Tag Archive | Men

Attachment Disorder – Early Detachment from Mother

Attachment Disorder is not really a diagnosis. You will see it labeled as Reactive Attachment Disorder but I find that it does not always fit neatly into a box. It can be seen as a personality disorder, as chemical dependency, as depression or anxiety. I see it more as a symptom of a client’s mental health. What I am talking about is a child who was separated from mother at birth and this can be for a variety of reasons. One case the mother was mentally ill and had a breakdown on the delivery table between baby one and two, the children were sent to foster homes immediately.  Another case the mother was sick and the child was separated from her for a certain amount of time. The mother might be a drug addict or alcoholic. The mother might have mental health problems and are unable to bond with baby; severing the trust/mistrust stage. I am going to share a story about Bill.

Courtesy of Ashevilleacademy.com

Bill is a child who was born with “yellow jaundice” as they used to call it. He was left in the hospital for a week and his mother was sent home (hospitals are not attune to the effects separation will have on babies – maybe they are now but they weren’t long ago).  Bill’s parents were in a Domestic Violence plagued marriage (father as batterer) and when his mother tried to escape with him, his father caught up with them and kidnapped Bill for six months. The mother did not know his whereabouts and as the parents were not divorced yet, the police could not do anything about it. The father ended up abandoning the baby and then the police brought the baby to the mother. During the divorce proceedings, however, Bill was given to the grandparents. The mother was able to see Bill once a year and tried to reunify with him without success on several occasions. Bill had lost an ability to attach to the mother and the mother was ill-equipped to understand how to recreate a bond with him. It was too late.

As an adult, Bill dropped out of school and became a drug addict for many years. During which time he had many children from various women. He did get clean but never sought out treatment. His children are all over the place and he has no ability to connect with their mothers so that he can have visitation with them. His finances are utilized on the family he did finally stabilize with – another woman who was also a drug addict like him. A woman who also never sought out treatment and came from a family of addictions, sexual abuse, and depression that never went treated. She was seriously neglected and thus probably has attachment issues as well.

I am not treating Bill but a family member shared this story with me. They were concerned about his mother who desperately wanted a relationship with her son and grandchildren. He seems to be a loving father but has never been able to connect with his mother. In fact, he appears to do whatever he can to go against the mother. Along with being a drug addict, he was reported to be a pathological liar. His mother knew this but when she would try to confront him about things he would start crying and throw a fit (as a child). As an adult, he turns the story around and tells her she is crazy and needs help. He will vehemently deny things even those which are obvious. For example: the mother reported that she tried to explain to her son that he was feeding too much candy to the children. The son, standing in the driveway with candy all around him said that he and his wife had stopped giving this to the children. When the mother pointed out the obvious, he stated that the reason it was on the ground was that the children didn’t want it anymore so they through it there. The mother continues to feel isolated and detached from her son because she can’t have conversations with her son unless it is to praise him for something. It is a relationship based on lies. She worries about the life her grandchildren are leading.

People like Bill, who were raised with a separation from their parents, have difficulties bonding with them. Often they are able to bond with the caretaker (who had them the most) but reject the mother. Even the bond that they will have with the caretaker is filled with lies and deception. As Bill was a drug addict, he stole from his caretaker. The caretaker enabled him to continue with the lies and deception because he would tell her that the money he “used” (meaning stole) was to pay for diapers or gas for his car. Even when Bill spent time behind bars, the caretakers coddled him and took him in upon his release. As Bill never spent time completing his treatment, he has never made amends to his caretakers (paid them back) and owes his mother a large sum of money for an attempt to do rehab.

Attachment is severed the minute the baby is removed from the womb. The baby needs to develop an immediate bond with the parent, thus they are given to the mother, after delivery to soothe the baby. Children are okay being in a nursery and sent to their mother’s from time to time for feeding. This is the first stage of learning individuation/separation. The longer the baby is separated from the mother, trust begins to be severed. Without trust, the baby begins to self-soothe and if they are emotionally intelligent can withstand some trauma but if not, they will collapse completely.  Some adult children who talk about being separated at birth and were emotionally intelligent (good survival skills), have attachment issues but I find they are easier to work with in therapy. As I am not an expert on this, I can only go with the cases I have worked with successfully and these are survivors.

I have found that if the birth parent is reunited with the baby – early on (a week or two later) attachment can be supported, yet attachment as an adult is difficult. In these cases I do see self-soothing with an oral fixation. Early detachment from birth mother that is severed completely (adoption or long term foster care with few caretakers) can heal with the consistent caretaker as well but often there is self-soothing here too. Both of these scenarios might show obesity, or a fluctuation with weight but it also might be a smoker. More severe situations of detachment from birth mother and multiple caregivers will show Chemical Dependency and Conflict Disorder or even Reactive Attachment Disorder. This is a more extreme self-soothing and self-sabotage without the resiliency levels to repair the attachment or want to repair the attachment. Some people may get clean and sober but repel psychotherapy because then they have to attach to themselves through self-awareness. Often it can be more painful to try and attach to self than to live their lives in pain (i.e., denial). I have heard a few clients who abandoned therapy make the comment “I have lived for years with [this chaos] and have been just fine why do I need to dredge up all this history?” I suspect this is the case with Bill and probably his wife. People who seriously need psychotherapy have learned to find coping skills that they feel are appropriate but often it is isolating themselves in a cocoon to protect from others.

The wall Bill has built between he and his mother deflects any self-awareness by pushing her away with his invisible shield that spits out swords that pierce her and shut her up. This keeps the relationship under his domination. He controls and manipulates her so that if she wants a relationship with him, she must obey his clues. It is my understanding that his mother has felt afraid of her son on occasion but more specifically when he was on drugs.

As a therapist, I often wonder about the relationship between early attachment and shooters that we see, almost daily now, around the country. I can’t imagine that someone who has a healthy attachment to their mother would have this level of a lack of empathy toward their fellow human beings. I read “School Violence: Facts vs. Fiction” by Dr. Dewey Cornell, many years ago now and the main issue I took away from this was perpetrators being bullied. I don’t recall the discussion of Attachment Disorders because at that time I was not as conscious of this as an issue as I am now. Therefore, if he did mention it, I clung to the bullying instead which was more easily identifiable in my consciousness then. Now, however, we are dealing with much more than school shootings. It is adults who have taken over from the plight of teen angst and wish to have their moment of glory or retribution to those who have harmed their psyche in some perceived way.

As Narcissism and Attachment disorders or early attachment being severed are closely linked if not synonymous, it is important to make people aware of this in the field of mental health, medical fields and social work. Educators could benefit from these teachings as well but this must be handled more carefully with this professional. I find that teachers tend to play psychology professional when they learn about the mental health world. Thus, they are constantly diagnosing and even telling parents what medication a child should be on. More often than not, they are incorrect. Nonetheless, more education needs to go out to professionals dealing with children and parents and adults in general. Hospitals can benefit from learning about early attachment and find ways to keep the child and mother together as much as possible. They will be able to better detect situations when brought into pediatric care, rather than trying to quickly put into a box (assess a more holistic picture of the child). Mental health clinicians will have a better grasp of their client. Social workers will be able to better understand the placement of the foster child and detect a need for therapy earlier on – rather than waiting for the behavioral issues to begin showing itself.

Attachment between mother and child is imperative. Nine months in a womb means that once they are delivered we must, as professionals, be more prudent in assuring that early attachment is protected.

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A Narcissistic Family: Lies, Lies, and More Lies

Meet the Valour family, (names changed to protect the victims). There is the Narcissistic Mother, aka the martyr, the chameleon, the adaptor over the years as it suits her. There is the Father or the placator (someone who gives in to the demands of the Narcissist to keep the peace). He, however, is the one who doled out the physical punishment to his stepchildren. There are five children total, one son from a previous marriage who was rarely in the home. There are two daughters (Jenny and Joan) who are stepchildren to the father and then came two sons (Ronny and Frankie) from the Narcissistic Mother.

Jenny was the oldest and ended up being abused the most. She suffered physical abuse from the stepfather and emotional abuse from the mother. She never knew whether she was coming or going, with so many mixed messages growing up. She was beautiful but not as smart as other people’s children, which she was often told. She was old enough to hear “TMI” that her mother enjoyed confiding in her but not old enough to make decisions for herself. She ended up with Severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and got pregnant as a teenager. She married an abusive male from the wrong side of the tracks and got divorced a couple of years later. Her child was given to her Narcissistic mother to raise, because the father of the child disappeared and the courts determined Jenny would end up on welfare.  Jenny’s story is the most compelling here because she became the proverbial “black sheep” of the family and it is her life that will be betrayed to others as the decades went on.

Joan was Special Needs or Borderline Intellectual Functioning. She wasn’t abused as much because the family felt sorry for her. She would become the placator (child) and spent most of her life living with her parents – because she was told by her mother that she couldn’t live in the world by herself. She ended up with a child out of wedlock because she was desperate to have a baby. That baby grew up to have a child out of wedlock as well. As the placator, Joan tells lies to suit her mother or herself and this deflects any responsibility onto herself. She presents as a narcissist because she has no self-awareness.

Ronny ended up the family hero and went on to retire from the military. He exhibits in narcissistic ways because he was entitled as a child. Nothing he can do is wrong in the family’s eyes so he is unable to empathize or take criticism from others.  He is perfect and assumes the world revolves around him when people are with him. That is what he learned growing up. He is a very caring person but very detached from the family. He raised several children but his wife sought to compete for his attention and thus kept the children from Jenny and keeps tight rings around all of them now so that they are one great big enmeshed family. Joan is allowed entrance but only because she continues to elicit sympathy from everyone. Jenny lived most of the time in another state, as well, so the children did not see her much and gifts were given to them (as far as she knows) but there was never acknowledgement so she ceased to send them. She is not sure if the gift giving ever attempted to create a relationship or not.

Frankie died early on as a child so he is the saint in the family. No one ever talks about him because it is too uncomfortable to confront one’s emotions. It is as if he never existed. Jenny tries to create a space for him but the family changes the subject. The father died a decade after his son, and when this happened, the high standards that were expected in the family ceased to exist. This is because the Narcissistic mother focuses too much attention on getting attention from her descendants. Rather than being the mother she once was, who also expected these standards, as it might make her look bad, she allows lowered standards to appear cool and modern.

Thus the family has become like every other family in America with very low standards. The second generation of girls have tattoos all over their bodies. At family events, people show up in whatever they feel like wearing. The third generation toddlers have mohawks and pink hair. One family is raised in filthy conditions. Their parents feed them  daily amounts of sugar through soda and candy to pacify them. This is because their parents raise them like toys and are afraid to set standards. The latter family is Jenny’s child and grandchildren, whom Jenny’s mother raised.

The mother enjoys taking comfort in harming her daughter Jenny. She loves to hear negative things said about her and Jenny’s bitterness and anger have become much darker and deeper over the years. While Jenny has tried to do therapy and create a better life for herself, she feels she has never really found happiness. Her child (whom her mother raised) became a drug addict like his father. He had multiple children from various women, two of which he never sees or has anything to do with.  While he finally did become a “dry drunk,” which means clean but without a mental health support system, his life continues to be a mess.

The lies are the denial that goes requited generation after generation. The matriarch or the Narcissist, who perpetuates the lies, with gossip and tales to feed to the others about her favorite target: Jenny. This has trained the others to feel it is acceptable to lie about Jenny or create stories about what she is like. As they see this anger and frustration coming from Jenny whenever she is at family events, she continues to feed into their beliefs about her created by the Narcissist. Jenny was the scapegoat from the time she began to find her sense of self, as a teenager, and this coat of arms has never been removed. This web of deception in this family will never change unless the descendants begin to question things. Why should they though when the Narcissist adores them and praises their every move.

Family gatherings in the Valour family consist of everyone, but Jenny, adoring themselves and being adored by the Narcissist. No one is honest, is allowed to have opinions, but generally they don’t speak up about their beliefs – if they have one – because they have learned to appease one another.

The Valour family has no courage, no self-awareness, and no empathy. They have empathy for others in their desire to look like good people but not amongst their own kin. They have all ceased to individuate from the mother, with the exception of Jenny who has been outcast. In order to keep her sanity, she continues to try and develop a stronger sense of self but struggles with this daily. She made the mistake of returning home, assuming she was stronger and more prepared but ultimately finds herself collapsing each time she tries to develop some connection with her nieces and nephews or grandchildren. Every attempt she makes is thwarted by their mothers who have developed a bond with the Narcissist in order to be accepted by their own partners.

This type of family is not an exception. I learn about very similar stories of families like this month after month in my office. Either it is the mother or the father who can be the Narcissistic parent. I am often surprised to hear just how far the Narcissists will go, as I learn different ploys these parents will use to take advantage of their children. Some go as far as sexually abusing their children, because they can. I have heard of a parent who put their kids in another house down the street, so they could have their own life (without a parent in the other house and often without enough money to live on). Anything they can get away with, the Narcissistic parent will. Social services have been called out in many of these stories I have heard about. However, as Narcissism is not well understood and many social services staff are not clinically trained (at the master’s level), they are fooled by the Narcissist and close the case. In Jenny’s child’s story, the house is not filthy enough to remove and the unhealthy food is not a reason to remove either. As long as a child eats (even if it is McDonalds everyday), they are eating. As long as the house does not have feces on the floor, needles lying around, and maggots in the food, it is not considered a reason to remove. Having worked in social services for eight years, I know that my standards and the standards of most of us are not a reason to judge others for their stupidity.

There are always the same roles within the Narcissistic family. The spouse placates his/her spouse to keep the peace and generally is the most miserable emotionally (because they have no spouse).  Often the placating spouse stays with the Narcissistic partner because they become too weak from the emotional entrapment. Next there is the prime scapegoat (there can be more than one), the hero (often the opposite sex of the Narcissistic parent), and the child who placates the parent who is the Narcissist and is generally the sidekick of the placating parent.

If you were raised like Jenny, in this type of family, it is important to get support from a therapist who understands Narcissism. Unfortunately, not many do because there are not many trainings on this topic. Most people assume the Narcissist is the CEO or the egotistical person. There is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for the Narcissist but why would they go into therapy when there is nothing wrong with them – the fault lies with the scapegoat. I have known people who went to family therapy with the Narcissist and the therapist became fooled as well and the children were blamed. I have also known where the Narcissist was brought into the room – so the therapist could meet them and became emotionally trapped by this person causing them to deflect from their own client.

It is a tricky situation to be in when you are a therapist. You have to be able to know it, smell it, hear it, taste it, (metaphorically) when you see it. Narcissists have a similar language that they use (I hear certain phrases over and over again). It is always emotional abuse to the victim and as I mentioned earlier can sometimes include physical and sexual abuse and even torture. Thus there needs to be more trainings available to social workers and therapist who are practicing in social services, the medical field, in private practice or for counseling centers (both at the academic and community level). The client will often present as bewildered and confused; who know something wasn’t quite right with their parent. With their Narcissistic partner they will think that they (the client) was at fault and will constantly be apologizing when explaining their relationship. We, as clinicians, must always listen and believe and trust the path the client is walking down. We have to look for the things they cannot see and ask questions to understand more. Most of all, we have to normalize their pain. It isn’t important that you meet the Narcissist. If you can feel (your instincts are saying) that this looks like one, it probably is. Never diagnose the person who is not in the room but you can state “This sounds like…” and help the person to get resources to better understand what you are seeing. If the person is a Narcissist, the client will identify with this when they read articles on this topic. They will also be able to better explain to you, as the clinician, their symptoms from learning more about it.

A terribly misunderstood topic, that needs to be more widely understood; so that we can help to identify and bring healing to our clients.

Voice to Voice or Skin to Skin: Ritual of Connection

I have always loved Nicole Kidman and her ability to portray so many different types of people. She is a lot like Penelope Cruz, another favorite of mine; in that neither are afraid of experimenting and both have been involved in productions from different countries. This week I was reading an article on the Huffington Post, where she was being interviewed about her marriage which is celebrating its twelth anniversary. She mentioned that she and Keith [Urban] do not text to talk to one another, because of all the misunderstandings that were obvious to them from the onset. As she went on, she noted that they have a phrase “Voice to Voice or Skin to Skin,” is their only way of communication with each other. I thought this sounded very sweet and touching and something I wanted to share with the couples that I work with.

I have been taking continuing education with the Gottman couples trainings and use this method when working with my couples. We talk about Turning Towards Each Other, rather than away from one another when communicating is taking place. Voice to voice, you may not look at each other (except as Nicole noted when they do Facetime) but you are clearly hearing and participating in that moment. Of course, it is possible to Stonewall (and be on your computer at the same time) but then your partner would pick up on this very easily. When you are texting to someone it is very anti-social and disrespectful of someone (this is me not the Gottman trainings talking). The person is not there on the other end at the exact moment that you send the text. You can’t feel them, hear them, see them (other than a photo), or even sense them. You can misinterpret them and I have found that it is easy for my client’s to be stalked by their partners in this way. Usually this is noted when they tell me that he “blew up my phone.” When I first heard this, I have to confess, I thought maybe their battery had died from too much usage on the phone. But kidding aside, this is not an intimate form of communication. It is a cop out, when it comes to communication.

If you want your relationship to last, you can’t take it for granted and so you must value this investment and continue to work on it. The most important thing I have found is building an “Emotional Connection,” with your partner because A. Women are turned on by this and aren’t likely to stray, B. You begin to know each other more deeply, which causes you to feel you can trust and depend on the other person, and C. You are developing a “We” instead of an “I.” The last one always gets my goat. If I hear one partner saying “I am going away this weekend for vacation,” I will say “Aren’t you taken your wife/husband?” naturally they will say “Well, yeah,” so I say then I think you meant to say “We are going away…” and talk to them about the importance of respect in a relationship.

Look at the difference between Nicole Kidman’s marriage to Tom and now to Keith. I went through my young adult years with the first two (I don’t know much about Keith Urban) and always remembered how sad and detached Nicole and Tom looked in photos. I don’t think I ever saw them smile – together. Sure, Tom always had that Hollywood smile whenever taking photos and he pushed it out there even when he was next to Nicole on the carpet (though it never seemed quite as authentic as his Risky Business or Top Gun smile). Nicole never once, that I recall, ever really had more then a grin on her face. It was because of this that I was not at all surprised when they got a divorce. Now, I don’t think I have seen one photo of her and Keith, where they don’t look like they’ve just had “Skin to Skin” right before they walked out onto the carpet. I’ve heard Keith Urban interviewed saying that he feels like she is still his girlfriend after twelve years. This tells me that they keep their relationship fresh and are invested in a quality relationship. I once read Nicole stating in an interview that she thought it was romantic to see a cemetery plot with the couple buried next to each other and imagining what a delightful marriage they must have had. It seems morbid in a way but it shows the depth that she was hoping for in a man. Someone she would be with until the end. I don’t think there will be any question whether these two will last forever.

What type of play are your creating in your relationship? How are you keeping the marriage alive or exciting? Maybe you aren’t worth millions and globetrotting around the world (though this makes it way more difficult than balancing a budget and raising a couple of kids), you actually have an easier opportunity to make your relationship last. What can you do for fun? Riding bikes as a family (or couple), hiking together, praying together, cooking together, taking a bath together (as a couple of course), etc… These are what we call Rituals of Connection (or Creating Shared Meaning), one of the “The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work,” by Dr. Gottman. Rituals are those sacred moments in your family’s life that are created by the two of you for your relationship and for your kids. Having a motto such as “Voice to Voice or Skin to Skin” is a Ritual of Connection. It is an intimate boundary that this couple has created that they won’t steer away from because it has kept them together for twelve years.

Texting is not intimate and it was created for emergencies, not for relationships. There was a time when we did not have cellular technology, and even a time we didn’t have pagers (or telephones). We have taken advantage of texting and it has caused our world to become anti-social. People are out in the real world less and less and when they are there, they are on their phones. Another thing that gets my goat is seeing people at a natural park and they have their heads down, staring at their phones or are taking some darn “selfie” because they are not capable of “stopping to smell the roses.” Life is a challenge which you must undertake and if you make the choice to have someone by your side, respect them, love them, nourish them and for heaven sakes, communicate with them [LIVE]!

 

Stop and smell the roses,
taste the nectar of sweet.
Peel back the petals,
tickle your feet!

Take a walk amongst the flowers,
place blue bonnets in your hair,
Sing songs of he love’s me not,
two step with the air!

Stop and smell the roses,
Spend some time,
Tend to your bushes,
Pay no mind.

As you walk amongst the flowers,
peer down at your feet.
There’s no time to smell the roses
when you’re six feet deep. 

Hershe Moore

 

The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive – Stephen Fry

This is such a deeply, insightful documentary about the struggles a person goes through with Bi-Polar. It will go down a more tragic path as the film continues walking through these dark corridors into the psyche of various persons with this diagnosis. In between you hear from various psycho-professionals who treat this disorder. When he says “We do love our manic periods,” this is something I have heard many times from various clients or people I have known. In fact, this is the infamous stage when these people often do not believe they need medication because they are feeling themselves again. This is normal for a Bi-polar and one of the symptoms – not wanting to take their “meds.” It is normal because they don’t want to feel abnormal, which is what the medications cause them to feel.

It is important that he added the genetic aspect to this mental illness. Evidently the DNA researchers he went to and the brain scans don’t show a link from that perspective. However, research does seem to show that it runs in the family. I see this all the time with people and in fact, if they tell me they have it (from reading something online and w/o a diagnosis) but seem to have no family mental illness, I become suspicious. Generally, I will ask people if they ever had a “Crazy Aunt Sally,” or a family member who disappeared for awhile or who was known to be a little off. This is how I can find a possible mental illness connection. In the past, people might have been locked up or family would have joked about it (to avoid discussing the reality). I ask this with all my clients when doing a family history, not just people who’ve been reading about diagnoses online. Most people think “mood swings” mean they are Bi-Polar and generally these are people in their young twenties who are going through a difficult period in early adult hood or even teenagers who are frustrated with their family life.

I was pretty shocked to hear Stephen Fry say, at the end, that he hasn’t been on medications since his first diagnosis many years prior to making this film. Apparently, the end of Part 1 made him realize he should re-think this. What I think is very important is to have a psychological evaluation if you believe your child has some serious mental health issues to find a diagnosis. Then, I think it is important to re-test and get a new psychological evaluation when that same person is an adult. This is because it is often difficult to be sure about childhood mental illness (sometimes psychological professionals have a “go to” diagnosis) and because you test differently as an adult and you are a little more aware of yourself and your symptoms.  If you DO have a mental illness, you should have a psychiatrist that prescribes and monitors your medications (NOT a primary care physician). A psychiatrist specializes in mental illness, a PCP does not. This is why they are called a “general” practitioner. This also can prohibit being wrongly diagnosed and going through an even longer series of trials and tribulations with medications. I have heard stories of a family doctor asking five or six questions and then labeling the person with a diagnosis. A psychological evaluation is generally three sessions and ends up with a 13 page report based on the conclusions from the tests that were run. The “psych eval” as I call it, includes input from your psychotherapist, family, and other support people involved in the child or adults life. Another reason to go to a psychiatrist is that sometimes they will have psychotherapists on staff who partner with them. If not, it is best that you find a psychotherapist who specializes in your mental illness.

 

Stephen Fry has also made a Part II of this documentary, also available on YouTube and I have also seen a “Ten Years Later” after the making of this film.