In our recent Trauma Lens Paradigm Shift Videos (#1 & 2), we spurred four questions which we will answer.
- How was my child hurt? Many times, in our trainings of parents and professionals, we lead with the question, “do you believe in trauma damage?” Usually, everyone nods in agreement. However, the follow up question garners blank stares. “If damage is done, why do we expect our children to make normal choices?” The point is for people to define what trauma damage really is. If we don’t have a clear picture, how can we intervene? In the two-baby talk, we explain in detail how repetitive interactions with the primary caregiver produces internal working models housed in the limbic brain which are unintentionally used by the child to make every decision in their life. What we encourage parents to see is that the definition of trauma damage is a malformed internal working model combined with the resulting trauma disrupted competencies. This damage and where it occurs, renders intentional choice making a pleasant pipe dream.
- Where the child was hurt? infant’s neural pathways grow at a million connection a second. Each interaction with the primary caregiver changes the infant’s brain, creating beliefs about the infant’s self, caregiver, and the world, all stored in the limbic brain. These beliefs become one’s negative internal working model (NIWM). This part of the brain houses all the autonomic functions and preforms tasks that are not intentionally chosen. Most people, without training, never put words to the beliefs stored in their limbic brain. Early trauma “pictures” stored in the limbic brain may often conflict with cognitive perceptions. Thus, because of where the damage was done, traumatized individuals are in constant conflict with themselves.
- How does the trauma impact my child’s life? What the two-baby talk portrays is how NIWM generates fear in every circumstance and this fear is used in the thinking process without conscience awareness. This fear triggers the limbic response of fight, flight, freeze, or fold. The limbic brain’s attempts to distance itself from the triggers is responsible for all misbehaviors. Recognition and adherence to this fact is absolutely essential to intervening in the child’s life without reinforcing the negative self-image. Because of where the trauma damage occurred and the automatic usage of the NIWM, this is not something the child is responsible for. Attempts to shame the child into better behavior are unwarranted and non-productive.
Once the NIWM is formed, other Trauma Disrupted Competencies (TDC) occur. These TDCs impact children in various ways. Some may struggle with relationships, academics, and/or managing stress. Others may have poor hygiene, be prone to stealing, and may even be aggressive. They may not be able to perform age-appropriate tasks and their choices may not be logical.
- How do I intervene? Recognition of the above facts is essential before planning to intervene. The “intervening” must be carefully calculated and intentional so that one does not do more harm. With understanding what the damage is and how it impacts the child, we can begin the process of effective repair. In the same way the damage was caused by interactions with the primary caregiver, the healing is via that same parent/child relationship. As the child is hardwired to pay attention to the primary care giver for the development of the sense of self, the parent becomes the perfect vehicle to address the impaired beliefs about self that were generated by the traumatic interactions with the previous/biological caregivers. It should be noted that this is not meant to blame biological parents. There are many things in life that may occur that reduce the parent’s availability to be emotionally present with their child. Thus, the model paints a clear picture that biological parents, like traumatized children, can be great people with hurt parts.
The Two Baby talk is the beginning of interventions. This is used to correct errant assumptions and perceptions about children with early trauma.
© 2021, Jeff Merkert. All rights reserved.