The Body Never Lies

In The Body Never Lies, Miller pays particular attention to the Fourth Commandment—the edict that one must honor one’s parents, no matter their conduct. For thousands of years, this commandment—in concert with our personal denial of early maltreatment—has led us toward repression, emotional detachment, illness and suicide. This Commandment, suggests the author, is a species of morality “that consigns our genuine feelings and our own personal truth to an unmarked grave.” While many of the Ten Commandments remain valid, the Fourth Commandment is diametrically opposed to the laws of psychology.

To illustrate her ideas, Miller provides brief portrayals of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekhov, Franz Kafka, Friedrich Nietzche, Friedrich von Schiller, Virginia Woolf, Arthur Rimbaud, Yukio Mishima, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Saddam Hussein, and Adolf Hitler.

What do these writers, dictators, serial killers and others have in common? They all lived their lives in accord with the Fourth Commandment. They honored their parents, even though and even while their parents did them harm. Each individual sacrificed their truth in the unanswered hope that they would be loved, and each died in denial and isolation, tragically unable to admit to their own personal truths. These lives and these stories lend credence to Miller’s argument that moral laws lead to repression and to emotional detachment.

And what about these unlived emotions? Emotions have a basis in reality—they are reactions to neglect, abuse, or a lack of nourishing communications. “Negative emotions” are important signals emitted by the body in attempts to make itself heard. The banished emotions reassert themselves—real needs and feelings make their return to the body.

Sadly, many of us were unloved, neglected and abused. The remedy? While there are no simple answers, we do know that the body is healed when one admits to personal truths and to real feelings. But how do we admit to such truths and to such feelings? We need to feel our pain and our powerlessness so that we can, paradoxically, become less pained and more powerful. We need to admit to our “negative” emotions and change them into meaningful feelings. And we need to see through poisonous pedagogy in order to embrace and to embody integrity, awareness, responsibility, and loyalty to oneself. Our greatest personal task is to learn the difference between love and attachment…to extend our love when it’s right, but to break off attachments when they are destructive. Our greatest therapeutic task is to locate an enlightened witness—a mature and helpful individual, who can be fully present without judging, is indispensable in this process of psychological integration and personal liberation.

Techniques of converting “negative” emotions into “positive” emotions will fail. Why? Because these manipulations reinforce denial, rather than leading to honest confrontations with one’s authentic emotions. And forgiveness, Miller reminds us, has never had a healing effect. Preaching forgiveness is hypocritical, futile, and actively harmful. Harmful because the body doesn’t understand moral precepts. One may rightly forgive their parents if they realize what they’ve done, though, if they apologize for the pain they’ve caused.

Still, Miller retains a hopeful view of the future. While society at present always sides with the parents, individual bodies are fighting against the lies. It’s possible that our collective body may rise up and lead to a future society built on conscious awareness. First, though, we must jettison our “fundamentalist faith” in genetics and, I would add, pharmaceutical “miracles.” With the help of a witness, each damaged individual needs to move through infantile fears and reject the illusion that our parents will save us. When we finally experience our real truths of being unloved, neglected and beaten; when we internally separate from our parents; when we experience love for the worthy child we once were…only then our bodies can experience rest and relief, and only then can we get on with the important business of real life.

Focusing on what comes after trauma and not the trauma itself

This is in line with the philosophy of Viktor Frankl, who believed that it was best to focus on what is left rather than what is lost whenever possible. Of course, this is easier said than done. Dr. Panter-Brick, your comments are also related to optimism or the belief that things will work out.

Viktor Frankl,

Not sure about alienation? – Nick Child, Rtd Child Psychiatrist and Family Therapist, Edinburgh

A word more about false allegations: If you’ve not been on the receiving end of false allegations you may not know how extremely damaging they are. People say that a hundred false allegations are acceptable if one true perpetrator is caught. But that approach itself perpetrates ninety-nine more lives destroyed without justice.

Reported false allegations to police or social work can be a ‘nuclear’ option to get the court to prevent contact for months of investigation while the Alienation is entrenched. Informal false allegations through hints and gossip are devastating too: “I heard he’s a bit strict with the kids” … “She’s a career woman, not very motherly … on anti-depressants too.”  Rumour spreads like fake news does on social media … all the way to the unqualified kangaroo courts. Even saying nothing leaves imagination to fill the gaps. … By the way, did you spot your own gullibility there? Hardly any children would live with their own family if their parents were disqualified by having a career, or depression, or by setting limits!  … Making false allegations would lose much of its power to damage, if allegations of all kinds were quickly and properly assessed, and if appropriate work and supported contact were quickly started and sustained.

So a standard definition of Parental Alienation is: A family pattern most strikingly (but not only) found in the context of implacably disputed separations, where a child is shaped into totally rejecting the other parent and their tribe, in a lasting way and for no good reason, even though the child previously had, and could still have, a safe and valued relationship with them.   … So the kind of Alienation we’re talking about takes three parties to do it:  One person turns a second person against a third person in a lasting way for no good reason.

As I said: let’s not be too simplistic. It is rarely as obvious as the classic melodramatic picture. Commonly it is more mixed up, two-sided and multi-factorial. But that same complexity is true of children who refuse school: it shouldn’t stop us doing the same job with those who refuse a parent.  Being bamboozled means people often get frustrated and over-react in simplistic ways with Alienation. The following sorts of thing are too simplistic:

  • It’s just a syndrome, a diagnosis, you have it or you don’t;
  • It doesn’t exist, it’s not scientific;
  • It’s weird and nothing like normal separation or relationships;
  • It’s just bad fathers – or bad mothers – with evil personality disorders. They should be evaporated;
  • Intervention is simple – just transfer residence to the other parent.

But some conclusions are clear:

  • Yes, it’s serious and not good for the children and their development
  • No, it’s not just an equally-matched tit-for-tat; it’s not just a contact dispute.
  • Yes, the reasons for resisting contact may not be clear. And:
  • Yes, one or two parents may use Parental Alienation as a cover up.
  • So yes, we need to understand, assess, and intervene at least as thoroughly as we do with school refusal, each case in its own right.
  • No, don’t “give it time” – remember Abduction is urgent; these patterns quickly get entrenched
  • Yes, whatever happens, keep any kind of contact and communication going with the other parent.
  • Teachers, GPs, Social Workers, and CAMHS staff: For all separated families, always contact both parents. If one parent says you shouldn’t, check it out.
  • And yes, lawyers and courts are sometimes needed.
  • And yes, sometimes transferring residence completely transforms a child’s life.

OK, you ask: What do you do next?  That’s quite easy to answer but not to do:

  • You already know what to do: Resisting seeing a parent is much more serious than a child resisting going to school. But both of these require the same approach. You pull together the picture with the child and everyone else and put together a plan. However many factors there are to sort out, the aim is the same: get the relationship with rejected school or rejected parent back on track. We know how to do that with school-refusal, but no one yet does the same with parent-refusal.
  • If you get that idea, you’re well on the right tracks. But so many tricky things bamboozle everyone that you need to learn moreto get through the fog.
  • Alienation may need ordinary or extraordinary help. But for any clients who don’t engage, start thinking of reporting – as questions of child welfare – the following concerns. (Some of us need to begin this reporting or no one will ever learn why):
    • Any child’s rejection of a parent – whether it is un-ambivalent or reasonable.
    • Any parent who seriously threatens that their ex- is never going to see the children again.
  • Another thing you can do is to talk about this everywhere, so that it stops being such a hidden pothole.
  • https://thealienationexperience.org.uk/not-sure-about/?blogsub=subscribed#blog_subscription-2

Managing Flashbacks – Pete Walker

Pete Walker – Why do you specialize in Complex PTSD?

There’s an old adage: “Teach what you know.” I know about trauma because I survived childhood in the war zone of a severely dysfunctional family in NYC in the 1950’s. The frontline was definitely in my house, but there were many traumatizing skirmishes on the streets and in the Catholic school where I was held captive by mean, red-faced, yardstick-wielding women in penguin suits. I escaped my family into the Viet Nam era army, and although I only went there briefly, my year of training to be a combat platoon leader helps me see the parallels between war-induced trauma and dysfunctional family begotten trauma.

By the time I was 25, I had survived a decade of high risk activity peppered with what now look like unconscious suicide attempts, before I finally realized that I was seriously hurting. I have spent four decades personally exploring varied psychological and spiritual approaches to healing my trauma, and the personal gains I have made coupled with the healing I have witnessed in my clients and students over the last 30 years has given me, I believe, a unique perspective and set of tools to share with my fellow PTSD sufferers. I have pieced together a map and an eclectic blend of perspectives and techniques that can significantly ameliorate Complex PTSD. My approach helps manage the complex symptomology of emotional flashbacks and provides encouragement to endure the long, arduous, Sisyphean climb out of being continuously triggered into unresolved childhood abandonment pain. (For more on the map, see “Managing the Abandonment Depression” on this website.)

In my ongoing work with PTSD recovery, I repeatedly experience much gratitude toward the many clients who’s authenticity and vulnerability while in flashback help me further illuminate the map; and I am further grateful for how they validate to my inner child that: “Yes it’s true, there really are parents who were so mean and/or so out to lunch, that they installed in us this painful, stubborn syndrome of Complex PTSD”.

http://www.pete-walker.com/fAQsComplexPTSD.html#Abandonment

Viktor Frankl

Only to the extent that someone is living out this self transcendence of human existence, is he truly human or does he become his true self. He becomes so, not by concerning himself with his self-s actualization, but by forgetting himself and giving himself, overlooking himself and focusing outward.”

Mans Search for Meaning

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.What is to give light must endure burning.

Viktor Frankl – Mans Search for Meaning

Pete Walker, M.A. Psychotherapy – How Did I Get Complex PTSD?

How Did I Get Complex PTSD?

The genesis of complex PTSD is most often associated with extended periods of ongoing physical and/or sexual abuse in childhood. My observations however convince me that ongoing extremes of verbal and/or emotional abuse also cause it. Moreover as an upcoming article on my website will explicate, long-term childhood emotional neglect alone can also create complex PTSD and a propensity to emotional flashbacks.

This can perhaps best be understood by noting the conditions that prevailed as the human brain evolved during hunter-gatherer times, which represents 99.8% of our time on this planet. Children’s vulnerability to predators caused them to evolve an intense, instinctual fear response to being left alone without protection. Fear became the child’s hard-wired response to separation from a protective adult, and linked automatically to the fight response so that the infant and toddler would automatically cry angrily for attention, help, cessation of abandonment – even at the briefest loss of contact with parental figures. Beasts of prey only needed seconds to snatch away the unprotected child.

In present time dysfunctional families, many parents disdain children for needing so much attention from them, and react contemptuously to a baby or toddler’s plaintive call for connection and attachment. Contempt can sometimes be more traumatizing than physical abuse. It is a toxic cocktail of verbal and emotional abuse, a deadly amalgam of rage and disgust. Rage creates fear and disgust creates shame in the child in a way that soon teaches her to refrain from crying out, from ever asking for attention, and before long from seeking any kind of help or connection at all. Particularly abusive parents deepen the abandonment trauma by linking corporal punishment with contempt.

Moreover, as stated above, complex PTSD can also be caused by emotional neglect alone; (emotional neglect also typically occurs in most situations of prolonged contempt and physical abuse). Parents who systematically ignore or turn their backs on a child’s calls for attention, connection or help, abandon their child to unmanageable amounts of fear which over time devolve into the child giving up and succumbing to depressed, death-like feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. These types of rejection simultaneously magnify the child’s fear, and eventually add a veneer of shame to it. Over time this fear and shame cancerously begets a toxic inner critic that increasingly dominates the psyche with programs of endangerment and self-disgust (perfectionism), until a full blown case of PTSD is established. (See my articles on The Inner and Outer Critic).

Moreover, to the duration and degree that emotional abandonment takes place and to the degree that there is no alternative adult (relative, older sibling, neighbor, teacher) to turn to for comfort and protection, to that degree does the PTSD set in, and to that degree can a myriad of triggers (external or internal) activate the individual into flashing back into the painful emotional and toxic cognitive conditions of childhood. This is especially true when the abandonment occurs 24/7, 365 days a year for the first few years.

http://pete-walker.com/fAQsComplexPTSD.html

Pete Walker, M.A. Psychotherapy – The Fight Type and the Narcissistic Defense

The Fight Type and the Narcissistic Defense
Fight types are unconsciously driven by the belief that power and control can create safety, assuage abandonment and secure love. Children who are spoiled and given insufficient limits (a uniquely painful type of abandonment) and children who are allowed to imitate the bullying of a narcissistic parent may develop a fixated fight response to being triggered. These types learn to respond to their feelings of abandonment with anger and subsequently use contempt, a toxic amalgam of narcissistic rage and disgust, to intimidate and shame others into mirroring them and into acting as extensions of themselves. The entitled fight type commonly uses others as an audience for his incessant monologizing, and may treat a “captured” freeze or fawn type as a slave or prisoner in a dominance-submission relationship. Especially devolved fight types may become sociopathic, ranging along a continuum that stretches between corrupt politician and vicious criminal.
TX: Treatable fight types benefit from being psychoeducated about the prodigious price they pay for controlling others with intimidation. Less injured types are able to see how potential intimates become so afraid and/or resentful of them that they cannot manifest the warmth or real liking the fight type so desperately desires. I have helped a number of fight types understand the following downward spiral of power and alienation: excessive use of power triggers a fearful emotional withdrawal in the other, which makes the fight type feel even more abandoned and, in turn, more outraged and contemptuous, which then further distances the “intimate”, which in turn increases their rage and disgust, which creates increasing distance and withholding of warmth, ad infinitem. Fight types need to learn to notice and renounce their habit of instantly morphing abandonment feelings into rage and disgust. As they become more conscious of their abandonment feelings, they can focus on and feel their abandonment fear and shame without transmuting it into rage or disgust – and without letting grandiose overcompensations turn it into demandingness.

http://pete-walker.com/fourFs_TraumaTypologyComplexPTSD.htm

Pete Walker, M.A. Psychotherapy

Those who are repetitively traumatized in childhood however, often learn to survive by over-relying on the use of one or two of the 4F Reponses. Fixation in any one 4F response not only delimits the ability to access all the others, but also severely impairs the individual’s ability to relax into an undefended state, circumscribing him in a very narrow, impoverished experience of life. Over time a habitual 4F defense also “serves” to distract the individual from the accumulating unbearable feelings of her current alienation and unresolved past trauma.

http://pete-walker.com/fourFs_TraumaTypologyComplexPTSD.htm