by Tanya Ruckstuhl-Valenti LICSW, MSW
***Interested in telling intuition apart from anxiety? Join me this Thursday the 27th at 5pm for a free teleconference hosted by ADD Resources, a local non profit dedicated to helping adults with attention deficit disorder.
Check it out here: http://www.addresources.org/?q=node/148
Much ado has been made of Amy Chua’s book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, the memoir of an extraordinarily high achieving Chinese mother’s approach to parenting. Everyone from foreign policy analysts to music teachers have weighed in with their positive and negative responses to her rigorous parental style.
Let’s talk about TRAUMA.
But first, a brief and relevant review of recent Chinese history:
1958 to 1961: The Great Leap Forward: an economic and social campaign of the Chinese Communist Party results in 36 to 45 million dead. Let’s put some zeros around these astounding figures to make them marginally more real: 36,000,000 to 45,000,000.
1966-1976: The Cultural Revolution: Chairman Mao starts a brutal socialist movement that affects the lives of 100 million people, with between one and twenty million killed.
(Incidentally, during the Cultural Revolution mental illness was declared a bourgeois self-delusion and the mentally ill were treated with readings from Chairman Mao.)
2009: British journal The Lancet publishes a research article asserting that China is among the “most mentally ill” countries in the world, with one in five adults meeting the diagnostic criteria for a mental disturbance, while only one in twenty of those one in five ever having received professional care. The leading cause of death in China among young adults is suicide
December 2010: Foxconn, the city-sized-factory where most I-Phones and electronic gadgetry are assembled makes international news when first one and then ten more employees commit suicide. Working conditions include eleven hour days, seven days a week.
Now, back to trauma theory:
Trauma can happen on an individual or collective level (can anyone in this country forget the significance of September 11?).
Responses to trauma tend to run in exactly two directions: dissociation (mentally removing oneself from the discomfort of the here-and-now into a fantasy or a sensation of blankness) OR anxiety based perfectionism (Hello Tiger mommy!).
The lie of perfectionism is that it offers a superstitious fantasy that if the trauma survivor would just be good enough/smart enough/thin enough/famous enough/etc. enough they will be SAFE. In fact, they will just be chronically dissatisfied until depleted and depressed from running futile laps on the hamster wheel of anxiety.