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10 Things to Remember about Preverbal Infant Trauma

Preverbal infant trauma is trauma that occurs before a baby knows language and uses words to communicate. In America before 1987, surgery and invasive medical procedures on infants were often done without anesthesia. Sexual assault and complications at birth are two other examples of infant trauma. There are many others, for example, abandonment and starvation.  As a survivor of stomach surgery in 1952 at 26 days old, I have learned much about preverbal trauma and would like to share some key points about what I’ve come to know with those of you who may be struggling to understand your early trauma or that of a friend or family member.

  • It’s not your fault that you don’t remember–you didn’t have words!
  • Through observing your experience of breath, you can come to understand the trauma, for you tried to stop the pain by controlling your breath.
  • Bodies remember preverbal trauma; just ask the places on your body where anxiety or numbness resides.
  • Emotions remember; during trauma, the part of your brain that processes emotion is on high alert, recording everything!
  • Sensations remember trauma and are key to remembering it: smells, sounds, sights, tastes, and touch, both the touch you received and the touch you initiated.
  • Validating our preverbal trauma can be elusive since we associate memory with words.
  • As adults, we’re used to denying or repressing information that could help us understand ourselves as survivors of infant trauma.
  • Infants are sentient beings who feel pain physical and emotional pain.
  • “. . . The baby brain is abuzz with activity, capable of learning astonishing amounts of information in a relatively short time. Unlike the adult mind, . . . babies . . . are, in an important sense, more aware of the world than we are” (Lehrer, Jonah; “Inside the Baby Mind” 1). Infants register what happens to them big time.
  • Healing from infant trauma is possible, which is what my blog is all about!

Why Should We Care about Preverbal Infant Trauma?

This is the title of the speech that I gave at my Toastmasters Club last week.  To satisfy the guidelines of the Toastmasters assignment, my talk could only take five to seven minutes. Here it is in a longer form. I hope to convince you that we as a society should care about preverbal infant… Continue Reading

Can We Free Ourselves from PTS Prison?

Talking with folks about PTS, those who have it and those who don’t, I get the feeling that, in general, people believe that those with PTSD will just have to live with it the rest of their lives. Or, folks are a tiny bit hopeful that they or someone can change but don’t really believe… Continue Reading

Cause of Pyloric Stenosis? Prevention? Who Cares!

I just finished reading an article “Centennial of Pyloromyotomy” in the Journal of Neonatal Surgery by Dr. V. Raveenthiran, a pediatric surgeon with SRM Medical College and Hospital in Chennai, India. Since 2012 was the year to celebrate the discovery by Dr. Conrad Ramstedt of the Ramstedt procedure, a surgical technique which saved my life as an… Continue Reading

Out in the Community with ReStory Your Life

I am psyched. I gave my first talk out in the world beyond the classrooms of The College of Alameda and it was thrilling. Eight women from the Women’s Motivational Meetup in Sacramento, hosted by Griffin Toffler, gave me their attention, listened to my lecture, and participated in a writing exercise at the library in… Continue Reading

Newtown on my Mind

I was going to write about re-enactment, a psychological byproduct of trauma from exposure to danger, but I can’t stop thinking about the shooting at Sandy Hook school.  In articles in Huffington Post, SFGate, and New York Times Online, I look for pieces in which a more in-depth understanding of the psychology of the shooter Adam Lanza is revealed, but… Continue Reading

Incisions–Coming Full Circle

Last Thursday, a dermatologist cut out a melanoma on the back of my leg just below my calf. It was a slow spreading kind and since I caught it early, I am told that it hasn’t metastasized. That’s the good news. I didn’t think the surgery and recovery were going to be a big deal. But… Continue Reading

Draw what bubbles up

I was 25 years old, lying in sand by the Pacific Ocean. I had come to the sea to kill myself, depressed again after so many years of trying to make my life work since my suicide attempt at age 21. But I just couldn’t bring myself to harm; I had grown. So I drew… Continue Reading

Newly Wired or The PTSD Moment I Didn't Have

I’ve changed. My brain has changed!  It’s true. I overrode my automatic Post-traumatic Stress response last night. There I was lying in bed, enjoying an Esther and Jerry Hicks video, when I noticed the LED light behind me reflected onto my computer screen. Freak out!  That round, bright light hovering over me (the computer was on… Continue Reading

"Childhood Trauma . . . How 'States' Become 'Traits'"

An article by Dr. Bruce D. Perry et al is a must-read for all those trying to understand the impact of infant trauma on a person’s life:  “Childhood Trauma, The Neurobiology of Adaptation, and ‘Use-dependent’ Development of the Brain: How ‘States’ Become ‘Traits.’” I became interested in this article because I believe that there are… Continue Reading