Perspective on Trauma

Building Perspective on Trauma, Loss, Attachment, Familial Pain, and Moving Forward


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Joni Edelman: Adult Children of Alcoholics I’m

The following article is by author Joni Edelman. Her writing does much to normalize the experiences, internal world, and often outcomes of adult children of alcoholics.

There are many adults among us — many of whom you might not recognize — with intimate knowledge of what it’s like to grow up with an addicted parent. Sadly, there are also many people who love those adults and don’t know what it is like to have become an adult who was once a child raised amongst chaos. For many of us, our entire childhood was swathed in dysfunction. As development goes, the severe dysfunction of our childhood probably resulted in severely delayed or stunted emotional growth.

Being the child of an addict is complicated, and we can’t always verbalize how so. Even if we’ve had enough therapy to buy our psychiatrist a boat, we still may not even know we are dysfunctional. Bear with us as we continue the work of figuring it all out.

Here are the 10 things we’d like you to know — even if we can’t articulate them:

1. We don’t know “normal.” Normal is a relative term, yes. But our normal is not on the relativity scale. Normal for us can include instability, fear, even abuse. Normal might be a parent passed out in their own vomit. Normal might be taking care of your household, your siblings, your parent(s), and very rarely yourself. This profound lack of understanding leads us to the conclusion that normal = perfect, and less than perfect is unacceptable. Perfect is a non-negotiable term — there are no blurred lines. It’s all or nothing.

2. We are afraid. A lot of the time. And the fear is hidden — sometimes very deeply. We are afraid of the future, specifically the unknown. The unknown was our reality for many years. We may not have known where our parents were, or when they’d return. We might not have known if there would be dinner or drunkenness. While we may know now that those things aren’t likely to happen, that doesn’t make life any less terrifying. This fear may express itself in a number of ways, everything from anger to tears. We probably won’t recognize it as fear.

3. We are afraid (part 2: children). We are afraid to have children and when we do, we are afraid to wreck them, like we are wrecked. If we can acknowledge our own damage, we definitely don’t want to inflict it on anyone else. We don’t really know how to be a parent. It’s actually panic inducing. We will second-guess everything we do and may over-parent for fear of under-parenting.

4. We feel guilty. About everything. We don’t understand self-care. We don’t have clear-cut boundaries. If we stand up for ourselves, we feel guilty. If we take care of ourselves, we feel guilty. Our life is built on a foundation of I give to you and receive nothing. We don’t know how to receive.

5. We are controlling. Because we don’t know normal, and because we are afraid, we may often seek to exert control over anything and everything around us. This can manifest itself in our homes, our work, or our relationships. We may often be inflexible. We don’t usually see this as dysfunction. We will likely frame this as a strength.

6. We are perfectionists. We are terribly critical of ourselves — of every detail. Because of this internal dialogue of self-loathing, we are often sensitive to criticism from others. This is deeply-seated fear of rejection. Please pause, if you are able, and choose your words with compassion. We may have lacked for love. We need it.

7. We had no peace in our childhood. We don’t know peace. This is ironic, because we believe only in perfection and yet we create chaos. Chaos, stress, unrest: these are comfortable for us. We feel at home in these circumstances, not because they are healthy, but because they feel normal.

8. We are in charge of everything — even if we don’t want to be (but we always want to be). This manifests itself mostly in female daughters and especially the oldest female daughters of an addict mother (we have our own books, even). Because these women — like myself — have been forced to take on the responsibilities of the incapable parent(s), they will be the first person to take on everything — to their own detriment. Responsibility is the name of the game. And we will take responsibility for everyone; their emotions, their needs, their lives. In fact, it’s easier to take responsibility for everyone else than even ourselves.

9. We seek approval. Constantly. Our self-esteem is exceptionally low. Our addicted parents were unable to provide the love and nurturing we required to form secure attachment. As such, we will seek that in all our relationships going forward. All of them. This need for approval manifests itself in generally self-sacrificing behavior. We will give to our own detriment. Please remind us to take care of ourselves, too.

10. We live in conflict. We want to be perfect, but we can’t because we are paralyzed by fear. We want to control our surroundings, but we desperately want to be taken care of. We desperately want to be self-assured, because we know that’s the key to the control we seek, but we can’t be self-assured because we grew up believing we had no worth.

If we have chosen you as a partner, or even a dear friend, we may see either a situation that requires our keen ability to pick up the mess, or we may see someone who can love us back to health. Neither of these is a particularly sound choice. We don’t know. We don’t care.

While intellectually we may know that it is our responsibility to manage our feelings, our intellect doesn’t always align itself with our emotions. We may be frail, frightened, scared, lonely, angry, or clingy. We may be all of those things at once.

We don’t mean to be, we probably don’t even know we are.

This story by Joni Edelman first appeared at ravishly.com, an alternative news+culture women’s website.

Note: This is a post sharing another’s work.

Agreement of Use: In consideration for your use of and access to the Perspective on Trauma Blog, you agree that LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW is not liable to you for any action or non-action you may take in reliance upon information from the blog. Please note, it is not possible to provide informed (personalized care) through blog content. It is your responsibility to seek individual clinical care from your own provider, who will know or learn your specific circumstances, should care be needed.

Professional Disclaimer: It is important to recognize that all information contained in the Perspective on Trauma Blog is informational, and is not intended as a substitute for clinical care. It is not possible to provide informed care through web content, as an informed treatment relationship cannot be formed. If you or a loved one is in need of care, it is important that you access this care from your own care provider.

Image: Pinterest.com


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The Safe Justice Act- A Start!

It is highly unlikely that incarceration of youth, increase their capacity for becoming healthy, safe, and productive citizens. The attached article is a very sad statement to the criminal justice systems generalization (one size fits all) of consequence for youth who commit crimes. This is not to say accountability is not important. It is! Each situation is and should be considered on the basis of what genuinely occurred. Too many youth have been incarcerated and lengthy sentences imposed. Incarcerated for mistakes, that most likely would not have occurred had they the opportunities many in our country have. The Safe Justice Act, is a start at reform in this area. Admittedly it is not the foundational answer. The foundational answer will be found in early identification and funding which supports families.Truly supports families! It does not seem a hard concept; that children who grow in families who have enough have a better opportunity to grow into healthy adults. Enough, to this writer, means basic resources, access to education, nurtured relationships, and opportunities to celebrate successes. Children learn and grow in relationship. When caregivers are overburdened with survival, or have not had the opportunities themselves to understand safety it is difficult (not impossible) to afford this to their children. This is not a statement of parental blame – it is a statement of outrage at the injustice of what has occurred, is occurring, and will continue to occur without solid understanding that supporting families means supporting overall growth for our country on each and every level.

There are many scholarly articles that can be sited, much research in this area, and many supporters of aide to families. There are just as many scholarly articles, research, and supporters who blame poverty, social issues, and generational systemic use on those who rely on systemic support. Again, it is not a hard concept; supporting families supports the overall familial, social, and financial success of our country. Genuine support does not mean minimal financial funding; and then walking away from supporting and providing avenues to growth. A foundational understanding will need to be supported top down. Early identification, informed support, safe relationships, avenues to education, and opportunities to success (for each and every citizen) is needed. Utilization of funding in these areas and an informed understanding (top-down) is needed.

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/07/a-new-beginning-for-criminal-justice-reform-119822.html#.VdC-RIt0E21

Uncategorized Attachment, http://http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/us/citing-safety-adult-jails-put-youths-in-solitary-despite-risks.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/07/a-new-beginning-for-criminal-justice-reform-119822.html#.VdC-RIt0E21, juvenile crime, juvenile incarceration, mental health, poverty, the new your times youth in solitary confinement, The safe justice act, trauma

Agreement of Use: In consideration for your use of and access to the Perspective on Trauma Blog, you agree that LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW is not liable to you for any action or non-action you may take in reliance upon information from the blog. Please note, it is not possible to provide informed (personalized care) through blog content. It is your responsibility to seek individual clinical care from your own provider, who will know or learn your specific circumstances, should care be needed.

Professional Disclaimer: It is important to recognize that all information contained in the Perspective on Trauma Blog is informational, and is not intended as a substitute for clinical care. It is not possible to provide informed care through web content, as an informed treatment relationship cannot be formed. If you or a loved one is in need of care, it is important that you access this care from your own care provider.

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Running From Still

I can’t sit still. That is crazy. If I sit still; I will feel. I will feel the pain of my complicated life. A life that began with the person or people in charge who were not able to sit still -to hold their pain, and certainly not mine. Sometimes that person or the people (in charge) perpetuated my pain by their running. Their avoidance of their own pain. They did things that should not have been done. Things I remember or feel ( consciously or not) that cause my constant movement.

My movement (away from still) can take many forms to distance me from its truth. It can take the form (along a continuum) of acting out or giving in. Here is what I know, a long time ago (or a short time ago), I began to run from it , to hide from it, to avoid it at any cost. Why would I (being a sensible person) choose to feel that. I would not. No one would.

Perspective: Being still, feeling, accepting, seeing (maybe for the first time) one’s personal strengths (the strength that helped you survive) creates new possibilities. Possibilities where once there was avoidance; become rights to life that were not known before.

I see this everyday in my practice. I see the personal strength it has taken to endure life’s hardships. Hardships that were mostly created by someone who was/is so profoundly important in the life of the child who has been brought for counseling, the adolescent who has been sent or has come, or the adult who has decided it is time to find answers. Answers to this running from stillness.

It is important to know the running takes many many forms. It can take the form of aggression, anger, depression, anxiety, addiction, withdrawal, submission (and many others). It becomes a way of avoiding the inner experience that hurts so deeply. It manifest in social, emotional,relational, and behavioral strategies meant to distance.

It is important to recognize the strength it has taken and to honor the incredibly creative ( and wise) strategies the child, adolescent, or adult has constructed (through time) to manage the pain that began a long or short time ago.

The work of being still is not about blame of others. It is about feeling, accepting, recognizing inherent strengths, and beginning to see yourself, your own truth and your place in this very large and seemingly complex world.

It will take time and trust. And, that is ok. It took time and many experiences of not being able to trust that set in motion the creative strategies that have made distance.

I genuinely believe, and see, the change that comes through this process. And while stillness (siting with the pain) will create an even greater and more peaceful strength then has existed before, it cannot begin until the person (child, adolescent, or adult) has a place of trust. When this place of trust is found, profound change can and does occur. Sitting still -most often begins in the midst of a trusting relationship.

Agreement of Use: In consideration for your use of and access to the Perspective on Trauma Blog, you agree that LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW is not liable to you for any action or non-action you may take in reliance upon information from the blog. Please note, it is not possible to provide informed (personalized care) through blog content. It is your responsibility to seek individual clinical care from your own provider, who will know or learn your specific circumstances, should care be needed.

Professional Disclaimer: It is important to recognize that all information contained in the Perspective on Trauma Blog is informational, and is not intended as a substitute for clinical care. It is not possible to provide informed care through web content, as an informed treatment relationship cannot be formed. If you or a loved one is in need of care, it is important that you access this care from your own care provider.

Image: Pinterest