Discover more from Dr Bob Johnson’s simple science of sanity
Curing rotten childhoods
Why it can be hard to let traumatic memories fade, whatever happened to you as a child – it’s a long time ago now . . . . .
This is a blog I posted on a Critical Psychiatric Network, when one psychiatrist suggested that innovations in mental health are likely to be flawed by that person’s unconscious. I take issue with this, as described below. The GMC is the UK medical licencing authority. Keep in mind that I’m talking here to doctors, but you don’t have to be medically qualified to help – just strong and trustworthy.
Despite the obvious cavil that I don’t know what I’m talking about, because my unconscious won’t let me, I have a model which makes increasingly logical sense to me, and it is certainly nothing like anything I came across during my extensive psychiatric education.
It’s an extension of Bowlby, with a side-swipe at Freud – thereby inviting calumny from a wide range. Who does this leave out?
So the child growing up has a rock solid unwritten contract with a parent or carer – save my life, or I perish. Nothing debatable about that.
However, when abuse occurs, this is a one-sided abrogation of that contract. The abusee is then placed in an impossible, unworkable crisis. Any and all problems can only ever be sorted by the parent. So what happens when that parent is the very fount of the (life-threatening) problem?
This is the key to traumatic abuse. It’s the parent who reneges – but it’s the child whose thinking is crippled. What do you do when the rescuer is the source of the danger? It’s like being tied to a sinking life-boat. Doom. And indelible doom at that. Cut the link to the lifeboat, and you drown anyway – but keep it there (the body keeps the score), and the lethal-seeming abuse is ever present. The world is run by persons who renege. And they renege at the deepest possible level – that of very survival. Talk about emotional – nothing more so.
Life boats are all you have when you're in trouble at sea. So here you have a life-boat that sinks you. Even whispering the least criticism of that parent-life-boat risks instant immolation. And this risk is deeply embedded, and can take prodigious quantities of reassurance to relieve.
HOWEVER – the Truth is that in today’s actual reality, the abuse, with its life-threatening impact, is over – it’s obsolete. The then parent is no longer in charge – you, as an adult, have your own life-support system to hand, you no longer need to kowtow to the one-sided parent-child contract. Put more realistically – it should be over. It should be in the past. You should be able to cut the link between quasi-lethal abuse, and today’s emotional maturity.
Go too fast, and it’s the patient who tells you, you are wrong. Go too slow, and the problem remains locked in the unconscious (via Speechless-Terror) – which is the only ‘resolution’ available to the troubled infant.
Note too that despite all cavils, it’s the doctor who needs to have not the least doubt that abuse is the key to whatever mental problems are being presented. And, as some less than happy reactions to this blog will demonstrate, we are a long way from that.
But I like the logic of it. I also like the notion that it offers a clear break. A leaky life-boat may be all that you were offered then – but that was decades ago – you are in charge now. This relies on Human Rights. It demands the highest standards of Trust, coupled with the indispensable component of Consent. It also entails an immovable element of Free Will, as in “empowering ‘intent’ detoxifies psychosis”, and everything else in that bucket.
OK, I admit I make more progress with real sufferers, than with psychiatric colleagues, one of whom was so incensed to find that the prisoner I’d regaled with this, was cheerful, that he persuaded the GMC to prosecute me, which they delighted in doing.
The parallel with ordinary physiotherapy is so tight, I label this approach Verbal Physiotherapy – unlike other therapeutic approaches it has a single agreed endpoint, it is tightly focussed, ‘blur’ or ‘free-association’ knocks it on the head – and all it aims to do is to restore empowered health – physical after a ‘stroke’, emotional after a life-threatening-trauma. And as with both sorts of physiotherapy – at first it seems rankly impossible to the sufferer, though quite the opposite to the physiotherapist who has seen it work countless times, and doesn’t need a Randomised Controlled Trial to validate it.
But before you dismiss this as the ramblings of an unaware unconscious mind, bear in mind that I am likely to have a book published on it, in mid-2023, following the one already scheduled (and contracted for) on how these crippling forces currently foment war – due out in spring 2023.
Watch this space . . .
And rock on