Healing From an Attachment Injury: Interview with Kathy Brous

What is a quote that inspires you that is related to trauma?

"Too many Americans are spurred to achieve, rather than to attach," and that's at the core of the illness of our society.

--A General Theory of Love

"Trying to fix the heart using the head, is like trying to paint with a hammer - it only makes a mess."

and "You can be strong - or you can be human." -- Grief Recovery Handbook


Where are you calling from and what type of work are you doing?

I'm from New York City originally, then lived 20 years in the Washington DC area. Now I live in Orange County, So.CA

I run a website with extensive resources on attachment disorder, AttachmentDisorderHealing.com

I'm writing a book about how I only discovered my severe attachment trauma after I hit 50, and how I'm healing


What is your story of trauma and recovery?

I hit age 50 as a high-performer who'd never even thought of trauma. Suddenly Divorce, married bad man, I'll find a good man, but only found abusers, realized common denominator is me, something's wrong with me. Then both my parents died in 2008, but when my Dad died, I couldn't cry.  "Wow, I'm really sick," I said, and took myself to therapy.  But I found 3 badly-trained therapists who made me sicker, almost to the point of suicide.  So in 2009 I quit therapy.  What does not work is bad therapy.  Then I got something which does work, the Grief Recovery Handbook, which instructs us how to read letters to a Grief Partner about what's hurting us emotionally. I read letters about my 27 year marriage for two years which regressed me back to about when I met my ex at 18. Then I read letters about my Dad that regressed me back to about age 5. I removed 40 years of denial like rocks off my soul by releasing the anger and sorrow.  But I didn't have anything under the denial; the further back I went, I just found more and more pain. Finally I read letters about my Mom that accidentally regressed me back to infancy.  Its on my site ADH.com, on the New Book tab, in my Preface: The Silent Epidemic. 


What have you done that has helped with your trauma and what did not work?

I discovered I was maybe 2 weeks old inside. It was so terrifying that this time I did a huge amount of research, found a really good attachment therapist and went back to therapy in 2011. Thus my book title: Don't Try This at Home; don't go it alone. What works is:  1. Do get a qualified attachment therapist but you must do serious research to find a good one.  2. The Grief Recovery Handbook works to get rid of denial,  but with severe infant trauma, don't do it unsupervised, that was my error.   #3 What worksthat actually healed my trauma is Body Work; Dr. Peter A. Levine's SE helped me enormously. For Body Work, go to ADH.com; fifth tab from leftFeatured Topics.  Click Featured Topics tab, subtab item #4 is Grief Handbook, then subtab item #5 is Healing Body Work, with links to videos and books.


What advice would you give to others that are dealing with their own trauma?

I can only tell you what I learned: Don't, don't, don't try this at home; I've put my last nickel into a good attachment therapist. Second, I later discovered the Adult Attachment Interview and I wish I'd asked to be given that, to find out scientifically, how bad and what type my trauma is.  For the AAI, On ADH, check the 4th tab Blogs for my blog on AAI.  Third, I worked the GRH with a partner but I wish I'd kept a therapist thoroughly informed, it was dangerous not to. GRH can get rid of denial barriers so we can benefit from the next deeper steps. Fourth and most important is: Body Work. Not reading books about Body Work - doing body work.  Reading a book about singing is different from physically singing; reading a book about sex is, well, you know.... We need to physically do Body Work, not hide in books about it.  But remember: Body Work won't get through to us unless we do the othersteps first. 


[[Add question on Inter-generational trauma?  Q: Why can't some Moms help their babies calm down? 

  A: Sadly, because Mom's mom didn't show her how, and grandma's mom didn't show her how; in my family I've traced it back to the 1800s and that happens a lot, it's called inter-generational trauma.  That's why I'm not satisfied with programs only on child trauma.  We need those urgently, but we need more.  50% of parents out there themselves experienced some degree, mild or wild, of childhood trauma, as the ACE Study shows.  So it's baked into their brain cells to pass it on and traumatize their children, mildly or wildly.  Unless we have mass-based trauma healing programs for adults, we can't stop the cycle. You can't just hand a young couple a book and tell them carry the baby in front.  If they're deeply wounded, they don't have the biological capacity to attune to another human being, and they need to learn that, which means serious psychological work.  Otherwise they're going to hurt babies and others until they get real emotionalhealing.  ]]


What books and resources would you recommend to others that are coping with trauma?

I really recommend Dr. Allan Schore's Sept 2014 Oslo speech video “The Most Important Years;" on my Resources tab, see the subtab on Audios & Videos.  Dr. Schore explains that babies are born screaming in pain because we’re designed for an adult’s emotional brain to show us “Someone cares, I can relax.”  Mom's love actually creates the neural networks in a baby’s brain needed to calm down, Schore wrote in the 90s; now brain scans have proven him correct in the last 5 years. But with infant developmental trauma and attachment disorder, no adult showed us how to calm, so we never did. Infant emotions are still crying painfully deep inside us, says Schore, and that is what causes our anxiety, fear, anger, and misery. 


[[Jeff: If you want to insert Q&A about why bad therapy didn't work, to get at my "Inner Child" disaster, please insert here, since the answer lies in Alan Schore's work; if not just skip. ]]


Several healing tools are really helping me now. Links are on my Resources tab, sub tab Healing Tools.  I'm sorry to keep mentioning my website but I was forced to build it because I couldn't find this information centralized anywhere else. My home page has almost 40,000 hits; my book tab over 12,000 hits, my blog tab almost 6,000 hits, and there are 3more tabs. The reason is because there's a large amount of content.  So here are the healing tools:


Neurofeedback is a computer program therapists use to train clients to calm their brain waves. We with early neglect and abuse have disorganized brains and fear circuits dominate.  Neurofeedback can calm this by growing new neural networks, the way a mother grows a baby's neural networks. Recently I was moved to tears by Sebern Fisher’s interview “Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Developmental Trauma” on ShrinkRap radio, as she described how necessary love and attachment are to the creation of a human brain.

EMDR can resolve trauma using bilateral eye motion, bilateral sounds, or even tapping on either foot. When a therapist moves a finger from side to side before the patient’s eyes, it guides the eyes to move naturally as in rapid eye dreaming. That's where we process most trauma. That means, we move traumatic memories out of short-term memory banks where it feels like a terrifying flash happening “right now,” into long-term memory banks where we feel it’s past, and we’re “over it. 


Tapping: For years I’ve used tapping, aka Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). We use fingertips to tap 5-7 times each on 9 of the body’s acupuncture meridian points. It's a fantastic aid in calming down, or even just getting to sleep at 2 am.

Meditation: Meditation is where we ultimately need to go to fully heal, but it can be terrifying for us with infant trauma. To get started, we can work with our therapist on it, and meditate in groups . Please check out Dr. Tara Brach, “Basic Elements of Meditation Practice" videos on youtube or my Resources tab, sub tab Audio & Video.

On books, again if this goes by too fast:  on my Resources tab, look for the subtab on Books
--"The Grief Recovery Handbook"  by John James & Russell Friedman

--“A General Theory of Love”,  Thomas Lewis, Richard Lannon et al; 2000.

--“Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body," Peter A Levine
--“Changes that Heal,” Dr. Henry Cloud
--“The Body Keeps the Score” Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, MD. 

Any closing thoughts?

Sebern Fisher hit it on the nose: the real answer to trauma is love.  Babies need our mothers to love us to even have the brain cells to feel emotional well-being. "We need to know that the Big Person who's taking care of us, loves us," says Dr. Henry Cloud, and then gradually a baby learns to grow "love inside" he says.  


Or Not.  What if I didn't get love as an infant?   Then emotional chunks of me are an infant's emotions, and I need to fully accept that.  Then I need to go where I can get that part of me loved!  Not to new parents, but I do need to learn to feel the kind of love a good parent gives. And not to romance; we don't want an infant or toddler on Match.com.  Nope, no dating.  Instead, I need to learn that I can receive platonic love from a really fine therapist, and that I can love them back.  I need to learn that I can do deep platonic love with my Grief Partners and platonic friends at church or in small groups or yoga or meditation groups. I need to feel and give unconditional platonic love.  


Silver Linings Playbook: Review

Great Movie. One of the things that makes it great is that it gives an accurate portrayal of mental health. The main Character Pat played by Bradley Cooper is just getting out of a psychiatric hospital because he beat up a guy his girlfriend was cheating on him with.  The scene from the psychiatric hospital was pretty realistic. Much more realistic than previous movies on mental health that portrayed psychiatric hospitals as horrific places with rubber rooms. There was a theme addressed that people with mental illness evaluate themselves in terms of rank that I am more healthy or sicker than the next person. It was also accurate that sometimes something as normal as a failed relationship can drive people to behave in crazy ways. 

Being from Philadelphia I always appreciate a movie that is shot in my hometown. The Philadelphia Eagles provided a nice motif and a backdrop for the story. The scene where the go to the Eagles game was great really was a nice picture of the tailgate scene at Lincoln Financial Field. One of the memorable quotes was that sometimes your marriage needs a Chiropractic adjustment.

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Divorce Stats Heat Map

Here is a Heat Map that I created based on the US Census Data for the divorce rates throughout the country.

frame width="600" height="450" src="http://www.openheatmap.com/embed.html?map=AccurseSplenectomistDetonate" >

How to hack your relationship

The word hack in this context is a positive term. Here is a definition of Hack that I like from the Urban Dictionary. 

Definition: A clever solution to a tricky problem

To hack is to mod or change something in an extraordinary way

 Was browsing the Quora boards. Quora a social networking site focused sharing questions and answers on almost every topic imaginable.


This is a great thread on "relationship hacks". Here are some of the highlights with my own commentary on them.


Saad Ghazipura, Student Doctor,

Advice for both sides:

I'd like to start with a common behavior and my suggested alteration.


In any relationship people get comfortable with each other and eventually they tell them stuff they wouldn't tell anyone else. One of the best things about relationships is that you CAN do this. You can say what you really feel about certain things/people/ideas. You (I hope) will not be judged and accepted no matter what you say. A common theme that I've seen in relationships is that when you first see each other after a long day/week etc you walk in the door and start complaining about something. Your boss, co-workers, public transportation, this person who cut you off, parents, family etc. Why? Well again because this is one person in the world we can "bitch about things with". 


I'm not saying don't talk to your significant other about things that bother you and things that happen to you. All I want to advise is that you start your conversations with something good, something positive, and if you have nothing just start with a smile and ask them how their day was. You will eventually get to the point where you can talk about all the bad but start by setting a positive tone. Imagine someone is looking forward to seeing you all day and when they finally do you walk in the door or meet somewhere you start complaining about this or that. Kind of kills the mood. If you start with the good stuff and set a pleasant mood who knows you may have to wait longer than you expected to finish your thoughts. *wink*.

This is an example of  Dr.John Gotteman's principle of the Softened Startup. Which is the idea when couple's discuss a sensitive matter they do so by starting with something positive. This concept was developed from his work observing thousands of couple's interact. He notices that the couple's that had a good relationship naturally did the softened startup.


Kara Findley: in a kickass relationship

My number 1 relationship hack revolves around honey-do requests. We often find ourselves asking "Did you... <take out the garbage, do the bills, call the cable company... etc>." This lingo inherently sounds critical, especially if the person has not done the task yet, which they probably haven't. They are pretty likely to get defensive and become even less likely to do the task, so it's lose-lose.

INSTEAD, ask them using this phrasing - "Have you had the chance to....?" It takes the pressure off the person, helping them save face by letting them blame their busy (or not so busy) schedule for not having done the requested task yet, rather than taking the blame themselves. The result is a much more positive response that is likely to lead to that task getting done = win-win. 

This tip may work better on men then on women, but I tend to use it any question involving a requested task - with friends, family, colleagues, my boss - and it works wonders.

This is an example of what in the Psychotherapy world would call a reframe. A reframe consists of changing the way people see things and trying to find alternative ways of viewing ideas, events, situations, or a variety of other concepts.

Louise Barr 

I think one of the best things a woman can do for her man is to appreciate him.  Make sure you thank him for the things he does, even if they're small things, like taking out the garbage.  Don't act as if he owes you these things; you know you would hate it if he did that to you.  If he's good at computer stuff, thank him and tell him you're so grateful.  If he can do handyman stuff, make sure he knows how lucky you feel that he is so capable.  Honestly, I've met men that were obviously just ripe for the picking because their wives/girlfriends didn't show any appreciation or seem to value them at all.  I've had to be careful sometimes not to sound too enthusiastic for that very reason.  It's so sad to see guys who feel as if they're playing to an empty theater.  BE the appreciative audience!

This a great one. The research supports the importance that men especially need to feel appreciated. Men often cheat on not because they desire a more beautiful women but because they don't feel appreciated. 

Tarek Nassar 

Here's one, tested and approved, applicable for husbands/boyfriends. Keep a small notebook, well hidden from her, and from time to time, write down a note about something she liked, wanted to buy, a place she wanted to go or something she wanted to do. Keep the dates as well. Then, on a special occasion or when you can afford it (timewise as well as moneywise), get her that little something she wanted to buy or take her out to that restaurant she fancied etc. The key is NOT to do this immediately after she asks for it but rather to wait long enough for "it" to leave her immediate thoughts. With this, she knows you care but more importantly, she knows you LISTEN.

This one is simple yet profound. Highlights the importance of listening. Also it works great for coming with birthday and holiday gifts.

happy couple.jpg

Steve Jobs and The DSM-IV

While in my Family Therapy training one my my professors Steve Treat said, " That all people contain good and bad". This seemed like a pretty simple statement but is one that has stayed with me. Steve was referring to the fact that even the best of people have a dark side and few people are truly all evil.

Steve Jobs is a great example of this. I have been captivated by his biography. He was one of the great geniuses of our era. Yet his persona contains many dark sides.

I view the DSM-IV classification system, not as a book of diseases but rather a typology to classifying certain personality traits and behaviors. 

Using the DSM-IV as a lens to view Steve Jobs behavior you see the he has elements of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  

He exhibited traits of narcissism.  For example since childhood he  thought he was special this was demonstrated by Steve viewing that rules governing the local roads did not apply to him. For example would park his Mercedes in handicapped parking sports  frequently around Palo Alto where he lived.

He exhibited traits of Borderline Personality Disorder through the defense mechanism of splitting viewing people as all good or all bad. For example when someone presented a new product to him he would say its great one day and shit the next.  Often Borderline Personality disorder is thought to be formed in childhood to do a fear of abandonment and that was present in Steve's life because he was given up for adoption at a young age.  

His products represent features of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He made every part of his computer components beautiful all the way down to the power cord. He even strived to make the components inside the computer beautiful that you do not see. He was a control freak he designed his products to be intentionally hard to customize or modify because he decided that they were perfect that way he created them. For some of his products you need to have special tools to open them and this is intentionally designed.

This is a quote from Jack Kerouac that was used for the Apple's Think Different  marketing campaign.

Heres's to the crazy ones.

Heres's to the crazy ones.

Why Meditate?

Three reason to meditate.

First reason: Meditation enhances emotional regulation.

Tang, Y.-Y., Ma, Y., Wang, J., Fan, Y., Feng, S., Lu, Q., Yu, Q., et al. (2007). Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104(43), 17152–6. doi:10.1073/pnas.0707678104

Second reason: Meditation makes you more resilient to environmental stress.

Davidson, R. J. (2003). Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65(4), 564–570. doi:10.1097/01.PSY.0000077505.67574.E3

Third reason: Meditation has been linked to enhanced cognitive performance particularly on tests that measure cognitive flexibility.

Moore, A., & Malinowski, P. (2009). Meditation, mindfulness and cognitive flexibility. Consciousness and cognition, 18(1), 176–186.

My personal suggestions:

I recommend starting small aim to sit in meditation for 10 minutes a day gradually increasing the length of your sessions to 30mins a day. Personally I have found that practicing meditation when you feel well greatly enhances your ability to remain calm during a stressful event.  This I liken to weight training. When you begin weight training initially you get very sore but as you build strength your body adapts and can tolerate much heavier loads. Meditation practice builds pumps up your emotional resilience and enables you to bounce back from heavier loads of emotional stress if practiced daily!

One of the tools that I have used to meditate and keep track of my progress is the self app on the iphone. It’s a beautiful free app that has a timer where you can track your meditation time and keep a journal on your thoughts that arise. The app has the feature that you can export the data as a csv and upload it to excel or any other spreadsheet program of your choice. You find more info about the app at http://self.gr3p.com.

Picture of Jeff Friedman in Sebastian Florida circa 2003.

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How To Think Like A Man

How To Think Like a Man is a recent movie based on the Steve Harvey Book How to Act Like A Lady and Think Like a Man. Here I describe one of the great takeaway points from the book. 

One of the takeaway points that Steve Harvey makes that is great is his explanation for the reason men cheat. The reason men cheat on their wives is not because men are dogs but because there are many women out there that are very willing and able to sleep with a married man. One of the reason is that married men have a lot of appeal. Women often think that a man who is married must be very desirable if a women has agreed to commit their life to them. They are “pre screened”if you will. Steve also emphasizes that a woman must how “low moral character” to sleep with a married man.  I think a good analogy to the married man versus a single man is a man who is employed versus unemployed. An employed man is seen as being someone who had to go through an extensive screening process to get the job. An unemployed man is seeking a job but he has not found a company that whats to commit to him.

How To Think Like a Man from Jeff Friedman on Vimeo.

Jeff Friedman from www.friedmanfamilytherapy.com and www.friedmanfamilytx.com explaining some highlights from the movie How To Think Like a Man.

Dating: The Triple Threat Position

Hi wanted to share with you a concept that I call the Triple Threat Position  specifically as it applies to dating. In basketball the triple threat is a position where you have three options. The first is the option  is to dribble the ball. The second is that you can pass the ball. The third is that you can shoot the ball.

In dating I recommend that on a first date you always think about making a new friend. You never know until you meet in person if there is any sexual chemistry. Furthermore you can always adavnce the friendship but it can be difficult to go from being lovers back to friends,

The friend position is the triple threat. In the friend position you have three options. You can advance the friendship by dribbling, shooting is making a sexual advance, or you could pass  the ball by referring the person to someone whom you think may be a better fit.  

Picture of NBA star Blake Griffin in the the triple threat position.

Picture of NBA star Blake Griffin in the the triple threat position.

Source: https://vimeo.com/49940601

Intro To Buddhist Psychology

            Here is a brief overview of some of the fundamental Buddhist teachings. The Buddha was a very keen observer of the human condition. I think the beauty of these concepts is that you do not need to become a Buddhist to see their value or adopt them in your own life.

One of the Noble truths in Buddhism is “anicca’ the truth of impermanence. The truth of impermanence is the truth that life is in a constant state of flux. Heraclitus an ancient Greek philosopher illustrates this point beautifully he says “You can’t step in the same river twice”.  Being human beings gives us the ability to be cognizant of the truth that we are mortal beings. This awareness is a tremendous source of anxiety. However, this awareness is also what makes our lives and the choices we make meaningful. The late Steve Jobs, who  practiced  Buddhism most of his adult life stated,

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything: all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure… these things just fall away in the face of death… leaving only what is truly important.

 This awareness is what separates us from other mammals. Time becomes sacred only when there is a finite amount of time; doing the right things and loving someone only have meaning when you do not have an eternity to work with it. Existential psychology shares a similar theme says that anxiety about being alive is an intrinsic part of life. It also states that to improve one’s life one needs to accept that anxiety is a part of life and any attempt to deny is at the root of all neurosis.

            Related to “annica” is the Buddhist concept of “anatta” meaning no soul or no self. This concept is commonly misinterpreted as Buddhist’s negate the idea of a soul or self.  The teaching really means that Buddhist do not believe in a fixed unchanging soul.  They believe in a soul that evolves and changes over time.  A Buddhist would describe most human beings as  “nothingness” that strives to be something.  Only by characterizing our lives a one of movement rather than one of substance do we stand a chance at being an authentic being.

Another teaching is that we suffer do to our tanha which means our clinging desire caused by being attached to fixed objects. I think it would be silly to avoid pleasure, happiness, and love. I also don’t think that all of our suffering comes from ourselves.  Suffering is an inevitable part of life to live your going to encounter suffering.

Another aspect of attachment is devesha, which means avoidance our hatred. To the Buddha hatred is just as much an attachment as clinging desire. It is only by giving the things that cause us pain permanence and solidity do we give them the power to hurt us more. The last aspect of attachment that the Buddha described is avidya meaning ignorance.  This ignorance refers to not seeing reality as it is but instead only seeing your personal interpretation of it.

The Buddha himself said, “ Do not take anything I say to be true go out and test it for yourself”.