Dr. Peter Levine on Child Sexual Abuse and Relational Trauma in the Context of the Patient-Therapist Relationship

Here’s another one by Dr. Levine. Now, this may trigger some. However – and seeing as I come from a history of abuse in early and later childhood, which was largely emotional and verbal, I don’t recall sexual abuse – I find him to be spot on with everything he says and particularly how he says it. I also find him to come across as very compassionate, very understanding, astute and open-minded and seeing those traits from his speech here and the work he refers to, that alone has comforting, reassuring qualities where I’m concerned. But see for yourself, if so inclined.

Dr. Peter Levine on child sexual abuse and relational trauma – YouTube.

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Is it possible to recover from rape and sexual abuse? Yes and No

I have to issue a strong trigger warning in regards to this article. However, I find it to be a genius summary of all the relevant aspects, outcomes and particular challenges resulting from abuse and ensuing PTSD. Also, I can’t help but conclude more and more often that the outcomes of abuse – regardless(?) of the specific nature of the abuse, tentatively speaking – are essentially all very similar – if not the same. At least from my experience I can attest to all of the manifestations mentioned in the article at one or the other time in my own journey. I am not aware that I was a victim of sexual (child) abuse, but reading Dr. Kerr’s article almost leads me to believe that I must have been…. and this based on the experience that I went through all of what the persons quoted in the article went through themselves (including Dr. Kerr, as far as I understand it). Well – like I said: An informative piece, but hard to digest. Read at your own discretion, please.

Is it possible to recover from rape and sexual abuse? Yes and No.

P.S. At this point I share Dr. Kerr’s belief that I may never fully come around from the trauma I experienced and the outcomes it left me dealing with. The events happened too early and they seem ingrained too deeply due to multiple retraumatization at later, crucial times of an individual’s emotional and psychological development. So I’m trying my best to not freak out over this finding…. and like she says in closing, I (try to) remain open to the possibility of complete healing. Until seeing below embedded video, I was left to believe that a person can’t be completely cured from trauma. But listening very closely to what Rachel Hope shares in this candid account of her own healing through MDMA-assisted psychotherapy sessions gives me – lame pun semi-intended…  – H/hope 😉

Find the full article containing this video here.

Evangelisches (Lutheran) Frankfurt: Not only Bombs, but Nazi Rearing Methods Traumatized Children of the WWII Generation

Here’s an extremely conclusive and interesting article by Katrin Einert, identifying the evil rearing methods as proposed and published by Johanna Haarer as potential sources for trauma in the entire WWII generation. Haarer, then famous educator and clearly a strong supporter of Nazi ideas and their ensuing regime, made child humiliation, harsh punishments and even the denial of affectionate intimacy with the child a key point of her “teachings”.

Unfortunately, there is no English version of this article – and I’m too wrapped up in other activities at this point to find the time to translate it. However, let’s just say that author Einert seems to have found yet another potential source of PTSD in adults, which might have originated from those brutal ideas as proposed by Haarer, which appear to have been largely accepted and applied throughout the entire NS-era, but even after that way into the late 60ies.

I can’t help but continue to shake my head over this failed species that we humans seem to be… (or so it appears to day… it’s hard to find positive, encouraging, uplifting encounters and experiences – they do happen though!)

Nicht nur Bomben, auchNazi-Erziehung traumatisierte Kinder – Evangelisches Frankfurt.

Kimberly’s blog posting today left me with a flurry of mixed emotions. Sadness is not a part of it. Regrets neither. Rage – unfortunately, no longer, either. I say unfortunately, because rage has a great self-protecting quality to it. It basically says: My truth is more important to me than yours. And from everything I was able to pick up along the way from healthier individuals than myself, this seems to be a natural place to be in for any emotionally sane person.

There is not the faintest trace of a doubt in me any more that Kimberly’s “decree of divorce” speaks a truth that is very close to my own experiences and past reality. I also say unfortunately, because I’m really not sure any more, whether I’m built to prevail. Needing to confront the darkest notion I could possibly think of, namely that of having been born to the reality of an emotional orphan, seems too big a truth to confront for me. Nonetheless, with every single sentence I’ve read on Kimberly’s blog today, I am realizing that her truth is my truth as well. Maybe the circumstances and exact experiences were not the same. But then it is becoming more and more evident to me that the outcomes of abuse are seemingly similar across the board, at least when looking at what child abuse has done to her. It’s done very similar things to me, the most horrible of which are these: To have been alone with this for a lifetime and put in a position, where even saying “Ouch! This hurts!” would have been a wrongdoing on my part. Ongoing verbal and emotional abuse along with physical punishment, neglect (the silent treatment) and a long list of other means of deprivation meticulously trained me to hate on myself for every little shortcoming, every single moment of forgetfulness, every little measure of vulnerability. I guess, I’m saying that the full effect of this gargantuan scope of violence has only now begun to settle in on me…

Contrary to what one might infer from these reflections on my part, I’m still very grateful to have found Kim’s blog and story – and in her and along with that probably the first person on earth so far, who really understands. Abuse – sexual, emotional, verbal, physical – is violence. Violence is bad enough as it is. But violence from an individual a child places all their love and trust and hopes in? That is psychocide. It’s a full blown attack on the very nature of a human being. Abuse is crime of the worst degree…I find Kimberly’s resolve to seek legal action from such violence to be a natural response. And a response that speaks of the growth that a former victim and survivor accomplished for themselves. I have repeatedly pondered this myself and had gone as far as scouting lawyers willing to take my case. This was in 2009 as far as I remember. But they turned me down reasoning that it might be hard bordering on impossible and implausible to prove the causal link between my disorders and the abuse as having originated them. Seeing as I already faced overwhelming adversity at the time coming from the precarious situation I have arrived at as well as additional mayhem that makes this particular time a bizarre and almost comic like hell ride, I didn’t press on. The other detrimental aspect, however, weighs more heavily: The very few witnesses I could name are becoming unavailable. One friend of my elementary school days died two years ago. My aunt, who might be the only person who ever came close to understanding the link between abuse endured and my personal battle, has now become a nursing case. And … depends on … those I hold responsible. My sister never got it and what’s more, has her own vested interests in not taking a stance on my behalf. There were times I felt enormous amounts of rage over this crazy situation and towards all of bio family. Take the rage away and they feel completely insignificant to me today. The only genuine feelings I can think of are that of being annoyed and embarrassed of them. Embarrassment from realizing that I actually come from a highly dysfunctional family. At moments like this, it feels as if they have never done anything but taint the light of my soul. Soiled it. And possibly destroyed it, I’m not sure just yet. Of course, there weren’t only bad things. But they seem to fade against the backdrop of the horrible experiences endured. After all, in all of the world only the results matter. And so far and despite my fierce resolve to get by in the world, the intermediate results are grim.

I had already been there myself, in the place of drawing a firm line and excluding the perpetrators from my life. They never deserved me to begin with, plain and simple. But then – I betrayed myself again from finding myself in a situation that had become hopeless – again? Jeez… – bordering on life threatening and all around impossible to maneouver with the “onboard equipment” and means in place. In this regard, Kimberly’s blog is a reminder for me. A reminder to continue the journey from where I had strayed a short while ago. At the same time… I cringe with pain I had hoped to get around. And I don’t know what’s going to become of me. I am very afraid that I might be beyond repair, but what’s worse: I find myself shut off from access to the help I know exists for people like me, but is exempt from my health care plan. I have become a quasi expert in navigating impossible situations. But I’m clueless as to this predicament.

I see the blessings bestowed on me (dear people helped me to realize those). But at times like this, how can I not feel as if all this was some cruel joke by a higher power or something? At moments like this, my life feels like a curse to me. And for the life of me, I can’t seem to identify any practical use for growing beyond the challenges placed in front of me. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Fuck that. Does it really? What about my natural vulnerability, when is there a time to experience that quality in me? When will there be a moment, when I’m o.k. to let the guards down without needing to fear the final blow on me – in whatever shape it might come?

There is a growing suspection in me of coming out nothing but broken on the other end. Broken and aware of it. Sorry for being negative. I’m just being honest. And Lord – or who- or whatever – knows, I hope to get past this place of collossal despair. Reason tells me, I have before. But that was when I had some remaining hope of reconciling. No more so. I had sensed it. Now I’m certain.

Burning Bridges – and for good?

I like to come here when I need to figure something profound out. Today was one such day that called for taking a solitary contemplative walk by the lake again. Sometimes I get to shoot photography as I walk and deliberate, but I got there too late today and the sun had already disappeared between a solid layer of clouds. It began to snow softly as I pulled up to the small parking area. A surprisingly strong and chilly wind greeted me as I headed down to the Eastern lake shore. I left the DSLR in the car after quickly assessing the weather situation and deciding that I’d be rather unlikely to see the sun breaking through the thick snow clouds before it would finally set anyway.
We’ve had another two inches of snow again over the past few days and a little bit of sunshine later in the afternoon, so the small trail along the shore had turned into a muddy sogging mess with barely any dry spots to walk on seeing as there is partial flooding from a high water level. For a split-second I was tempted to return to the car and find a different place to walk in, but decided against it knowing that for some reason looking across the water always inspires clearer and better thoughts than anywhere else in my vicinity. Also, given the weather and trail conditions, I was unlikely to run into too many other passers-by or joggers, which meant I’d have the lake and the trail largely to myself. So I headed on to my usual destination some three miles north from where I usually park. And after having mastered the first few hundred yards and having crossed a little stream on dry feet, I had made up my mind to keep walking. Plus – the weather matched my murky mind perfectly. I felt I needed to reach a decision on something that’s been gnawing at me for another while again, if not forever. It’s about what position to take towards bio family. But in order to make some sense, I guess I should create some context first:

I had imposed a no-talking rule on them in early 2009 after finding two things: For one, them and I never spoke the same language and with all the energy I need for simply holding on and keeping myself together, I no longer felt I could afford the luxury of bridging the gap between their – simple – world and my complicated one. And second, I hold them responsible for a part of my condition, possibly the larger part of it and I never got to address it openly or otherwise. And here’s where it gets tricky right away: “Technically” and on the outside, they really did everything for us they were capable of. As both of my parents come from a very modest background themselves, providing in the way they did was an effort – and not a too small one. I get that, I respect that and I’m grateful for a couple of opportunities they gave us. Hadn’t it been for getting to attend Senior High School and partaking in extracurricular music and sports activities, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to reroute my life following a short time of playing music for a living following my military service. I couldn’t have enrolled at a major university or done anything else that went too far beyond offering mere physical labour to make a living. I am most grateful for having had these opportunities. I am even more grateful for having had the chance to study guitar and piano and thus getting to play in a number of bands until I graduated from High School. And speaking of High School: I got to participate in a short-term foreign student program and learned two foreign languages in school. So educationwise, they broke their backs to provide us with opportunities they never had. I can’t let this go uncredited for.
On the other hand… there was a price to pay for these opportunities. One was a fairly rigid routine I was to abide by – but which per se never bothered me much. The other one was… enduring abusive behaviour whenever I so much as let on I wasn’t too up to something. “You will do as I say or else …” – fill in your preferred threats and verbal abuse here, like e.g. “Dad’s going to give you a good spanking when he comes home tonight”, “You’re not going to get to have dinner with us”, “Get outta my face and don’t come back till you know what you’ve done wrong”, “You are never going to go anywhere in life, you’ll end up living in the streets”, “You’re no good for anything”, “Don’t you have anything else in mind but excessively entertaining yourselves?” … the list is almost infinitely long. And usually the verbal abuse was followed by/accompanied by or backed up with emotional and mild physical abuse or neglect, like e.g. days of getting the silent treatment, e.g. Even when I meant to express exuberance, I’d be met with s.th. along the lines of “There you go, being all over the top again!” or similar.

It’s not so much about the particular expression of abuse or the devastating combination of varying forms to drive a brutal message home, but rather the overall emotional “footprint” it left on me, which could be translated into something like “You are no good other than for making me unhappy. I’m having the worst of times and it’s because of you. Since I suffer from you, you shall suffer from me.” Today, I think I am able to understand that this was a major projection on the part of my mother, who must have felt left alone and neglected with staying at home all day and tending to my sister and I and her response to me probably came from a place of being overwhelmed with the chore of rearing and from being frustrated from feeling left alone with it more often than once. The above interpretation was probably meant towards my father, who was at work all day and who’d come home tired from work and in hindsight with not much else in mind than grabbing food and getting to relax – or playing sports on other days. Since I was the only other male available to vent – I got the full blow of that venting most times.

After having read Alice Miller’s book “The Drama of the Gifted Child” some time in 2009 per a friend’s tipp, I was convinced that I had involuntarily become one of those gifted children. I remembered the very strong verbal abuse all over, which was so off-the-hook that my best buddy in elementary school refused to come see me any more from one day to the next. I was in total shock and desperately enquired about the why and how, when the former replied: “I can’t bear your mother talking y’all down in front of me any longer. I won’t come see you anymore.” We both were 11 years of age then… I guess, this incident made me consciously aware for the first time that my home was different from my friends’ homes. There were other parents, whom you might have considered being rigid with their offsprings, strict and firm and with many rules to abide by. But although I could sense some air of tension, I don’t remember offensive bordering on cruel language towards any of them – at least not while I was around to pick them up or stop by. Hence my shock blended with despair over potentially losing my dependable best buddy, whom I’d spend almost every afternoon with while being out and about on our bicycles for hours and not returning until it was time for dinner. There were a few precious hours away from all that tension and pressure and losing those precious hours must have equalled a threat to my life in those days. So I made a huge effort to talk him out of seeing his decision through and offered to meet him downstairs after the first time he’d rung the bell or s.th. like this. And in thinking back, I think I remember him actually doing so for a while until either him or I were confronted by my mother. The actual memory gets a bit blurry and foggy here and I can’t be sure, whether I made an excuse for him or whether he actually confronted them back or whatever happened here. All I remember, though, is that I got to keep seeing him and – yeah, when thinking about it, I’m pretty sure, we’d leave things at the “bell code” situation and I’d meet him downstairs – as long as I got to get out!
I also remember that as I grew up, my wish and longing for being somewhere else deepened. Again, memory becomes blurry here, but I’m fairly certain, I even went as far as suggesting I live with my maternal grandparents – our paternal grandparents lived under the same roof. As a matter of fact, we lived in the house they’d built after their expulsion from their native land during World War II. Since I was also often threatened with being sent to boarding school, should I continue with my sassiness – and I never knew, exactly where and how I was being sassy seeing as I abode by their rules and orders anyway -, I even began to dream of that “outlook”. I was sure that being almost anywhere else must be better than here. But – I never tried to run away, fully realizing even then that I’d make my life a whole lot worse should I do so and get caught or rejected by whomever I’d have chosen to run to. It seemed an incalculable risk to take. In High School, I was happy about classes running longer than in elementary school and right till noon. Most times, I dreaded going home after school. I have very clear memories of this onset of growing despair towards the last class in school when realizing that I’d have to go back to all this rigor and pressure. I very clearly remember going “Just why can’t they get off my back?” inside and how other kids would sympathize with me when hearing of the treatment I was exposed to. But since they never went overboard with it, like e.g. beatings that would leave visible marks on my body, since most of the abuse happened behind closed doors and was fairly invisible and inaudible to neighbours – minus an occasional yelling that will have likely passed for regular reprimand -, noone ever saw any need to intervene or question anything. Plus, my grandfather was a short-tempered man as it is, and him and my paternal grandmother would have noisy fights on a regular basis. So I guess, those could sound fairly intimidating – they were to me! – and noone felt exactly encouraged to get in his face about it. In retrospect, I think not minding other people’s business was the generally accepted social code of the day, something that “hear no evil, speak no evil” might refer to as well. Maybe it had to do with our family’s different background as refugees of war that created a social divide between them and citizens native to the area. All I know is that neighbour’s where generally friendly with them and us, and I didn’t have the understanding yet, whether this behaviour came from a genuine friendly place or a superficial one that was meant to keep the distance. I do remember one or two neighbours’ kids being over for birthday parties and vice versa. I don’t remember the adults partying together – ever.

Before I end up recounting all of my growing up, let’s just say that feeling largely uncomfortable and with some sort of threat hanging over my head more or less constantly was the norm for me. I thought I’d get to address certain things as I grew older, most noteably through my teen years. But as my sister told me later, these were merely pointless and endless debates over differing positions that remained separate – talking or not. In looking back, I am aware now and was then that I meant to get them to see my point of view once or feel me or see me at all – not just my talents and accomplishments, like e.g. mostly very good grades until age 14. But – not to any avail, even until today. Sure, there were some slightly more pronounced talks and even family therapy sessions following my breakdown in 2009, when a giant panic attack had me pass out and almost break my jaw, gave me a laceration and a concussion along with a short term hospitalization to treat the latter two. But none of it ever led to me feeling validated for the pain I had endured during my childhood and adolescent years. To this day, their truth and mine were different and according to them, most, if not all of it, is “only in my head”.

So… this is what I deliberated when taking my walk today: Should I cut all ties with them again, burn all bridges and impose a unilateral “no talking” code like I did for some time in 2009 and 2010, when I really had zero energy left to play the role they’d expect me to play? I mean, 48 years of trying should be enough, shouldn’t they? Or – should I stay on “courteous” terms with them, thus keeping a “lender of last resort” option with my dire financial situation in case of emergency, but in this way “selling” my truth for little or nothing? Stand up for myself and have them back off for good? Or stay down and further betray and belittle the unnourished child in me?

In writing this, these aren’t even real alternatives. I can’t expect to get any better if even I, myself won’t recognize the abused and beaten boy. Whatever their truth might be – it is none of my business for as long as mine isn’t acknowledged as well. To quote one of Kimberly’s most insightful comments again:

As for the parents. The point of growth — in a psuedo-Eriksonian sense — is to grow beyond the external parents to become your own internal guardian.

In doing so, I don’t seem to have any other option left but to put some solid distance between them and me again. For

Sociopaths are completely devoid of feelings for others and incapable of developing them. They are never healed, ever. (…) One must think of them other-wise. They are different from those of us who feel for others. We can never be like them. They can never be like us.(KC Callis).

Some of the parental behaviours that I recall as clear as daylight were nothing short of sociopathological. The mere fact that I should remember the exact wording of some of the verbal abuse – the most frequent one, I guess – speaks volumes in and of itsself. So – if they can never be like me or at the very least get to a place of understanding me and if there aren’t any other significant ties left – why bother? Isn’t it funny that I don’t have a single sentimental feeling about any single moment during my childhood? Doesn’t it speak for itsself that all I wished for was to get away – and did so at the first real opportunity that presented itsself?

Possibly having to make this decision and seeing it through is by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do in my entire life. And I’m scared. Because I still feel very alone very often with all this. I guess, my rescue will be in opening up to let new and better people in and in realizing that I’m in fact not alone at all in having to come to terms with a destiny I didn’t consciously choose and which has been overwhelming me for the most part. On the other hand: I’m still here. And the worst is over – at least I hope so.

Alice Miller – Child Abuse and Mistreatment

Alice Miller – Child Abuse and Mistreatment.

Wow. In coming back to this some two years after I had identified that Miller was spot on with the late and prevailing outcomes of my early history, I am shocked to find that a) I have not found a good therapist to help me sufficiently with this and b) that I’ve relapsed into denial and – almost inevitably so – major depression. In addition to that, I c) have had catastrophic results with resumed contact with bio family and some therapy “experiments” that backfired in the worst possible way.

I have lost another two going on three years of a total of now 48 years of silent suffering and majorly reduced life quality, the outcomes of which have now fully manifested on the outside as well: Disabled and unemployed since 2008, bankrupt, depending on welfare and thus technically being impoverished with only one or two items left from my former middle class-“ish” life (I’m no longer sure of that, but that’s a different topic altogether). I guess the unresolved inner conflicts have been – most brutally by now – demanding attention following my divorce in 2003 and some additional and major career and personal setbacks in its aftermath. I assume that my so-far fiercely exercised and maintained resilience collapsed in 2007 after a cancelled migration endeavour with Canada as its destination. I seem to have internalized a feeling of helplessness and also being down on myself following that experience. After returning, I left my position with a software startup company and accepted a job offer to become full time editor with a tech publication. I lasted for three weeks until panic attacks and generalized anxiety ultimately had me dysfunctional. We agreed I’d continue to work for them from my home office, but I lost a substantial part of my salary. I initially made up for revenue loss by contracting with additional employers, but soon felt the overall exhaustion of hunting job after job, which I began to give in. Not too long after that, someone diagnosed me with what’s commonly known as a burn-out (I resent this term and I don’t think I burnt out on my career or lost edge in supporting myself. I rather find that the unresolved matters of the past had been festering away at me and eating into the energy needed to uphold a successful career…). After filing for partial disability and struggling with technicalities of the process, I gave myself permission to focus on my health and also to sort of take a break from stressing myself out or allowing others to exploit me in the ways they had before. This, coupled with medical expenses I had to cover out of my own pocket ultimately led to the burning of all my savings – and very quickly so. Needless to say that the 2008 banking crisis didn’t exactly help, when I sold a packaged life insurance/401k plan in order to regain some liquidity and balance out my banking account…

I’ve been on a journey of recovery since 2005 and with increased intensity so again since 2008. I made some progress on the physical “plane”, which seems to have made me even more painfully aware of my emotional conflicts and unresolved accounts. I was not prepared for this and I have been largely unaware of this – heightened awareness of unresolved emotional pain – until not too long ago. I don’t think, I’ve made much progress with the non-physical aspects of my problems. And I feel completely stuck. Not only do I feel stuck – I seem to be stuck with regard to certain aspects and limitations to the overall situation. But the latter doesn’t bother me as much as the feeling of being stuck in my personal recovery and not getting past a certain roadblock. I can be very tenacious and plain stubborn, which is probably a quality that saved me from giving up earlier or simply ending my life prematurely. But in this very context, my being hard-headed seems to have been counterproductive with regard to my progress. And it hit me like a ton of bricks, when I read this sentence in one of Kimberly’s replies in her latest blog the other day:

Sociopaths are completely devoid of feelings for others and incapable of developing them. They are never healed, ever.

Wow. How had I relapsed into denial over this previously identified experience with one of the perpetrators? (I can’t bring myself to saying their name or role… I need to keep the distance at this point). They may not be a sociopath today, but sure enough when they had parental authority. But their being sociopathic wasn’t reserved for me exclusively. Other family, co-workers, their spouse – no one got spared. Only – I didn’t know how to set boundaries let alone defend them and protect myself from the severe verbal, emotional and also mild, but noticeable and programmatic physical abuse like e.g. beating and hitting me on the back of my head so hard I literally saw stars before my eyes. Humiliation in private and public, berating, getting grounded on account of minor things – the whole nine of textbook abuse.

I had given myself permission to let feelings of rage and despair come forth after reading Miller’s The Drama of the Gifted Child in 2009 for the first time, often facilitated by slightly excessive alcohol consumption and a movie that would steer me towards repressed feelings. The combined effects of feeling less inhibited from the alcohol as well as the expressed movie scenes somehow striking an emotional chord in me resulted in those repressed feelings over childhood neglect, humiliation and overall inattention as described above become accessible and eventually fully manifest – often in devastating ways and resulting in a complete nervous breakdown that would last for hours. I’d go to bed exhausted, desperate and with a feeling of infinite solitude over having to carry this burden all by myself and with noone available to talk right after these very intense feelings. With every fibre of my being I wished for something or someone to acknowledge my pain for what it was, regardless of the fact that it might express itsself decades after the original cause for them.

I guess, I am still looking for someone to be my helping witness, as Miller coins them… I seem to realize very clearly that I will make no further progress, if I can’t find someone to “walk me” through the experience and processing of these very, very intense repressed emotions. So I guess, the search for a qualified therapist as well as the struggle of creatively bridging gaps in my health insurance plan is for me to be resumed yet another time…. Can I get a collective “Ugh” from the audience….?


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