Published on January 17, 2008
The Primal WoundUnderstanding the Adopted Child: The Primal Wound Understanding the Adopted Child A Transpersonal View of Growth (Based on the work of John Firman and Ann Gila) Adrienne Jeffries BSW Dip. Psychosynthesis Australia The Core IssuesAbandonment and Loss: The Core Issues Abandonment and Loss One of the most common fears is that of being abandoned. Abandonment is a dominant theme in child myths. -Harriet Machtiger Abandonment and Loss: Abandonment and Loss …There is a tendency to underestimate how intensely distressing and disabling loss is and for how long the distress, and often the disablement, commonly lasts. Conversely, there is a tendency to suppose that a normal healthy person can and should get over a bereavement not only fairly rapidly but also completely. -John Bowlby Core Issues: Core Issues The primal experience of the adopted child is abandonment, then the core issues are loss and the fear of further abandonment. Neither are acknowledged in most adoptive families, since the abandonment occurred so early in the child’s life. With no acknowledgement of the loss or ways to grieve, the child copes in ways in which may manifest in behaviour that is often misunderstood. Core Issues: Core Issues On the one hand adoption is seen as a wonderful, altruistic event and on the other is a traumatic, terrifying experience for the child. Adoptive parents find it hard to look at an infant and think they might be suffering. How can they not be? There is usually no acknowledgment of the child’s loss of the original mother. There is no permission then to mourn. Core Issues: Core Issues Depression from unresolved grief, and anxiety caused by trauma from long ago and asense of impending doom often restrict the full functioning of an adoptee’s emotional and intellectual capacities. Many adoptees talk of an underlying sadness which seems constant and pervasive. Slide9: Shame Sadness Fear Rebel Addict Need to go all the way in to heal Anger Frightened child Wounded Child Pain Pleaser Angry Child Rescuer Addict The Primal Wound The Primal Wound: The Primal Wound The wound of non-being occurs when there is an experienced disruption in the empathic mirroring relationship. Disruptions develop in the relationships in our lives. When our unifying centre fails it undercuts our sense of personal self threatening that self with fragmentation abandonment and annihilation. We all go to great lengths to avoid such encounters with non-being, including splitting ourselves into parts. The Primal Wound: The Primal Wound Overt -- violence, sexual abuse and physical abandonment. Covert -- emotional battering, emotional incest, enmeshment, unresponsiveness, depression, self-involvement on the part of the caregiver; caregiver compulsions and addictions that remain unrecognized and untreated; a constant unresolved tension between caregivers, manifested in outward conflict or invisibly pervading the family atmosphere; the leaving of the child alone to face an overwhelming situation; and forcing the child into a limiting role (especially that of partner or even parent to the adult). The Primal Wound: The Primal Wound Empathic failures or disruption in an empathic connection to a unifying centre are those experiences where we were not treated as living, conscious human beings, but as objects, as things. Kohut says, “What leads to the human self’s destruction is its exposure to coldness, the indifference of the non-human, the non empathetically responding world.” The Primal Wound: The Primal Wound We are torn away from being human and thrust toward human nonbeing, and our sense of self is profoundly wounded. Wounding is overt and covert. The Primal Wound: The Primal Wound Overt -- violence, sexual abuse and physical abandonment. Covert -- emotional battering, emotional incest, enmeshment, unresponsiveness, depression, self-involvement on the part of the caregiver; caregiver compulsions and addictions that remain unrecognized and untreated; a constant unresolved tension between caregivers, manifested in outward conflict or invisibly pervading the family atmosphere; the leaving of the child alone to face an overwhelming situation; and forcing the child into a limiting role (especially that of partner or even parent to the adult). The Primal Wound: The Primal Wound Healthy families can covertly inflict debilitating wounds in the children via the unconscious wounding in the caregivers. These are blind spots in the caregiver function that create areas of non-being in the child.. The Primal Wound: The Primal Wound The caregiver may wound the child even while expressing genuine affection and love. Love and affection do not necessarily mean there is an empathic connection. Empathy is transcendent - immanent - it can exist if you are feeling loving, angry, happy, sad. What makes a relationship empathic is recognizing and respecting the actual, unique, individuality of the particular human being. The Primal Wound: The Primal Wound Love for a child can be directed to the excitement of a child rather than a unique experience of a child. Without empathy, love and affection will not be directed at the person but at some aspect of the person or, worse your own fantasy of the person. The Primal Wound: The Primal Wound The deep sense of self is not formed by conscious encouragement and praise and discouragement and rebuke but by the deeply anchored responsiveness of the caregivers. This is a level of being, of core self hood at which the health or wounding of the child comes not so much from what the caregiver does or does not to do as from who the caregiver is. The very best caregiver effectiveness training will involve facilitating self-knowledge, self-empathy, healing and self-transformation. The Primal Split: The Primal Split We now know or dimly perceive that a powerful, invisible river of wounding flows down through the generations via empathic failures, completely hidden by supposedly normal parenting practices and cultural beliefs. The Primal Split: The Primal Split There is an historical flow of wounding; social, political and cultural. We cannot have good enough caregiving without a good enough society. Childhood “psychic trauma” is not so “abnormal.” It plays a part in the ordinary development of any child. The primal wound is a level of human suffering no one of us escapes. The Primal Split: The Primal Split Primal wounding can begin in utero. Even here we may experience negativity and in response to this confrontation with extinction and annihilation (non-being) there is a traumatic splitting of the person which we can call the primal split. So in the fabric of human existence, it seems that wounding may seem natural. This wounding seems normal because we experience it at the deepest levels of our development. Normal does not mean natural. Trauma: Trauma Painful events do not cause trauma; it is a break in the empathic connection which causes trauma. Pain is not pathology. The cause of primal wounding is not the suffering itself but the absence of some empathic other and thus the threat of non-being. Trauma: Trauma Pain - stress to the organism perhaps threatening death. Primal wounding - annihilation, non-being. We all must develop a way to survive and maintain a relationship with the external unifying centre. Only then can we avoid the unimaginable fall into the bottomless void of non-being. We do this by splitting ourselves into parts. Splitting: Splitting Splitting is caused by a failure in the environment to mirror the wholeness of the person; it is a desperate dividing of oneself in order to preserve a relationship to non-empathic unifying centres and so avoid non-being. Without the primal wound the personality would exhibit a natural fluid multiplicity with no need to isolate major sectors of experience. Primal splitting like primal wounding is normal but again this is not to say it is natural and necessary. Pain and Rejection: Pain and Rejection With splitting we create experiences of pain and perfection, trauma and idealization. This is how we maintain relationships and being in the face of trauma. Primal Pain Work: Primal Pain Work C.G.Jung said: “Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.” Alice Miller said: “Problems cannot be solved with words, but only through experience, not merely corrective experience but through a reliving of early fear (sadness, anger).” Primal Pain Work: Primal Pain Work When we lose contact with our authentic self we experience chronic mourning for our lost self. We experience shame and then we numb out and abandon ourself. Primal Pain Work: Primal Pain Work Primal pain work involves experiencing the original repressed feelings. This is the only way to create deep change that truly resolves feelings. We must discharge the original distress. We must embrace our wounded, heart broken child’s loneliness and unresolved grief about his / her lost parents, family and childhood. We must embrace the pain. Primal Wounding and Grief: Primal Wounding and Grief Grief is the healing feeling. This is our human healing process. We will heal naturally if we all allowed to grieve. Our wounded inner child is frozen because there is no way to do the grief work. Through many empathic failures we came to believe we could not depend on our primary care giver. Healing: Healing For our primal wounds to heal our inner children must come out of hiding and they must trust that you will be there. Your inner child needs a supportive non-shaming ally to validate his abandonment, neglect, abuse and enmeshment. Validation of your Inner Child’s Abuse: Validation of your Inner Child’s Abuse Much legitimate parenting is abusive. You need to accept that these things truly wounded your soul. Failure in the empathic connections wounds. Not connecting to who you truly are is the worst thing that can happen to you. We need to experience shock and depression to begin the process. Validation of your Inner Child’s Abuse: Validation of your Inner Child’s Abuse The next feeling is usually anger. Your parents actual intentions are irrelevant. What is relevant is what actually happened. It’s okay to be angry, even if what was done to you was unintentional. You actually have to be angry if you want heal your inner child. Next comes hurt and sadness. We must grieve the lack of connection, grieve what might have been - our dream parents and our unfulfilled developmental needs. Validation of your Inner Child’s Abuse: Validation of your Inner Child’s Abuse Hurt and sadness are often followed by remorse. We say, “If only things had been different, maybe I could have been or done something different.” The deepest core feelings are toxic shame and loneliness. We were shamed by abandonment and feel bad. Its that shame that leads to loneliness. We feel flawed so to survive our life the child must cover the true / authentic self with the survival personality and inauthentic self. Validation of your Inner Child’s Abuse: Validation of your Inner Child’s Abuse The child then identifies with the survival personality, the false self, and the authentic self remains hidden, alone and isolated. The self is disconnected. Working with this layer is difficult. Working through this layer will help us move to the other side. In embracing our shame and loneliness we begin to touch our authentic self. Feelings: Feelings All these feelings must be felt. It is a process. Your inner children need to learn that you can and will connect with them. The feeling of the feelings is crucial. Healing won’t happen if you can’t feel. Experiencing the old feelings and staying empathetically connected to your children will allow the healing to naturally unfold. You must keep yourself safe as well as your children.