Childhood Trauma And ‘Shattered Assumptions’ Theory

One of the major effects of childhood trauma, especially if it has led us, as adults, to develop conditions such as borderline personality disorder or complex posttraumatic stress disorder, is that it can radically alter our most fundamental and core beliefs about how the world and our lives operate.

In this way, prolonged and significant childhood trauma can transform the core belief that the world is generally a safe place for us to inhabit into the opposite core belief that ‘the world is a dangerous and threatening place and I must be constantly on guard and hypervigilant.’

This idea is reflected in Professor Janoff-Bulman’s (University of Massachusetts Amherst) ‘SHATTERED ASSUMPTIONS’ THEORY (1992) which proposes (amongst other things) that the experience of trauma can eradicate the optimistic view that, as long as we do the right things in life, everything will be O.K. In other words, our (pre-trauma) assumption that we are safe in the world is shattered.


When our fundamental assumptions about the world are shattered in this way, it is necessary, according to Janoff-Bulman, for us to rebuild our internal, mental representation of the world and it has been proposed that two therapies that can help us to achieve this are: cognitive processing therapy and exposure therapy.

Such therapies can help us to ‘cognitively restructure’ our view of our traumatic experience, ourselves and the world in general. This ‘cognitive restructuring’ process may entail, at first, attempting to make sense of the traumatizing events we have lived through; initially, this may give rise to automatic thoughts relating to our trauma that we find intrusive and distressing.

However, later on in the process, such negative ruminations can transform into more positive thoughts and feelings, such as finding meaning in what has happened to us, learning to accept our view of the world might have changed and coming to a mental accommodation with this fact, and, ultimately, acquiring greater wisdom and personal/spiritual growth, also known as POST TRAUMATIC GROWTH.

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


Signs An Adult Was Abused As A Child

Signs an adult was abused as a child include the following :


Symptoms of dissociation can range from mild to severe: Mild symptoms of dissociation include zoning out’ and feeling in a daze, whereas severe symptoms of dissociation may include amnesia, time loss and feeling out of control. 


For example, an individual who has suffered significant and protracted childhood trauma may oscillate between idealizing others and demonizing them (as in so-called ‘love-hate’ relationships).


This may include anti-social behaviour leading to conflict with the law (especially in the case of males who were abused as children).


An individual who is ’emotionally dysregulated’ has extreme emotions and difficulty controlling them.


An individual who is hypervigilant feels constantly under threat, vulnerability, unsafe, insecure and in danger, as if his/her nervous system were stuck on ‘red-alert.’ Individuals with a history of childhood maltreatment may fluctuate between states of hypervigilance and dissociation (see the first item on this list, above).




Individuals who have experienced traumatic childhoods may become dependent on alcohol or drugs in an attempt to reduce emotional pain and suffering (this is linked to ‘dissociation’ – see the first item on this list, above).


As well as intrusive and disturbing memories of abuse, the survivor of childhood trauma may also suffer from more nebulous, but equally upsetting, feelings and emotions connected to the abuse (e.g. when lying in bed at night), together with nightmares,  night terrors and associated insomnia.










  • Advice About Professional Help / Possible Treatments/ Therapies For Adults Abused As A Child, Click here.
  • Useful Links For Recovery From Childhood Trauma Can Be Found By Clicking Here.



Factors That Increase Risk Parents Will Abuse :

The number of parents who abuse their children is unknown as not all cases come to light.

However, it is known that most abuse occurs within the home by those who live with the child.


In 2012, 3785 adults were found guilty of child abuse or cautioned by police having admitted it.

These figures break down as follows :

– cruelty/neglect : 2179

– sex with a child under 13: 351

– sex with a child under 16: 116

– gross indecency with a child: 88

(Ministry of Justice, 2013)


Over 90% of those found to have abused children lived with the child they abused

In relation to PHYSICAL ABUSE – numbers of male and female offenders were about equal

In relation to SEVERE PHYSICAL ABUSE – 73% of offenders were male (Redford et al, 2011)

In relation to NEGLECT – about 66% were female

In relation to EMOTIONAL ABUSE – numbers of male and female offenders were about equal (Sedlak et al, 2010)

In relation to SEXUAL ABUSE – 97% were male (Radford et al, 2011). However, it is also believed that more females who abuse in this way go UNDETECTED than their male counterparts.



– 75% heterosexual

– 14% bisexual

– 11% of homosexual


In relation to PHYSICAL ABUSE – younger mothers are more likely to offend than older mothers

In relation to SEXUAL ABUSE – under 18s are more likely to offend in this way than are adults. Of these U18’s who offend in this way a study by Radford et al. in 2007 found that 97% were boys and 60% of them were already known to the victim – indeed, 20% were family members.

A NOTE ON ‘SEXTING’: this has been defined by Ringrose et al. (2012) as the creating, sharing and/or forwarding of nude/nearly nude pictures of under 18s (by electronic means). Research suggests that between 15% and 40% of young people have been involved in this and that such activity is sometimes linked to bullying and harassment.


About 25% of abusers have a substance misuse problem.

About 66% of children who live in a family with an alcoholic member has suffered PHYSICAL ABUSE.

About 25% of children who live in such families have suffered SEXUAL ABUSE.

About 50% of children who live in such a family have suffered NEGLECT (for example, the parent is often EMOTIONALLY UNAVAILABLE when drunk or hung-over)

It is also noteworthy that the child is at greater risk if it is the FATHER who is alcoholic rather than the mother.


A study by Glaser and Prior, 1997, found that approx. 33% of those who had been abused had a parent with mental health problems


Abuse is more common in areas of low socioeconomic status. This is thought to be due to increased stress rates, lack of social support and, possibly, that there is more likely to exist a culture that is more accepting of physical punishment.


It has been suggested that those who were abused as children are more likely to abuse themselves once they become parents as they FAILED TO LEARN GOOD PARENTING SKILLS AS CHILDREN due to the lack of an appropriate role model.

In relation to PHYSICAL ABUSE: those who were physically abused themselves as children were found to be FIVE TIMES MORE LIKELY than those who had not to physically abuse their own children.

In relation to NEGLECT: those who had been neglected as children were found to be 2.6 times more likely to neglect their own children than those who had not.

OVERALL, research suggests that those who abuse their own children were usually abused as children themselves (although it does not follow, of course, that those who have been abused will always abuse their own children).


This group is NOT more likely to abuse their children; however, they are more likely to be exploited by those who wish to get to know them so that they may gain access to their children with the objective of abusing them.


Irenyi et al, 2006, coined the phrase ‘victim to offender cycle’ which hypothesizes that victims of child abuse tend to go on to become the future perpetrators of such abuse. However, this idea is somewhat controversial as the evidence is conflicting.

However, some research suggests that those who sexually abuse children tend to :

– lack empathy

– have poor self-esteem

– have poor social skills

– have a preference for the company of children

– have themselves been abused as children

– be educational underachievers

– have problems relating to others

However, these findings come from a sample that cannot be considered representative as the sample obviously will not include individuals whose offences have not come to light.

Keeping this in mind, it has also been found:

52% of those who sexually abuse children are heavily reliant upon alcohol to reduce inhibition and cope with remorse/shame.

The researcher, Finkelhor (1984) suggested such offenders pass through 4 stages:

1) feel sexual attraction towards minors

2) justify/rationalize their behaviour so as to ease own conscience

3) create situations in which offending becomes possible, perhaps by gaining necessary trust/manipulation etc

4) overcome child’s resistance e.g. with gifts / bribes / ‘special’ attention or (rarely) threats/force



Such individuals are generally teenage boys. Research suggests that they tend to:

– have trouble controlling their own emotions

– have poor social skills

– have poor coping skills

– be prone to social anxiety

– have little insight into both their own emotional needs and the emotional needs of others

– have been abused by others themselves (physically, emotionally or sexually)

(again, however, the sample from which these findings come are bound to be non-representative)

It is very unusual for girls under the age of 18 to sexually abuse other children but those who do tend to have been abused themselves in ways that are particularly serious.


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


How Context Affects The Child’s Reaction To Trauma

Traumatic childhood experiences, obviously, do not occur in a vacuum but within the context of the child’s life as a whole. All elements of this context will interact with the direct effects of the traumatic experience. These elements can be divided into two broad categories :

1. The child’s own, personal qualities (sometimes referred to as ‘child-intrinsic’ factors):

Examples of these include the child’s temperament (i.e. innate and enduring personality traits present from birth, such as proneness to anxiety) ; the state of the child’s mental health prior to the traumatic experiences; and whether or not he has experienced prior, significant trauma (the negative impact of childhood trauma is cumulative – see the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study.

2. Qualities relating to the child’s environment (sometimes referred to as ‘child-extrinsic’ factors) :

Examples include the child’s family (e.g. if one parent is abusive, is there another family member / extended family member to whom he [i.e. the child] can turn for emotional support?) ; the physical environment (e.g. Is the home overcrowded? Does it lack educational / leisure resources?) ; the community within which the child lives (e.g. are youth clubs available to the child that could have a positive influence on his mental health?); and the culture surrounding the child (e.g. cultural influences upon the level of stigma associated with the cause of the trauma, if any).


The positive factors listed above (in both categories) are likely to increase the child’s resilience to the adverse effects of the trauma (in relation to this, you might be interested in reading my previously published article entitled Ten Ways To Build Resilience), whereas the negative factors are likely to increase his vulnerability to these potential, adverse effects.

In combination, the elements will interactively affect how the child perceives and, therefore, how he internally experiences, the traumatic events he undergoes, including the degree to which he feels under threat and in danger and the extent to which he feels safe and protected.



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


A Study Into The Main Effects Of Mentally Ill Mothers On Their Children

A study (McCormac et al.) conducted at the University of Newcastle was conducted to investigate the main effects on children’s’ behavioural and emotional states of being brought up by a mentally ill mother (a total of 13 mothers with serious mental disorders and had previously been hospitalized in psychiatric wards participated in the study). Information used in the study was gathered using semi-structured interviews.


Overall, the children involved in the study were described as having experienced ‘a fractured journey of growth’ into adulthood, and, more specifically, the adverse effects of such an upbringing were delineated into six main themes. These six themes were as follows :


The feeling of being different from their peers is particularly painful for children and, accordingly, the perceived stigma (due to misunderstanding, fear, prejudice, ignorance etc.) surrounding having a mentally ill parent was found to be a significant theme that emerged from the study.


Many forms of chronic childhood trauma can impair the child’s ability to form and maintain good relationships with peers, leading to social rejection. Also, a sense of shame can inhibit the child’s inclination to try to make friends. Furthermore, some children of mentally ill parents may become ‘parentified’ or become their parent’s emotional caretaker, leaving little time to socialize.

3) SHAME :

It is a very unfortunate fact that, when children are traumatized by their parents, they tend to blame themselves and, therefore, are liable to experience feelings of guilt and a pervasive sense of shame. This is especially true if their parent’s illness has not been explained to them and they do not understand it (especially in terms of how it adversely impacts on their parent’s behaviour towards them).


To be chronically abused and maltreated by the very people who are supposed to love, nurture and protect one is to experience a profound sense of betrayal and, indeed, this was found to be one of the emergent six major themes underlying derived from the data collected.


More positively, another main theme was found to be the development of the ability to ‘redefine’ the self.

For example, one participant explained that despite his childhood experiences initially leading to feelings of self-hatred (irrational self-hatred, sadly, is an all too typical response to having been subjected to chronic childhood ill-treatment, as an adult he was able to reflect, and understand, how his painful, early life experiences had affected him, and, as a result, become self-accepting,

Others were able to gain a greater sense of personal authenticity by undertaking higher education.


Again, on the positive side, some participants in the study described how their extremely challenging experiences had, ultimately, made them stronger, more resourceful, more compassionate, more empathetic and more authentic. 


Despite the potential negative effects of childhood trauma, the experience can also lead to positive changes in the individual, lending support to the concept of posttraumatic growth – an understanding of this can help those who have suffered maltreatment in childhood to reframe their view of the implications of their experiences in a way which helps them to take a more hopeful view of their future personal development.

A Study Into Effects Of Being Raised By A Mentally Ill Parent

Babies Of BPD Mothers Have Problems Regulating Stress Even At 2-Months-Old.

PTSD Nightmares : Content, Symbols, Information Processing Theory And Paradoxical Intention

So-Called ‘Psychopathic Traits’ In Adolescents Often Symptoms Of Intense Emotional Distress

How Hypnosis Alters Brain Activity – Top University Study.

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


Childhood Trauma Leading To Over-Dominant Brain Stem

A simplified way of describing the structure of the brain is to think of it as comprising three main regions (e.g. MacLean, 1990) that develop in the following order from birth to a person’s early or mid-twenties.

FIRST TO DEVELOP: The brain stem and midbrain :

Main functions : Sensory / motor and basic survival mechanisms (‘fight / flight’)

SECOND TO DEVELOP: The limbic brain :

Main functions: Emotional development, behaviour and attachment

THIRD TO DEVELOP: The cortical brain :

Main function: inhibition, thinking, language, planning, decision-making, abstract thought and learning.



As described above, it is the brain stem’s function to preserve our safety in dangerous situations (by physiologically preparing us for ‘fight or flight’).

However, when a child has been traumatized over an extended period and has been excessively exposed to frightening situations, the brain stem can become overactive and over-dominant so that the brain is on a constant state of ‘red-alert’ (giving rise to feelings of hypervigilance, edginess, agitation and constant fear) even in situations which are, in objective terms, very safe.

IN SHORT, THE CHILD BECOMES ‘LOCKED INTO SURVIVAL MODE’, primed to lash out (figuratively or literally) or run away (again, figuratively or literally). And, of course, in the case of the former, this can lead to him/her being wrongly labelled as ‘bad’ whereas, in fact, his or her behaviour is essentially due to what can reasonably be described as brain injury incurred due to the traumatic events to which s/he has been subjected over a protracted period.



Such children are, in effect, ‘stuck’ at the first stage of brain development shown above (i.e. the brain stem/midbrain developmental stage).

Unfortunately, this means the child is not only locked into feeling constantly hyperalert to anticipated danger and profoundly unsafe but can suffer from other significant impairments (see below):



Being locked into the brain stem development stage also prevents the higher regions of the brain (i.e. the limbic brain and the cortical brain, as described above) from developing correctly, and, therefore, also from functioning correctly.

This can mean that the child is unable to form attachments or control his/her emotions (due to the damage done to the ‘limbic brain’ ) and is also unable properly to perform the functions of the ‘cortical brain’, including inhibition (leading to impulsive behaviour), planning, decision-making, reflecting and learning. Such problems can manifest themselves in numerous ways, including being unable to form friendships at school, ‘misbehaving’ in class and learning difficulties).



‘Bottom-Up’ (as opposed to ‘Top-Down’) therapies such as SENSORIMOTOR PSYCHOTHERAPY can be of benefit to individuals affected by ‘brain stem’ associated problems, and it is generally agreed that these problems should be addressed prior to addressing issues related to the ‘limbic brain’ and ‘cortical brain.’

There is also a growing body of evidence to suggest that the traumatised brain may also be helped to recover using a treatment known as neurofeedback.


MacLean, Paul D. (1990). The triune brain in evolution: role in paleocerebral functions. New York: Plenum Press. ISBN 0-306-43168-8. OCLC 20295730.


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

‘Top-Down’ And ‘Bottom-Up’ Ways Of Treating Childhood Trauma.



A ‘top-down’ therapy is one that aims to create a positive change in the individual’s behavioural, emotional and somatic symptoms in a ‘top-down’ direction (i.e. by beneficially ALTERING THE INDIVIDUAL’S THOUGHT PROCESSES). Techniques for doing this include cognitive restructuring and increasing the traumatized individual’s insight into his or her condition, amongst many others.

Whilst ‘top-down’ therapies are necessary and can be very effective, there is now a growing realization when treating the traumatized individual, the addition of ‘bottom-up’ therapeutic techniques may be of paramount importance in relation to treating the bodily adverse effects of trauma such as sensorimotor symptoms and autonomic dysregulation.


Unlike ‘top-down’ therapies, which concentrate on an individual’s thinking processes to treat the effects of trauma, ‘bottom-up’ therapies concentrate upon BODILY EXPERIENCES as an initial route through which to treat the effects of trauma by ameliorating dysfunctional trauma-related, chronic and automatic bodily responses. This approach is taken because it is theorized that our nervous systems and muscles store distressing images and memories on an unconscious, nonverbal level and that this is manifested in various physical and bodily ways, such as :

  • body posture

  • how the person moves 

  • pain and bodily sensations

Bodily reactions to emotions, events and situations In essence, then, ‘bottom-up’ approaches to the treatment of the adverse effects trauma aim is to correct the sensorimotor dysregulation that has occurred as a result of childhood trauma. Examples of ‘bottom-up’ therapies for treating the bodily effects of trauma include :

  • sensorimotor psychotherapy

  • yoga

  • somatic experiencing

  • breathing exercises

  • EMDR

  • drama

  • singing

  • drumming

  • tapping / Emotional Freedom Technique


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


A Study Into Effects Of Being Raised By A Mentally Ill Parent

A study conducted by McCormack (Newcastle University, UK) interviewed the (now adult) children of children of parents who had various mental illnesses (such as depression and schizoaffective disorder.

The researches found that the information they gathered could be distilled down into various main effects which were as follows :

1) Concerns about be loved, cared for and wanted, leading to feelings of loneliness, helplessness, abandonment and of being ignored.

2) Traumatization, stress and anxiety: some individuals in the study reported being neglected and abused and of living in an environment that was very frightening over extended periods of time and that this had significantly traumatized them, leading to severe anxiety and hypervigilance.

3) Feelings of having been betrayed, due to the failure of both parents to protect them and make them feel safe (in the case of the non-mentally ill parent, the sense of betrayal derived from this parent’s failure to protect them from the harmful effects of the mentally ill parent).

4) Guilt, sadness and self-blame: sadly, children living in abusive homes almost invariably, irrationally blame themselves for this abuse and falsely believe that they ‘must be a bad person’ which, in turn, leads to profound feelings of shame.

5) Parentification / adopting the role of child carer to the mentally ill parent. The child of the mentally ill parent may become ‘parentified’; this involves a role-reversal whereby the child is placed into the position whereby he is required to act as the parent’s parent.

6) Avoidance, development of strategies to stay safe and associated hypervigilance. Children in abusive homes learn strategies to keep themselves as safe as possible; these include: placating the patent, avoiding the parent (for example when the parent is drunk or experiencing a violent, psychotic episode). However, the price they pay for the development of such strategies is the need to be permanently on ‘red-alert’ and on the lookout for signs of potential danger (hypervigilance).

7) Development of empathy, compassion and resilience. Some individuals in the study reported that, as well as negative effects, their childhood experiences also had some positive effects, including helping them to develop feelings of empathy and compassion and, also, increasing their resilience. (When the experience of trauma ultimately helps the individual grow and develop as a person in positive ways, it is known as posttraumatic growth.)

8) Regarding school as a refuge (although children who are abused at home can be more vulnerable to being bullied at school).

9) Feelings of being stigmatized: for example, the child can feel terrified that their peers at school will find out that their parent has a mental health issue and, as a result, subject him to bullying, ridicule and mockery. Indeed, this can lead to irrational, profound feelings of shame. Also, the feeling of desperately having to keep their unfortunate home situation a secret exacerbated their sense of extreme anxiety.

9) Self-hatred transitioning into self-acceptance and wisdom: many of the participants reported that whilst, as children, their traumatic experiences had led them to feel a sense of irrational shame and self-hatred, as they became adults and developed a better understanding of how these experiences had adversely impacted on their lives they were able to develop a liberating sense of self-acceptance.


Approximately 68 per cent of women and 57 per cent of men with a severe mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar depression are parents.

(Source: Royal Society Of Psychiatrists).


Other research suggests that children living with a parent with mental illness may :

– fear that they themselves will one day go on to develop the same mental illness (some children do develop a similar illness and emotional problems).

– find it difficult to concentrate on their school work

– develop somatic illnesses

(Source: Royal Society Of Psychiatrists).


  • the child believes he is to blame for the parent’s illness.
  • the child develops a similar condition.
  • the child does not have a proper understanding of their parent’s illness.
  • the child is repeatedly separated from the parent because this parent is regularly being hospitalized.
  • the child feels insecure and unsure about his relationship with the mentally ill parent.
  • the child is being hit or otherwise abused by the mentally ill parent.
  • the child is having to act as the mentally ill parent’s caretaker or his having to care for younger siblings due to the parent’s mental illness.
  • the child is being bullied or teased at school because of their parent’s mental illness
  • the child lives in poverty
  • the child has a generally unstable life.

(Source: Royal Society Of Psychiatrists).



McCormack, Lynne & White, Sarah & Cuenca, José. (2016). A fractured journey of growth: making meaning of a ‘Broken’ childhood and parental mental ill-health. Community, Work & Family. 20. 1-19. 10.1080/13668803.2015.1117418.


USEFUL LINK: How To Help Children Of Mentally Ill Parents (an NSPCC website). CLICK HERE.

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








The Manipulative Parent

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

  1. emotional blackmail
  2.  verbal aggression
  3. implicit or explicit threats
  4. deceit
  5. use of ‘the silent treatment’
  6. control through money or material goods
  7. positive reinforcement of behaviour which is damaging to the child
  8. coercion
  9. behaving in a passive-aggressive manner
  10. projection
  11. denial of obviously destructive behaviour
  12. gaslighting
  13. causing the child to believe that s/he will only be loved by complying with the parent’s wishes at all times; in other words, there is an ABSENCE of unconditional love (indeed, some parents are emotionally ill-equipped to love their children).
  14. causing the child to feel excessive guilt and ashamed for failing to live up to the parent’s expectations and demands.
  15. with-holding love as a form of punishment to cause emotional distress
  16. direct or implied threats of physical punishment
  17. making the child feel s/he is intrinsically bad for not always bending to the parent’s will
  18. Financial manipulation. Some parents may manipulate their child using money for a whole host of reasons, including spoiling the child and then accusing him of ingratitude;  as a tacit way of keeping the child quiet about abuse; to compensate the child for emotional neglect and ameliorate feelings of guilt; to make the child feel indebted; to increase the child’s dependence; to induce feelings of guilt in the child either explicitly or implicitly; as a tool to regulate the child’s behaviour; as an expression of the parent’s superiority and contempt for the child; as a superficial way of acting ‘the good parent.’
  19. making the child believe he is uncaring for not fully meeting the parent’s needs

Such parents may also be very controlling; if our parents were overly controlling the characteristics they may have displayed include the following :

  1. Did not show respect for, or value, our reasonable ideas and opinions
  2. Imposed over-exacting demands on us and refused to listen to even the most reasonable and considered objections
  3. Were preoccupied with criticizing us, whilst minimizing or ignoring our good points
  4. Were excessively concerned about our table manners (for example, failing to hold a knife and fork correctly)
  5. Were excessively rigid about what we eat
  6. Discouraged us from developing independence of thought, especially if it led to a mismatch between our opinions, views and values and those of the parent
  7. Imposed excessive demands on us regarding household rules, duties and regulations which we were not permitted negotiate even if any reasonable person would regard them as inappropriate
  8. Never admit to being in the wrong, even in very clear-cut circumstances
  9. Were excessively and unreasonably controlling regarding our appearance; not respecting our wishes to express our individuality (for example, choosing all our clothes without any interest in our opinion about them).
  10. Did not respect our choice of career and made demands on us to reconsider and instead pursue a career the parent regarded as more suitable even when this would make us very unhappy.
  11. Expected us to reach standards which were impossible to attain and berated us when we inevitably, in their eyes, failed.
  12. Did not allow us to voice reasonable objections (for example, about the family dynamics and how they caused us unhappiness).
  13. Were unnecessarily rigid regarding who we ‘ought’ to associate within a way that reflected prejudice and discrimination against individuals we wished to associate with
  14. Tried to make us suppress perfectly normal emotions such as anger, fear and unhappiness.
  15. Violated our privacy (for example, searched our bedroom for our personal diary without a good cause).
  16. Tried to control us with emotional blackmail, psychological manipulation, intimidation and threats.

Whilst some parental attempts to manipulate and control are fairly blatant, as can be seen from the above examples, some are far more subtle. This means that when we were young we may not have been aware that we were being manipulated; we may only come to realize it, in retrospect, with the extra knowledge we have gained as adults.

Let’s now look in more detail at some psychological techniques a manipulative parent might make use of in order to gain power and control over his/ her offspring :

Techniques That Manipulative Parents May Use:

1) Preventing the victim from expressing negative emotions:

With this technique, the parent maintains that it is not what they themselves have done that is the problem – according to them, the ‘real’ problem is the offspring’s reaction to what they have done.

For example, according to the manipulative parent, if the offspring is distressed and upset by what the parent has done then this is due to the ‘fact’ that the offspring is oversensitive.

Or, if the offspring is angry about how s/he has been treated by the parent, the parent may say that the offspring’s anger is caused by him/her being so unforgiving.

A final example: if the offspring feels a desperate need to express how hurt s/he is by the parent’s behaviour, and so keeps bringing the subject up in an attempt to understand and process what has happened, the parent may high-handedly dismiss the victim as ‘sounding like a broken record’.

In such cases, then, it can be seen that the manipulative parent can be skilfully adept at redirecting the blame onto the victim and invalidating his/ her claims.

In this way, the offspring are forced to suppress powerful emotions at the expense of his/ her mental health – such suppression actually has the effect of intensifying the emotions, and, therefore, it is only a matter of time before they burst out again, their vigour redoubled. This process will frequently lead to the development of a vicious cycle.

2) Blaming the victim :

For example, a father who hits his son may claim that it was the son’s behaviour that ‘drove him to it’

Or a drunk parent may blame his/ her habitual drinking on the stress of bringing up the offspring.

In my own case, my mother threw me out of the home when I was thirteen. Due to my ‘behaviour’, apparently. And, whenever I cried (pretty much a daily occurrence around this age, admittedly), her favourite cutting, demeaning and belittling response (and the contemptuous tone in which it was delivered is still ringing in my ears, decades later) was that I should ‘turn off the waterworks.’

3) Inappropriate personal disclosure:

Prior to my forced eviction when I had only just become a teenager, my mother had essentially used me as her personal counsellor; indeed, she used to refer to me as her ‘Little Psychiatrist’. During these, for want of a better term, ‘counselling sessions’ she would very frequently discuss with me the problems she was invariably experiencing with the latest man she was seeing (particularly one who was highly unstable and frequently in and out of jail and lived with us for two years, but that’s another story).

She would also discuss her sex-life. She once told me, for example, that, despite the fact that she had been married to my father for about fifteen years (before they divorced when I was eight), she had only ever had sex with him twice. As she has two children (I have an older brother) this was highly unlikely (and subsequently transpired to be a falsehood). Manipulators often disclose such inappropriately intimate details to encourage the other person to feel close to them, which, in turn, makes the victim easier to take advantage of and exploit.

4) Empty words (talk is cheap):

Examples of this include:

‘I’d make any sacrifice for you.’


‘Your happiness is my number one priority.’


‘I think about you all the time.’

However, the manipulator’s actions fail to substantiate these claims time and time again. Indeed, the contrast between his/her words and actions is depressingly stark. Empty words, of course, cost the manipulative parent nothing but s/he knows that by using them s/he can gain great power and control over the offspring, even making the victim feel ungrateful and indebted to him/her. It can also cause mental illness in the victim by invalidating his/her own perceptions and making him/ her question his/her very sense of reality. Indeed, it places the victim in a double bind.

5) Minimising :

For example, I was always told I was overstating the negative effect my childhood had on my psychological well-being (I have since discovered, however, that I was dramatically understating it).

Minimisation, then, involves the manipulative parent telling the offspring that they are essentially ‘making mountains out of molehills’, even ( or, indeed, especially), when the accusation is grotesquely inaccurate.

6) Lying by commission or by omission:

The former refers to saying something that is not true whilst the latter refers to withholding a significant part of the truth so as to generate a false impression.

7) Rationalization :

Providing a false explanation for behaviour which would otherwise reflect badly on the person.

8) Selective attention / selective inattention:

This involves only focusing on what supports the manipulator’s case whilst studiously ignoring anything that undermines it.

9) Diversion / Evasion:

This involves not responding directly to questions but instead going off at tangents, being vague and attempting to steer awkward conversations away from anything that might cast the manipulator in a negative light.

10) Covert Intimidation: 

This involves making implied, subtle threats to force the victim into a defensive position.

11) Placing The Victim In A Bad Light:

If the victim does indeed go on to the defensive, due to the manipulator employing ‘covert intimidation’ tactics (see number 10, directly above), the manipulator may take the opportunity to ‘shine the spotlight’ on the victim and claim that his/her (what is actually defensive) behaviour is abusive, thus cunningly turning the tables.

12) False / Controlled Anger:

The manipulator might fake anger to intimidate the victim, ward off suspicion (e.g. by using ‘outraged’ phrases like, ‘how dare you suggest such a thing!’ or close down the discussion/argument.

13) Seduction : 

This involves manipulating the victim by using flattery, charm and praise and gaining his/her trust and loyalty.

14) Scapegoating.

15) Projection: this involves the manipulator attributing his/her own faults to the victim.

Controlling Parent : Their Effects On Children


Controlling And Sociopathic Parents



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

What Is Your Attachment Style And How Does It Affect Your Relationships?



According to attachment theory, the way we react in our relationships with others, specifically in relation to our reactions to being hurt by, threatened by or separated from significant others, depends largely upon our ATTACHMENT STYLE.

Ainsworth (one of the most significant researchers to have worked in this field) proposes that the particular type of attachment style we develop is mainly determined by how our mothers behaved towards us, particularly in terms to sensitivity and attunement to our needs, moods and feelings, when we are infants; Ainsworth first proposed this idea in 1978 and it is known as the ‘MATERNAL SENSITIVITY HYPOTHESIS.’


Five main types of attachment styles have been identified; these are :







  1. SECURE ATTACHMENT: this results when the mother is well attuned, sensitive and responsive to the infant’s needs, moods and feelings
  2. AVOIDANT ATTACHMENT: this results when the mother is too frequently unavailable to, and rejecting of, the infant.
  3. AMBIVALENT ATTACHMENT: this results when the mother behaves inconsistently, and sometimes too intrusively, towards the infant.
  4. DISORGANIZED ATTACHMENT: this results when the mother ignores or fails to understand the infant’s needs and behave in a frightening and traumatizing way towards the infant.
  5. REACTIVE ATTACHMENT: this results when the mother is extremely unattached or has a disrupted nervous system.


  1. SECURE ATTACHMENT STYLE: able to form positive, meaningful relationships, form healthy boundaries and be empathetic.
  2. AVOIDANT ATTACHMENT STYLE: avoids emotional intimacy, aloof, distant, rigid, critical and intolerant.
  3. AMBIVALENT ATTACHMENT STYLE: anxious, insecure, unpredictable, erratic, blames others but can be charming.
  4. DISORGANIZED ATTACHMENT STYLE: insensitive to feelings of others, prone to explosive rage, abusive, craves security but unable to trust others.
  5. REACTIVE ATTACHMENT STYLE: unable to form meaningful, positive relationships.

Our adult attachment style is so closely related to early life relationships because these (consciously and unconsciously) act as models for how we expect others will treat us and behave towards us; in other words, we are essentially ‘programmed’ by these early relationships to perceive, and behave towards, others in ways that reflect them; in this way, we unwittingly replicate our old patterns of behaviour when interacting with others in the present, especially intimate partners and offspring.


Insecurity in Relationships | Self Hypnosis Downloads

Types of Relationship Problems The Individual May Experience As A Result Of Childhood Trauma.

Childhood Trauma : Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD).

Childhood Emotional Neglect And Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD)

Parenting Styles And Their Potential Effects On Children

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



Childhood Trauma Increases Risk Of Being Both Victim And Perpetrator Of Crime And Violence


Research shows that the more ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES an individual suffered in their early life, the greater their risk of becoming the victim of crime and/or the perpetrator of crime in early life.

ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES, as defined by the well known Adverse Childhood Experiences Study are listed below :

– physical abuse

– emotional abuse

– sexual abuse

– witnessing the mother being abused by the father

– loss/abandonment/rejection by a parent (including due to separation and divorce)

– living with a parent suffering from a pathological addiction

– living with a clinically depressed mother

– living with a mother who suffers from another significant mental illness


The more of the above adverse childhood experiences a person has suffered, the higher their ACE Score. For example, a person who had suffered one of the above adverse childhood experiences would have an ACE score of 1, whereas an individual who had experienced four of them would have an ACE score of 4.


Some main examples of the research linking crime/violence to childhood trauma include the following :

  • ACE scores of 4 or over increase the risk of being the perpetrator of violence, the victim of violence and of being put in jail by 500 per cent, compared to an individual with an ACE score of zero. (Bellis et al.)
  • Females with ACE scores of 5 or more are 14% more likely to suffer domestic violence and 30% more likely to suffer sexual assault, compared to females with an ACE score of zero. (Whitfield et al.)
  • Ex-offenders with an ACE score of 5 or above are 11 times more likely to re-offend during their first year of probation and 15 times more likely to re-offend during their second year of probation, compared to individuals with an ACE score of zero (Anda, 2011).
  • Children involved in the juvenile justice system have, on average, approximately, an ACE score triple that of children who are not involved in the system (Baglivio et al.).
  • As a child’s ACE score increases, the risk of him perpetrating violence increases from between 35% and 144% (Duke et al.).


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


Neurofeedback And Reducing Activity In Brain’s Fear Circuitry.

According to Mobbs, the brain consists of two areas involved in how we experience fear as shown below :

It is becoming increasingly recognized that overactivity in the brain’s fear circuitry may be of fundamental relevance to not only complex-PTSD and PTSD, but to many other psychiatric disorders as well and it clearly follows, therefore, that damping down the over-intensity of neuronal firing in this part of the brain may be key to effective therapy for the treatment of a whole array mental health issues. In relation to this, there is mounting excitement about how NEUROFEEDBACK / BIOFEEDBACK can benefit many individuals who suffer from acute psychological distress.

  • the reactive-fear circuit

  • the cognitive-fear circuit

Let’s look at each of these in turn :


This circuit deals with threats that are IMMEDIATE and require an instant reaction (namely, activation of the ‘fight or flight’ response); it involves the interconnection between two areas of the brain as shown below :

  • the periaqueductal grey
  • midcingulate cortex


This circuit deals with threats that DO NOT require an immediate response, allowing us time to consciously consider the risk they pose to us and how we should respond to them; this circuit involves connections between the following brain areas :

  • the posterior cingulate cortex
  • the ventromedial prefrontal cortex
  • the hippocampus


Mobbs asserts that the relationship between these two brain regions can be compared to the two ends of a see-saw; in other words, as one goes up, the other comes down, which means :

  • The more activated the reactive-fear circuit becomes, the less activated the cognitive-fear circuit becomes.

And the reverse is also true, so :

  • The more activated the cognitive-fear circuit becomes, the less activated the reactive-fear circuit becomes.


As we have seen from many other articles that I have already published on this site, if we have suffered severe and protracted childhood trauma we are at increased risk of developing various disorders as adults (such as complex PTSD and borderline personality disorder) which are underpinned by having oversensitive and overactive fear-response circuitry and, correspondingly, underactive cognitive-response circuitry.


Armed with this information, and by continuing to learn from the neurofeedback their brains provide them with (via the software mentioned above), the patients can then, gradually, be trained to exercise control over their brain wave activity (for example, by soothing it with visualization techniques, breathing exercises or calming thoughts etc.). With enough training, the patients’ dysregulated brains can be helped to heal and to become less fear-driven.

This results in the reactive-fear circuit become less sensitive and active which, in turn, provides the cognitive-fear circuit, as it were, ‘more room to manoeuvre.’ In this way, irrational feelings of fear that were originally being driven by the (unthinking and automatic) reactive-fear circuit can now be more soberly and rationally considered by the (reflective and thinking) cognitive-fear circuit and, therefore, more easily be dismissed as unwarranted, made impotent and deprived of their power to cause us anguish.


According to Buzsaki, Professor of Neuroscience at Rutgers University, Zen meditation needs to be undertaken for years until the person practising it is able to slow the frequency of the brain’s alpha waves and to spread the alpha oscillations more forward to the front of the brain; slowing these brain waves have many beneficial effects including :

  • reducing fear
  • reducing ‘mind chatter’
  • increasing feelings of calm
  • reduce anxiety
  • reduce feelings of panic

However, Buzaki states that (as alluded to above) whilst it takes years of Zen meditation to optimally alter alpha wave brain activity, the same results can be obtained after a mere week’s training with neurofeedback.    


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

Childhood Trauma, Inflammation, The Immune System And Severe Adult Health Implications.

A study conducted in New Zealand, involving 1,037 children, assessed these young people according to :

  • the degree to which they had suffered maltreatment as children

  • which socio-economic group they belonged

  • the extent to which they had suffered social isolation

Thirty years after this assessment had been made, the same individuals were assessed again, in a follow-up study, in order to determine to what degree their health had been negatively impacted by the above three factors (i.e. childhood maltreatment, socio-economic group in childhood and extent of social isolation in childhood).


It was found that those individuals who had experienced both significant social isolation and maltreatment as children, and, additionally, had grown up in poverty, were at double the average risk of :

  • inflammation

  • depression

  • obesity


A meta-analysis conducted by Baumeister et al. (2015) found a significant association between childhood trauma and inflammation and the researchers concluded that there now exists strong evidence that individuals who suffer traumatic events during childhood are at greatly elevated risk of developing a dysregulated inflammatory immune system which, in turn, leads to an increased risk of developing both psychiatric and physical disorders in later life.

Indeed, it is now becoming increasingly recognized that the dysregulation of the immune system as a result of childhood trauma may be implicated in the later development of not just depression and obesity (as identified by the New Zealand study referred to at the beginning of this article) but it may also be the biological mechanism responsible for mediating the association between childhood trauma and the later development of many other physical and psychiatric conditions such as psychosis, anxiety, PTSD, complex PTSD, borderline personality disorder, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lung disease and metabolic syndrome and potentially, substantially reduce an individual’s life expectancy.

eBook : 


The above eBook is now available for immediate download from Amazon. Click here for further information.

Childhood Trauma : The ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Study

Childhood Psychological Trauma Can Lead To Brain Inflammation

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


Reducing Anxiety By Calming The Amygdala

We have seen from other articles published on this site that severe and protracted childhood trauma, resulting in the child being frequently subjected to extreme stress, can damage the development of the part of the brain known as the amygdala, which is intimately involved in generating feelings of fear and anxiety.

Indeed, in individuals who have experienced such serious childhood trauma that they have gone on to develop complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD), the amygdala has been found to be overactive; this can result in the affected person feeling constantly ‘on edge. hypervigilant, fearful, and, as it were, stuck on ‘red-alert’ / in a state of ‘fight or flight,’ with accompanying unpleasant bodily sensations such as a racing heart, rapid and shallow breathing (sometimes referred to as ‘hyperventilation), tense muscles, an unsettled stomach and nausea. Indeed, it is these very bodily symptoms that feedback to the brain leading to the perception of being afraid.


An overactive amygdala is not only associated with complex PTSD; it has also been found to be associated with depressive and (as one, of course, would expect) anxiety disorders (e.g. Dannlowski et al., 2007).


Fortunately, another part of the brain, known as the prefrontal cortex (which is involved in planning complex cognitive behaviour, rational, logical and abstract thought, speech, decision making, reappraisal of situations, active generative visualization and moderating social behaviour) can be harnessed to inhibit the overactivity of the amygdala, thus calming it to allow symptoms of anxiety to dissipate and dissolve away.


If we suffer from PTSD or complex-PTSD we are prone to experience extreme fear and anxiety when it is not, objectively speaking, warranted. And, when we become fearful we can become locked into the fight/flight state, causing our body’s oxygen to be diverted to our muscles (particularly in out arms and legs) so that we may fight or flee more effectively. However, this reduces the amount of oxygen available to the prefrontal cortex which, in turn, means that we are limited in our ability to think rationally so that we are unable to reassure ourselves that the danger we perceive is not objectively justified, and, therefore, we are also unable to inhibit our amygdala’s overactivity.


In this fearful state, we need to control our breathing so that sufficient oxygen can reach the prefrontal cortex to allow it to function optimally; we can achieve this by breathing in a relaxed and slow manner, and, when exhaling, breath out slowly from the stomach so that the diaphragm moves upwards to increase the pressure on the lungs and heart to expel air. This type of breathing beneficially affects the part of the brain stem known as the medulla which, in turn, sends signals along the vagus nerve, leading to increased activity of the parasympathetic nervous system and decreased activity of the sympathetic nervous system: in combination, this produces feelings of relaxation and ameliorates feelings of stress and anxiety.


To calm the amygdala further, we can also take advantage of the prefrontal cortex’s ability to visualization (see above) and undertake sessions of relaxing, guided imagery either with a therapist or using self-hypnosis.


eBook :


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





Depression : Anger Towards Parents Turned Inward?





The idea that depression is the result of our anger towards others (such as our parents) who have hurt and betrayed being turned inwards towards ourselves is usually thought to originate from the theories of Sigmund Freud, 1856 -1939 (who discussed the concept in his paper entitled ‘Mourning And Melancholia‘), although it is more likely to derive from the work of the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) who, a few decades earlier during the 1880s, wrote that ‘no one blames themselves without the secret wish for vengeance’.

And, more recently, Horney (1885 – 1852) proposed that depression originates from having parents who lack warmth or are hostile, inconsistent and preoccupied with their own needs rather than with those of their children. This negative parental treatment leads to the child developing feelings of anger and resentment towards the parent. However, because the child is dependent upon his / her parents, s/he cannot risk expressing these angry and resentful feelings and so represses them (this repression may also be driven by feelings of guilt about resenting his / her parents, by fear of the consequences of openly expressing anger towards them, or by conflicting feelings of love for them – in relation to the latter, you may wish to read my previously published article: Why Children Idealize Their Parents). This process takes place on a largely unconscious level, of course.

However, rather than dissipate away, these feeling of anger and resentment are REDIRECTED TOWARDS THE SELF. This negative energy then combines with the child’s feelings of his / her own impotence, the negative attitude of his / her parents towards him/her, and a sense of his / her own feelings of hostility, to cause the young person to create a self-concept of being someone to be ‘despised’. According to Horney, however, at the same time, the child simultaneously develops the compensatory concept of an ‘idealized’ self which is unrealistic and unobtainable, no matter how hard the child / later adult attempts to realize it.

However, in a desperate need to compensate for the ‘despised’ self, the child / later adult develops an insatiable and all-consuming, neurotic need to achieve this ideal state, even though s / he is not consciously aware of the origins of this need. This intense, neurotic need may manifest itself in various ways including perfectionism, an overwhelming need to be loved and admired by everyone (e.g. by becoming famous), or to be omnipotent.

Needless to say, living up to these standards is impossible and the inevitable failure to do so, according to Horney, generates feelings of self-hate. Indeed, the anger associated with these feelings may become so deeply entrenched and buried within the body that the result is psychosomatic symptoms such as headaches and backache, representing an unconscious, masochistic need to punish oneself.

Anger turned inwards against the self and self-hatred clearly suggests an utter absence of self-compassion which is why compassion-focused therapy may be helpful for some who find themselves trapped in this self-lacerating, masochistic frame of mind, whilst Horney recommended psychoanalytic psychotherapy.


Develop Self Compassion | Self Hypnosis Downloads




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

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



Reducing The Pain Associated With Being Stuck In ‘Fight / Flight’ Mode.

We have seen how the experience of severe and protracted childhood trauma can damage the development of the brain’s amygdala, leaving us, as adults, prone to chronic anxiety and a sense of being ‘stuck on red alert’ / trapped in a state of perpetual ‘fight or flight.’ Indeed, being locked into this state of hypervigilance is a hallmark of complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD) which some victims of childhood trauma go on to develop.

Such a state, as I know from my own experience, can be intensely painful and affect one on four levels :

  • a cognitive level

  • a behavioural level

  • an emotional level

  • a physical level

Let’s look at each of these in turn. According to Pullins (2016), these four levels may be associated with the following types of pain :


  • proneness to interpreting people and situations negatively even when objectively unwarranted
  • proneness to view others as hostile even when not objectively warranted
  • a preoccupation with pain
  • dysfunctional alterations of personality
  • distortion of perception of personal control (this can involve both underestimation and overestimation)


  • irritability and hostility
  • social withdrawal
  • avoidance


  • fear, anxiety, panic, chronic worry
  • depression
  • proneness to explosive rage


  • shaking
  • sweating
  • loss of libido
  • muscle tension
  • insomnia
  • vision disorders


According to Pullins, in order to reduce the above types of pain generated by being ‘stuck’ in the ‘fight/flight survival mode’, and the distress that it causes, it is necessary for us to: REDUCE THE OVER-ACTIVITY OF OUR SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM.

In order to achieve this, it is necessary to INCREASE THE ACTIVITY OF THE PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM (so that the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system return to an optimal level of balance) which is CONDUCIVE TO FEELINGS OF REST AND RELAXATION.


Pullins suggests we can help ourselves achieve this balance, and, thus, free ourselves from being permanently locked into the pain-inducing fight/flight state, through the following activities :

  • mindfulness meditation

  • relaxation techniques

  • diaphragmatic breathing

  • engaging with others socially

  • undertaking meaningful activities persistently and with pacing

  • undertaking pleasurable activities/hobbies

  • writing about our thoughts and feelings in a journal

  • distracting our attention from an unremittingly negative focus

  • exercise

  • reframing pain

  • positive self-talk

  • verbal communication



Overcome Fear and Anxiety | Self Hypnosis Downloads


Severe Mental Pain And Anguish : BPD And Algopsychalia

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