an enemy within: OCD

I will NEVER stop fighting for you”… these are the words that have started my journey against the enemy: OCD.

First of all, I believe that OCD is a very little understood mental illness. Most people think of someone who can’t stop washing their hands. That may be true in some cases, but for many people with OCD you might never see any symptoms.  Instead, the obsessions and compulsions occur within their minds. This is actually the most severe form of OCD, in my opinion.

The way I experienced my friend’s OCD was as an Enemy that took her completely away. She was present physically, but at the same time completely absent.  When the Monster was at its worst we couldn’t have a normal conversation for weeks.

She saw several professionals over a 3 year span, including a counselor, a psychologist, and a psychiatrist. There seemed to be a general consensus: It’s a genetic condition in which the wiring of the brain has a malfunction and thoughts get stuck in a highly anxious, obsessive pattern. The person has to perform various compulsions in an attempt to escape the unimaginably high levels of anxiety.  The two treatment options were a medication like Zoloft, or CBT therapy (cognitive behavioral therapy).

She tried both… long story short: neither was very helpful for her. At some level she gave up, and tried to find a comfortable way to live with this unwanted companion in her life. However, it made life hard for her and all who loved her. It was excruciating for her loved ones to watch her suffer. My new approach was to research natural supplements that could help her brain function. I read and researched and made endless phone calls. I told her again and again, “I will NEVER stop fighting for you.”

In 2014 I went to a “Trauma Care” Conference. This changed my entire perspective on OCD.

I was sitting at the conference listening to Gina White speak on “Dissociation”… and I felt like I was hit by a ton of bricks… ***OCD is a very sophisticated, rather ingenious way of dissociating*** is what I realized. Everything she was saying clicked. She said that people who are highly dissociative will say things like “I don’t feel human.” My eyes must have just about popped out of my head. My friend had said that countless times!!

Again, this was a conference about *Trauma.* I began to make connections between events in my friend’s childhood, that now with Dr. Dan Allender’s definition of trauma I could name as *Trauma* and see the connection with her OCD.

In all of her experiences seeking professional help, not one of them had suggested childhood trauma as the fertile ground for the seed of OCD to rise.  I don’t fault them because this is not what is taught.

It is a *FACT* that people with childhood trauma below the age of 4 years old have a hippocampus (the calming center that balances or overrides the amygdala- the danger center) that is 17-20% smaller than the general population. This is supporting evidence for my theory.

If infant and childhood trauma can change the brain in one way that researches have detected, and the intricacy of the brain is akin to the cosmos, doesn’t it make sense that other things about the brain’s networking are also affected?

Here is another premise about childhood trauma: Whether it occurs through childhood sexual abuse, parental divorce, addiction or violence in the home (verbal or physical) there is a common denominator of a severe deficit of attachment for the child.

The child, who has no ability to find resources outside of himself, will find internal mechanisms to bring down cortisol and increase dopamine and serotonin.

The book, How We Love our Kids, discusses 5 insecure attachment types in parents (Pleaser, Avoider, Vacillator, Controller and Victim Parents), the effect it has upon the children, and also how these attachment types will develop in growing children.

The chapter entitled, “Controller and Victim Children” opens with an example of a chaotic home in which there is alcohol addiction, verbal violence and fear. In this scenario there are two children, Clare and Caleb. Clare has a more timid disposition and becomes a “victim” in response to the trauma:

She grabbed her bear and wrapped herself in her bedspread, organizing all her other stuffed animals in a protective circle around her. The rest of the evening depended on Dad’s mood. Most likely her parents would fight, and her dad would yell at her mom. Clare’s stomach hurt. She wondered how bad it would be this time. She whispered to her bear, “If Daddy yells, we can put our heads under the pillow and sing. Nobody will find us.” She began to count her animals over and over to distract herself from the ticking time bomb beyond her bedroom door…”

The authors Milan and Kay Yerkovich explain:

This is a chaotic home. {Parents} Leon and Candi attend church, but their difficult upbringings have left scars. Behind their closed door, Mom and Dad switch back and forth between roles of victim and controller…

Since Clare’s personality is more timid, she deals by trying to comply, retreating, numbing her emotions, and creating an imaginary world. She’s learning to surrender, avoid conflict, and dissociate: the traits of a victim. 

Victims deal with high levels of anxiety by freezing and moving into an internal world to escape.

Kids reenact their trauma in play, trying to master and make sense of their experiences. Sometimes they assume the role of powerful perpetrator to feel some sense of relief over their helplessness.

My theory is that for many people, OCD was birthed through childhood trauma. A vast dissociative internal world was created, in which the child could feel safe and in control. Repetitive thoughts or actions became a way of alleviating anxiety. Later in adulthood, there is an aspect of recreating trauma within their mind, so that they can reenact the control and alleviation. OCD becomes an addiction that takes on a life of its own… the drug is the good feeling of mastering the obsession or fear and the alleviation of intense anxiety. It is an addiction to an interplay of control and victimization where roles are played out and conquered all in the individual’s mind.

The “intrusive” thoughts that are talked about in the professional and treatment realms are really not an “Outside Monster” as I once considered OCD to be. Instead, I believe the voice of OCD is an enemy within, akin to DID (dissociative identity disorder). A fragmented “self” that sabotages and becomes the “Controller”, allowing the person to have a target of self-contempt, a source of fear, for reenactment purposes, that can be escaped thus alleviating the fear and giving a sense of power to the previously powerless child within.

How can this addiction of OCD be treated? (Again, it is our theory that OCD is actually an addiction)

I believe that it can be treated through trauma resolution counseling… In which the underlying goal or purpose of the counselor is to create an attachment relationship for the person. In a sense, to re-parent the person through healthy attunement and containment (the two components of attachment).

It has been proven that the hippocampus will actually *grow* in the presence of a long term (3-4 years) relationship of healthy attunement.

I believe that CBT therapy doesn’t actually work. If it gives results for a time, I believe it’s because of the attunement of the therapist… if therapy only lasts a year or so, when it is over, I suspect the OCD will return.

Disclaimer: These are my thoughts that come from my experience with a loved one with OCD… I don’t claim to be a professional expert… These thoughts are my humble perspective, and I wanted to at least offer my ideas that are counter to main-stream approaches to OCD.

 

 

 

 

The truth about triangulation

“The Story of Joseph is YOUR story.” ~ DA

 

There is always a staggering toll initially for telling the truth, especially about family

Every parent needs to be studied. Every marriage must be truthfully pondered. One’s role among siblings needs to be comprehended. This is not being critical; it is studying the landscape to make one’s way through the dark woods of past harm. We are formed in the midst of the crucible of attachment and the tensions of our family of origin. We can’t even begin to understand our character until we better understand the role we played in relationship to every member of our immediate family.

This will unquestionably bring up stories of harm…

The goal is not to tell our stories to get over them, or even to gain insight. Instead, we must enter the stories for the sake of grief, anger and forgiveness. Grief opens the heart to receive comfort. Anger moves the heart to stand against injustice. Forgiveness frees the heart from resentment and the accusations of evil.” ~ Healing the Wounded Heart, pg 224 DA

This is the first blog in a series about how children can be harmed within families. This blog is about the concept of triangulation within a family- what it is and the harm it does.

God designed marriage to be an exclusive relationship, of highest priority and loyalty between a husband and wife, secondary only to their relationship with Him. In fact, the marriage relationship is meant to be an allegory, a living picture, of our relationship with God (see Ephesians 5, Song of Solomon, Hosea, Ezekiel 16, among more!).

There is to be a “leaving” of all others, not just in a sense of location- changing residence, but leaving emotionally, spiritually, and in the sense of loyalty. And then a “cleaving” to the spouse above all others in these same areas.

This reality of mutual giving and receiving of love can be weighed in the question- How much delight does the wife have for her husband? and he for her? Do their eyes light up for each other, and something deep in their soul says “Yes!!” for the other? And secondarily, how much honor is there between husband and wife?

The negative form of assessment might be, instead of this lighting up for the other is there a groan, a rolling of your eyes for the other?

John Gottman, phD studied couples and marriages and found rolling eyes highly predictive of divorce, *because* it is a sign of contempt for the other. (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman)

This assessment is important, because it is here, in this breakdown of love- of honor and delight- there forms a fissure in a marriage.

Whenever there is a fissure in a marriage there will be triangulation with the children in the family. The unmet needs of each parent to delight in another and receive delight don’t just disappear. When those needs are not being met by the spouse, there is a vacuum that MUST and WILL be filled. The desires of the heart will inevitably be redirected, often towards a “chosen” child, resulting in an emotional affair. We use language that makes it palatable and call this the “favorite” child syndrome.

Reread the story of Joseph- see the fissure in his parent’s marriage, how Joseph was the “chosen” of his brothers, the envy, and sabotage… the suffering Joseph endured. And when he said, (Genesis 50:20) “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” He’s talking about FAMILY, not some outside source of evil, but his own family meant him harm!

Here’s the typical triangulation scenario in our day: For whatever reason, distance comes into a marriage between husband and wife. They may still keep proper appearances, but all desire, delight, and true heart to heart intimacy is gone.

The shift of the woman’s heart can be seen in her eyes. While there is an eye-roll or a groan toward the father, the mother’s eyes light up for her son and she has a smile for him that she has never had for her husband. Her husband is not oblivious to this, he knows that her heart has been given to this child in a way that she has not given it to him. What then is human nature? The husband will be filled with envy toward the son. We may call his harsh treatment, cynicism, criticism, and mockery toward the boy “tough love” or laugh it off as “all in good fun”, but in reality it is sabotage and revenge toward his rival- the “surrogate husband” of his wife.

Of course it goes both ways… the husband chooses his “favored” child as well. (either sex, but often a daughter). The same scenario plays out: sabotage from the envious mother, often in the most subtle of ways… a comment about the daughter’s weight, or clothing that “is only meant to help” of course… or can manifest in emotional neglect- lack of protection or guidance that an adolescent girl would need.

Then as well, the son will feel that his sister has a special relationship with the father while at the same time he feels the father’s disdain. Human nature would incite jealousy in his heart toward his sister. And what does he do? Well, he also knows the envy in his mom’s heart- they share this in common. He colludes with her in sabotage of the daughter. He is delighted in handing over his sister to his mother on a silver plater. What does this mean? Anything that will increase the daughter’s shame, alienation, and contempt from the mother.

In his podcast, Dan has said, “When you engage triangulation, you are engaging the Kingdom of Darkness. When you begin to name these dynamics, and stand against it, all Hell will break loose- literally.”

Most families have at least two triangles. It’s so common that we consider it normal. A daughter is described as a “Daddy’s Girl” or a son “Momma’s Boy”… there’s the jokes (and realities) about intrusive mother in laws. Why is that a cultural expectation? Because *often* a mother will turn to her son to meet her emotional needs when her husband is emotionally avoidant or physically absent (workaholic or divorce for example). And then what happens when her son grows up and marries? The new woman isn’t simply her son’s new wife… she is her rival.

And what is the damage done to the “chosen” child?

To be the chosen one is to be the object of a parent’s delight; it is also to feel the shame of arousal, desire, fear, and disgustnone of which can be felt for long without revealing the truth, so it must be wedged into a crack of consciousness and then covered over. The animosity in the family needs to be ignored or explained, so the real issue is obscured and fault is felt as some flaw in the self. Needless to say, the more subtle, crazy-making, shame-inducing, blame-avoiding the harm, the more free Evil is to sow seeds that are actually more difficult to address, at times, than overt abuse.” ~ Healing the Wounded Heart, DA

The damage done can be legion and varied just as the triangulation will be unique in how it plays out in each family culture. The harm can be strictly emotional, but can also involve direct or covert physical and sexual abuse. Even though emotional abuse may seem lesser, each can have a trail of physical effects on a person’s life: chronic depression, anxiety issues and disorders, sexual promiscuity or involvement with abusive partners, self-harm in various addictions or chronic physical ailments such as fibromyalgia. (see book “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk)

For more information, see Dan Allender’s new book, Healing the Wounded Heart. There is a chapter called, “The Damage of Covert Abuse.” He outlines 4 types of triangulation and describes the aftereffects:

There are four forms of interaction that are most common for generating emotional incest: critical and/or demeaning, dependent and/or fragile, sensual and/or sexualizing, and infantilizing and/or hyperprotection.”