Reactive Attachment Disorder is all about the brain. RAD Inventory is just the first of the three articles that build on each other.
Taking Inventory with Reactive Attachment Disorder or… RAD Inventory
Sorry about the delay in blog posts. The article I wanted to post just over a week ago was about RAD Shame. I couldn’t get it right because it went too much into what I have learned recently about brains. The article was just way too long. So I started another article called RAD Brains to run first, but it was still too much. I finally reached the point there I realized that I needed to talk about how brains store memories. I call it RAD inventory. You’ll understand why in a minute. This article was also too long, so I split it into two articles, RAD Inventory and RAD Templates. Next week I’ll do RAD templates and the week after I’ll do RAD Brains. I hope to get to RAD Shame soon after that. The good news is that most of the other articles are finished so there shouldn’t be another delay. The other good news is that I’ll link back to these articles again and again, because after all, Reactive Attachment Disorder is all about the brain. RAD inventory is just the first of the three articles that build on each other.
So, without further ado, RAD Inventory will get us started in the right direction.
If you don’t want to wait, and if you don’t want my Reader’s Digest version, complete with the mistakes of a non-professional, you can get it straight from the horses’ mouths. RAD Inventory, RAD Templates and RAD Brains are based on what I have been learning by reading and re-reading the books, The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog, by Bruce D. Perry and The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel van der Kolk. These guys are awesome brain specialists who can speak in terms that even I can understand. Karyn Purvis and her team at TCU have also done a great video about brains called, Children from Hard Places and the Brain. So… Don’t take my word for it!!! Don’t take the risk of making mistakes by relying on my interpretations. Free advice is worth what you pay for it, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt, listen to my introductions, and then part with the money for real professional advice and explanations from some of the best. (My blog and Facebook page sell no advertising space and I take no compensation for endorsements. I refuse to take money and end up forced to direct you to a place or to information that I don’t believe in. I take the time to write this blog only because when it comes to Reactive Attachment Disorder, I have been where you are, and this is what I wish I knew when I was there. I only ask that you “pay it forward” by helping other RAD families.) So, without further ado, RAD Inventory will get us started in the right direction.
The robotic retriever was a great example of typical human brain inventory and it caused me to imagine what might go wrong in RAD inventory.
Just over a year ago, my brothers and I sold our company to a big, awesome pump company called Graco. I started that company more than 25 years ago, in my dad’s garage. As I visited Graco’s corporate headquarters in Minneapolis, I was very impressed with many things. But one of the things that fascinated me most was an automatic system for storing and retrieving small parts inventory. A robotic retriever moved constantly up and down rows and tiers of thousands of trays of parts, bringing ordered trays out to people, who pulled needed parts from the trays to build kits. Then each tray was slated for pick up and return by the ever-moving robot. I watched in fascination, not because of my love for manufacturing (which should have been enough), but because I imagined I was watching a human brain. The robotic retriever was a great example of typical human brain inventory and it caused me to imagine what might go wrong in RAD inventory.
RAD inventory is an improper filing and inventory system of memories of situations. This is why our children struggle so much. RAD inventory is much like the system I saw would have been, had it not been set up properly in the beginning.
The tiers and rows of parts had been meticulously planned so that the robot would have the least amount of movement possible. This worked out great for minimal wasted movement for the robot and maximum efficiency. The system was a marvel. But it was because everything had a place and the structure was set up correctly from the beginning. You get where I’m going with this… If things were not set up properly in the beginning, the wrong trays could have been retrieved, modified, put back in the wrong places, or, the robot could attempt to place a tray in the improper place, where there was already another tray, causing a system crash. RAD inventory is an improper filing and inventory system of memories of situations. This is why our children struggle so much. RAD inventory is much like the system I saw would have been, had it not been set up properly in the beginning.
The bad news is that these memories can also be modified to include bad things that didn’t really happen and can also involve adding people who were not involved, particularly in situations like RAD inventory.
We’ll talk about this more in the RAD Templates article next week, but the memories our brain inventory system stores and retrieves are not concrete facts. I have often said that the problem with our legal system is that we do not have actual laws. We only have “interpretations of laws.” Think about it… The defendant isn’t found guilty or not guilty (no one is EVER found innocent) based on the written law, but on what a judge interprets the words of the law to mean. So it is with our memories. Our brain stores and retrieves our perception of events and situations; not the concrete, factual event. Worse yet, as Bruce Perry writes, when we retrieve a memory, it is like a Microsoft Word document that we open in the edit mode. The memory that we retrieve might not be the same when we return it to storage. This is good and bad. The good news is that over time, we can help our children to modify their memories to healthier (and even more factually correct) scenarios. The bad news is that these memories can also be modified to include bad things that didn’t really happen and can also involve adding people who were not involved, particularly in situations like RAD inventory.
I like to think of the therapist who helps my children as a person who helps to straighten out the train wreck of RAD inventory trays.
This is much like the tray system in the inventory system I saw. If the people are careful and conscientious, the tray goes back as good as it came. If the worker messes up the tray, it goes back messed up and returns messed up the next time. This continues with the tray staying the same or getting worse, until human intervention takes place and does what it takes to correct the jumbled tray. I like to think of the therapist who helps my children as a person who helps to straighten out the train wreck of RAD inventory trays.
Every time the child has an experience with a parent that causes them to feel love, their RAD brains file it in the fear file. The RAD inventory system places attachment feelings in the emotional-pain tray.
One of my favorite subjects in the books by Perry and Van der Kolk is how our brain creates templates. From the very beginning, our brains watch what happens and they create templates to direct the memory inventory system. If something happens the same, all the time, the brain gets lax in storing identical templates. Just like a computer, there isn’t enough space to store and process everything, so new files are usually only created if they stand out. If something strikes us as different, a new template is created. This is one reason we have such a difficult time forgetting that “first love,” and often make the mistake of comparing all future loves to that template. With RAD inventory, many of the templates that were created are tragic. When a child learns that every time he attaches to someone and loves them, they go away and he suffers extreme emotional pain, the results are disastrous. In fact, the results ARE Reactive Attachment Disorder. When the child feels the sensations of attachment, the brain compares it to other templates that ended in pain. So, in order to protect the child, it tries to stop the attachment form developing. These children then have templates that say attachment ends in pain and love is to be feared. Now, every time the child has an experience with a parent that causes them to feel love, their RAD brains file it in the fear file. The RAD inventory system places attachment feelings in the emotional-pain tray.
The templates that were created by mixed up brains in children with Reactive Attachment Disorder are the basis for how all memories and files are stored in the inventory of their RAD brains. It is a very complex dance of how to fix the trays of mixed up inventory while trying to re-create templates that reflect how the child now lives in a safe environment. Until the trays are fixed, memories and feelings go in inappropriate or wrong trays. Until new templates are created and accepted, RAD brains cannot even comprehend how to file these experiences. Sales people that I used to work with would tell me that “perception is the only reality.” From a Christian perspective, that sounds like heresy. But in Reactive Attachment Disorder, I’d have to say the statement is spot-on. If our children are to receive the help they truly need, our efforts will help them work on creating new memory and association templates for comparison, as we are rearranging disorganized memory trays, all while working off of a storage and RAD inventory system that is under repair.
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