Many people suffer from the consequences of developmental trauma, without even knowing it. Some trauma researchers call it the mother of all diseases and disorders.
Developmental Trauma and Early Injuries
Today, We would like to talk to you about a subject that moves me very much. Personally, I believe that too little attention is paid to the impact of early injury on people’s later lives.
What is currently more in Focus, is the so-called shock trauma. Almost all the institutions that are on the market treat this type of trauma.
Shock trauma is defined as a singular event in life. It is completely self-contained. These events are treated with various trauma therapies, body-oriented, behavioral, or EMDR.
When the term Trauma comes, people think of serious situations.
We are thinking of violence, sexualized violence, serious neglect and other serious disasters that are being done to children. The small persistent injuries in early childhood find no or little attention.
What is too little in Focus is development trauma.
Today’s knowledge is not always about serious or violent influences. Development trauma can also arise when people do not get enough bonding, they are left screaming, there are binding interruptions, such as hospitalizations. All these situations, which are more in the finer interpersonal range, but have a serious effect on our lives, can contribute to the emergence of developmental trauma.
There are authors who speak of a hidden epidemic. I would totally agree with that. Many effects that we see today, people can hardly come to rest, do not turn off, land in their own body, insomnia, Burnout, are consequences of previous minor injuries.
Secondary traumatization is not so important to us today. This applies to all therapists, first responders, police officers, etc., which are not affected by the initial Trauma, but the impact feel.
We are now looking at a very early area of our lives, the first three years. The Problem with this time is that we can’t remember. The biographical memory of a person begins to develop at the age of 3-4 years.
We have no inner history for the first time of our lives. We have to rely on the stories of others. We sometimes have a feeling or even individual images, which we cannot place in chronological order. This is a problem because people often take seriously what they can remember.
We had recently clients who fail by themselves because they can’t handle what happened to them. Even if you have heard what you experienced in early childhood, for example, you have been alone for a long time or your mother has been depressed or other things that indicate that the child has received very little attention and a so-called attuned communication. Since there is no real memory and images, the whole remains abstract and not tangible.
Ultimately, we can only draw conclusions from this time by looking at our relationship life and our lives today.
Each mammal needs to be taken into the family, adopted by the caregiver. This is also our greatest longing. The longing to be seen and felt that someone attuned to us and our needs. If it doesn’t work, we’re unhappy.
Babies cannot regulate inner condition themselves. We must constantly be regulated from the outside, our caregiver. In the beginning, we cannot even regulate our wake-up sleep rhythm. We must also be supported in this.
When children are not felt, not seen, or mothers feel helpless, afraid to do much wrong, the Stress of the mother is transferred to the child. As babies, we are very permeable. We feel everything that our caregiver feels.
A strange Situation arises for the child. It wants to bind itself, but at the same time, the mother has an unpleasant feeling, which the child would prefer to withdraw.
This Stress has a serious effect on the nervous system. It affects the child’s learning process to regulate himself, to feel himself.
If the parents still adhere to the doctrine to let the child scream or not be allowed to sleep in the parents ‘ bed, they are left much alone. The child begins to protest, it starts to cry. If that doesn’t work, it cries out.
When it has passed through this Phase, there is inner up and becomes silent. This is not a peaceful silence, but a resignation. When this happens more often, it has a clear impact on the child’s self-image, whether it feels loved and wanted and has a place in this world.
The problem is the assumption that babies deliberately act like this, for example, to annoy the mother. That’s not the case. Babies can’t calm down themselves. This requires an adult caregiver.
The film “Still Face Experiment“
In this Film, a child is seen that is certainly bound. The interaction between mother and child is a so-called attuned communication.
We see an Experiment by Edward Tronic, the “Still Face Experiment”. For this, he asked mothers to communicate with their child, to be in an attuned communication, then turn away and come back with a stone face to find out how the children react.
Until a few years ago it was assumed that babies are perfectly passive. Today it is known, also on the basis of such experiments, that they are highly communicative and initiate communication itself.
The mother and the child have a connection in which they move together. Great things happen to both. In the child, the growth of neurological nerves is highly stimulated, especially in the Prefrontal Cortex, the trait of the personality, where all emotional later states are regulated.
In the mother, the binding hormone Oxytocin is distributed. She also experiences the growth of new neurological nerve pathways. Baby is highly active. The binding is done much by eye contact, gestures and facial expressions. The most important thing in communication is, in fact, the mimic response, the openness in the eyes and the attention and not the linguistic content, which often gets too much emphasis in our adult life.
Knowing that the child is safely bound is not that the child reacts with a lot of stress, but it calms down very quickly, turns to the mother and starts to interact with her and play again.
For example, The Binding of children is examined how they react when the mother is available again. What you could see wonderfully in the sequence is how stressful it is for the child to get no contact as it begins to work to restore contact. One can also see the first approach of dissociation when this often happens. The child turns away because it does not want to see the stone face of the mother. It can no longer regulate and begins to cry.
For some people, it was the normal state to have a mother or caregiver who was not available for this agreed communication. She was busy with herself, didn’t have enough time for the Baby. Some parents have built at this time.
In my Generation, for example, many have experienced their first traumatic experience because they were brought to another room immediately after birth, where they were alone without talking, without warmth, without relationship. This naturally has an effect on the perception of the world and the child’s ability to bind.
Just as catastrophic are certain behaviors of caregiver, which are not perceived at all because they are now normal. Mothers call or watch TV while they are breastfeeding, or are busy with something else. Rarely do adults pay full attention to children? This is necessary to get yourself in a well-balanced state, to be happy, to stay curious and to learn life in a good way.
Insecure bonding, therefore, results from too little contact with the caregiver.
But too many stimuli can lead to a binding disorder. Some mothers, for example, do not notice when they over-excite the child, they over-play it. The child wants to go away, but can’t. It can no longer regulate itself because it has arrived at the upper end of its capacity. If you do not notice it or over-play this point, this is in the long run very stressful for the child and leaves behind consequences. As an adult, the child may avoid too many stimuli and develop low-stress tolerance.
The Imprint of The Brain
There is a clamp in our brain and a slow way of information processing. In the first three years, we cannot consciously recall the patterns that emerged in this early period. This does not mean that they do not exist as a reminder.
The hippocampus is trained from the 6th month of pregnancy and collects information. We are characterized by the information that comes from pregnancy in the abdomen of our mother. All this information leaves a pattern with which we look at the world.
The great Dilemma is that we ourselves do not see that we have these patterns and apply them to the world. The deeper this pattern is shaped, the faster we rule. We are unaware that we are responding to Old Information and not to the current Situation.
For the expression of prefrontal lobe it is very important in this early period.
In this part of the brain, many skills are trained that we need for our lives, such as emotional regulation, empathy, body perception, the pause between stimulus and reaction, and much more. The prefrontal lobe has only been studied for the last twenty years.
The brain stem contains a lot of information that we do not know, all our reflexes, dealing with sexuality or hunger, etc…
In the case of early injuries or violent experiences, there will be imprints left, the reactions in our later life trigger, which we can’t explain.
Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Amplitude of The Nervous System
We live constantly in the Amplitude in this vibration of our nervous system. The framework is the “Window of Tolerance”. The vibration upward involves curiosity, excitement, stress, fear. These conditions are controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic regulates the Amplitude downwards, such as relaxation, sleep, etc… Throughout the day, the nervous system oscillates between these states and remains within this framework, which is already marked by birth. If the birth was stressful, this frame can be very tight and very difficult to expand.
Part of a good therapy wants to extend this framework so that people again have more room to be happy, but also to be better able to deal with Stress.
How Do We Deal With Binding?
The so-called normal process is that we feel safe with a Person. We read the body language, we meet someone, we spend time together. It creates closeness. Many people fall in love at work because they often see the Person. Proximity and contact create the conditions for binding. People who do not have good binding experiences have experienced insecure binding or even binding interruptions, often later in life with relationships have a problem that they engage in people who are not sure.
You often notice this only after you have committed yourself. The need for binding is so great that you jump into the binding, then first establish contact and closeness and finally determine the Person is not safe. This leads to the feeling of being unable to live with and without the Person. You are already bound and every separation is extremely painful. This has something to do with the imprint that we have learned in these first three years.
Here is a beautiful picture of the formation of neural connections. Each of these imprints produces neural patterns in our head. The more a pattern reacts, transmits these stimuli, the more the part becomes networked and the more difficult it is to dissolve this connection.
Early injury, lack of empathy and empathy create this fundamental sense of loneliness when our parents can’t adjust to us or leave us alone. The “Window of Tolerance” is relatively narrow and we have great difficulty being happy.
Happiness is much more difficult to hold than misfortune. Feelings of happiness generate much more excitement in the body. This excitation is hard to keep if this window is very narrow.
The big difficulty is that this window can only get bigger if we feel safe. In this secure area, an optimal social interaction can take place, which can allow us to grow, establish a sense of security and expand this area.
However, if stimuli mean an Over-excitation for us, so the proximity of people triggers a combat or escape mode, it is difficult to learn something new. Many people do not realize that they are constantly in this mode.
It is equally difficult when we are in the state of hyper-arousal, that is, when we are frozen or struck down, we can no longer respond to the supply of closeness.
The Amplitude Of A Traumatized Nervous System
You already know this Amplitude. The nervous system of children who have received little attention, love, and affection looks just like the nervous system of people who have suffered shock traumas, such as violence, severe accidents or falls, surgeries.
This is an important aspect. Many people do not understand themselves and are desperately looking for the reason for this imbalance. It doesn’t need such a shock trauma to throw us out of the way. There are also the educational methods, which were completely normal until the 1970s, to have a nervous system that is not very resilient and little can come to rest and relaxation.
We are all empathic mirrors for our fellow human beings. If we are in an unbalanced state, this empathic mirror becomes cloudy.
We are no longer able to see someone coming to us. We react only in the conviction of knowing what someone intends, but ultimately this conviction is based on our old images.
The big dilemma is that we get our counterparts to fulfill exactly the expectations we had from the beginning. A classic that many knows are, we get a nice compliment and react to it with devaluation or rejection.
This is a slap in the face for the other person. We’ll fight back the favor. If we have done this twenty or thirty times, for some it will not take so long, our counterpart will refrain from saying something beautiful to us. Then we find that he doesn’t like me anymore, he doesn’t tell me anything nice anymore. I knew that.
In groups, it is easy to observe that people behave in a certain way that they do not notice at all. The group, however, begins to react and excludes the Person more and more. When viewed from the outside, it acts like a theatre production, for which the person is blind himself.
Severely traumatized people may also suffer a loss of affect. Facial expressions and gestures change or are not formed at all. Other people react to this again. The more alive we are in the face, the more gestures and facial expressions we have, the more effect we have and they reflect us.
People who have not experienced so much attention, who have not been brought into communication by their parents, who have rarely been asked how they are, what they feel, need and want, often do not develop many facial expressions. When no one speaks to us, there is no need to develop facial expressions.
Movie “Child of Rage“
To show how serious the impact can be, I show an excerpt from the movie “Child of Rage”. it is about a child who has been adopted together with his little brother. The girl has violent traits and tried several times to kill his brother and obviously, she feels nothing about it. She knows about her own history, the violence that has been done to her own self but has it split up and no feeling about it.
In this sequence, the girl is interviewed about the things she does.
She doesn’t show any facial expressions, even though she talks about how she wants to kill her brother.
The child looks very awake, very conscious, but it lacks any emotion to her actions. This is a high degree of dissociation, from emotional cleavage that has happened here, though very early serious mistreatment.
The social nervous system, discovered by Stephen Porges, no longer works. The face is no longer driven to express feelings.