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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 6/17/18

The Psychology of Splitting and Traumatizing Families

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* Attachment Disorders. Extensive research highlights the critical importance of a secure attachment pattern to become a well-functioning adult who can contribute to society. Disruptions to secure attachment can cause lifelong suffering and impairments with negative consequences to society.

* Trauma. This policy of producing intolerable stress and psychic pain beyond one's capacity to cope is causing irreparable harm, trauma, extreme prolonged tension, profound grief, excruciating anguish, fear and moral outrage.

* Toxic Stress and Pathology. These brutal separations, including infants and toddlers, risk producing a range of physiological and psychological pathologies, including impacts on brain development, coping mechanisms personality disorders, PTSD, behavior problems, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, relationship disorders, psychic numbing, dissociative disorders, psychosomatic health problems, stress-related physiological disorders, cognitive disorders and more. The administration is condemning vulnerable people to a lifetime of flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety attacks, health problems, relationship problems and more.

* Retraumatization. For those who fled from danger and oppression, took risks, made treacherous journeys across borders and continents with children, left loved ones and their culture to reach safety to protect their children, this is a retraumatization which is more devastating. While we condemn North Korea for separating whole families, taking children from parents, and some from their siblings, is a deeper wound that deprives people of the comfort from their closest bonds we naturally seek in the face of any trauma. Shockingly, some staff incorrectly believe there is a policy of no hugging in which staff cannot comfort screaming children, and even a brother and sister were forbidden to hug each other after being taken from their parents.

* Generational Transmission of Trauma. Effects of trauma tend to be passed down to future generations. The severity of the impact can be mitigated with therapy, other healing and corrective life experiences and a good support system. So children, screaming and wailing inconsolably at the sudden, forceful separation from their parents after an arduous journey will be directly affected, as will their parenting of future children, and the trauma will reverberate over time.

* Vicarious Trauma. The phenomenon of "Vicarious Traumatization" refers to the effects experienced by counselors and others who witness the suffering, fear, pain, trauma and all forms of harm done to others. Those of us with a capacity for empathy watch these heart-wrenching separations in horror. We feel helplessness and possibly collectively guilty and ashamed for the actions of our government.

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Visiting Scholar Institute of Conflict Analysis and Resolution George Mason University

Diane Perlman is a clinical and political psychologist, devoted to applying knowledge from psychology, conflict studies and social sciences to designing strategies and policies to reverse nuclear proliferation, to drastically reduce (more...)

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