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Got Violence? The Early Origins of Rage

In American society, violence is rampant. There are many reasons for it. One reason I understand intimately—the rage that results from early invasive medical procedures.

As I’ve mentioned many times, at one-month-old I was operated on for a stomach blockage, called pyloric stenosis. Anesthesia and pain control were not given; in their place, I received a muscle paralyzer so I was conscious for the surgery but unable to move. This protocol was typical of the times. Babies didn’t feel pain, was medicine’s mantra.

Every time I write this, I am incredulous about how this type of assessment could have been made. By mere observation, it is clear that newborns can feel pain. Any mother will tell you this.

Rage can result from early mistreatment. I speak for myself and for many who’ve experienced early trauma. What helplessness we felt! What physical pain! Unless a caregiver takes an active part in understanding and soothing the resulting trauma, as we grow, anger can boil up, especially in times of stress such as adolescence and early adulthood. These transitions can be very difficult for people with unresolved, preverbal trauma.

Oftentimes, I was puzzled by my angry actions. As a young girl, I picked relentlessly at my skin, biting cuticles raw and ripping skin off my toes until they bled. Once when I was seven, I stabbed at, but missed, a playmate’s hand with my penknife—he had pulled the head off my doll! In 7th and 8th grades, I bullied myself and others: I self-harmed with razor blades and flashed a switchblade at others, ready to lash out. The list goes on into adulthood until in my mid-twenties, I finally realized the origin of this rage through my practice of writing and the intervention of a therapist.

It’s hard not to judge oneself harshly for our past cruel actions. If, however, we understand the origins of our rage, we can be more forgiving. Self-kindness is key. One of the most important things we can do for ourselves as survivors of early invasive medical procedures is to nurture ourselves with understanding and compassion. In this way, we create peace within ourselves and, as a result, peace in the world. Until we resolve the root of our pain, we rage on. We got violence.






One Response to Got Violence? The Early Origins of Rage

  1. Wendy, in Australia as in the rest of the world we look with a mix of fascination and horror at the change that has come over the USA since 2016. The kind and appreciative tributes spoken at the recent funeral of one of your Presidents once again underlined this change. We remember Americans as typically big-hearted, relaxed, and hospitable people. Of course your gun culture has been on the rise for several decades and that also horrifies much of the civilized and more civil world so awfully often, as it clearly expresses rather widespread hatred as well as “sport”. The anger, the obessive self-seeking, selfishness and self protection, the love of violent past-times – how could America have come to this?
    We know that anger is a common result of our broken and dysfunctional humanity, and it is important that we try to understand its causes. They are often complex, and what I know of U.S. history helps me understand much of it: the frontier culture, the rugged individualism, the coming together of several races and many cultures, your country’s being thrown into the role of “the planet’s policeman” since 1942.
    But I believe you are correct in this post: we must recognize that some of our inner pain and anger and (how often we don’t really know) their social expression had a very personal and early origin. Thank you for raising this point again.
    It is now known that infant surgery as often practised before the medical world’s belated recognition that pain and separation inflicted on babies and infants without anesthesia and care could inflict lasting emotional and psychological damage. You and I are just two of many who have gone public online about this. In your and my cases our parents also had an unwitting role in damaging our childhood psyche. For you and me it was a relatively unknown stomach blockage of infancy that caused all this, but how many millions of little (esp. American) boys were presented to be “altered” soon after their birth, in their most sensitive part, and also without pain control? I am not aware of any attempt in the medical world to research the effect of this.
    But knowing from personal experience how you and have battled with self-hatred, inner-anger, self-harming and depression, knowing that some circumcized men have reported similar signs of trauma, and having the medical and social science information that has now established that these symptoms can be linked with pre-verbal trauma in infancy, we strongly and sadly suspect that the various aspects of America’s present darkness we are raising here are not unrelated.
    We will continue to write about this and to help those responsible to better understand what they are doing, and those affected to find healing.

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