Making up our Minds

February 22, 2012

New research on ten to fourteen year old children who have been in homes with abuse, but who show no outward signs of trouble, reveals that their brains are extra-activated in the same regions as soldiers who have been in combat.

While on the surface it is obvious that we do not want any children traumatized by abuse, it is equally obvious that the world has yet to end the cycle of abuse.  Meanwhile, this research got me thinking about repetition compulsions… how we tend to recreate traumatic situations in an unconscious attempt to heal the original wounds.

But the bad stuff generally just keeps being bad and painful (think of the woman who keeps attracting alcoholic men)… unless consciousness can be introduced into the cycle, potentially freeing a person from his or her past.

Thus I wonder if abuse-exposed brains grow up with a need to heal trauma that resembles war?  Perhaps it’s these very folks who take to gangs and armies like ducks to water?  Maybe they are unconsciously trying to re-evoke feelings of dread, terror, horror and rage experienced in the unremembered past?

But since there’s no winning in war (even the surviving “victor” is in no great mental shape after what they’ve seen and done) we end up with repeatedly abused and traumatized humans trying to re-integrate into a society that has failed to protect them from abuse in the first (i.e. childhood) instance and from the horror of war (or the horrors of street violence, etc.) in the second instance.

Trying to help traumatized soldiers heal is a very steep climb, probably owing to the roots of trauma deep in their wiring, and the politics behind denying that soldiers are damaged by war adds insult to injury.

So, again, I make the quiet bloggy backwaters case for much more in the way of early intervention—to protect children from abuse in the first instance means putting money, time, resources and consciousness toward supporting parents, many of whom themselves come from experiences of abuse.

Parents don’t set out to abuse kids; rather they lose it and, when triggered, are probably showing the same sort of brain problems as their children are subsequently developing.  It is better to identify at-risk parents and support them with love and therapy than to police them after they’ve abused their kids.

It’s great to have brain scans to “prove” what any sane person could intuit:  it’s damaging to yell at children; it’s damaging to hit children; it’s damaging to frighten children.  Yet the scientists are very careful, and they say that this is not necessarily damage to the brain but just adaptation.  This seems to be a way of not rocking a global social boat that is sinking rather than rocking.  And in the end it’s not only the children, shamed parents and wounded warriors who suffer, but all of us—unless we realize that we are the group and that this is no way to treat people.

In order to break the cycle perhaps it would help to re-frame those who resist social welfare programs as themselves fearful of being ripped off and drowned by “big government.”  It would be better if this were not a government program but a grassroots awakening of consciousness.

When we are clear about what we, as a culture need:  better support for parents and kids in the beginning, then perhaps Head Start and Early Start will evolve into Start at the Beginning, and with real love, free of shame, blame and acrimony.

This is not rocket-science, this is common sense and human compassion:  help those who need it, particularly orphans (psychological and literal) and widows (again, literal as well as metaphorical, a.k.a. single parents).

Sorry if this sounds like a rant, but I really cannot understand why our culture, for all its talk, does not seem to give a rat’s ass about its children.  Please correct me and make me wrong.

Kids are not born to the left or the right, they are born ready to attach, grow, love and learn.  It’s on us not to take that away from any of them.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

rebecca @ altared spaces February 24, 2012 at 7:32 am

” It would be better if this were not a government program but a grassroots awakening of consciousness.” Here. Here. And my belief (naive though it might be) is that now that so many of us are able to connect across large physical boundaries of space and time, is that healing and awakening is just around the corner.

I run into so many who want the same for both our children and our soldiers. Grassroots is the only way to “attack” a problem like this. Legislation never works as effectively as love.


Bruce February 24, 2012 at 10:19 am

Yes, the love of understanding, including understanding that our truest Self likely transcends our individual consciousness. Now if only we can calm ourselves and each other a bit we can connect in ways that are fun and nourishing and we’ll all be feeling quite a lot better. I’d like to think (or perhaps feel) that today is always the day. Namaste


BigLittleWolf February 24, 2012 at 9:32 am

I couldn’t agree more about better support for parents and kids in the beginning, because of course that sets the stage for modeling the sort of responsible and respectful lives we hope our adults would live – fully and joyfully.

As for grassroots, once upon a time isn’t that what our government was? My what a difference a few centuries make. Grassroots is really all we have now, or so it seems. But we’re overwhelmed with our own (individual) survival which – all too often – we don’t see as interconnected with the survival of everyone else.

One last note. Love isn’t enough. It takes money. And that’s the fine line we all must walk. So perhaps what we need is love-motivated money, properly channeled by those grassroots efforts, knowing full well we will not do accomplish what we need quickly or perfectly, but doing nothing guarantees we will not accomplish any of it at all, ever.


Bruce February 24, 2012 at 10:27 am

Totally agree, BWL. Perhaps we are moving toward “money” as being more like energy, and thus we need energy to be alive, but we also need food, shelter, etc. to survive (which is not the same as money; money is like the train that brings the goods; like the blood cell that brings the oxygen and the nutrients). Thus “love-motivated money” seems quite right… a peace-train, a soul-train, a love-train…

And that train always runs through Our Town, which is love, and which is eternal (rather than immortal)—and that virtual town is the one we all live in together, even as geography may suggest otherwise.

So, I do hope that an abundant amount of love-motivated money may be delivered gracefully to you post-haste.


Wolf Pascoe February 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm

To play devil’s advocate for a moment, I wonder about the phenomenon of loss aversion. The fear of loss is a more powerful motivator than the pleasure derived from gain. Is this what makes us so irrationally selfish? Is there a way around this? Is consciousness enough?


Bruce February 25, 2012 at 4:26 pm

While the devil may be in the details, our advocacy must be for love—as loss aversion is the purview of the lizard brain (the “devil’s” 300 million-year-old, much-misunderstood, play house of all horrors) while the Buddha brain is a 2 million-year-old Rumi-come-lately… and yet is also a David to its own ancient Shadow that we could call Goliath, or T-Rex, or Darth Vader… or the limbic system.

Mediating between the two is the 60 million-year-old mammalian brain, that which can attach, but which also can suffer the full brunt of loss (the necessary Shadow of attachment).

So yes, it is fear, instinctively wired for evolutionary survival, that makes us so irrationally selfish when we’re scared, but we are angels of the highest order when we are not merely loved, but calm enough to realize that we are safe and loved.

When that happens, however it manages to occur, that sort of consciousness is more than adequate for us to realize that our true Self is the whole. Then we are no more selfish to each other than is our pinky to our thumb.

How to get there? I don’t know, but my hunch is that it must be together, in compassion, authenticity, fellowship and perhaps most of all, good humor.


Mark February 26, 2012 at 9:40 am

I love that term “love-motivated-money.” Bernanke and the Fed ought to open their own Reserve branch for just such money. The good news about using love-motivated-money to intervene early is that it will only take 4 million parent learning about brain-based parenting to surpass a Tipping Point in this country. After that, brain-awareness goes viral! I’m an old guy and I’m expecting it to happen in my lifetime!


Bruce February 26, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Good teachers have high expectations (that are as yet realistic), so I’m very excited about participating in that 4 million parent march to brain-based (and heart infused, compassionately supported) parenting.

Show me the love-motivated-money!


Laura February 27, 2012 at 7:52 am

This wasn’t a rant. It was a clear-eyed, open-hearted, common sense call for a better future by making today better for each child. Thank you!


Bruce February 27, 2012 at 8:21 am

Hi Laura—thanks for these kind words, they make me feel heard and understood, and that is what makes us (or at least me) feel loved. I’ll do my best to pay that forward to the frightened children I may meet, be they actual kids or frightened children within grown-up bodies. Namaste!


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri February 27, 2012 at 5:47 pm

I agree. Someone close to me experienced abuse as a child. Her exterior hid it, but inside she made poor choices because of what she endured and witnessed. PTSD can be present in adults who have experienced severe abuse as a child.
It is something that needs to be addressed in the beginning. As others have articulated in the discussion, it requires more than good intentions, but money.


Bruce February 27, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Hi Rudri, Having worked with many abused children and adults who were abused as children I whole-heartedly hope that money, compassion and attention may be coming toward those of us who have been hurt, and remain scared and at-risk. Meanwhile we link together and our consciousness rises toward the enlightened self-interest which is the good of the group and all its collective children. Namaste


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