acts as children / adolescents. Examples of these violent acts include :

  • two had committed robbery at knife point
  • one, at the age of four, had thrown a dog out of a window
  • one had set his bed on fire
  • one, at the age of ten, had threatened his teacher with a razor

PSYCHIATRIC / MEDICAL HISTORY :

  • three had been hospitalized in psychiatric units during childhood
  • three had histories of grand mal seizures and abnormal EEGs ( the term EEG stands for electrencephalogram which is a procedure that measures the electrical activity in the brain).
  • one was macrocephalic (the term ‘macrocephalic’ refers to a condition that results in the affected individual developing an abnormally large region of the brain called the cranium) and had an abnormal EEG
  • three had histories of ‘losing contact with reality’
  • six had sustained severe head injuries as children

PSYCHIATRIC HISTORY OF PARENTS / FIRST-DEGREE RELATIVES :

  • all nine had a first-degreee relative who had been hospitalized in a psychiatric unit and/or was known to be psychotic
  • five had a mother who had been hospitalized in a psychiatric unit
  • four had fathers who were known to be psychotic (one of whom had been hospitalized in a psychiatric unit)

HISTORY OF PARENTAL ABUSE :

  • seven had been severely, physically abused by one or both parents
  • six had witnessed extreme domestic violence

Conclusion :

Based on the findings of the above study and other relevant, previously conducted studies by other researchers, the authors of this study conclude that whilst it is not possible to predict whether individuals will commit murder at some point in the future, when a person has has been affected by all of the above factors (i.e. a prior history of violence, neuropsychiatric impairment,  parental psychosis and a history of having been physically abused as a child),  therapeutic intervention is necessary, irrespective of considerations relating to what one may, or may not, be able to predict about the individual’s future conduct in relation to violence.

It seems difficult to disagree with this conclusion as, obviously, anyone who is affected by the above combination of factors is likely to be experiencing extreme levels of mental distress.

 

NB : The above description of the study is a simplification to convey the main findings as concisely as possible ; a full description of the study can be accessed here.

 

eBook :

Above eBook available on Amazon for instant download. Click here or on image for further details.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)