This lecture by recovering addict and therapist Jessica Levith speaks to me:
“Let’s say someone wouldn’t call me. My body would tighten up. I would sweat and I would end up on the ground crying. I would make myself throw up. Anything to release the tension. At the same time, I’m thinking in my brain, ‘I’m going to die. This person has to call me.’
“Then I would think, ‘Why are you so messed up? Why can’t you fix this?’
“Modern attachment theory…says that in your first year of life, your central nervous system is only partially developed and it is the job of your caretaker to help you develop that nervous system. The caretaker has to arouse the child and to calm the child and if that doesn’t happen, your central nervous system gets out of whack and as you develop as a child, it looks like a child who becomes isolated because no one wants to play with them, and in adolescence, it becomes the child thinking, ‘What is wrong with me?’, and starting to find outside people to fix them.
“I look at the brain from the trauma theory perspective — that our brain is three separate brains, one on top of the other. The bottom brain is our reptilian brain. This controls our unconscious functioning, our breathing, our heart rate, sleeping, fight or flight response… The limbic system, or middle brain, is the epic center of emotionality and it consolidates our long-term emotional brain. It controls our experiences of reward and pleasure. It is the center of pre-verbal memory. Our top brain, the cortex, is our human brain. It is where we make our decisions and solve problems.”
“Going back to me on the floor in withdrawal. I realized that I was in survival mode, I was in the brain stem.”
“The amygdala watches out for danger 24/7 and it is fully formed from birth. When it senses danger, it shoots a message to the central nervous system, get into the gear, and it also sends a message to the hippocampus which goes to the central nervous system, our rational thinking. If a child suffers from abuse long enough, or serious enough, the hippocampus goes offline during trauma and eventually it will atrophy and when you hear danger, you will only go to the central nervous system and you won’t go to the rational brain and those tranches get dug.”
“The hippocampus is where memory gets consolidated so if there is damage done to the hippocampus, you are going to end up with a fragmented memory. Your memory won’t process in a linear way. You will get a smell here or a taste there. That’s what happens when people get PTSD (flashbacks).”
“If you have a fragmented memory as a child, in addition to your central nervous system thrown out of whack, and you are feeling broken, you are going to have a fragmented sense of self because you are developing yourself but you don’t know who you are because everything is fragmented. It’s not just explicit memory that is being consolidated, it is all of your senses… You are out of whack… You are going to start seeking outside people to fix it.”
“I was 30 years old and I was on the floor because I did not get a phone call. This was historical. This was not about this person not calling me. This was in my body.”
“What is attachment dysregulation? A person’s maladaptive attempt(s) of seeking psychological and physiological homeostasis from another person in order to fill an earlier, “biological synchronicity” void created by the primary caregiver(s).”
Luke: Growing up, very few people, if any, wanted to play with me. I’m 48 and that hasn’t changed much. Ergo, since about age eight, I’ve sought rescue. I’ve sought out heroes and objects and passions to fix me.