The Sins of the Father
What happens to children severely traumatized or neglected during the first years of life? This is an infinite topic, so the focus of this exploration will be limited to three personality disorders. The symptoms of these personality disorders are diagnosed in adulthood, but their roots lie in the first 4 years of life. Erikson's growth stages of trust vs. mistrust and autonomy vs. self-doubt will form the foundation for understanding. When a child is exposed to abusive, pathological parenting during these development stages the result is often a personality disorder. Personality disorders are enduring patterns of perception, which are maladaptive and cause significant functional impairment and/or subjective distress according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, edition 4. These disorders affect approximately 3% of our population and the number is probably significantly higher, except that many go undiagnosed. These people often suffer extraordinarily throughout an entire lifetime and cause a great deal of suffering to those who love and interact with them. It is my intent to provide a general understanding of the people afflicted with these disorders. But more importantly, the causes that take place during infancy so that possibly some day the diseases can be eradicated.
I will begin with the infant who is unable to be successfully fed and soothed at birth. Infants have very minimal needs but each need is crucial. The failure to meet any of these needs causes significant difficulty in adulthood. Infants are completely helpless; a tiny baby is unable to think for itself. Almost all feelings are intense and require adult intervention to help the infant manage the intensity. Lastly, the infant has absolutely no physical ability to do anything for itself including any mobility. Take a moment to try and imagine total helplessness and dependency on another for everything, hunger, comfort, warmth, communication and even the ability to calm oneself.
An infant is born in a symbiotic state in which it is unable to differentiate between itself and the primary care giver. This is the foundation of trust. The caregiver must anticipate the needs of the infant and be able to interpret non-verbal clues, since the infant has no verbal communication skills. When a primary caregiver is unable to sense when the infant is hungry forces the infant into a panic. A pathological caregiver may either join in the infant's panic or ignore it. Both of these responses produce a hysterical infant in physical pain and extreme psychological distress. If the caregiver is unable to respond to the infant, the feelings of helplessness become a predominant part of the infant’s experience. The infant cries and cries, or withdraws, forming the experiential belief that it cannot survive or find stability. This is the very core of mistrust. The infant learns to mistrust the caregiver and internalizes the experience so...