Trauma's passive smoke

  • January 24, 2010
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Living with trauma is like living with a smoker. You don’t have to be the smoker to get sick.

How can that be?

Dr. Paul Valent, a psychotherapist for 35 years who founded the Child Survivors of the Holocaust group in Melbourne, Australia offers this explanation:

“Children of traumatized parents especially young ones, experience their parent-gods as not recognizing them as the children that they are and only inconstantly tending to their needs. Rather, they experience them either screaming silently, untellably incoherently, mysteriously, from their black holes, or exploding like gods of thunder and lightning in audible screams and irrational symptoms…

Dr. Paul Valent
Dr. Paul Valent

“They (children) experience double trouble: not only are they required to adjust to their parents’ alternating physiological circuits, emotions, behaviors and attitudes, but they must copy with their own automatic survival responses to their parents. They may not understand either. Their own stories may be untellable fragments…

“What do untellable non-stories look like?

“A mother is frozen in non-mourning for her dead family. She looks at her child with unshed tears and does not see her child. This induces a sense of non-existence and depression in the child. The child wants to rescue, reassure or enliven the parent and gain life for itself; it feels guilty and worthless when it fails. This is an example of how trauma can continue unwittingly across generations.”

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