Learned Instinct

churning

What do you do when you are worried?

How do you act when you feel harmed?

If angered, wronged, misheard, left out?

What do you do when someone threatens?

How do you manage double binds

That tangle up your mind?

 

Do you cower away?

Do you lash out?

Do you curl into a ball under the covers

And turn off all reaction, action, light?

Does your body compensate

In sweet diversions

Or does your gut churn ire

Into acid

And shuts down?

Do you sob, mope, break down

Break something

Break someone?

 

Does your heart thunder in your eardrums

As your blood pressure spikes red

Behind your eyes

Or does it plummet

Grayish

Into numb?

 

Do you respond in kind

To wound another

To give as good as you had gotten

To show who’s boss

To cut to size any potential bully

So they stay down?

 

Or do you shrink

Into wall flowered corners

Get by through fading into

Silence

Till all turmoil passes

And you can seek the bits you hadn’t managed

To protect

And tentatively try to

Patch life up?

 

When feelings flood, how do you manage:

Float on? Hold tight? Spit out? Swirl dizzyingly in the eddies?

Drown?

 

What is the language of reaction

In your body?

Does your mind

Command

Reflexively

Or does it find a pause

Between a stimuli and action

To weave insight to choice

And sort true danger from benign?

 

Do you collapse

Into outdated paths

Formed by a not-good-enough childhood

And unhealed histories

Still near

Or has your palette widened

To allow volition

Over instinct

And

Kindness — to yourself, to others —

To find courage

Over fear?

 

 

For The Daily Post

Can You Hear?

Can you hear the hearts that beat

across the mountains, deserts, oceans

hoping for safe harbor,

an anchor

home?

Can you see small fingers gripping

other little hands

bereft of parents,

lost,

alone?

Can you hear the soft breaths

of babies

sleeping

in tired arms

weighted by

desperation,

violence, hate, war?

Can you hear the calls

in dreams

in prayer

for safe passage

for a welcome

to belong?

Can you —

how can you not —

hear,

the urgency

of hope

that hardship snuffed

and yet

still

yearns to grow?

 

refugees-express-co-uk

Photo by express.co.uk

 

 

For the Daily Post

 

The Scent of Home

syrianrefugee-unicef-photo

Child Refugee – Photo by UNICEF

The scent of home that she no longer has.

The spices, baking, the aromas

Of togetherness

And family

And love.

The scent of grandma,

Gone,

Killed by bombs.

The scent of ugliness

And war.

The scent of mornings

Blurred by smoke.

The scent of sea, now tainted

With the stink of gasoline

And sick

And worry.

The scent of tent

And mud

Hunger

Cold.

The scent of hope

Faint but held

In Baba’s handkerchief —

He said he’ll find them

One day

In Wherever Land.

The scent of fear

In mother’s arms

Trying to filter comfort through her own terror

Devastation. Loss.

The scent of home that she no longer has

Wafting away

In search

Of someone

Who will help

Her

Make a new one.

What we see; why we don’t

now where...

Photo Credit: A.M.

“How come they didn’t see it happening?”

“How could they let this happen?”

“How is it possible that it took place and no one knew?”

“How can they say they didn’t see?”

“Can people really be this blind?”

“Don’t they care?”

“Don’t they see?”

 

Maybe they didn’t. The improbable is possible. People can be that blind. Even when they care, they may not see.

It is easy to see what one wants, what’s congruent, what matches assumptions or views or held beliefs. It is easy to recognize what one had learned already, to follow perceptions already accepted, ways familiar … easier to understand words that resonate with what does not burden with new challenges or calls for reassessment or brings up shame.

Shame. People don’t like to see what brings up shame.

The very whiff of it can bring on denial. Projection. Deflection. Blame of others. Avoidance. Cold shoulder. Dismissal. Refusal. Minimization of the pain of others to avoid feeling one has done wrong, seen wrong, is wrong.

Shame tugs along with hate and violence, in words or action or both. Inflicting pain on others might get justified or explained away … A way to keep downtrodden what one thinks should stay unnoticed, un-make-wave-able, quiet, under rugs, buried. Unseen.

It takes time, heart, and bravery to crack and drain shame.

It is easier to blame. To point fingers. To make “an other” to scapegoat or distance from. To claim misfortune due to one’s abilities, affiliation, religion, political leanings, nationality, age, gender, race, vocation, location, possessions or lack thereof.

To yell “false claims”, “exaggeration”, “attention seeking” or the newest term: “fake news.”

Shaming is a weapon of pseudo self-preservation for those who need to ensure the pain of another remains unseen and one’s own comfort can stand unprovoked.

Shame silences:

Unspoken words of wounded children

Pleas of disrespected women

The worlds of the oppressed, belittled, turned against them.

The desperate, the lost … unanswered. Unaccepted. Unacceptable.

Unseen.

 

It does not need to so remain.

To face what was already there but eyes were closed to, is the first step to unmaking shame. To healing pain.

May we find ways to see. May we take heart to act. May we become for others what we need or needed them to see in us, to do for us, to hold with gentleness.

May the unseen become the visible.

May shame be drained.

each other

 

For The Daily Post

Tom’s Secret

The animation video below was chosen to lead the European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse which is held on November 18.

The five-minute video had been originally launched in Hebrew, and was since translated to Russian, English, and French. It guides parents, teachers, and other caregivers in ways to identify and react to cases of sexual assault and abuse in children. It has been incorporated into learning programs in Europe, Asia, and the United States.

The clip portrays with sensitivity and clarity the reactions children often have to sexual abuse: dissociation, denial, secrecy, fear, worry, shame, and more. It also shows the behaviors children might display and which should be treated as red flags: reluctance to do things or go places they might’ve enjoyed before, irritability, sadness, refusal, lack of appetite, bed-wetting, physical complaints, etc. While these may not be specific to sexual abuse, they are often representation of distress, and need attending to.

It is a fact that most children who endure sexual abuse don’t tell. At least not directly.

It is also a fact that many parents/teachers/caregivers don’t know when to ask or how to ask or what to do or say if they find out something did take place. They may not understand how a child can seem okay, even when they are internally not okay. Even those who want to help, may not know how to go about it.

This video offers a good start.

Watch it. Share it widely.

 

 

For the Hebrew version, and more information (in Hebrew) about sexual abuse of children, and ways to identify and respond to red-flags, click on the link to an article below:

http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4880054,00.html

 

What PTSD teaches us about human frailty and resilience

The link below will lead you to one of the best interviews about PTSD I have ever seen, hands down.

The fact that Rachel Yehuda is my cousin is an added bonus–I am ever so proud of her: for the person she is, for the work she does, for the wisdom and empathy she imparts, for how she has literally changed the field of PTSD in the last 25 years.

(I recommend reading the transcript, not just viewing the snippet of video on the site)

Take a look. Take a read. You will be glad to have taken the time:

Ingenius: Rachel Yehuda

http://nautil.us/issue/31/stress/ingenious-rachel-Yehuda

 

experience

Survival Imagination

“For children who depend on mentally escaping into their minds to survive, imagination can become both refuge and desert island.”

(Na’ama Yehuda, Communicating Trauma, p. 148)

galatasaray.org

How childhood trauma could be mistaken for ADHD

child brain

This is an immensely important article. Not because traumatized children cannot have ADHD–they can, and many do–but because children with ADHD must also be screened for trauma. They are already at a higher risk for maltreatment and overwhelm, and trauma may also lower their ability to manage stimuli and process information, exacerbating inattention.
Trauma and attention for learning are at cross purposes–this alone is a good enough reason to assess what part trauma may play in a child’s clinical presentation.
And of course–if there is trauma that is ongoing, we are all of us entrusted with doing all we can to identify it and stop it, so that children can be safe.
Until we ensure they are safe and FEELING safe, we cannot truly expect them to lower their hypervigilance or attend to what the teacher is saying in class. We cannot expect their brains to respond well to medications that are meant to treat inattention when their survival may feel as it hinges on remaining in hyper-vigilance mode and constantly scanning for danger.
I highly recommend reading this article.

ACEs Too High

Acry

[Photo credit: woodleywonderworks, Flickr]

Dr. Nicole Brown’s quest to understand her misbehaving pediatric patients began with a hunch.

Brown was completing her residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, when she realized that many of her low-income patients had been diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

These children lived in households and neighborhoods where violence and relentless stress prevailed. Their parents found them hard to manage and teachers described them as disruptive or inattentive. Brown knew these behaviors as classic symptoms of ADHD, a brain disorder characterized by impulsivity, hyperactivity, and an inability to focus.

When Brown looked closely, though, she saw something else: trauma. Hyper-vigilance and dissociation, for example, could be mistaken for inattention. Impulsivity might be brought on by a stress response in overdrive.

“Despite our best efforts in referring them to behavioral therapy and starting them on stimulants, it was hard to get the symptoms under control,”…

View original post 1,765 more words

The Childhood Adversity Narratives: Learn. Share. Educate.

ACES

How do childhood adverse events affect development? How do they impact health? How much does it cost society to have children exposed to adverse events? What are the social ramifications? How does childhood adversity reflect in mental-health? In illness? Can we prevent childhood adverse events? Why is it worth it for society to invest in prevention and treatment of childhood trauma?

And other questions: What is more harmful: second hand smoke or childhood maltreatment? How is that reflected in funds or investment in prevention or treatment? Where does asthma come in? What can we do about any of this, anyway?

To find the answers to these questions and more, check out this amazing presentation (also available in PDF and PPT on the site–see links below).

This free resource is available due to the generosity of Frank and Karen Putnam along with their colleagues, who created this presentation in the hope that it will be widely disseminated and that it be used as an education resource for the public as well as for researchers and clinicians. The presentation details the prevalence, impact, treatment, and importance (it is highly possible!) of prevention of child abuse and neglect. The authors encourage everyone to use the presentation and share it.

The slides are available on the website http://www.canarratives.org/

To view the Power Point Show: CAN_Narrative_4-26-15-v2L4

To download the pdf: http://static1.squarespace.com/static/552ec6c7e4b0b098cbafba75/t/553e3673e4b09e094f914b8f/1430140531869/CAN_Narrative_4-26-15-v2L4.pdf

Outdated or Misinformed? Childhood Maltreatment in college textbooks

Vintage Phrenology: thegraphicsfairy.com

Vintage Phrenology: thegraphicsfairy.com

There are over 1,000,000 substantiated reports of child maltreatment annually in the US alone (US Department of Health 2013). The impact of maltreatment on development and health is indisputable. The last two decades showed brisk research in the area of trauma and dissociation all over the world. It is therefore quite surprising to find psychology textbooks to be so behind the times (and behind the data) on covering child maltreatment. This leaves hundreds of thousands of students a year with less-than-accurate information that may impact their ability to identify or understand the aftermath of child maltreatment.

In an important article (also see full link below), Brand and McEwen review the three leading introductory psychology textbooks and how they address (or not address) childhood maltreatment and its aftermath. The results are distressing in lack of citing of current data (as in  many textbooks on psychopathology).

One can hypothesize why prominent textbooks will not sufficiently cover such an important topic (one would think they would find it essential to cover well if only for the known health effects of childhood maltreatment across the lifespan, in both physical and psychological health, costs, and healthcare utilization). Maybe it is as simple as using outdated resources or not keeping up with research and known data. Maybe it speaks to more widespread issues of denial and minimization of childhood maltreatment. Maybe other reasons. Regardless of why the textbooks are lacking, the reality remains that the textbooks leave students un-informed on the topic.

The good news is that this can be changed! The data is available–it just needs to be included and reviewed better!

Hopefully having more awareness to this will allow students and faculty to challenge the choice of textbooks and to demand better coverage of such a relevant issue. Students are shortchanged when they are under-informed and when data is slanted or may appear to be biased or outdated.

What can you do?

Let your faculty, librarian, and fellow clinicians and students know that our college students deserve a more cohesive review of childhood maltreatment. Share the article below. Talk to professors who teach these courses and support them in seeking better balanced textbooks. The research is available, it simply needs to be included rather than avoided. Let us work together for improving information in education!

Coverage of Child Maltreatment and Its Effects in Three Introductory Psychology Textbooks / Bethany L. Brand, PhD, and Linda E. McEwen, MA

http://traumapsychnews.com/2015/01/coverage-of-child-maltreatment-and-its-effects-in-three-introductory-psychology-textbooks/