Posted in Pete Walker

Managing Flashbacks – Pete Walker

Posted in Complex Trauma, Pete Walker, Post-traumatic Stress

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

Posted in Viktor Frankl

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.”

Posted in Viktor Frankl

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

Posted in Alienation, Pete Walker

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

Posted in Alienation, Pete Walker

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

Posted in Alienation, Pete Walker

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

Posted in Alice Miller (psychologist), Alienation

Free From Lies | Alice Miller

Free From Lies
Discovering your true needs

Reading this book is a therapeutic encounter with one’s own life’s story. Dr. Alice Miller, author of such world-renowned books as the Drama of the Gifted Child and The Truth Will Set You Free, has devoted her life to empowering people who have severe symptoms from denying that they suffered physical and emotional abuse as children. Here, in Free from Lies, she tackles uncharted territory as she shows how former victims can finally heal the scars of their youth by finding the true history of their childhood instead of denying it.

Abandoning traditional concepts of psychoanalysis that often – like society on the whole – protect the parents and accuse the child, Dr. Miller explains why a therapist should become a partial, empathic witness to the survivor of obvious cruelty rather than a neutral analyst. She further provides a guide to help patients find the right therapist who will always and unconditionally stay on the side of the wounded child. Dr. Miller explains as well how to identify the causes of the unconscious pain that manifests itself later as depression, self-mutilation, primal inadequacy, and loneliness.

The journey “from victims to destroyer” explores the dynamic that turns once-abused children into abusive parents. Dr. Miller’s revolutionary analysis of this cycle of destruction helps us understand what occurs when the abusive behavior reaches beyond the family unit to threaten the whole society. Abusers are able to deny the most obvious and absolutely undeniable facts without the slightest hesitation. They imitate their parents, who were teaching them to lie by telling their children that they were beaten “out of love.” As Free from Lies makes clear, this cycle of suppression and repression of truth originates in a cultural mindset that accepts, and even condones, child abuse by calling it “the right upbringing.” Excerpts from Dr. Miller’s answers to the startling readers’ letters sent to her Web site show that a wide variety of abuse is inflicted daily on children throughout the world.

The media’s attention is only captured by extreme cases, but the plight of children who are regularly subjected to ordinary abuse in their “upbringing,” like spanking, kicking, and others forms of humiliation, remains silenced or even highly encouraged by many.

Held hostage by anger, guilt, and denial, survivors of child abuse will find in Free from Lies the tools necessary to break the cycle, because Dr. Miller’s compassion, experience, and guidance provide a much-needed liberation from the crippling lies transferred to us for millennia.

https://www.alice-miller.com/en/free-from-lies/

Posted in Alice Miller (psychologist), Alienation

The Truth Will Set You Free | Alice Miller en

The Truth Will Set You Free
Overcoming Emotional Blindness and Finding Your True Adult Self

Drawing on the latest research on brain development, Miller speaks out against the increasing popularity of childhood corporal punishment and demonstrates how spanking and other disciplinary traumas are encoded in the brain, stunting our ability to overcome them. Our bodies retain memories of humiliation, causing panoply of physical ills and dangerous levels of denial. This denial, necessary for the child’s survival, leads to emotional blindness and finally to mental barriers that cut off awareness and the ability to learn new ways of acting. If this cycle repeats itself, the grown child will perpetrate the same abuse on later generations, warns Miller.

In this stunning new contribution to her life’s work, Miller not only invites us to confront our own pasts, but reveals how each of us can liberate our present as adults and as parents.

https://www.alice-miller.com/en/the-truth-will-set-you-free/

Posted in Alice Miller (psychologist), Alienation

Self-Hatred and Unfulfilled Love (Arthur Rimbaud)

Rimbaud’s mother maintained total control over her children and called this control motherly love. Her acutely perceptive son saw through this lie. He realized that her constant concern for outward appearances had nothing to do with love. But he was unable to admit to this observation without reserve, because as a child he needed love, or at least the illusion of it. He could not hate his mother, particularly as she was so obviously concerned for him. So he hated himself instead, unconsciously convinced that in some obscure way he must have deserved such mendacity and coldness. Plagued by an ill-defined sense of disgust, he projected it onto the provincial town where he lived, onto the hypocrisy of the system of morality he grew up in (much like Nietzsche in this respect), and onto himself. All his life he strove to escape these feelings, resorting in the process to alcohol, hashish, absinth, opium, and extensive travels to faraway places. In his youth he made two attempts to run away from home but was caught and restored to his mother’s “care” on both occasions.

His poetry reflects not only his self-hatred but also his quest for the love so completely denied him in the early stages of his life. Later, at school, he was fortunate enough to encounter a kindly teacher who gave him the companionship and support he so desperately needed in the decisive years of puberty. His teacher’s affection and confidence enabled him to write and to develop his philosophical ideas. But his childhood retained its stifling grip on him. He attempted to combat his despair at the absence of love in his life by transforming it into philosophical observations on the nature of true love. But these ideas were no more than abstractions because despite his intellectual rejection of conventional morality, his emotional allegiance to the code of conduct it prescribed was unswerving. Self-disgust was legitimate, but detestation for his mother was unthinkable. He could not pay heed to the painful messages of his childhood memories without destroying the hopes that had helped him to survive as a child. Time and again, Rimbaud tells us that he had no one to rely on except himself. This was surely the fruit of his experience with a mother who had nothing to offer him but her own derangement and hypocrisy, rather than true love. His entire life was a magnificent but vain attempt to save himself from destruction at the hands of his mother, with all the means at his disposal.

https://www.alice-miller.com/en/excerpt/