If you have been reading the articles on this blog, you know that I’m being treated for Complex PTSD, C-PTSD.  If you are not sure what C-PTSD is and how it differs from PTSD, my article on this blog titled “Complex PTSD:  Does It Exist?” will give you information on this topic. In today’s article I plan to give you a bit more insight into the complexity of Complex PTSD. Since I am not a mental health professional but am merely a writer who is undergoing treatment for C-PTSD, I can’t do more than give you a small glimpse into the matter of “developmental gaps” as I become aware of them.  But a small glimpse will lead to a larger glimpse as time goes by, and I will gladly give you more information as I acquire it. 

I was born in 1939, a time prior to Dr. Spock and prior to such big names in the field of child development as Ilg, Ames, and Gesell.  Yes, in 1939 many parents still followed the old “feed ‘em, burp ‘em, diaper ‘em, put ‘em in the crib, and don’t touch ‘em for four hours” school of child raising.  Some parents prior to WWII also espoused the somewhat Victorian belief that children were “things” that did not become fully human until they finished puberty.  A few American parents, including my own, bought into a more Calvinistic belief popular with some parents in Europe around the end of the 1700s and stretching into the pre-War 1900s. This philosophy stressed the belief that “rearing a child was a battle of wills between the inherently sinful infant or child and the parent.” *The child’s will, obviously, had to be crushed if the child was to mature into a law-abiding and responsible adult and a good citizen. *http://www.faqs.org/childhood/Bo-Ch/Child-Rearing-Advice-Literature.html  

Another child-raising belief popular in Europe but also reaching its tentacles into our American culture prior to World War II can be stated as follows: “These first years have, among other things, the advantage that one can use force and compulsion. With age children forget everything they encountered in their early childhood. Thus if one can take away children’s will, they will not remember afterward that they had had a will.” Wickipedia. (Google “Moritz Schreber” and you will find the Wickipedia article.  In the section titled “notes and references” click on the term “poisonous pedagogy.”  This will take you to the page containing the sentiments quoted above.  If you want to see the above philosophy of child rearing in action, see the film titled “The White Ribbon.”) 

As you may imagine, by combining the Calvinistic view of raising children with the view that children “forget everything they encountered in their early childhood” as quoted above, a determined parent could effectively insure that a child’s development was as full of holes or gaps as a leaky collander—if the child lived to reach adulthood.

When I consider the beliefs described above and compare them with the child-rearing methods I’ve seen in the post-Spock era, I can see how horribly skewed the pre-War beliefs were–skewed on the side of adults to the neglect of children.  By that I mean according to much of the literature of the times, children were not believed to be anything other than clay to be molded into creatures destined to fit the personal and social templates espoused by their parents. And since my mother espoused all the beliefs described in the quote above when she raised me, why should I be surprised that I’m being treated for Complex PTSD?  Rather than regard me as a human infant who had normal human infant needs such as the need for parental nurturing and connection, she believed the official “wisdom” of the day and thought she was doing the right thing by treating me as an adversary, a creature needing nothing more than to be forced to conform to behavioral norms, hers and those of society.  When I think of all the other people my age who were also raised by parents espousing the official child-rearing wisdom of the time, I shudder! 

Furthermore, my mother never hesitated to pass on this “poisonous pedagogy” to the young mothers in the neighborhood.  The women would regularly bring their infants and toddlers to our house for kaffeeklatsches, and my mother would pass on her wisdom as they listened eagerly.  I was around the age of eleven when I heard her utter the following: “If you pick him up just because he’s crying, then you will have a spoiled baby who thinks he is boss.  You need to break his will.  If you do that, then he will be a happy baby.  You don’t want him to be boss!”

Since I was about six when my brother was a baby, I can remember watching her apply these sentiments as she cared for him.  I remember her fighting with my baby brother as he sat, a captive in his highchair, at mealtime.  When he didn’t want to eat what she put on the spoon, for example, she tried to force the spoon into his closed mouth.  When he refused to open, she slapped him and yelled at him.  This caused him to cry, and then she was able to shove the food into his mouth.  A victory for her!  She had broken his will and had shown him she was boss! The struggle continued through the years and through all developmental stages. I could only assume that she applied these same principles as she cared for me when I was a baby. 

Now, as an adult, I can understand why throughout my childhood and adulthood I regarded my mother as an adversary and never as an ally.  I also understand why I learned to live a double life, one with my compliant self on the surface and my authentic self beneath the surface where she couldn’t reach me.  Where was my father in this battle?  Couldn’t he have helped me?  My father left child raising to my mother.  Sometimes he was the parent who did the punishing, but other than that, he did not participate in parenting me or my brother.

So how does the above discussion of child-rearing relate to the matter of developmental gaps discovered in adulthood?  I can speak only from my own experience, but it’s possible that my experience will resonate in the hearts of other people who were born prior to WWII.  My mother found her child-raising wisdom in a book published in the 1930s and distributed by the U. S. government.  You can find information about this publication on the following website: http://www.faqs.org/childhood/Bo-Ch/Child-Rearing-Advice-Literature.html   The stated purpose of this booklet was to provide parents with the information they needed to raise children who would grow into adults especially suited for working in our highly industrialized nation at the time.  The following sentence from a paragraph on this site is particularly relevant to understanding the prevailing philosophy:  “[John B.] Watson explicitly criticized ‘too much mother love,’ advising parents to become detached and objective in their child-rearing techniques so as to develop self-control in the child.”  For more information on the nature of this “wisdom,” please see the note at the end of this article. 

Unfortunately for me, being raised “by the book” did not instill in me a sense of connection to other people.  I remember when I was about eight years old saying to myself, “It’s me against everyone else in the world.”  That’s the way life seemed to me, and that’s the way I have lived my life.  Luckily, my children were part of “me” when I was a mother and not part of “everyone else,” at least until they were on their own as adults.  Only in the past few weeks have I learned that my childhood attitude of “me against the rest of the world” is an attitude held by many children who have suffered neglect and other kinds of abuse and indicates that some aspect of learning how to connect with other human beings was derailed in babyhood and/or in childhood.  In other words, I have discovered within myself a developmental gap.  (End of Part I.)

Note:  Here is the paragraph from the website cited in paragraph seven that contains the Watson warning concerning “too much mother love”:
“The behaviorism of JOHN B. WATSON and others provided the scientific psychology behind most ideas about child rearing in the 1920s and 1930s, though Freudian and other psychoanalytic ideas also enjoyed some popularity in these circles. Both approaches considered the first two or three years of life to be critical to child rearing. The behaviorist approach assumed that behavior could be fashioned entirely through patterns of reinforcement, and Watson’s ideas permeated the Children’s Bureau’s Infant Care bulletins and PARENTS MAGAZINE, which was founded in 1926. As historians and others have observed, this approach to programming and managing children’s behavior suited a world of rationalized factory production and employee management theories rationalizing industrial relations. Watson explicitly criticized ‘too much mother love,’ advising parents to become detached and objective in their child-rearing techniques so as to develop self-control in the child.”  (I’ve underlined and bolded what I consider to be the most important point in this paragraph.) 

Coming soon:  More information on this topic.  I hope those of you who have discovered this particular gap or other gaps in your own development will find encouragement in reading this account of my own experience.  With awareness comes the possibility of healing.  Therapy helps!