Psychotherapy expert: Child rearing in the 1950s

Vol XXIV: My mother said that from about age 1, I became aggressively and intensively interested in the urban world around me. The doctor told her to send me to my grandparents' house in the country. This was in mid-1950s. Did I have some kind of condition?

dr mike 88 (photo credit: )
dr mike 88
(photo credit: )
Dr. Mike is a licensed clinical social worker (USA and Israel) in private practice in Ra'anana. He recently wrote a column called "Psych-Talk with Dr. Mike" in which the feedback from readers was excellent. He has decided to shift gears and invite readers to submit their questions concerning a wide range of topics: child development, adult problems, addictions, ADHD, adjustment problems, crises and transitions, trauma, phobia, mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and bi-polar. He also welcomes questions concerning your marital or couple relationship, family issues, parenting, problems at work, self-confidence, shyness and much more. "I take pleasure having the opportunity to answer your questions in what I hope will be an informative and exciting weekly column in the Jerusalem Post-online edition. Look forward to hearing from you soon." Dr. Mike Gropper, DSW (09) 774-1913 Send your questions for Dr. Mike and please leave your comments on the Q&A below. * * * Psych-Talk with Dr. Mike: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 Click here for Volumes I-IV Click here for Volumes V-IX Click here for Volumes X-XIII Click here for Volumes XIV-XV Click here for Volumes XVI-XIX Click here for Volume XX Click here for Volume XXI-XXII * * * This column is intended solely to educate and is not a substitute for personal diagnosis or treatment. If you have a difficult problem, please seek advice from your own doctor or mental-health professional. * * * Vol XXIV Q: My parents are gone, so I cannot follow up, but, here is the question. My mother said that from about age 1, I became aggressively and intensively interested in the urban world around me, and appeared to have been trying to absorb and comprehend every new thing or event. The doctor told my mother to send me to my grandparents' house in the country, where the environment was stable, and I would not be constantly trying to absorb everything, and "overload my brain". This was in mid-1950s. Doctor, did I have some kind of condition? Or, was it just the way child development was understood in those times? I really would appreciate an answer. A: After World War II and towards the end of the 1940s and throughout the 1950s there was an explosion of new knowledge about child development. Many new fields and old ones were quickly developing and every type of theory, psychoanalytic, attachment; behavioral "Skinnerian" theories were quickly unfolding and making headlines in both the professional journals and popular media of the times. At the same time, the baby boom explosion of post WWII births was occurring. Parents were reading Dr. Spock and hearing lectures about Freudian psychology. Parents and pediatricians were inundated with new theories about child development and how to raise what can we make of this and your question. Well, it sounds like you were a very attentive and active child, perhaps a little hyperactive. It also sounds like your parents had trouble understanding your intense curiosity to the world around you, and I would guess that you probably were an early crawler and walker and quite an active baby and toddler who got himself into anything and everything. Maybe you stayed up at night and could not fall asleep due to the urban noises, and your parents were worried that you were over-stimulated and this would negatively affect your child development. Or, perhaps, and this is what I suspect, your parents simply could not keep up with you and your curious behavior. So, they turned to their doctor who said something like this, "take the kid to his grandparents in the country, it will be a calmer environment". But, my guess is that it was your folks who were probably overwhelmed. Maybe by the urban noises that surrounded them or simply the exhaustion of raising you or your siblings (if you had them). The doctor's suggestion certainly couldn't hurt; you got to spend some time in the country with your grand parents and your parents got, I believe, the rest they badly needed. I strongly doubt that there was anything wrong with you. I hope this helps. * * * Vol XXIII Q: Dear Dr. Mike: I am a 34 year old single woman. I have always done well in my professional life as a systems analyst, but in my personal and social life, things have not been so smooth. My sister and I were the only children to parents who were both emotionally and physically abusive. Our mother would denigrate me all the time as well as call me stupid and evil and often beat me with her hands. Our father was a pedophile and sexually molested my younger sister who he clearly favored. He would sexually fondle her in the shower and in the family living room, even in clear view of my mother and me. I am in psychotherapy with a male therapist who is trying to help me to get in touch with my feelings. I try so hard to squeeze out a tear or two when recalling horrific memories in the sessions, but so far only have managed to get out a few tears and most of time, I feel numb. During most of my adult years, I have only been able to maintain very short-term relationships with the opposite sex. Usually, I would be the one to find fault in the relationship. Now, I am involved in a relationship with a man who loves me and wants me to move in with him but I just can't seem to be happy. What can I do? A: Listening to your story, I can feel the pain behind your words and the terrible suffering you must have endured during your childhood. Childhood is a critical time in one's life to develop a sense of security and trust in people. This of course is supposed to begin with your parents and those responsible for the meeting your basic emotional and physical needs. In your case this security was severely breached, leaving you and your sister growing up in an environment that exposed you both to continuous emotional and physical trauma. It is not surprising that you are now experiencing difficulties in your adult life. A common reaction to being abused either emotionally and/or physically is to become numb to one's feelings. Psychologists call this disassociation and like many psychological reactions, it can be mild to severe with the most severe type of disassociation leading to the formation of a multiple personality disorder like the one portrayed by the character Sybil in the 1976 movie. Most forms of disassociation, however, are milder like the kind that you seem to be experiencing. It's like a psychological scab that has never really healed because just underneath this scab is so much pain. The numbness you describe is the by-product of this experience, an emotional attempt to prevent yourself from becoming overwhelmed with too much pain and risk serious mental illness. You are trying to shut down all aspects of your real self in order to keep the pain out of consciousness. Unfortunately, defense mechanisms are just that, attempts to defend against emotional pain. They sometimes get violated and pain comes pouring out. But, this of course would be overwhelming for someone like your self who has suffered so much. Therefore, your inability to feel should be respected and you should allow yourself the time you need to rebuild trust in people. For example, with your therapist, it will take time to gradually to identify and express your feelings, With time, and psychological support and guidance, you will feel more and more comfortable to feel your feelings, cry a little more than just a small tear, and to let other people, like a boyfriend, get closer to you. The remarkable thing about human beings is our resiliency and capability to heal with the right conditions. Good luck. * * * Send your comments >> Cafe Oleh experts have been chosen for their knowledge and reputation. Cafe Oleh does not take responsibility for any advice they offer.
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