Turn on the news. You will hear the question “Why? Why are there so many mass murders? Why so many shooters?”
Dr. Faye Snyder is a psychologist and forensic evaluator and founder of The Parenting and Relationship Counseling Foundation (PaRC). Dr. Snyder is a researcher of research, and she has some challenging ideas about the causes of behavior. She is the founder of a non-profit, a supervisor of interns, and author of seven books. Oh yes, she married Ron late in life and they had one child, Scott Clifton, “who turned out pretty well”, she says.
“The outbreak of mass shootings was too sudden to be the result of an evolution of genetic changes, something which takes time, lots of time,” explains Dr. Faye. This is because an epidemic involves rapid change in response to external factors. In this case the factors appear to be a dramatic and relatively sudden change in the childhood experiences of today’s children in the US.
Is it mental illness? Is it hatred? Is it the “bad seed”? Is it unregulated gun sales and lack of red-flag laws? Is it video games? A lack of discipline? Is it street drugs? How about pharmaceuticals?
Dr. Faye, as she likes to be called, says that it is all these things, plus one. Evolution had it that all babies would stay with their mothers consistently until they were about age five. Lots of cultures have had rites of passage for children at that age, especially boys, when they would get to go to work with their fathers, hunting, farming, or building. Girls would stay home with their mothers and get an education often about care, horticulture, healing, communication, and history.
Unfortunately, the design of protective and heroic fatherhood became corrupted over time with the advent of accumulation of wealth, inheritance requiring male dominance over female lineage (traditional marriage), privilege, dominance, and coercion. There became a necessity to ‘overthrow the patriarchy,’ as some women described it. Dr. Faye’s beloved Women’s Movement was born in the late 1960s. She was in for a shock.
Relationships between men and women became confusing. Domestic violence rose even more. Babies had busy mothers who often left them with others.
Never in the history of humankind did such a phenomenon develop. Young mothers came to embrace their own careers en masse to leave home for work. Babies began suffering separation anxiety and abandonment depression en masse, followed by long-term symptoms into and throughout adulthood. The pharmaceutical industry exploded. Medications flourished, even for the children. Self-help promoted positive thinking. Everyone wanted band aids to stop the bleeding.
Dr. Faye tells us of the critical childhood needs for lost children that predict dangerous trajectories versus extraordinarily healthy ones, hoping instead that parents become better educated in specific and targeted skills with tools to raise their children under the new social norms.
“If I can’t have that, I want to see kids not medicated with better assessment and therapy, better schools, better education, only caring teachers, no guns available, and no schools looking and acting like prisons,” said Dr. Faye, as if conceding.
We searched for someone who could talk about the underlying causes of the shootings. When we found and asked Dr. Snyder if she could help us, she said, “Thank you for finding me.”
This interview with Dr. Snyder is complex, and it has been difficult getting it succinctly right. However, it started to become simpler for us as it made more sense. Hopefully, I represent her ideas well, as they seem worth considering. Part I of this article addresses the critical experiences of childhood for better or worse. It is about as shocking as the commonality of mass murders.
Dr. Faye stated up front, “I am not about telling people what to think. I am simply telling them where to look.”
The following are descriptions of those essential stages through which all children pass that predict mental health when things go well and mental illness and suffering when childhoods go awry.
Infancy: The Most Formative Years
According to Dr. Snyder, the best research the field of psychology ever produced was about infants and mothers by Harry Harlow, Rene Spitz, and John Bowlby revealing that attachment is the foundation of the child’s personality, which is one of the reasons why humans can either be extremely fragile or profoundly resilient. There were major studies that blew into town, were insufficiently communicated to parents by my field, and left with a whisper, overlooked, and essentially forgotten.
With the advent of the Women’s Movement, babies and small children began to change to her dismay. “When babies are not warmly and consistently raised by ‘their person’ in the first years of their lives,” says Snyder, “they become insecure at their very core. They may be labeled as “colicky”, as if that is in their nature and there’s nothing otherwise wrong. Some become outright rejecting or controlling infants. Maybe they become withdrawn, as if they don’t want to cuddle, but they are suffering, inconsolable, resolved to be alone and unattached, or cranky, depending upon the nature and timing of their attachment injuries.
So, babies entered “othercare” (a government term) in droves. Today, children are not what they used to be. “When I was a child,” said Dr. Faye, “We sat nicely at our desks and raised our hands. We were children, and adults were the grownups. Now we are in the second and third generations of most mothers working.
Most babies and toddlers are not so cute and cuddly anymore. In some households a stressed infant or toddler may be a problem for a tired and disappointed parent who wishes she had said, “No.”
Unfortunately, after incessant complaining by crying, whining and even headbanging, many such children experience rejection, abandonment in their cribs, or abuse. Maybe her parents wish she would just be the happy, sweet baby they imagined.
“Some babies get hit, shaken or shamed for crying,” says Dr. Faye. Other parental treatments develop behind closed doors, and they may be admonished to keep quiet, although they witness their parents fighting. These results may create grown children who are a danger to all.
“From cause to effect, it is not so obvious, especially when we assume that all childhood experiences are somewhat normal, and that dangerous people just have bad genes or such moral turpitude that they simply refuse to regulate themselves.”
“Since we can’t see most experiences taking place behind closed doors, we must wait 15 to 20 years to see the effects of childhood experiences” says Dr. Faye. “These children can become dangerous or emotionally devastated, but I have seen worse. I have old videos of extraordinary cruelty to infants for crying, and sometimes I wonder who they grew up to kill,” says Dr. Faye. “In the meantime, explanations of genetics or depravity seem to fill the void.”
Dr. Faye interrupts herself to say, “I want to be clear here. I am not blaming parents, because they were children too, and they need help. Also, I am not suggesting that anyone who commits a violent crime should be excused due to their excruciating childhood.
“I just want to answer the best question ever, ‘Why all the shooters?” Dr. Snyder says with certainty, “I have information about prevention and new and better skills to raise our children under the new social norms.”
Babies seek attachment. When a baby is born, they seek their mother. Their eyes seek hers. Their gaze is intense. It’s possibly a universal genetic instruction for all babies. Whoever is the first one to behold us and to feed us is mommy because our brain is empty and what fills it becomes “normal”. We become fragile when our attachments are weak and resilient when they are strong. All life seeks attachment even across species, which is more evidence that unique behaviors are not genetic.
Quality of attachment requires mothers or primary parents who are empathic, adoring, cuddling, and engaging. We are born curious. We are born with an ability to read emotions in others. We look to see who we are in the mirror of our mother’s eyes. We get our identity from out mother’s gaze when we nurse. We watch to see how she looks back at us and to hear the sweet tones of her voice. Are we good enough for her? “Actually,” said Dr. Faye, “when our son was born, his gaze was so penetrating, I imagined he was wondering if we were going to be any good. My husband, Ron, said, ‘It looks like he wants to tell us something, but we have to wait.’”
Quality of attachment creates a person’s lifelong capacity for empathy, affection, and forgiveness. Sometimes, when mom withholds, it creates a craving in us. We want soft, cuddly touch, skin to skin, and the feeling of being held. All infants need to feel wanted and adored, because they get their long-term self-worth, as well as their idea of “normal”, from “their person” this way.
How children and adults respond to others is based upon their earliest experiences, when they are learning normal quickly. These assumptions tend to create the personality our parents see and the adults we become. Is “the world” kind and safe or is it dangerous and rejecting? It is in the beginning of our lives that we learn what to expect.
|“There is no such thing as a baby. There is a baby and someone.” Donald Winnicott, 1987
Continuity of attachment is a continuous attachment.
Continuity is needed in the first five years. “Once an attachment is made with Mom, the infant falls in love. When the attachment is broken, the infant experiences “unrequited love and soon withdraws,” says Dr. Faye. It is more heartbreaking for an infant than it is for a jilted adult.
Personality is forming. Everything is assumed until it is not. “During this period of attachment, the baby is born to cuddle and will show affection, unless it has been denied. The baby will trust, or not. These adaptations organize all the qualities that are revealed in adulthood. “Mommy is wonderful.” “I am loveable.” “I make Mommy smile.” Or, “Where did she go?” “She can’t be trusted.” “Why won’t she pick me up, damn it?” “As long as I get fed, I’m good, because I like things better than people, anyway.” “Don’t trust anyone.” “Leave people before they leave you.”
“Early symptoms of infant depression include arching of the back to push away from Mom or pointing at the corners of the ceiling to “change the subject” to as if to say, “I’m not falling for this again.” Some babies want to be held and they also don’t want to be held, so they turn in circles, because they are deeply conflicted. The baby may avoid eye contact in refusal to trust again. Symptoms may include head banging.
“I had an intern who was rigidly committed to rules and afraid of getting things wrong. God help him if his instructions were ambivalent. He shared in Group Supervision that when his mother saw him banging his head on the floor, she got him a rug.”
Still, that which babies experience, whether wonderful or terrible, they assume it is “normal”. That’s the way it is. They eventually adapt, but it will be an adaptation of a lifetime, with one exception to follow.
“If you have a chance to correct an attachment break, I recommend rocking chairs and staying home with the same urgency that you would have if your baby had cancer. Once you repair the break, know this: A second break during the attachment period will not be repairable.”
When children find out in kindergarten that their life is different than that of other children, or their ability to get along is not as adept as that of other children, it’s a shock. The caparisons of self to others begins. “Why is he so happy?” “There is something wrong with me.” “He is lucky.” “I hate him because he is lucky.”
As they get older, separation anxiety becomes anxiety and abandonment depression becomes depression and giving up becomes avoidance.
“I have had so many patients tell me, ‘I’ve always felt this way, assuming they were ‘born this way.’ Maybe she will be a clingy child, such that someday she becomes that needy person who asks, ‘Why do you love me?’ ‘Where did you go?’ “Will you ever leave me?” “Where were you tonight?” “I was just calling to see if you were at work.” Their fear of abandonment often becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Their specific adaptation will be formed according to age, length of separations, and maternal responses. A toddler’s symptoms might reveal a lack of social skills. She might develop dominant or avoidant behavior, whining, hyperactivity, withdrawal, bitterness, or meanness,” Snyder said. She might be diagnosed with ADHD before she leaves preschool. However, these babies don’t grow to be killers just because their mothers go to work. There’s more to it than this.
A continuous attachment in the first three to five years of life requires one parent to stay home or both to work together in the same household to cover one another in shifts. The latter is significantly better than dropping the child off with someone else, even grandma.
Attachment breaks between three to five are not as symptomatic, but they still make a difference in the adult’s sense of self-worth. Try to make it to three, but if you can, go for broke, that is, go for super-resilient first five years.
Regarding other care, it wouldn’t matter if grandma was Mother Teresa; ‘she’s not my person.’ If grandma can do a profoundly better and more caring job than mom, maybe yes, pick grandma, especially if she can live with the baby 24-7 for the first three to five years. Decide this before the child is born so you can be consistent from birth. The younger the child, the more excruciating is the abandonment.
|A one-year-old can handle one hour, once a week away from Mom.
A two-year-old can handle two hours, twice a week away from Mom.
A three-year-old can handle three hours, three times weekly away.
A four-year-old can handle four hours, four times weekly away from Mom.
A five-year-old is ready for kindergarten.
The Legacy of Failed Attachments
When Dr. Faye asked colleagues—all of whom are educated in attachment research and theory before they get their degrees—if they warn pregnant mothers to stay home. They usually said they don’t. Maybe they forgot, because they never got clear how critical attachment is, or they are afraid a client would become angry or quit. Dr. Faye thinks the reason her profession hasn’t attempted to produce public service warnings is because it wasn’t sufficiently stressed in our educations or because we fear it would hurt the profession.
Dr. Snyder represents that there are many variations on abandonment. Maybe a baby boy is taken to daycare when he is not even three months old and left in a crib. Maybe he is left in the crib at home, but that’s a secret. He would tend to have significant issues, such as mistrust, rage, or some degree of autism. He may come to sit home alone and play video game, shooting up adversaries. His relating will simply not be affection and caring, but also will not be communicative or even self-regulating.
“I have also seen evidence that if a baby girl is left in a crib all day, she may have postpartum depression when it comes time for her to care for her own baby. As she secretly leaves her baby in the crib and turns up the television, her baby may wonder, “What’s wrong with me?” or “What’s wrong with her?” As incredible as this sounds, her imprints from infancy will unconsciously store in her brain to later drive a reenactment of her own neglect when she becomes a mother.
Maybe the reader has noticed that one type of cause may have results that tend to be the opposite of another nearly identical cause, such that one child is withdrawn and the other is overly assertive. Nature clearly works with opposites, but if there is a distinct difference in cause, it may never be found. It is doubtful that scientists can ever get specific because there are too many permutations to measure, such as quality of attachment, length of each time separated, frequency, and infant’s age, even if they could all be observed. “Still the basics are self-evident,” said Snyder. [To learn more about possible effects of babies kept in Neonatal Intensive Care, see Part II].
Poor quality and continuity of attachment combine to create hopeless adults. Not all depression and anxiety are the result of attachment trauma. However, all attachment trauma creates depression or anxiety or both.
These are the issues that affirmations may hopelessly attempt to address, such as “You deserve love.” Of course, every baby deserves love. We just can’t say that about adults, because loving people are simply more likely to be chosen by loving people. Critical people are more likely to be chosen by critical or non-discriminating people.
Since too much separation from the primary caregiver could also create a prematurely independent child, sometimes adults are impressed with such a child because she is so independent. Or, he may seem like a little mafioso, who feels most secure when he can tell people what to do and play the role of the adult in the room. It’s cute at first, unless you know what it means. That child must not be allowed to become the boss, even if it seems cute. Children need to be in a humble, learning state.
Simi-abandoned children who walk into kindergarten to be the boss act like they already know everything. It’s a bit too late when they learn that pretending doesn’t work, and now they are distressingly behind in school basics and diagnosed with a “learning disorder”.
Another attachment break is caused by custody disputes over infants. It is important to say that you must not break a bond to make a bond. If mom gives her baby away to a stranger who has come to establish his parental rights, perhaps by taking the infant for overnights so he can “bond” with his infant son, the baby experiences the trauma of loss with the apparent rejection of his mother.
“What is this?” “Why doesn’t mommy want me anymore?” An assumption is being made that the child will adjust. Yet, while adults think it is something that they would find disturbing if it happened to them, they assume babies don’t notice. Not true. Babies notice more than adults. The younger the human, the more impressionable. That child will never adjust. The experience is excruciating. It is traumatic and life altering. The capacity for trust and affection into adulthood has just been cracked or broken, just so Dad can have that bond while the child is an infant. What Dad needs to know is that the baby is done with trusting and won’t bond with him either.
If Dad would wait until the infant’s ability to offer affection safely is secure, the loving bond with his child will be far greater for all the years to come.
Dad can meet with the baby in the living room at first, then the front steps, soon the ice cream shop, a little later a short visit to the Zoo, an overnight at three or four, and a weekend at five if there are no previous abandonments. “I would go so far to say that a mother who wants to protect her child from an attachment break due to a court order or an ignorant father, can negotiate primary parenting with the father when the boy is in the five to eight range. A daughter can enjoy weekend visits with her dad after age five, but perhaps ideally would grow up with her mother.
There is a similar problem when Children’s Protective Services removes an infant from mother, perhaps for drug addiction, given the attachment is still there. Sometimes Child Protective Services may make mom leave and give the child to dad and then take the child from dad if he lets mom sneak back to see the baby. What harm we can do in the name of protecting a child.
If the attachment is not there, then it’s not determinant. Therefor the social worker should ask mom to hold the baby in her arms, a bit horizontal, and make loving eye contact and speak in a soft voice. That will reveal whether it would be better to find a place for mom to detox so she can keep the child with her. If the child arches his back and pushes away or points to the corners of the ceiling, the attachment has already been broken.
Some couples decide Dad would be a better primary caregiver. The same theory applies to whoever takes on that continuous role. “If grandma takes on the role, grandma is mom. If grandma or dad are parttime before the age of three, unless they live together, sharing regular shifts, no one is really mom,” laments Dr. Faye, “at least not according to our design”.
Individuation is a slow process of separating from the maternal figure, even if Dad. Healthy separation is doable at age five if the entire attachment has been stress-free. Kindergarten is a big day. A total or final loss, such as the death of mom, would be traumatic, but the secure child with a healthy attachment would also be resilient from just about any trauma after the age of five.
Research says children who have fathers do better than those who don’t. Some fathers think their role should just be that of a disciplinarian. What a mistake that is! Dad’s need to offer safe play, useful theory about the way of the world, success and ethics.
Toddlers and children do not know the rules of reality, until they test their limits to discover them, or someone explains them. Still, they will probably have to test. Even if they are told what not to do, they usually must test their limits or Mom’s/Dad’s word a few times to see how related the words and the actions are. So, in the beginning of individuation, testing limits is part of growth.
A cherished child doesn’t want to disappoint. By the same token, you can’t discipline to a child who doesn’t feel cherished by you. This is where a stern voice in one or two sentences or a disappointed look works well. Of course this is given that the child is securely attached.
Ideally, you don’t need to teach the obvious. ‘How many times do I have to tell you not to hit the dog?” In a healthy family, children will be taught that which is not obvious, as teaching the obvious makes both of you look stupid. This is to say, don’t make a habit of giving warnings for behaviors that are clearly unacceptable, like hitting, but if you do give a warning, keep it. Always keep it. This is also to say, be prepared. Know what consequence to offer immediately for any “crime”.
Some children are harshly punished for not knowing that which the parent never taught them. This would be a highly injured parent leaving a generational legacy of abuse. Parents need to be clear that there is no inborn knowledge. Insecurely attached toddlers get into more trouble than securely attached children, because they are not as empathetic or intuitive.
So, if the child is resisting, you must up the ante. If the child is still hitting the dog, you pick the child up and sternly say in her face, “We do not hit!” moving the child from you and the dog, maybe placing him in his bedroom with an open door. “Stay there until you can tell me what you did wrong and why it’s wrong.”
Children who are disciplined by natural consequences learn for a lifetime. If a child doesn’t come home for dinner, maybe she will have to eat a cold meal. If a child is rude to a requested guest, send the guest home. If a child relentlessly refuses to brush her teeth and lies about it, maybe mom will brush them for her (once). If the problem persists, book more appointments with the dentist until it’s resolved.
If a teen keeps the car out too late, Dad might keep the keys for a month. If a child regularly lies, the parent can offer a trip to Disneyland this Saturday, but on Saturday morning, the parent seems to be acting like it’s a regular day. So, when the child asks, “Aren’t we going to Disneyland?” the parent can say, “Oh, did I say that? I guess I lied. Now, you can see what it feels like when you are lied to. If you start telling me the truth, I’ll take you and a friend after the new year.”
Parents who don’t discipline their children from bad behavior or even rescue them from consequences, create a very immature and entitled adult. “It’s not pretty”, says Dr. Faye. They turn out to be above the rules and above the law.
The more painful the first years, the more necessary it will be to have good parental discipline and good self-regulation skills in the child. Ideally, there will be a lot of trustworthy loving, open sharing, and communicating about values, feelings, thoughts, and ideas. Share passages from a good book, article or interview.
Some children, especially insecurely attached children who dare to defy parents, will be treated to a rant, criticism, ridicule, name calling, or worse for their unstable behaviors. Pay attention now: Verbal abuse of a child who had a weak attachment is doubling the injury. Teach, guide, model, require, but do not shame.
“Name-calling and bullying are a clue to bad things happening in the home, such as no limits or abusive limits.”
Sexual abuse is another major trauma. Even if the perpetrator presents it as a game, it will be remembered with shame and worthlessness, if it goes untold. Will the child experience safe affection during elementary school? Will the child be molested? Will he be molested by someone in the family, a trusted teacher or someone unknown? Which is worse? The closer the perpetrator is to the child in life, the worse. The younger the worse, and the more invasive the worse. The more often, the worse. The more secretive the worse. The less protected the worse.
If your child ever comes to you to tell you that they are being sexually abused, believe the child, hug, and apologize. If the child cries, you can take her on your lap and say, “That’s right. I hear you. Mommy is taking it. Give it to mommy.” Thank the child for telling you and then call the police.
There is another kind of sexual abuse, which results from excessive warning of a child against touch or sex, with an inuendo that sex is dirty. Such warnings can steal a person’s capacity and enjoyment of loving intimacy as well as the enjoyment of feeling attractive. It can ruin a marriage someday.
There are several types of family systems, but there are two critical family “ethics” to consider that have long-lasting consequences and are defined by what the parents model.
Self-Reflection versus Blaming:
How disagreements are handled in the family creates his long-term coping skills. Does the child learn self-reflection, self-correction, and personal responsibility as opposed to blaming, criticism, and even retribution?
In healthy families Dr. Faye holds that both parties take 100% responsibility for a disagreement that goes south. “Healthy people de-escalate a situation,” she says, by offering regard and an attempt to ‘see’ the other person’s experience even if they disagree.” Healthy parents apologize for acting in bad ethics or breaking their word. They work toward compromise. They forgive. Healthy people practice “perspective taking”, as they attempt to understand the other party’s position. They de-escalate a situation. That’s where the 100% comes from. The children may be privileged to witness the process modeled.
So, when a child fesses up rather than lying, they should be appreciated. Maybe there should be a helpful dialogue coming from the parent to identify what could have been a better response, like doing some chores to earn the toy instead of taking it or to earn the money to make restitution. Children can learn self-reflection as a normal process. Such a process can lead children toward leadership and greatness.
Of course, it is difficult not to defend oneself, even if it leads to escalation. It is difficult to self-reflect about what one did to bring the wrath of another upon them. It is far easier to blame the blamer, and many injured souls would take it further and contemplate revenge. “It would be heaven if everyone understood why everyone else acted as they did,” mused Dr. Faye. “But we don’t need heaven to know that if we fight back rather than understand, we make it worse.”
In unhealthy families they blame. They generally take 0% responsibility for the disagreement or argument. So, Dr. Faye explains, “Maybe they say, ‘I’ll not apologize for something I didn’t do,’ or, ‘I’m sorry you feel that way,’ which is an accusation disguised as an apology. These people don’t see their part. Some declare, “I’ll never show weakness.” Dialogue is hopeless until they do, and hopefully, they will not be in a close relationship with anyone until they can do humble and see their part. Nature never offers a single cause. Develop takes place from an interaction of opposites.
“If you judge and blame other people, you don’t self-reflect. Blaming initiates arguments and counterattacks. Children of blame grow up to live on the bitter edge of society, learning and overcoming very little and often seeking revenge. They are professional victims. They are at risk of becoming self-destructive or even perpetrators compared to children who learn to self-reflect,” says Dr. Faye.
Dr. Faye holds that if there is abuse, the abused party need not accept blame. Still, they could think about what they might have done better or differently, without necessarily accepting the blame or blaming. Maybe they acted without consideration of danger, like inviting in a stranger home that they met at a party. Or maybe they married someone before they found out “what he would be like in an argument.”
Further, if one stays in a violent relationship, they are responsible for staying and enabling. “It is not heroic,” says Dr. Snyder. “Don’t do it for the children. It is short-sighted, unwise, and even unethical.”
“On the other hand,” says Snyder, “I have seen many liberated women who become tough, emasculating, and verbally insulting. They think they are now being strong. Instead, they have righteously taken on the role of the aggressor. I have also seen many cases where women made false charges against men because they didn’t want anything to do with him anymore. That’s not cool either, especially if it is about the custody of children,” says Dr. Faye.
There is a profound difference between blaming and assessing. In blaming, a person is labeled with hostility for life, like they will “never change”. With assessment, a person may be left behind with a “Yes, if’ Proposition”, such that they would return if the other party would stop drinking or get therapy. Of course, it is acceptable to assess, warn a couple of times, and then leave a person for good with an expressed and profound hope that they will finally get help.”
If you leave a person due to domestic violence, be strategic. Set up leaving beforehand, to include getaway materials already out of the house, and where to go, somewhere you can’t be found. Get a restraining order. Leave a loving and caring note, hoping for their sake that they get help, such as: “My darling, beloved husband, I love you, but I cannot sacrifice my life for you anymore, because I am dying inside, dying to be safe and be me. I wish we could have been more of a team. You know I can’t stay, you wouldn’t either. I will always pray that you got help for the terrible way you have been treated and that you learned how to love for keeps.”
According to the Causal Theory, what usually happens in cases of violence is that the perpetrator is re-enacting a variation of their childhood trauma from the other side by scapegoating.
People don’t heal their trauma by scapegoating another person later in life. They often just enjoy it or get temporary relief. When one has been the victim of retaliation there is a sort of high that comes from finally getting to be the perpetrator. It’s in our human design. Thus, if a person doesn’t learn conflict resolution skills after healing, they will be prone to attract the same dramas or reenact the other end as the perpetrator. Maybe both.
We shrink and lose stature in the world when we tend to blame. When one has been offended, we grow if we can see what our part was. The sooner one sees what they are doing as they do it, the sooner they move into that other reality of psychological health.
“It was a revelation for me to discover that I couldn’t just heal a person who had been abused. I would have to teach that person that they might become the abuser if they don’t fully heal or learn to catch themselves taking the role of the abuser.
I propose that they must still learn and practice healthy conflict resolution skills,” says Snyder. “This is where self-awareness and self-reflection come in. When a person has become aware that their reflexive responses are toxic and they have learned better ones, they will now be able to catch themselves. If they catch themselves enough, the habit is broken.”
It’s interesting how a child may have been hit by his father for talking back to his mother but still saw his dad hit his mother the night before.
Conflict resolution skills include dialogues that utilize variations on, “When you… I feel…,” or “When you…, you seem…,” or “When you… I wish that…”
Repression versus Expression:
The other family system theory that Dr. Snyder identifies is an ethic of repressing feelings versus expressing them, where children are raised to be seen and not heard or to keep their feelings to themselves. These children may be told, “Don’t complain. Suck it up” or “Cry and I’ll hit you again.” They may become time bombs, exploding over disagreements or worse. Some children simply feel sorry for their mother and learn not to complain. I have learned from many victims of sexual abuse that they didn’t tell their mother, because it would upset her!
Snyder explains that if the child is encouraged to report on difficult events truthfully and share memories and feelings articulately, the child will heal on the spot when they have had a traumatic experience. They will heal not only from insults and injuries faster, but they will also become more intelligent by disclosing and sharing their experience with someone who cares and can help them and talk with them.
“Children should be encouraged to express themselves, not taught how to look good by being fake, but rather to become courageously and kindly authentic. Name-calling and bullying are a clue to bad things happening in the home.”
“When anyone, child or adult, lives in such a way that they express themselves as they go, especially important events, they will be “current,” as Dr. Faye calls it. “Their injuries won’t be backlogged, lingering and festering, and no one will be scapegoated.”
In a healthy family, a child can say, “Daddy, when you laughed at me, it hurt my feelings,” or “Daddy, I hate it when you tickle me to make me laugh,” or “Mommy, why do you change the subject when I try to tell you I’m upset?”
“When a child learns to repress his feelings, he learns that his thoughts and feelings don’t matter, so if that’s true, there’s no one to whom he can confide. As a matter of fact,” says Dr. Faye, “he will inevitably think, ‘Since nobody wants to know, I can do whatever I want.’”
We have already seen that child abuse is bad, but if a child seeks help from a parent and is not believed or even punished for saying something that would embarrass his parents, the rebuff is worse than the offense.
So, an underground child who grows up can be a dangerous person, especially if they had a failed attachment; were rejected and abused; witnessed and experienced blaming in their family; and now they sit on their feelings, as if that’s heroic.” As a matter of fact, Dr. Snyder says that if a child is already practicing repression when they are molested, they will be far more prone to pass it on as the perpetrator one day.
Mirror Neurons and Intergenerational Transmission:
Dr. Faye has been teaching Imprinting since 1988 with full expectation that someone would someday discover the brain’s mechanism for imprinting behavior in young children to be reenacted later in adulthood. “I’m relieved and glad I lived to see it. It is evidence for evidence based theory and practice, ” Snyder said.
Mirror neurons were discovered in the motor cortex during the early 1990s by neuroscientist Giacomo Rizzolatti, MD. “He should have received a Nobel Prize,” says Snyder, “but the field is still in its infancy. Mirror neurons are the reason we have thought that behavior is inherited. We thought if it ran in families, it must be genetic, but it runs in families because it’s imprinted by mirror neurons, including the drive to re-enact later.”
Although still in the early stages of research, we have learned that mirror neurons account for our treatment by and to others. Mirror neurons reveal that we imprint the way we are treated. We imprint what we experience as a witness or directly. If we are abused, we abuse. If we are neglected, we neglect. If we hear English, we speak English. If we are treated respectfully, we treat others respectfully.
The long delay from infancy, toddlerhood and childhood to adult choices is the reason we don’t recognize how we imprint cause and effect. Instead, we tend to credit genes with our imitative behaviors over generations. We are not likely to observe over time for cause and effect, because it takes too long. It tends to defy memory.
“It is a given in Dr. Faye’s theory, The Causal Theory, that all of us imprint the ways of our family within society, from accents, to manners, to grammar, and to religious outlooks, including accepted hypocrisy. Will our child learn a work ethic or futility, good grammar or slang, English and a second language, manners, recklessness, ethics, truthfulness, secrecy, character building, shame and shaming, self-reflection, honor, lying, religion, or repressive obedience? We can imprint a failed understanding of cause and effect or an attention to facts and details.
Most imprinting, such as social skills, takes place in childhood (when we are out of power). Dr. Snyder calls this vantage point “6 o’clock”. “We can be safe and ravenous learners as children, or we can cower in fear and self-consciousness. Either way, we are out of power and taking in how we will act or re-enact as adults. That is, when we grow up, we act out the other end of the experience, as we become in charge of our lives, and perhaps, the lives of others.”
Dr. Snyder calls the re-enactment state of presumed power 12 o’clock. We imprint at six o’clock and we re-enact years later at 12 o’clock. However, “If you watch your children play, you can get an idea of what is going in. Children pretend 12 o’clock when they play.”
12 o’clock represents either arrogance, which is obviously a negative and feigned trait, or competence in leadership, a positive and naturally earned characteristic. Dr. Snyder says that adults respond to challenges from our reserve of childhood imprints, imitating our parents in a sort of delayed reaction and automatic reflex. “We’re dead if we haven’t noticed this, ourselves, but we take so much of our thoughts and responses for granted. We don’t grasp how much we are re-enacting from the other side. This is when one can describe our behavior as unconscious.”
The complexity of the work of mirror neurons is not represented on Dr. Snyder’s Predicting Score Sheet just as the near infinite number of discrete behaviors of individuals can never be scored by us or tracked by science. There is no main frame computer big enough for such detail from one person to the next.
“My father used to say, ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’ However, we are all designed to copy. We just do. We copy. Mirror Neurons make us copy. So, parents can take their children as mirrors, especially when they play. We can correct our own behaviors for our children’s sake.”
Thus, imprinting is not on Dr. Faye’s list of critical events to score, but we must keep the phenomenon in the front of our minds. We act in later life as we are treated in childhood. It is the wisdom of the Golden Rule. It’s the knowledge of conscious people.
Every item in this theory is a major factor in the prediction and understanding of quality of life. Not only do we experience different levels of resilience from our attachment experience, but we imprint the way we were treated in our infancy to pass on later, sometimes much later. Not only do we experience the trauma of abuse, but we imprint the treatment and have a drive to pass it on as an abuser once we are independent.
For better or worse, maternal attachment behavior is imprinted; physical, emotional, and sexual attitudes of health and abuse are imprinted and transmitted; and family systems of self-reflecting or blaming and expressing or repressing are imprinted. Imprints last a lifetime if we don’t clean them up. We can do so on our own, but it is very challenging. It would be somewhat easier to utilize enlightened guidance or a buddy on the same page.
|“You do not kiss your children so that they kiss you back, you kiss them so that they will kiss their children, and their children’s children” –Noah ben Shea
“I recommend that people become aware of those two states in themselves of standing in power or sitting in powerlessness. One could say that all of us have ‘multiple personalities” or, rather, dual personalities. All of us completely change when we transition from out of power into power.” You never know a person until you have seen them in both states. Guaranteed, there are two. They are very different.
Dr. Snyder identifies what we imprint as our “internalized bank of coping strategies.” She says, “What goes in must come out. What doesn’t go in, can’t come out unless we self-reflect and change our minds.”
Dr. Faye continued to address and break down assessment and treatment options with a few personal stories pertaining to predicting and understanding behaviors of violent people in Part 2 of ‘Behind the Trigger,’ which will be coming out on March 1st!
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.