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.