How a Trauma Momma Looks at Lying
***This was post originally published on 05/29/2013***
There are a hand-full of behaviors that seem to universally pull trauma mommas into the trauma tornado. Two weeks ago, I addressed food issues (specifically hoarding or over-eating) in your adopted child. Food can be a struggle even for the child who never went hungry, and when the trauma tornado spins around food, it’s especially hard to jump off. With food hoarding, we looked through the lens of where your child is in the trauma tornado, as well as identifying the four super-powers that trauma mommas develop.
What about lying?
Remember that the trauma tornado is the cycle of the scared child who looks scary to the parent, who then feels scared, and looks scary to the child.
The original trauma tornado article addressed lying very briefly. The scared child thinks and feels something like “It is not safe to tell the truth.” The child lies to their parents. This looks scary to the parents who think and feel something like “My child is a pathological liar” or “I cannot stand to feel manipulated or lied to” or even “Does she think I’m STUPID?!”. These scared thoughts and feelings lead to the parent acting scary (yelling, threatening, name-calling).
We have ALL been there. Even those of us who aren’t parenting trauma feel scared in the wake of our most feared behaviors.
Remember your Super Powers
- Understanding how Trauma Impacts the Brain. Have you read The Boy who was Raised as a Dog? Or the beginning of Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control? Both provide a pretty simple explanation of how trauma impacts the brain. Are you looking for something a little more dense? Try The Polyvagal System by Porges. WARNING: It’s scholarly, dry, and really hard to get through. The lucky part about step #1 is that once you start to understand how early childhood trauma impacted your child’s limbic system and emotional regulation system (feeling brain), as well as impacted their ability to access their prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) at times of stress (oh and that your child lives under chronic stress so their ability to access the prefontal cortex is limited most of the time)….Well my point is that the good news is that you don’t have to reinvent step #1 over and over again. Once you understand the impact of trauma on the brain, you can apply that info to step #1 in all situations.
- Understanding how your child’s specific trauma has impacted your specific brain. This is the step where you look at your child’s history. Is there a history of abuse that could have easily been linked, in your child’s brain, to telling the truth? Is your child so afraid of losing at attachment that their first primal instinct is to preserve relationship and attachment (by denying the accused behavior) even if it means she is lying about her hand in the proverbial cookie jar? Is your child’s nervous system so defensive at all times that his first response to anything is to lie about it? Look at your child’s history and compare it to what you have learned in step #1. Look for their “negative belief” and understand that lying comes from a defensive nervous system ready to leap into fight/flight/freeze at any moment.
- How are you participating in the trauma tornado? The scared child thinks and feels something like “It is not safe to tell the truth.” The child lies to their parents. This looks scary to the parents who think and feel something like “My child is a pathological liar” or “I cannot stand to feel manipulated or lied to” or even “Does she think I’m STUPID?!”. These scared thoughts and feelings lead to the parent acting scary (yelling, threatening, name-calling). Closely examine your fears that are confronted when you are lied to. Feeling manipulated feels BAD. Feeling like your six-year-old thinks you are stupid feels BAD. Feeling like your nine-year-old has no regard for you or your relationship and therefore is happy to bold-faced lie feels REALLY BAD. I don’t deny any of these things. But this is the step where you examine your own place in the trauma tornado. This “scared mom” step is where you have to jump out if we are ever going to slow down this tornado.
- Heal Thyself. Now take a look at what you discovered in step 3 and consider how you can soothe yourself. How do you convince YOUR feeling brain that the lying isn’t about you. It’s not about the fact that your child thinks you’re stupid. It’s about the fact the manipulation is the only way your child knows to survive. It’s about how wants ARE needs in your child’s more regressed brain. It’s about how that activated nervous system is just always on edge and ready to defend…defend with a lie….even if there is nothing to defend. Consider ways you can replace your “scared mom” and you’ll be able to avoid that final “scary mom” step in the tornado.
This Takes Time and Practice
Don’t forget!! You’ll need to jump out of the trauma tornado what feels like a million times before you see the winds begin to slow down. And, you need support. Who do you call when you are having a hard time thinking clearly or identifying how you’re are participating in the trauma tornado? Every momma needs a village.
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