According to Freud, trauma has a retrospective structure. In the typical scenario that Freud envisaged, a child has an experience—a seduction— that at the time she cannot understand. Nevertheless, a trace of the event is laid down in memory. Only later, as the child develops, is there an experience that triggers a retrospective understanding of the meaning of the earlier experience. But this new understanding cannot be assimilated: it wounds the mind that was on the verge of understanding it. On this model, neither of the two experiences is traumatic in and of itself. The earlier experience need not have been traumatic when it occurred, because it was registered but not understood. The later experience, for its part, can be innocent in itself—as, for instance, the experience of mild sexual arousal in a situation that triggers a reminiscence of the earlier occasion. What becomes explosive is the cocktail of both those experiences.
Jonathan Lear – Happiness, Death, and the Remainder of Life p.45
- All children are born to grow, to develop, to live, to love, and to articulate their needs and feelings for their self-protection.
- For their development children need the respect and protection of adults who take them seriously, love them, and honestly help them to become oriented in the world.
- When these vital needs are frustrated and children are instead abused for the sake of adults’ needs by being exploited, beaten, punished, taken advantage of, manipulated, neglected, or deceived without the intervention of any witness, then their integrity will be lastingly impaired.
- The normal reactions to such injury should be anger and pain; since children in this hurtful kind environment, however, are forbidden to express their anger and since it would be unbearable to experience their pain all alone, they are compelled to suppress their feelings, repress all memory of the trauma, and idealize those guilty of the abuse. Later they will have no memory of what was done to them.
- Disassociated from the original cause, their feelings of anger, helplessness, despair, longing, anxiety, and pain will find expression in destructive acts against others (criminal behaviour, mass murder) or against themselves (drug addiction, alcoholism, prostitution, psychic disorders, suicide).
- If these people become parents, they will then often direct acts of revenge for their mistreatment in childhood against their own children, whom they use as scapegoats. Child abuse is still sanctioned – indeed, held in high regard – in our society as long as it is defined as child-rearing. It is a tragic fact that parents beat their children in order to escape the emotions stemming from how they were treated by their own parents.
- If mistreated children are not to become criminals or mentally ill, it is essential that at least once in their life they come into contact with a person who knows without any doubt that the environment, not the helpless, battered child, is at fault, In this regard, knowledge or ignorance on the part of society can be instrumental in either saving or destroying a life. Here lies the great opportunity for relatives, social workers, therapists, teachers, doctors, psychiatrists, officials, and nurses to support the child and to believe her or him.
- Till now, society has protected the adult and blamed the victim. It has been abetted in its blindness by theories, still in keeping with the pedagogical principles of our great-grandparents, according to which children are viewed as crafty creatures, dominated by wicked drives, who invent stories and attack their innocent parents or desire them sexually. In reality, children tend to blame themselves for their parents’ cruelty and to absolve the parents, whom they invariable love, of all responsibility.
- For some years now, it has been possible to prove, thanks to the use of new therapeutic methods, that repressed traumatic experiences in childhood are stored up in the body and, although remaining unconscious, exert their influence even in adulthood. In addition, electronic testing of the foetus has revealed a fact previously unknown to most adults:a child responds to and learns both tenderness and cruelty from the very beginning.
- In the light of this new knowledge, even the most absurd behaviour reveals its formerly hidden logic once the traumatic experiences of childhood no longer must remain shrouded in darkness.
Alice Miller – The Drama of the Gifted Child p.142 (Appendix)
In contrast to its effectiveness for irrational fears such as spiders, CBT has not done so well for traumatized individuals, particularly those with histories of childhood abuse. Only about one in there participants with PTSD who finish research studies show some improvement. Those who complete CBT treatment usually have fewer PTSD symptoms, but they rarely recover completely: Most continue to have substantial problems with their health, work, or mental well-being.
In the largest published study of CBT for PTSD more than one-third of the patients dropped out; the rest had a significant number of adverse reactions. Most of the women in the study still suffered from full-blown PTSD after three months in the study, and only 15 percent no longer had major PTSD symptoms. A thorough analysis of all the scientific studies of CBT show that it works about as well as being in a supportive therapy relationship.
Bessel van der Kolk – The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma p.221
Putnam’s study also captured the pervasive long-term effects of incest… Abused isolated girls with incest histories mature sexually a year and a half earlier than the nonabused girls. Sexual abuse speeds up their biological clocks and the secretion of sex hormones. Early in puberty the abused girls had three to five times the levels of testosterone and androstenedione, the hormones that fuel sexual desire, as the girls in the control group.
Bessel van der Kolk – The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma p.163