Trauma and free will


#1

I don’t want to re-open the entire ‘freewillism’ debate; but I would like for you to weigh in on what part trauma, particularly in childhood, plays in adulthood addictions and compulsions.
I think the evidence is fairly conclusive that childhood trauma is a causal effect of addiction in later life. Not a necessary or a sufficient cause in itself, perhaps, but the rate of addiction in adults that had fairly severe trauma as children is roughly 2:1 compared to a ‘normal’ childhood.

In any case, I’m not an expert though I have read quite a bit on the subject. Personally I received NO help from Christian elders when I became a Christian at 17 yrs old, and continued to have severe addiction/compulsion problems. But those were different times, and advice was always along the lines of sin and judgment, prayer and just plain old ‘will-power’. So I do admit to some prejudice towards the concept of ‘free-will’, but it was many years and disappointments later that the culture began to understand that the world is not flat, and that Freud and Jung, etc, were not just blowing smoke.

Here is an excerpt for your consideration. Do you think makes any valid points? What difference do those points make?

"While a number of studies attribute the relationship between childhood trauma and addiction to disruptions in the brain structure caused by the stress of trauma, there have also been a number of other, simpler explanations proposed. In the Adverse Childhood Experiences study conducted with 17,000 Kaiser Permanente patients, many different stress-inducing experiences during childhood have been linked to various forms of substance abuse and impulse control disorders.4 Many associate childhood trauma with child abuse, but other stress-inducing and traumatic experiences linked to an elevated vulnerability to addiction include neglect, the loss of a parent, witnessing domestic or other physical violence, and having a family member who suffers from a mental illness. Those who had experienced such things during childhood have shown an increased tendency to become dependent on alcohol and drugs. They may also develop behavioral addictions such as compulsive eating and compulsive sexual behavior.

In most cases, experiences that are extremely traumatic for children would be much less traumatic for adults. But there are a couple key reasons why such occurrences have a more significant and lasting effect on children.5 It’s important to remember that children are limited in their ability to make contextual inferences that would likely allow them to process these experiences more effectively. Lacking a frame of reference, it’s difficult to make sense of traumatic experiences, making the effects of trauma more likely to linger. Additionally, children usually rely on their loved ones for support during times of difficulty. But when a child’s loved ones are the source of abuse, neglect, or other trauma during these experiences, family support is not an option. In many cases, a victim of childhood abuse begins abusing alcohol or drugs as a means of self-medicating, hoping to alleviate the residual effects of being victimized at a young age. On the other hand, it’s also common for substance abuse behavior in adulthood to be modeled after a loved one’s substance abuse behavior that had been witnessed during childhood.6 In fact, the tendency to self-medicate can be similarly modeled and passed along."


#2

Yep all those can be precipitating factors to childhood trauma leaving a child open and vulnerable to reactive self-survival, which can show itself in less than helpful behaviours, because everybody wants to feel “normal” — trauma however, in its many forms, messes up what we know to be “normal”.

Lacking a frame of reference…” invariably leads to a child creating a frame of reference of their own understanding in their minds and this again invariably is of a negative nature, interpreting said trauma in terms of somehow being of their own doing and thus blame. Blame-guilt and the need to try and pacify one’s conscience around this is often the motivating force behind toxic behaviours that devolve into addictive patterns. A child may not have sufficient access to self-harming alcohol or drugs, but might for example turn to such self-harming habits of cutting or disordered eating such as binging/purging or other anorexic behaviours. Either way, such addictiveness can start early and simply change addresses with age IF not caught and dealt with ASAP.


#3

Davo - good insight. Thanks.


#4

DaveB said:

Yes, it does make a difference. I mention that from a few sources:

I have a masters degree in psychology. And I used to volunteer, at a social club - for mentally ill adults. Most - if not all - smoked heavily. And it’s a way, to cope with past trauma and childhood issues.
The other is my Greek Orthodox friend Dora. She’s been a counselor for years. And has a masters, from the University of Chicago - in counseling. And a PhD in Biblical Archaeology - from Oxford. I have listened to her discussing her case histories, from countless hours of listening. Mostly over her cooking fine Greek food and great tasting wine. But alcohol and drugs, are ways of coping - with past trauma (even back to childhood)
And I have listened to countless cases, from my homeopath - invoking trauma and homeopathic constitutional prescribing.
And then there is Duke, the now deceased spiritual leader…of the Two Feathers Medicine Clan. Who adopted kids from crack houses and taught them the Native ceremonial ways.

I remember Dora told me about a technique, from a child of Freud. It’s using a dollhouse, to get children to play games. But it is a tool, to bring out sexual abuses.

I’m out to meet some Japanese friends tonight. I might not respond until tomorrow morning.


#5

Thanks Randy, I look forward to your contributions.


#6

I don’t want to re-open the entire ‘freewillism’ debate; but I would like for you to weigh in on what part trauma, particularly in childhood, plays in adulthood addictions and compulsions.
I think the evidence is fairly conclusive that childhood trauma is a causal effect of addiction in later life. Not a necessary or a sufficient cause in itself, perhaps, but the rate of addiction in adults that had fairly severe trauma as children is roughly 2:1 compared to a ‘normal’ childhood.

Sure since all our experiences shape us there is no doubt childhood trauma which is a powerful experience can cause addictions or compulsive behavior or other manifestations like anxieties or insecurities or intense need for control etc. Also what is defined as childhood trauma? Divorce,bullying,neglect or poor nutrition? I think some examples are easy to identify but many others are much more subtle but still impactful.
So i can’t resist commenting about free will because there is no such thing as uninfluenced free will. The more common definition used by bible believers is “the ability to choose” but animals make choices too, do they have free will?


#7

Those are good questions Steve, but from experience I know that I, at least, cannot budge ‘libertarian free willers’ from their position; most notably in Tom Talbotts’s thread on free will - I painted some really vivid scenarios that I thought would convince anybody of the futility of holding on to the full free-will thing but alas, was unable to. I was really surprised and a bit upset by the refusal, especially from Talbott, until I realized that holding the libertarian free-will position is necessary to protect one’s particular theological position. Free-willism comes with weight attached, imo.

BUT - that has been done already and extensively, and I hope this thread follows along the lines of the OP. Thanks.


#8

Hi Steve…

I’d say the difference between rational man and animals is the difference between free-will choice and instinctual choice. Humans can also make instinctual choices around self-survival BUT these are enhanced greatly by free-will choice, more-so then animals possess.


#9

BUT - that has been done already and extensively, and I hope this thread follows along the lines of the OP. Thanks.

OK sure but that’s my compulsion, to respond to something even when asked not to! :imp:


#10

Hi Steve…

I’d say the difference between rational man and animals is the difference between free-will choice and instinctual choice. Humans can also make instinctual choices around self-survival BUT these are enhanced greatly by free-will choice, more-so then animals possess.

OK fair enough! BTW clearly you never met my dog!


#11

#12

Well, there are technical definitions available, from the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual 5. Just type into Google, the keywords “childhood trauma DSM 5”.

But the first step, is the person needs to admit they need help. If they don’t take that first step, then not much can be done.

I have see people healed of trauma by:

Native American ceremonies, performed by authentic, indigenous people.
Native American medicine men and women
The appropriate form of psychotherapy, performed by a licensed counselor or therapist
Homeopathic constitutional prescribing, performed by a licensed medical doctor
Healing done via the gifts of the spirit
Spiritual healing

Psychiatrists like to sometimes prescribe different medications. And that is a physician’s call. But often the combination of pharmaceuticals, has a variety of potential side effects.


#13

Randy in your opinion - does the troubled person’s ‘healing’ come down to a black-and-white matter of will power? Assuming a person does ask for help, or admits the need during an intervention etc. - is even well-informed will power sufficient?
Because I know - from experience , the following ‘advice’ - that 'if you wanted it badly enough, you could simply stop this ‘sinful’ behavior. Noone can do it for you, and if you say you can’t stop, for some ‘deep reasons’ or other - it just proves that you love your sinful nature so that you can continue in your fleshly pursuits".
-end of paraphrased ‘advice’ that has actually been given

I know that the direct ‘sin is your problem, you don’t want to stop your behavior’ - helps the advice-giver to maintain a certain spiritual balance, and keeps his world in order. No matter that he is missing the point, and the ability to help, completely. By ALL MEANS keep your ideas of original sin and the sin-nature, the propensity to sin etc. as the panacea for explaining all troubles - it is an easy formula to remember, the person you are advising is already deeply troubled and will believe anything you offer AND - as a BONUS - if they fail, you still are RIGHT! Whoopee!! It’s a win-win for the uninformed advisor.

What is the difference between sinful actions and the actions of those (IF THERE ARE ANY, which is disputed) who are genuinely messed up?


#14

THAT there Dave IMO is the toxicity of religianity… power and control under the guise of spirituality; a false, fake or disingenuous spirituality aka self-righteousness.

Have you ever noticed that when a church pew-sitter “falls in sin” it is because of their own lack of faithfulness, i.e., they haven’t jumped sufficiently (or finally in exacerbation point blank refused) through countless religious hoops, BUT when a church leader “falls in sin”… he’s under the attack of the devil. :unamused:


#15

Oh I have heard that too many times to count.

A point I’ve tried to make, unsuccessfully, is that:
-yes, sin is a problem and displeasing to God, and disruptive to the individual and society. That’s a given.
-I think it is illegitimate to then name all ‘abberant’ behavior ‘sinful’ and to deal with it as a moral issue of rebellion against God.
-Children are often PASSIVE recipients of patterns of behavior, or trauma whether sexual, lack of parents, neglect, or family history of mental illness; those kids do what every human does - find behaviors that will help them adapt to the effects of the trauma. And most of those behaviors are really not well-adjusted to the ‘normals’ all around them. Those “troubled” kids and the troubled adults they grow into, should not be lumped, by an ignorant religious attitude, into the ‘massa damnata’ right off the bat. Trying to heal them on that basis is not smart. They will recognize their own part in their behavior soon enough, but need the information they are lacking, and a blanket of love around them while they process the information, and someone non-judgmental who is wise to help them find the way. Ideally it would be a church family, but good luck with that.


#16

This is one of the most comprehensive descriptions about this issue I’ve heard. :smiley: Also the idea of how not to deal with this group is worth re reading. Dave get’s it right here. Thanks Dave. :smiley:


#17

:smiley:

All traumatized kids learn that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’.


#18

I think all of humanity is a body. There is a shared condition among all humans. Some of the ways God has created protection around communities where love is strong have been torn down today. The result is a lot of contagious ills that require His intervention to cure.

The family is the primary healthy community in theory. Christian assemblies are supposed to be communities of families, helping and supporting one another.

“If we walk in the light as He is in the light we have koinonea(oneness, fellowship, union) together and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.”

“Confess your faults one to another and pray for one another that you may be healed”.

In the unhealthy family sins are hidden and guilt and shame keeps the darkness over the face of the deep.

In the healthy family sins are not met with shame, but forgiveness, prayer, counsel. “Let there be light!”

I think childhood trauma causes lots of problems, especially when the trauma is the result of dysfunction in the family, because the things that destroy us usually come from within, and the solution is healing and repairing the breaches that have occurred in our personal walls. Because of the lies we believed and the fears we hold onto for protection, our healing is often kept an an arms length, sometimes for as simple a reason as we have no one with whom we can open our hearts and come into the light.


#19

That emphasis on family is so key.


#20

David:

A person who is sick, is not necessarily sinning. Remember Jesus’ words: “he who is without sin, let them cast the first stone.” Or the disciples question: “Who did sin, this man or his parents. That he was born blind?” And Jesus answered: “Neither. It is the gift of God, working in him.”

Of course, I am paraphrasing from memory. And folks can fault me, for not having the exact bible quotes, references and Bible translations. The Eastern Orthodox look unto Jesus, as the great physician. And Eastern Orthodox theology, doesn’t view us as suffering the guilt of original sin. But the stain of original sin. And Geoffrey and I, have both discussed this, on the forum here.

Sin and disease are two separate issues. One can be a non-Christian - for example. They go to someone with the gift of healing. Perhaps the Roman Catholic priest - Father A (whom I have mentioned many times). And they get relief or healing. It has happened to non-Christians.

Hopefully, the Non-Christian will inquiry further. Just like those Jesus has healed - during his lifetime on earth.

But a person who is experiencing childhood trauma, is just that - they are experiencing illness or disease. And it might be that the cocaine, alcohol, heron, etc. (if they take them), alleviates the pain temporary. And they need more and more, to block out the pain. Then it becomes a problem of both addiction and trauma.

So people have separate issues. For trauma, they must first admit they have an illness. Then they can be directed, to the proper resources.

For sin, they must admit they have a problem. Then they are directed, to a Christian minister or priest.