Archives for October 2009

Love Lessons: the Moving Tale of a Mother Who Tried to Love a RAD Child from Russia – Part III

Excerpt from the Foreward from “Love Lessons,” a Soon-to-be-Published Book

Part III – October 2009

The “wounded healer” is a prevailing archetype of our time. If and when we can honor our path to wholeness with integrity and fierce honesty and love and compassion, faith and humor, we can then help others to do the same on their journey. There is symmetry in balance in coming to the conclusion, that those, who can most help the hurt and the traumatized children among us, are those who have taken on their own journey, healed their own trauma, and left no stone unturned.

As Jody writes about Victoria:

She is fighting a battle, daily, to free her heart. She didn’t even know she had a heart at war. It’s the only heart she has ever known. That sounds eerily familiar to me. This journey is the exact one that I was on. She was trying to free her heart of the very same things I was, so that her capacity to feel love and express empathy would increase. I don’t know who could understand and know the pain I have felt except for Victoria her. And I was raised in a home with loving parents and a family. She was a lone orphan living in an institution. Five thousand miles away in an institution. Our paths cross and we helped each other fix what we could not do for ourselves.

“From his mom.” she replied, like I should have already known. “That’s where everyone learns love lessons.”

What are the conditions that precipitate or necessitate a thorough self examination are not of the greatest importance. Only that we do it, and continue to do it, until we are done, and as it comes up again and again. More encouragement, landmarks and guideposts along this journey, are often necessary and always welcome. Moms and dads often report feeling lost.

I thank Jody and Jason for sharing all of the paths and passageways along their journey with Victoria us all. I hope it is of help to parents and professionals alike.

Daniel Siegel, MD, and his colleagues have made great contributions to our understanding of Developmental Neuropsychology. Through advances in technology, this research area has been able to demonstrate that theories of attachment are hard wired in brain development. His findings support his conclusion that the “coherent narrative” of the mother, (of the primary bonding figure) is the single greatest factor that determines whether the child will be able to successfully bond and attach to the mother, to the bonding figure.

Fonagy from Great Britain have shown that the attachment pattern of an adopted child will mirror that of the adoptive parent after 3 months of placement.

When children from hard places are taken into the home, what appeared even at deep levels as the “coherent narrative” of the mother and father, can be terribly shaken up by these children. The children’s trauma history is so powerful and pervasive; It is routinely filled with rejection, trauma, in utero drug and alcohol exposure; exposure to violence, and/or overcrowded orphanages. Therefore, their core belief system has concluded I will not bond. I will not be loved. It is safer to reject, before I am rejected…. AGAIN!

Helping birth children make a safe passage from childhood to increasing levels of healthy independence, while remaining attached to family, can give a parent an understandable sense of accomplishment, pride and a certain security in one’s ability as a mother and father. Parenting traumatized, and attachment challenged children will provide the opposite experience of oneself as a parent.

Mothers like Miss Bean, who have raised her sons so well, are qualified to bear witness to the fire, that burns when a “good home” takes in a child from a “hard place.”. The courage required of such a journey is unparalleled. She and her husband, Jason, survived, and can now tell the story so that mothers, fathers, and professionals anywhere can learn as witness to this journey. And since mothers, fathers, and even professionals are routinely if not always heard to say that they need information about this challenge, it is my hope that this can be a resource for adoptive mothers, and those, who try to support these families.

Understanding and treating Attachment disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Attachment challenges, or problems resulting from pervasive sanctuary trauma, of the very young, have had a short and controversial history in psychiatry and psychology. Research literature has focused on attachment as a relationship between two people. Some in the treatment field have placed the onus of change on the traumatized child. Thus, treatment and research have often diverged. Universities study the attachment relationship to great gains in understanding. Treatment focuses on attachment disorder as a problem that the “traumatized” child brings to the relationship.

In a way, this different focus for treatment providers is understandable. A loving family, with great morals and values takes a child in. The child rejects the families love. Is that the families’ fault? No it is not. And yet, what experience and perspective are teaching us, is that taking in children from hard places, will often times, test a marriage, a relationship, a parent, to its very core. It is said that adoption of traumatized and attachment challenged children results in an 85% divorce rate. This seems believable. If there is a chink in the armor within a parent or within a family, it will be identified, exploited, amplified and exacerbated by taking these children into one’s home. Families, who take these children in need to be understood, supported and applauded for the challenges they take on for the future of society.

I knew it was difficult to understand from the outside looking in but the suspicion was hurtful. Other people thought they could provide what I am not giving. So did I, once upon a time. Just more love. I have loved this girl more than anyone despite what I could not do for her. This love brought her to our home. This love allowed her to stay. This love will mend her. This love will allow her to love others. And despite what they thought, they had not seen her love. – p.150

Should these families be vilified, ridiculed and unappreciated? Or should these families be seen as the last man on the dike, trying to hold the water back, before it blows for good! Should we be GRATEFUL? Why are these ladies judged so harshly..

James Heckman, Nobel Prize winner for Economics, 2000, demonstrated that in North America at the year 2000 about 10% of our families are high risk families and use up the vast majority of community mental health resources in this country. If current trends in birth rates continue, then by the turn of the century, we may have 25% of the population at high risk. We can not support a democracy if ¼ of the population is at risk. As Dr. Bruce Perry demonstrates, most of our monies spent on “changing” people are spent when children are adolescents and young adults, i.e. once they enter the criminal justice system, and to a lesser extent psychiatric hospitals. If we want to make a difference, then we need to put our resources to work at the beginning of life. Ninety percent of brain development occurs in first 3 to 4 years of life. Personality and core beliefs are formed by that age. The attachment patterns observed at 12 to 18 months of age, will prevail across the lifespan, barring the untimely death of a parent, or major change in life circumstances, illness, poverty, violence, addictions while the child is still very young.

Families, who take on damaged, neglected and rejected children, are working for all of us, and for our children’s future. As an industry, we simply have to do a better job of preparing families for the challenges routinely inherent in adoption and foster care. As a people and a society, we need to encourage and accommodate any and all willing families, who are able to do this work or act of love.

In “Love Lessons,” we do take the intimate journey with Jody Bean, her husband Jason, her daughter, Victoria, her family and her therapist, through the challenges and traps inherent in bringing a traumatized child “home,” and keeping her home. It is challenging, but both mother and child can be transformed in the process of going through the fire. Miss Bean shows us the way in, and the way through. I thank her and
everyone around her for making this journey successfully, and furthermore for making it available to the rest of us.

Deciding to Not Stay Where You Are At

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (To us, this includes Pathological Love Relationship Awareness)

‘The First Step Towards Getting Somewhere is to DECIDE That You Are Not Going To Stay Where You Are’

(Anny Jacoby)

I just loved when I read this quote…it reminds me of what we have been talking about now for months—since I began the Living the Gentle Life series which has been about the recovery from PTSD and Pathological Love Relationships.

I get emails that say “I can’t leave because ________.” There are lots of reasons that people (men and women) feel trapped in pathological love relationships–finances, children, health, lack of job/education, religious beliefs, family attitude, fear of harm, and their own damage from PTSD. But the first step towards any kind of internal shift where something else might be a possibility is beginning with knowing you are not going to stay where you are.

The external reasons of ‘why’ you are still there are just that…external. The paradigm shift starts with the internal, the decision you make that you are not going to stay where you are: emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually, or sexually. What happens outside of us in recovery first starts with the shift internally before it is ever manifested in our lives. We won’t follow a path that isn’t developed internally first. We’ll end up only seeing the road blocks of the external which doesn’t help us.

Over the 20 years of working in pathology and victimology I have heard every kind of story about these relationships: from the most deviant kind of mind control to attempted murder, to actual murder. Financial hostage taking, rape, assaults, stalked, women put into comas, people alienated from their children, people medically harmed, reputations and careers ruined, people locked in their homes or psyches for decades. I’ve heard all of it. The emails

start with “But, I can’t and then (the reason).” But yet, they have read our magazine, are on our newsletter, or are emailing us so obviously something inside is shifting–somewhere they are deciding they are not going to stay where they are—even mentally they are moving and changing. Their ‘Yes, but’ might be a reason to them but I see beyond it. I think they are already deciding to eventually not be where they are.

Yes, there are safety and housing barriers–he won’t leave. But every community has DV services or DV housing most likely exists even a town away.

Yes, there are emotional barriers–you have PTSD. But every community has DV counseling services that are free, churches have support groups, community mental health counseling for you or your children is free or very low cost.

Yes, there are starting over barriers—when you leave with only what’s in your suitcase. But DV services and other non-profits offer furniture, clothing and house hold items to those starting over.

Yes, there are legal barriers–you don’t have an attorney. Self help, women’s organizations, non-profits, DV agencies have information on Legal Aid and OTHER types of pro-bono services if you don’t qualify for Legal Aid.

Yes, there are other case-specific barriers–there are so many issues to manage at once. But women’s org, DV agencies and other non-profits have case workers assigned to you so you don’t have to do it all yourself.

You only have to first decide “That you are not going to stay where you are at.” That’s the first step of the rest of your life. That doesn’t mean you leave tomorrow–that means you shift internally–that you open the emotional door of possibility that you will not always be where you are today.

The Institute is not a crisis program so we can’t help you ‘leave’ per se. You need to call agencies where you are at because it’s unethical for Cyber-Programs to be involved in that level of care when we cannot be face-to-face. However, there are lots of things we can do to help prepare you to make that move OR after you have left and are ready to heal.

October is DV Awareness Month and I stop to give tribute and memory to those patients of mine who have died because they believed they couldn’t do anything about their situation or they under-estimated his pathology (or her pathology). In honor of all those who have been harmed, alive or not, we remember you this month and send ‘possibility’ to you that your life can and will be different. I don’t say that flippantly–I too have experienced a lot of pain when I see patients further harmed so I say it from my own experience.

The Institute has helped thousands of people make that paradigm shift internally so they could evidently make it externally. We hope you’ll be next. Instead of sending us an email that says ‘why’ your external reason is for not being able to leave right now, use that energy instead to open yourself to the possibility of what it would be like to leave, begin again, feel something, grow, get your life back, love again. Take a journal and write about that possibility. Use your energy not to talk about the staying, but the growing. We believe you will get there!