Gender Specific Issues in Working With Women: A Holistic Approach

by John Bradshaw

Many neuroses and addictions are rooted in traumatic abuse and the changes in brain chemistry that result from such abuse. The National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder completed a 10-year study on the effects of PTSD. Among other things, this study suggested that even one catastrophic experience that occurs when one is powerless is enough to permanently change the victim?s brain chemistry. A catastrophic experience may be quite different for different individuals, depending on chemical predisposition, type of temperament, and the degree that innate attachment needs have been fulfilled. Children who have not had their basic dependency needs met at an early age and in an age appropriate manner are at a high risk for PTSD. A drunk, raging parent could be the stimulus. Chronic toxic shaming causes PTSD in many people. Obviously, battering and incest would produce PTSD.

 

PTSD can be looked at clinically as unresolved grief. The unresolved grief symptoms are much (and even sometimes) the same as the symptoms of other types of events, which create PTSD (such as war, accidents, victims of violence, rape).

PTSD causes severe toxic shame and attachment disorder. The victim must create defenses against such abuse and development dependency deficits. As healthy humans we need a healthy sense of shame, understood as modesty, awe and reverence for that which is greater than ourselves. Healthy shame clarifies our limits, but it is also crucial to our sense of dignity and honor.

When our attachment needs are neglected, we develop toxic shame ? the feeling that we are flawed and defective in our very being. We develop a false defensive self and are set up to guard and avoid our innate survival needs for attachment and love. Our defensive self covers a deep sense of depression, which prohibits us from learning how to connect with others and develop healthy intimacy.

The deep sense of depression (the unresolved grief) is the root of addictiveness. Toxic shame is the master emotion causing us to numb out at an early age. This sets us up for addiction. The addiction we choose allows us to feel.

Yet even when we stop an addiction, we have many times not healed our addictiveness. Addictiveness is rooted in the depression, which results from the isolation of toxic shame. This is why most addicts are multiply addicted. They stop using chemicals and start eating too much, or become workaholics or sexaholics.

The healing process must begin with embracing the shame, the willingness to come out of hiding. For some, anti-depressant drugs are the only way to come from hiding. Chemical treatment may be short-termed or in some cases necessary for inborn chemical imbalance that results from traumatic abuse.

Chemical treatment is never a sole solution. What Carl Jung called legitimate suffering (grief work) must also occur. Grief work involves benevolent witnesses, who can validate and legitimize our painful feelings. Once legitimized, the grief process can begin. Unfortunately most grief work takes a long time, but once one has grieved sufficiently, he or she can begin to work on relationship skills and find a support commitment where they feel like they belong.

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