Okay, I know I’ve been busy, but this is nuts. No posts in more than a year? Wow!
Returning to the intended topic of this blog, I would like to recommend the book “Not Trauma Alone“, by Steven Gold. (You can find my review on Amazon, by the way.)
This book is written for the clinical or research professional, but I found it to be generally accessible. The author seems to understand that the problems which tend to lead to Borderline Personality Disorder or codependence are based in childhood experiences which generate complex-PTSD along with measurable physical changes to our brains.
One chapter is fairly heavy on how the practicing therapist should apply the author’s schema with clients. He stresses that, far from being “manipulative”, we are actually flailing helplessly. It’s just that we were raised, trained, to do things in manners which appear (to the uncharitable) to be manipulation.
A few examples: One of our customs is to shower gifts on people who we want to have like us or do doing for us. This is what my parents expected of me and my sisters. If we wanted something (food, a third pair of underpants, etc), we were explicitly required to “earn” it. Another custom is that we don’t say want we want. When I was a kid, making a plain and simple request was guaranteed to result in punishment. Another habit is to “help” people (like we’re trying to curry favor), even when they haven’t asked. But my mother would scream at me, “How DARE you FORCE somebody to ask you for help!” I was explicitly required to “help”, no matter what.
Rather than our being evil geniuses who effortlessly control those around us, we tend to be clueless and generally not in control of anything. We were raised this way, and we really don’t know any better. Rather than telling us to be “nice” or “honest” or “straightforward” or whatever (we don’t have the correct definitions of these), or telling us to “get over” the abuse we’ve suffered in adulthood and “recover” our childhood health, therapists need to understand that we need to learn that basic childhood stuff. We have to start at the bottom, at the beginning. Rather than assuming us to be slimeballs and “problem” clients, they should assume that we’re missing years of normal background, history, and training. They can’t assume that we know normal stuff.
Which seems obvious, really, when we’re in the middle of the situation. But, as “normals”, hardly any clinicians seem to have any clue.