Listening to the third video in Donald Kalsched’s series on the psychodynamics of trauma has reminded me of how much vulnerability lies at the heart of trauma defenses and often prevents healing, perhaps most especially of men and veterans of War since in this video an attending therapist present in the audience raises this issue with Kalsched.. The therapist comments that often therapy with these men fails due to their terror of exposing the vulnerable self and then it is often projected in rage leading to an energetic structure with continues to live in many trauma survivors and re-enact as a complex to which Kalsched gives the name ‘Queen/Baby Complex’.
The two side of this energetic complex involve a queenly superior side that tries to maintain a rigid and tight grip and control on the self and defenses of protection to ward off threat or ‘attack’, while the other consist of a needy hungry baby that never got what it needed or could depend upon any caregiver or person to help it grow emerge, develop a true self or protect it the face of overwhelming trauma, hostility or threat from the outside. And this made sense to me of how I have reacted at times when people misunderstand my own traumatic defenses.
I noticed in a talk of Jordan Peterson’s that I listened to last year that he said he believes that each attempt at therapy by a person revolves around their need to find a healthy relationship to their own aggression and will. For some children this can become impossible due to the parents own past or incapacity to deal with rage and hate which are nothing less than the darker hidden underbelly of need and most especially the need to have, express and contain painful sensations and feelings that help us to make sense of our human experience and help us to navigate the way to go in life in order to be and come alive fully..
When the person has, as yet (as a baby), no formed ego there can be ways in which a parent fails to help them hold, mediate and contain challenging instinctual energies and charges that then can become overwhelming. And so a healthy ego with good functional boundaries of self protection that can also allow connecting as a vulnerable human being to others is not developed.
The work of Melanie Klein offered the psychiatric community a means of understanding how a psyche at a young stage can become split in its capacity to tolerate and navigate the human dichotomies of what appears or feels ‘good’ and ‘bad’. This struggle is something that becomes extremely problematic in borderline and narcissistic conditions and defenses. In borderline cases the hidden need that turns to hate can act to push us away from what is important, from expression of need and vulnerability and the impulse to destroy may, in not finding a loving human container begin to turn back in upon the true self of the person….. totally derailing their effective development.
Kalsched talks a lot in that video about the mother or parent’s capacity to survive the destruction projected out due to need and this is something that therapist Marion Woodman also goes into a great deal of depth about in some of her books on addiction and eating disorders.
Being able to have and contain and learn to effectively channel our own anger and aggression and to understand when and how and why we may find ourselves on the receiving end of it with others who are storming is important boundary and emotional recovery work.. Without access to our anger we can get sick and suffer all kinds of auto immune problems. But we also need to learn when to let it go since when we are not really under any kind of threat at all.
Sadly too, in the Catholic religion and education system often this kind of thing (anger and aggression) is seen as a sin, or used to me.. That said in the Bible Jesus gets very angry at certain points and draws very strong boundaries with violators.
I well remember at a critical stage in my own emotional recovery being told by an AA older sober member that anger was one of the seven deadly sins and even lately by someone that is was not a good idea to let it take up residence inside of me for too long which is just not true as we need the capacity to feel and contain it in order to learn more about who we really are. Many of us not mediated or allowed to be angry or assert effectively in childhood, then lack the ability to contain and effectively channel our assertive/anger drive and may need to act some of it out in a torrential display (that is now always well received) in the best way we can in order to get our spirit out of hock to the inner or outer killers and derailing inner voices that want to keep us blocked.
I am very grateful to have come across this series of videos in the last week of my therapy break.. I loved Kalsched’s analysis of Dante’s inferno and descent into Hades as a metaphor for the hell of trauma and his telling of the Grimm’s Fairytale of Fincher’s Bird is also powerful to show how we can have authentic vulnerable needful parts of us split off due to unhelpful parenting.. He does not cover so much of the way we may be carrying a legacy of such along the multi-generational line but that does not make it unhelpful.
I am sharing the link to the third video below but bear in mind it is a continuation of parts 1 and 2 that I shared in an earlier post to which I will also link at the end of this post after lunch.
Link to my earlier post can be found here :