Childhood Trauma - Effects And Recovery

Michael Jackson, Projective Identification And Childhood Trauma

projective _identification

 

Michael Jackson’s Childhood Trauma

It is well documented that Michael Jackson suffered childhood trauma. In interviews he described how his father would beat him when he made mistakes rehearsing with his brothers (together they made up the Jackson Five).

Such was Jackson’s fear of his father that he described how he would sometimes become physically nauseous, and actually regurgitate, when he (Michael) encountered him.

Jackson also stated in interviews how lonely he felt in his childhood, cut off from other children as he was always rehearsing or performing, and, of course, isolated by the stratospheric level of his fame.

We are, of course, all aware of the allegations that were made against Jackson, and of the ensuing public and media hysteria that surrounded them at the time.

Projective_identification

Some claim, wrongly in this case, I believe, that there is ‘no smoke without fire.’ However, he was cleared of all charges and, in the time that has passed since, evidence has emerged that this was indeed the correct outcome.

But, people still ask, why did he always wish to be friends with, and in the company of, children? Well, the answer to this may be explained by a psychological defense mechanism known as PROJECTIVE IDENTIFICATION ; I elaborate on this below :

What is meant by the term projective identification?

Projective identification is a complex psychological defense mechanism ( first described by Melanie Klein) but, in simple terms, it involves:

First, being unable to accept an aspect of oneself (and, therefore, unconsciously repressing it)

Second, seeing this part of oneself as actually being a part of another person (unconsciously projecting it onto the other person as a psychological defense mechanism)

Third, feeling an emotional connection, rapport and/or other forms of relatedness to this other person (identifying with him/her) and, unconsciously, seeing that person as a part of oneself

 

How Does This Three Stage Process Of Projective Identification Apply To Michael Jackson?

First, Jackson may have repressed from consciousness the extent of his need for love, affection and protection in early life, brought on by his abusive childhood, as the intensity of these needs was too emotionally painful to be permitted to fully permeate his consciousness.

Second, he unconsciously projected this repressed emotional neediness as a boy onto boys he met in his adult life (these boys unconsciously represented to Jackson his former, unhappy, childhood self)

 Third, he felt tenderness, affection and protectiveness towards these boys, which his former self was so cruelly denied.

In short, on an unconscious psychological level, he was trying to give his former self (represented by the boys he befriended) the parental love he missed out on as a child, the quality of which was primarily emotional, even spiritual ; not sexual.

emotional abusebrain damage caused by childhood trauma

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

 

BPD And Objects Relations Theory

 childhood_trauma-bpd
What Is Meant By Objects Relations Theory?
In broad terms, it is the theory of how people interact and relate to others, especially within the family and, more especially still, how the child and mother relate to one another. 
The theory stresses how dysfunctional relationships, especially in early life, can lead to the development of psychological disorders in later life.
Kohout’s Theory:
Kohout (1971), theorised that Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) had its primary origin in the way the mother related to, and interacted with, her baby/toddler between the ages of approximately 18 months and 3 years of age.
In particular, Kohout proposed, the baby/toddler is put at high risk of developing BPD in later life if s/he is brought up by a mother who does not allow him/her to psychologically separate from her, thus depriving him/her of the opportunity to develop and assert his own unique individuality.
For example, a child brought up by a mother with BPD may develop a high risk of developing the same psychiatric condition himself in later life. This is because such mothers tend to view their child as an extension of themselves, whose purpose is to fulfil her emotional needs, rather than allowing the child to psychologically differentiate him/herself from her, develop his/her own individuality and unique identity, and to learn to tend effectively to his/her own emotional needs. It is as if the mother sucks the life out of her child for her own emotional nourishment.
BPD,_objects_relations_theory
Such mothers, Kohout suggests, can interact adequately with their baby/toddler when s/he (the baby/toddler) is in a state of neediness, but will become cold and rejecting when the child attempts to psychologically separate from her to try to develop independence and a proper, clearly defined, sense of self.
Kohout goes on to describe his theory that such a dysfunctional early upbringing leads to the child, in later life, developing a psychological defense mechanism known as ‘splitting’. I will describe what is meant by psychologists when they use the term ‘splitting’ in my next post.

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

The Trauma Of Being An Adopted Child

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Children who become adopted have usually previously been orphaned or seriously abused prior to the adoption. Often, too, they will have spent time in an institution such as a children’s home. Also, they may have lived for temporary periods with various foster carers.

Because of such histories, most children who are adopted will have been extremely traumatized during their early lives and, therefore, arrive at their new adoptive parents’ home with serious emotional, psychological and behavioural difficulties.

If , as alluded to above, these children have suffered significant abuse by their parents, they are likely to have developed psychologically difficulties. The same is true of children who have become orphaned. But what about the children who have come from care homes or a series of foster parents? I look at how these experiences, too, may have caused them emotional difficulties.

Possible Adverse Effects On The Child Of Living In A Care Home:

These include :

– lack of funds/resources

– effects of staff leaving if a bond has developed between him/her and the child

– effects of friends leaving (eg due to age or moving to another institution)

– being bullied at school for being ‘different’

 – lack of consistency of care due to staff shift work and the employment of temporary staff from agencies

– inexperienced staff

– failure of staff/management to prevent bullying within the care home

– effects of having to leave the care home to be adopted; this can also be highly distressing if the child has built up strong emotional bonds with care home staff and/or care home child residents

institutionalisation, making it very hard for the child to cope outside of the care home environment

– the child may feel irrational shame for being ‘exhaustive

 

NB These are just examples; the above list is not exhaustive

adoption_problems

Possible Adverse Effects Of The Child Having Previously Experienced Foster Care:

If the child comes to the adoptive home having experienced living with foster parents s/he may:

– have felt rejected and unwanted by the foster home/s s/he had lived in

– may have wanted to stay with the foster parents, causing a form a grief when s/he found out she had to leave

– inconsistency of care, if constantly moving from one foster family to another

– related to above, inconsistency of schooling and friendship groups if moves from one foster home to another involve constantly changing geographical locations

– experiencing bullying at school for being ‘different’

– the child may feel irrational shame for being ‘different’

Stress And Conflict:

Because the child who arrives at the homes of the people who intend to adopt him/her may well have been seriously emotionally damaged in ways such as those described above, their is often potential for significant conflict to develop between the intended adoptee and his/her intended adoptive parents. I explain why below:

In the new adoptive home, because of the previous stress the child has been under, perhaps causing damage to such brain areas as the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, the child may act out his/her emotional disturbance. 

In so doing, s/he may, for example, regress, spend long spells crying, self-harm, behave destructively, be prone to out bursts of extreme rage, withdraw or act violently. And, if the child is not very young, may start drinking, smoking and taking drugs.

Indeed, if the brain’s development has been disrupted, s/he is likely to be neurologically immature leading to an inability to control his/her emotions or calm down easily when experiencing stress related anger or anxiety.

Indeed, studies reveal that those who have been adopted have higher than average concentrations of cortisol (a hormone related to stress) in their blood streams. This makes such individuals particularly vulnerable to depression, anxiety, uncontrollable emotions and fear.

The adoptive parents too, perhaps feeling they can’t cope, may also develop stress related problems. With both the child and the adoptive parents under such stress, this situation can, sadly, lead to very high levels of conflict between the two parties.

It is essential, therefore, that both the adopted child and the adoptive parents have in place the best social/practical/medical/psychological support systems in place as possible. Indeed, the importance of this is difficult to overstate.

 

 

eBook:

brain damage caused by childhood trauma

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NHS RESOURCE :

Post Adoption Support And Services. Click here.

 

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

My Humiliating Psychosomatic Response To Childhood Trauma

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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.

BPD – A Masked Illness : And Why It’s Hard To Identify

Bpd_and_childhood_trauma

We have seen from other posts how childhood trauma, especially multiple and cumulative trauma, is strongly associated with the development of borderline personality disorder (BPD) in adult life.

However, many BPD sufferers are at risk of going undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

The reason for this is that BPD can generate a number of symptoms associated with other conditions that mask the underlying illness (BPD).

Sadly, because of this, BPD can go undiagnosed for years, decades or a whole lifetime. This means many go without the proper treatment they require.

When one considers that approximately ten per cent of those diagnosed with BPD end their lives by suicide, the full, tragic implications of this failure of accurate diagnosis can be appreciated.

What Symptoms Of BPD Can Mask It, Thus Making It Less Likely To Be Accurately Diagnosed?

They include :

– excessive use of alcohol, leading to a diagnosis of alcoholism

self-harm / suicidal thoughts, leading to a diagnosis of depression

instability of mood, leading to diagnosis of cyclothymic or bipolar disorder

aggression/violence, leading to diagnosis of sociopathy (sometimes still referred to as psychopathy)

eating problems, leading to diagnosis of anorexia nervosa or bulimia

Whilst this list is not exhaustive, it represents some of the ways in which BPD can seemingly, upon preliminary invetigations, present itself as other psychological conditions, leading to misdiagnosis or incomplete/partial diagnosis.

bpd

Because, too, many with BPD are able to work successfully, and/or socially integrate successfully, much of the time without displaying blatant signs of psychological pathology, identifying BPD in individuals becomes trickier still.

However, such individuals are still likely to display tell-tale signs of the disorder due to sudden, dramatic and unpredictable shifts in mood (such as explosions of rage) which may, by the layman (or even the professional) be put down to ‘a difficult temperament’.

In order to correctly diagnose BPD it is necessary to look at the whole tapestry of the interplay of the individual’s behaviours and emotions in the context of their lives as a whole, with a particular focus on their relationship history (tends to be tumultuous), mood stability/instability, drug/alcohol use, sexual history (tends to be promiscuous and high risk), internal/mental life (often marked by feelings of chronic emptiness and lack of identity), emotional reactiveness/lability, and, vitally, of course, experience of childhood trauma.

In short, accurate diagnosis calls for a holistic approach; only then will all BPD sufferers get the treatment they both desperately need and deserve.

Resources:

 

BPD

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

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