A class with Colin Ross
Attachment theory, originally developed by John Bowlby, is one of the most fruitful platforms with which to explain human psychological development. Evolution always chooses its available mechanisms for its use, and since every living creature has the imperative to survive, hominids developed an unconscious structure to maintain the illusion of parental love even when there really is none.
Perhaps the most popularly accessible way in which we can imagine presenting what attachment is, is through a modern fairy tale: Artificial Intelligence produced by Kubrick but directed by Spielberg. I’m referring to the scenes in which the father, Henry, warns the mother, Monica, not to imprint their adoptive son David with the program of affective attachment, if she is not completely sure that she will want to reciprocate the love that David would profess, since the program is irreversible (“The robot child’s love would be sealed—in a sense hardwired—and we’d be part of him forever”). After some time Monica reads to David the seven magic words that imprint him (“What were those words for, Mommy?”).
The platform which Ross is standing on in order to understand mental disorders is what he calls “the problem of attachment to the perpetrator.” We can visualize the enormous emotional attachment the human child feels toward the parent by remembering the veneration that, despite her conduct, Leonor and Josefina always professed to their mother, María [my grandmother, my godmother and my grand-grandmother respectively: the subject of an unpublished chapter in this Spanish-English translation of my book]. Such attachment is the problem. In The Trauma Model Colin Ross wrote:
I defined the problem, in the mid-1990s, in the context of the false memory war.
In order to defend myself against the attacks by hostile colleagues, I sought solid ground on which to build fortifications. It seemed like the theory of evolution offered a good starting point. What is the basic goal of all organisms according to the theory of evolution? To survive and reproduce. This is true from amoeba on up to mammals. Who will dispute that all organisms want to survive and replicate? This seemed like safe ground.
Dragonflies, grasshoppers, salamanders and alligators do not have families. They do not send cards on Mother’s Day. Things are different if you are a bird or mammal. Birds and mammals are absolutely dependent on adult caretakers for their survival for a period after birth, which ranges from weeks to decades depending on the species. For human parents, it seems like the period of dependency lasts over thirty years. In some species, if the nursing mother dies, the child dies. But in others, including elephants, if the nursing mother dies, a female relative takes over the care of the young one, and the child survives. In elephants there is a built-in Child Protective Services, and there is a sociology of attachment.
Attachment is like the migration of birds. It is built in, deep in our brain stems and DNA. The infant bird or mammal does not engage in a cognitive, analytical process to assess the cost-benefit of attachment. It just happens. It’s biology. The fundamental developmental task of the human infant is attachment. You will and you must attach. This is true at all levels of the organism. You must attach in order to survive biologically, but also in order to thrive and grow at emotional, intellectual, interpersonal and at all possible levels.
We know the consequences of failure to attach from several sources. The first is the third world orphanage. Orphan babies may have an adequate intake of protein, carbohydrate and fat, and may have their diapers changed regularly, but if they are starved for love, stimulation, attention, and affection, they are damaged developmentally. Their growth is stunted at all levels, including basic pediatric developmental norms.
In the text quoted above, I have eliminated all the ellipses, as I have done with the other quotations below. Ross goes on to explain the body of scientific evidence on the effects of abuse in the offspring of primates: “The Harlow monkey experiments, for instance, are systematic studies of abuse and neglect. Little monkeys cling desperately to their unresponsive wire-and-cloth mothers because they are trying to solve the problem of attachment to the perpetrator, in this case the perpetrator of neglect.” He also mentions experimental evidence that profound neglect and sensory isolation during early infancy physically damage the brain in a measurable way: “The mammal raised in such an environment has fewer dendritic connections between the nerve cells in its brain than the mammal which grew up in a ‘culturally rich’ environment.” It is in this context that Ross states that it is developmental suicide to fail to attach, and “at all costs and under the highest imperative, the young mammal must attach.” He then writes:
In a sense, we all have the problem of attachment to the perpetrator. None of us have absolutely secure attachment. We all hate our parents for some reason, but love them at the same time. This is the normal human condition. But there is a large group of children who have the problem of attachment to the perpetrator to a huge degree. They have it to such a large degree, it is really a qualitatively different problem, I think. These are the children in chronic trauma families. The trauma is a variable mix of emotional, verbal, physical and sexual abuse.
The locus of control shift
For psychiatrists Theodore Lidz, Silvano Arieti and, in a less systematic way, Loren Mosher [cited extensively in the previous section of Hojas Susurrantes], in schizophrenogenic families not only one but both parents failed terribly. If the problem of attachment to the perpetrator is a cornerstone in understanding the trauma model of mental disorders, there is yet another one. Though the number one imperative for birds (and in previous times, the dinosaurs) and mammals is to attach, in abusive families the child makes use of another built-in reflex: to recoil from pain. Ross explains what he calls “The locus of control shift” (in psychology, “locus of control” is known jargon):
The scientific foundation of the locus of control shift is Piaget and developmental psychology. We know several things about the cognition of children age two to seven. I summarize this as “kids think like kids.” Young children are self-centered. They are at the center of the world, and everything revolves around them. They cause everything in the world [“locus shift”] and they do so through magical causality. They do not use rational, analytical, adult cognitive strategies and vocabulary.
Imagine a relatively normal family with a four year-old daughter. One day, the parents decide to split up and dad moves out. What is true for this little girl? She is sad. Using normal childhood cognition, the little girl constructs a theory to explain her field observation: “Daddy doesn’t live here anymore because I didn’t keep my bedroom tidy.”
This is really a dumb theory. It is wrong, incorrect, inaccurate, mistaken and preposterous. This is how normal kids think. But there is more to it than that. The little girl thinks to herself, “I’m OK. I’m not powerless. I’m in charge. I’m in control. And I have hope for the future. Why? Because I have a plan. All I have to do is to tidy up my bedroom and daddy will move back in. I feel OK now.”
The little girl has shifted the locus of control from inside her parents, where it really is, to inside herself. She has thereby created an illusion of power, control and mastery which is developmentally protective.
Ross explains that this is normal and happens in many non-abusive, though dysfunctional, families. He then explains what happens in extremely abusive families:
Now consider another four year-old girl living in a major trauma family. She has the problem of attachment to the perpetrator big time. What is true of this little girl?
This other girl is powerless, helpless, trapped, and overwhelmed. She can’t stop the abuse, she can’t escape it, and she can’t predict it. She is trapped in her family societal denial, her age, threats, physical violence, family rules and double binds. How does the little girl cope? She shifts the locus of control.
The child says to herself, “I’m not powerless, helpless and overwhelmed. I’m in charge here. I’m making the abuse happen. The reason I’m abused is because I’m bad. How do I know this is true? Because only a bad little girl would be abused by her parents.”
A delicious exemplification of the locus of control shift in the film A.I. is the dialogue that David has with his Teddy bear. After Monica has abandoned him in the forest David tells his little friend that the situation is under his control. He only has to find the blue fairy so that she may turn him into a real boy and his mom will love him again…
In contrast to fairy tales, in the real world instances of the locus of control shift are sordid. In incest victims, the ideation that everything is the fault of the girl herself is all too frequent. I cannot forget the account of a woman who told her therapist that, when she was a girl, she took baths immediately after her father used her sexually. The girl felt that since she, not her father was the dirty one and that her body was the dirty factor that aroused the father’s appetite, she had to “fix” her little body. But there are graver cases, even, than sexual abuse. According to Ross, in near-psychotic families:
The locus of control shift is like an evil transfusion. All the evil inside the perpetrator has been transfused into the self, making the perpetrator good and safe to attach to. The locus of control shift helps to solve the problem of attachment to the perpetrator. The two are intertwined with each other.
Although Silvano Arieti made similar pronouncements half a century before, these two principles as elaborated by Ross are the true cornerstones to understand the edifice of Hojas Susurrantes.
As I mentioned in the previous section, when I visited the clinic of Ross in Dallas as an observer, I had the opportunity to observe the therapies undergone by some adult women. I remember a lady in particular who said that if her husband hit her it may be because she, not her husband, behaved naughtily. In his book Ross mentions cases of already grown daughters, now patients of his psychiatric clinic, who harm themselves. These self-harmers in real life exemplify the paradigm of the girl mentioned by Ross: evil has been transfused to the mind of the victim, who hurts herself because she believes she is wicked. In the previous section I said that in the film The Piano Teacher a mother totally absorbs the life of her daughter, who in turn redirects the hate she feels toward her mother by cutting herself in the genital area until bleeding profusely: a practice that, as we will see in the next section, is identical to the pre-Hispanic sacrificial practice of spilling the blood of one’s own genitals among Amerinds.
In his brief class Ross showed us why, however abusive our parents, a Stockholm syndrome elevated to the nth degree makes us see our parents as good attachment objects. The little child is like a plant that cannot but unfold towards the sun to survive. Since even after marriage and independence the adult child very rarely reverts in her psyche the locus of control shift to the original source, she remains psychically disturbed. For Lloyd deMause, this kind of super-Stockholm syndrome from parents to children and from children to grandchildren is the major flaw of the human mind, the curse of Homo sapiens that results in an alter ego in which all of the malignancy of the perpetrator has been transfused to the ego of the victim. In a divided self this entity strives for either (1) substituting, through the locus of control shift, the unconscious anger felt towards the parents on herself with self-harming, addictions, anorexia or other sorts of self-destructive behavior, and/or (2) harming the partner or the next generation of children. In either case the cause of this process is the total incapability of judging and processing inside ourselves the behavior of the parent: the problem of attachment to the perpetrator.
The objective of the book is to present to the racialist community my philosophy of The Four Words on how to eliminate all unnecessary suffering. If life allows, the following week I will publish here the section on the discoverer of psychohistory, Lloyd deMause. Those interested in obtaining a copy of Day of Wrath can request it through Amazon Books.