Entropy Rules

Art Of Mindfulness:

Skills For Adult Survivors Of Maltreatment

    Mindfulness refers to intentional, present-centered, nonjudgmental awareness. Mindfulness is a broad construct and can refer to formal mindfulness meditation training, a stable personality trait (referred to interchangeably as "trait" or "dispositional" mindfulness), as well as a temporary mental state (i.e., state mindfulness; see Appendix B for full references of various mindfulness constructs). Rather than a singular process, mindfulness has been conceptualized as a set of interrelated psychological processes involving, for example, self-regulation, metacognition, and an attitude of acceptance (Chambers, Gullone, & Allen, 2009). Mindfulness can be understood as a resilience factor that has been positively associated with overall psychological adjustment. For example, it has been shown to buffer the effects of perceived stress on depressive and anxious symptomology (Bergin & Pakenham, 2016). Mindfulness appears to have a beneficial impact on many processes that can be negatively impacted by maltreatment including stress-reactivity, mental and physical health, self-regulation, academic performance, peer relationships, and interpersonal conflict style (Ryan, Brown, & Creswell, 2007).
    Mindfulness has been shown to be associated with enhanced attentional control, increased perceptual acuity, and reduced automatic processing (see Chambers, Gullone, & Allen, 2009 for a review). It has even been shown that long-term meditators can develop the ability to spontaneously activate particular affective states through intentional, sustained attention on implicit or explicit memory of those states (Lutz, Brefczynski-Lewis, Johnstone, & Davidson, 2008). Meditation has also been associated with observerable structural and functional brain changes (e.g., strengthened synaptic connections), which correlate with beneficial outcomes, such as improved immunity and less anxiety (e.g., Davidson et al., 2003; see Chambers, Gullone, & Allen, 2009 for a review). Mindfulness has been shown to support enhanced emotion regulation capacity, which may in turn be a key mechanism in the association between mindfulness and positive psychological and psychosocial outcomes. These types of effects would be desirable for adult survivors of child maltreatment to acquire. Recall that child maltreatment behaviors often result from states of physiological and emotional dysregulation within the parent, so enhancing self-regulation is key for reducing risk of perpetuating child maltreatment. While all parents experience a certain amount of parenting stress and emotional challenge, child maltreatment shapes a personĂ•s physiology and psychology in ways that can make regulating normative parenting stress particularly challenging for these survivors.
    The following sections review the empirical literature on mindfulness as it relates to the question of how to interrupt the intergenerational transmission of child maltreatment. First, the connection between attachment and mindfulness is discussed, followed by brief reviews of relevant research in the areas of neurobiology, affect, and cognition. Research on the impact of applied mindfulness in populations of trauma and child maltreatment survivors are also reviewed.

⇲ About The Author

Robin Hertz, MA is currently in the process of completing a PhD in Clinical Psychology at the University of Oregon.