I said in my last post that I would report on my progress. Here's my report:
Okay, where to begin. I have been thinking about emotion, Buddhism, psychology, and self-help books. The book I'm reading, Emotional Alchemy by Tara Bennett-Goleman, incorporates all of these. It starts with a discussion of mindfulness (the Buddhist part). This part talks about acknowledging feelings as they bubble up (not suppressing them), observing them, and then letting them pass. She equates this to an experience she had meditating when instructed not to move a muscle. She discovered that it was incredibly uncomfortable, even painful, to not shift her body to alleviate stress points. In time, though, the pain passed and she was able to focus on her meditating rather than on her (continued) physical discomfort.
The book is about 10 "maladaptive schemas" (1). Schemas are part of the framework we use to understand and interpret the world. For example, the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson identified a highly adaptive schema called "basic trust" (1). A person with "basic trust" will experience the world as non-threatening, and will assume people are trustworthy. Children who are cared for, supported, and loved learn this schema, and are more likely to have positive interactions with people and stable relationships as adults. As you might imagine, abused children are more likely to use the "mistrust" schema, assuming people cannot be trusted. This is a maladaptive schema because viewing other people with suspicion, and constantly questioning people's motives, makes it very difficult to have healthy relationships (speaking from experience). Here is the rub- when you are a child in an abusive home being mistrustful is adaptive. It is a necessary response to reality. After all, you have to survive any way you can. You cannot afford to trust.
Once you learn mistrust, though, how do you learn trust? That is why I think it is insane and unconscionable for CPS to take an abused child out of their school and separate them from their friends. Their friends are probably the only ones they can trust. The first rule of thumb as an abused child is- you cannot trust adults. Furthermore, ask any child psychologist if it is good for a traumatized child to switch schools while their family is being torn apart. Chaos, instability, not having any predictable environments or people to rely on = NOT HEALTHY FOR CHILDREN!!! Please read this article or just let me share this statistic from the article- only 44% of foster children graduate from high school! Only 44%! From high school! How can this be? I cannot believe it even though I dropped out of high school. So, you are victimized by your family, and then the police, CPS, the education system, and the economy (when you cannot find a job because you are a high school drop-out). You become an adult surrounded by adults that you do not trust.
Guess what, there's more. The first 5 maladaptive schemas affect our close relationships: abandonment, deprivation, subjugation, mistrust, and unlovability (1). The other 5 are more broadly defined: exclusion, vulnerability, failure, perfectionism, and entitlement (1). These schemas are our expectations about the world (that we will be abandoned, deprived of what we need, subjugated, that the world is untrustworthy, we will be excluded, and/or vulnerable to catastrophe) or how we see ourselves (that we are unlovable, a failure, entitled, and/or need to be perfect). I thought I would deal with each one separately since the book says to. First, though, I want to write about how the book deals with emotion. Before that, though, I have to pack and go to bed. Tomorrow I am off to Nooksack, WA to meet my boyfriend’s parents. Wish me luck!
(1) Bennett-Goleman, Tara. Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind Can Heal the Heart. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2001.