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 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 Pete Walker, Recovery, Self Help

Therapist Heal Thyself!

In my thirty years in the field, I do not believe I have ever met a therapist who does not have some form of this wound – who has not sought out this profession from at least an unconscious desire to discover and work through the pain of the sad truth that s/he grew up in a family where there was no safe person go to at many of the most painful and crucial times when a kind and supportive connection was needed. Moreover, I believe a high percentage of us grew up in families where we were parentified in a tragic role reversal and required to give this kind of support to a parent without being able to expect any or much of it in return. If we have unworked through pain and defensive structure from an insecure attachment experience, we owe it to our clients.as much as we owe it to ourselves. to do this kind of work so that we can learn how to provide them with this kind of help. I believe this is true also for those whose childhood experience has taught them to be there in a reasonably passive empathic way for clients. As helpful as this may be, it is rarely enough to more actively help them identify and work through in the moment of active relating all the processes of self-hate, toxic shame and self-abandonment that keep the lion’s share of their pain and vulnerability hidden and locked away from significant others. So I say with great gratitude to my therapist and with empathy for the painfully isolated human being I was for thirty-five years: “Therapist Heal Thyself!” A Final Note. It is only when the client, through our provision and modeling, finds this deeper kind of intimacy reliably with someone else, that therapy may successfully begin to enter the termination phase.

Continue reading “Therapist Heal Thyself!”
Posted in Alienation, Pete Walker

How to Shrink Inner Critic Advice From Pete Walker Part 2 “Self Care”

Posted in Alienation, Pete Walker

Children of narcissists

Dangerous people represent the same challenges that we underwent in early childhood, so to our subconscious, they ironically feel a lot less frightening. The trick is not to trust too easily or not trusting at all: the balance is found in trusting ourselves. Until we’ve learned to grieve and heal our core wounds from childhood, we won’t be able to trust our inner voice. We’ll continue to ignore the instincts that could save our lives or pre-judge someone who may want the best for us; that is why healing is so essential on our journey to self-love and love. Continue reading “Children of narcissists”

Posted in Alienation, Pete Walker

What is the Abandonment Depression? The Abandonment Melange?

The Abandonment Depression is the complex painful childhood experience that is reconstituted in an emotional flashback. It is a return to the sense of overwhelm, hopelessness and helplessness that afflicts the abused and /or emotionally abandoned child. At the core of the abandonment depression is the abandonment melange – the terrible emotional mix of fear and shame that coalesces around the deathlike feelings of depression that afflict an abandoned child. Surrounding the abandonment melange of the flashback are perfectionistic and endangerment cognitions and visualizations of the toxic inner and outer critic (See my articles on the critic), and at the surface is the self-destructive enactments of the fight, flight, freeze or fawn responses (See “A Trauma Typology”). Continue reading “What is the Abandonment Depression? The Abandonment Melange?”

Posted in Alienation, Pete Walker

9 Ways Children Of Narcissistic Parents Love Differently

Remember that hyper-attunement? Well, it comes in handy for being caretakers but not so much when it comes to maintaining boundaries. We learned to cater to the needs of our toxic parents at a very young age in order to survive. Many of us even took on parent roles. This means our boundaries are porous and need extra work and maintenance.

Otherwise, we can be swallowed whole by whoever we’re dating or in a relationship with. Their needs can become our fixation, often at the expense of our own. This can be especially dangerous if we’re dating another narcissistic person in adulthood. Learning that we have basic needs and rights seems like a rudimentary step, but it’s actually one of the most important milestones children of narcissistic parents can achieve.

By Shahida Arabi Continue reading “9 Ways Children Of Narcissistic Parents Love Differently”