RAD templates gave my daughter a myriad of scenarios, to evaluate many negative possibilities, when other children learned only love and safety.
RAD Templates: Inconsistent, Then Consistently Bad.
When I was young, my grandfather told me that he had spent the first half of his life plowing fields with teams of horses, and riding in horse-drawn wagons. Once he crossed the half-way point, he plowed with tractors and drove cars. He told me that there would never be transitions so great, again. Perhaps he was right. But the career where I found my living, and in which I spent 25 years in a family-owned business, underwent magnificent changes. For me it all began when I fell in love with Metals Shop Class in high school. In college, my manufacturing major required me to take drafting classes so that I would learn to create and read the drawings and blueprints that would give me the instructions I needed to create the parts and components that my job would require. Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) revolutionized the industry of my future even as I entered it. Rapid advancements continued over the next 25 years. Of course we were soon creating drawings on computers. Blueprints became the substance of museums, and with CAM, we could actually watch a simulation of parts being machined to completion on a computer screen, before we even put material in a vise or cutters in the machine. But during my college years, drafting was done by hand. Arc segments were created by template and pencil. Those templates were not unlike RAD templates.
RAD templates, though, are unlike the templates of people who did not experience complex trauma in their early years.
One of my favorite things that Bruce Perry and Bessel van der Kolk talk about in their respective books, The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog, and The Body Keeps the Score, is the subject of “templates” that are created by our brains. During my college years, and for more than a hundred years before, a machinist could reference an arc drawn on a paper, using a perfectly matched template, to understand exactly what would happen next, on his machine. Our brains are expert at creating just such templates, which it uses for comparison to predict what will happen next. At the core, this process is all about keeping the person safe. As the person ages and develops, assuming that the person does not perceive that they are in constant danger, these templates can multiply to include other templates beyond safety, that help us to improve other parts of our lives. RAD templates, though, are unlike the templates of people who did not experience complex trauma in their early years.
If you haven’t read the article on RAD inventory, you should. This all works together… RAD inventory explains how this brain filing and retrieving system works along with RAD templates.
When I was first born, I cried. My brain understood that there had been some drastic changes in my environment and it didn’t feel safe. My brain did the only thing that it could, while managing such a new and uncontrollable body: it sent a signal to a part of the body it could control and my voice cried out for help. Within a very short time, I was wrapped in a blanket, to simulate the warmth and constriction of the womb. I was handed back to my mother. She held me close while talking and cooing to me. And then I began to feel safe. Later, I was hungry. My brain sent a signal and my voice cried for help. My mother fed me, talked to me, cooed at me and cuddled me. Then my brain felt safe and my body felt comfortable again. Then my stomach hurt. My voice cried out for help and my mother held me close, cooed at me, talked to me and burped me with rhythmic taps on my back, not unlike the rhythms of heartbeat that I was already accustomed to in the womb. Soon I felt better and my brain was calmed. So after several hours, my brain had made some templates about life and filed them away for future reference, just as we talked about in the article on RAD Inventory. Unlike RAD templates, which are inconsistent and unorganized, my templates looked much like this: a) When I am afraid, I cry. Then my mother makes me feel safe and my fear goes away. b) When I feel pain, I cry. Then my mother makes my pain go away. c) When I am hungry, I cry. Then my mother feeds me. From that point forward, my brain could observe anything that happened and compare it to the templates it created. If the occasion matched a template, the brain could ignore it. There was no reason to file it and use up memory. If the situation proved different than any templates, the brain created a new folder for the new template so it could use it for future reference. If you haven’t read the article on RAD inventory, you should. This all works together… RAD Inventory explains how this brain filing and retrieving system works along with RAD templates. Perhaps the most troubling thing about RAD templates is their inconsistency.
RAD templates gave my daughter many scenarios to evaluate many possibilities when she cried. She might get fed, she might be shaken, she might be burped, she might be yelled at, she might even be ignored.
When my daughter cried for the first time, I am confident that she was placed in the arms of her mother. What I am not sure about was the reaction of a mother who had lost other children to the state, who knew that she didn’t have the ability or resources to care for this child, and who, from all indications and historical facts, probably had RAD templates and attachment disorders of her own. I know for a fact that due to substance abuse by the mother, she was not always in a state where it was possible for her to feed or otherwise care for my daughter. Court records attest that my daughter was horrifically abused from her infancy. Severe neglect was also the norm. My daughter’s brain was much busier trying to make sense of her new existence than mine was. Her brain was furiously trying to create RAD templates and an organized filing system. Her brain did its best, but organizing those RAD templates would have been like trying to shelf all of the items in a garbage dump. Even during her first day, her brain may have been creating and filing templates like: a) When I am afraid, I cry. Then my mother holds me for a moment and yells some loud words. b) Then I am more afraid so I cry. Finally, someone else comes and takes me away and puts me by myself on a bed. c) I cry some more and nothing happens. I go to sleep because I am so tired from crying. d) I wake up and I am hungry so I cry. After crying a lot, someone takes me to my mother and she feeds me. When I am no longer hungry, someone puts me back on the bed. e) When my stomach hurts from gas, I cry. After I cry for a long time, someone comes and screams at me. That makes me afraid. f) Because I am afraid, I cry louder. They scream at me more. This makes me more afraid. g) Because I am still afraid, I cry more and louder. A person picks me up and shakes me until my neck whipping and brain bouncing in my head causes me to black out. h) When I wake up my head hurts and I am hungry, so I cry. My mother picks me up and feeds me… Do you see the problem that poor young brain was faced with? My daughter’s RAD brain created a file for RAD templates about crying. These RAD templates are very different from the templates that my brain created, where every time I cried, (or at least almost every time I cried), there was a positive outcome. Because of that, every time I cried, I expected a positive outcome. When those positive outcomes continued to happen, the bonds of attachment continued to grow between me and my caregivers. The RAD templates gave my daughter many scenarios to evaluate many possibilities when she cried. She might get fed, she might be shaken, she might be burped, she might be yelled at, she might even be ignored.
We must remember that the brains of our children have developed RAD templates and respond negatively to attachment because they believe that is the only way to keep the person safe.
Scientists have discovered that being ignored can do even more psychological damage than abuse does. One of the speakers at the Empowered to Connect conference last weekend summed it up perfectly. “When you abuse me, it says that you hate me. When you ignore me, is says that I do not exist.” If all of this was not enough to make a perfect storm for Reactive Attachment Disorder, there’s more. Mixed-up and bad RAD templates continue to be created and filed based on relationships (more correctly, on relationship failures). When a child is separated from his mother, there is an incredible loss and trauma is the result. This creates a template that equates attachment with pain. Even worse, such children often experience multiple relationship failures as they move from caregiver to caregiver, relative to relative, and foster home to foster home. Sadly, RAD templates in these cases are stored in a brain-file that has no exceptions. Attachment equals relationship failure, which equals horrific pain. No wonder the brains of these children have determined that it is a matter of survival to thwart and destroy any amount of attachment. We must remember that the brains of our children have developed RAD templates and respond negatively to attachment because they believe that is the only way to keep the person safe.
Because our children who suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder have so many negative templates regarding caregivers, relationships and attachment, their brains have not bothered to create files for positive experiences regarding deep relationships. This means that they have nothing to even compare to, when a positive experience happens. The brain just ignores the positive experience and categorizes it as danger for the future. The only way we can help our children who have Reactive Attachment Disorder is to help them modify their RAD Inventory system to include files for positive relationship experiences. And then we must meticulously work at creating positive templates, while helping the child to file them in the proper places in their brains. All the while, we need to be re-programing the system that stores and retrieves memories, which we talked about in the RAD Inventory article. I believe that RAD Inventory modification, RAD Template re-creation, and RAD Brains are the biggest “do-over” we will ever experience in our lives. We will always go to bed tired. But the cost is too great for us to consider failure. And the rewards of helping these children to make it, are the grandest rewards in existence. There is nothing more important than a person.
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