The traumatized psyche is self-traumatizing

I’m continuing to read  The Inner World of Trauma: Archetypal Defences of the Personal Spirit, by Donald Kalsched. 

It’s such a wonderful source of insight and validation about the inner world of those traumatized that I want to share more from the introduction. I shared another part of the intro to the book in this post  as well. Read that too if you’re interested.

traumaThe self-care system performs the self-regulatory and inner/outer mediational functions that, under normal conditions, are performed by the person’s functioning ego. Here is where a problem arises. Once the trauma defense is organized, all relations with the outer world are “screened” by the self-care system. What was intended to be a defense against further trauma becomes a major resistance to all unguarded spontaneous expressions of self in the world The person survives but cannot live creatively. Psychotherapy becomes necessary.

However, psychotherapy with the victims of early trauma is not easy, either for the patient or the therapist. The resistance thrown up by the self-care system in the treatment of trauma victims is legendary. As early as 1920, Freud was shaken by the extent to which a “daimonic” force in some patients resisted change and made the usual work of analysis impossible. So pessimistic was he about this “repetition compulsion” that he attributed its origin to an instinctive aim in all life towards death. Subsequently, clinicians working with the victims of trauma or abuse have readily recognized the “daimonic” figure or forces to which Freud alludes. Fairbairn described it as an “Internal Saboteur” and Guntrip as the “anti-libidinal ego” attacking the “libidinal ago.” Melanie Klein described the child’s fantasies of a cruel, attacking, “bad breast;” Jung described the “negative Animus” and more recently, Jeffrey Seinfeld has written about an internal structured called simply the “Bad Object.”

Most contemporary analytic writers are inclined to see this attacking figure as an internalized version of the actual perpetrator of the trauma, who has “possessed” the inner world of the trauma victim. But this popularized view is only half correct. The diabolical inner figure is often far more sadistic and brutal than any outer perpetrator, indicating that we are dealing here with a psychological factor set loose in the inner world by trauma — an archetypal traumatogenic agency within the psyche itself.

No matter how frighting his or her brutality, the function of this ambivalent caretaker always seems to be the protection of the traumatized remainder of the personal spirit and its isolation from reality. It functions, if we can imagine its inner rationale, as a kind of inner “Jewish Defense League” (whose slogan, after the Holocaust, reads “never Again!”). “Never again,” says our tyrannical caretaker, will the traumatized personal spirit of this child suffer this badly! Never again will it be this helpless in the face of cruel reality….before this happens I will disperse it into fragments [dissociation], or encapsulate it and soothe it with fantasy [schizoid withdrawal], or numb it with intoxicating substances [addiction], or persecute it to keep it from hoping for life in this world [depression]….In this way I will preserve what is left of this prematurely amputated childhood — of an innocence that has suffered too much too soon!”

Despite the otherwise well-intentioned nature of our Protector/Persecutor, there is a tragedy lurking in these archetypal defenses. And here we come to the crux of the problem for the traumatized individual and simultaneously the crux of the problem for the psychotherapist trying to help. This incipient tragedy results from the fact that the Protector/Persecutor is not educable. The primitive defense does not learn anything about realistic danger as the child grows up. It functions on the magical level of consciousness with the same level of awareness it had when the original trauma or traumas occurred. Each new life opportunity is mistakenly seen as a dangerous threat of re-traumatization and is therefore attacked. In this way, the archaic defenses become anti-life forces which Freud understandably thought of as part of the death instinct.

These discoveries made by exploring the inner world help us to explain two of the most disturbing findings in the literature about trauma. The first of these finding is that the traumatized psyche is self-traumatizing. Trauma doesn’t end with the cessation of outer violation, but continues unabated in the inner world of the trauma victim, whose dreams are often haunted by persecutory inner figures. The second finding is the seemingly perverse fact that the victim of psychological trauma continually finds himself or herself in life situations where he or she is retraumatized. As much as he or she wants to change, as hard as he or she tries to improve life or relationships, something more powerful than the ego continually undermines progress and destroys hope. It is as though the persecutory inner world somehow finds its outer mirror in repeated self-defeating “re-enactments” — almost as if the individual were possessed by some diabolical power or pursued by a malignant fate. — Donald Kalsched, The Inner World of Trauma: Archetypal Defences of the Personal Spirit

There are many ways to heal from this fate and we see those who’ve had lives marred by trauma recover in a myriad of ways, as it is wont for human beings to do. There are as many paths to wellness as there are human beings. Analysis, which is the stance of this book, is only one window and one perspective to understand healing.

My path seems to be one in which I visit numerous ways to heal the body/mind/spirit/psyche. In so doing I understand my experience from numerous perspectives which is sometimes confusing to people. For me, all that I do  is a devotion to healing. I love seeing things from as many perspectives as possible. For me that is very helpful. It seems to be my path that I might heal myself and in the process contribute to the healing of humanity and the planet. We all need to get busy doing that if we want to assure life on planet earth continues beyond this generation. I’ve learned that everything we do, everything we think matters and learning deeply about that is my path and it is the crux of what I share on this blog. In profoundly knowing that everything matters I also know that I cannot possibly know what is right for another human being. Everything they have encountered in their lives will be forever out of my reach. There will always be a unique configuration of influences in each individual life. This is why we must all learn to trust our own internal guidance while learning to trust that others can do that too. Then we learn from each other by sharing experience in a non-coercive manner.

More on Trauma, PTSD here. — includes many different perspectives including body and somatic oriented understandings.

For a multitude of ideas about how to create a life filled with safe alternatives to psychiatric drugs visit the drop-down menus at the top of this page. 

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