Life paths begin at birth

Our experiences during infancy and early childhood can set us on a path with open communication and understanding of our moods and feelings or leave us in the dark. Difficult conversations are something that the author, Alice Miller, had to have with herself for decades before many others in the academic world joined in. Early childhood experiences teach us wordless lessons that may positively or negatively affect our habits throughout our daily lives.

Alice Miller trained and worked in the field of psychoanalysis  in Switzerland and then dedicated herself to writing books since 1980. She shares stories of fictional people in the book, Paths of Life; Seven Scenarios (1998). [1] The stories are written as if told by real people but are of composite characters representing real life issues experienced by many people. The people within the scenarios talk openly about some of the difficulties that too many infants and children have to live through but who may never have gotten a chance to voice out loud. Reading about the struggles that others survived and learned from can help put a voice to personal issues that may have been lingering wordlessly since one’s own childhood.

“But if we don’t go out on a limb ourselves, we’ll never find out what others are capable of. Addressing difficult subjects squarely can sometimes make the unexpected happen. Or not, as the case may be. There are lots of people who give the impression of being open and are very good at talking, but they’ll start panicking immediately if they’re asked to leave the fortress they’ve built around themselves. They can’t imagine surviving without that kind of protection.”

– Alice Miller [1, Paths of Life, p 51]

The scenarios created and shared by Alice Miller help to break through some of the more common fortress walls that may have been built in early childhood or from later traumatic experiences. Scenarios from traumatic childbirths and descriptions of more positive experiences of childbirth and lactation are also shared.

{Disclosure – I’m only on page 51 so far, and it’s a great book.  She has written other great books on the topic of empowering children of all ages, such as The Drama of the Gifted Child, [2], Breaking Down the Wall of Silence, [3], and Banished Knowledge, [4].}

*Having completed the book does not change my opinion that it is a great book worth reading but I will add that while the words are easy to read the topics are challenging to consider emotionally and intellectually. Not talking about difficult events in personal or world history is more likely to lead to history repeating itself in future generations. Dictators and the possibility that parenting styles and early child experiences may leave people more susceptible to following an authoritarian leader as adults is discussed in one of the chapters.

History is more likely to repeat if we deny it happened or fail to discuss it and learn from it.

This article reviews a book that looks at how Hitler and the Nazi movement may have formulated some of their policies on discriminatory laws that existed at the time in the U.S. at the state level.

/Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./


Values learned in childhood may need to be relearned as an adult

Some right and wrong or good and bad exist in most situations. Decisions usually are made from a variety of choices that each contain a mix of some good and bad aspects. The expected outcome from a decision can’t be known ahead of time; expected results can only be estimated based on results from previous situations that were similar or by making guesses. Focusing on what is good or bad or right or wrong about the choices is helpful but that more realistically becomes a question of right for who and wrong for who? and how right or how wrong for those individuals or groups of people?.

Internal values provide guidance for the choices we make. Understanding how our values developed from childhood and how those internalized values can affect our daily actions is discussed in the book Integrity:  Doing the Right Thing for the Right Reason (2007). Ideas are included to help improve recognition of why some behavior habits seem harder to change then others and ideas for tackling those tougher choices are provided. Internalized values learned as a child may not match society’s expectations of morality. What was accepted as ‘good’ behavior in the childhood environment often remains the typical pattern of behavior later in life even if the early childhood habits are no longer helpful.

A child that suffers from emotional or physical neglect or abuse in their family home may learn to hate themselves and love their family members because their physical and emotional survival depends on their family. In a way the child is trying to make sense out of their world and are trying to be in agreement with the people in their lives. Victims or prisoners in an abusive or captive situation have also been known to develop a strong emotional bond with their captors. The condition became known as Stockholm Syndrome since 1973 when the behavior pattern was seen after a hostage situation. The victim’s survival may seem to depend on the good or bad mood of the person in control. Anticipating and pleasing the controlling person may seem self protective for the victim.

Children who grew up in emotionally neglectful or abusive situations may not have learned more typical, healthy ways to behave or communicate with others. Severe illness during early childhood also may affect behavior patterns later in life. Dissociation or detaching the mind from feelings is a natural reaction to pain that can become a more frequent reaction for some people. The child from a dysfunctional upbringing may not realize that their sense of normal doesn’t match the average person’s definition of normal. Two children from similar dysfunctional backgrounds might understand each other as adults better than they understand other people. They may help provide emotional support for each other that they hadn’t received as young children. As a team, the grown up children may be emotionally stronger together than they are as separate individuals. The idea of breaking up such a team before they are each individually ready might feel like it would be neglectful or dangerous to the safety of the individuals, (in a way that has nothing to do with the Stockholm Syndrome that has been seen in hostage situations, instead the children learned the behavior patterns of someone with Stockholm Syndrome from what they experienced while growing up in their own childhood home).

Skills and abilities are not handed out in evenly balanced amounts. Working with others or within a team helps provide a variety of skills from the whole group which can help balance gaps in individual ability or knowledge. Communication with others is important for revealing where improvement might be needed within oneself or within a team’s set of skills. Sharing can help with growth of skills. We don’t know what we don’t know or what skills might be missing until after we’ve learned about the lack through experience or from a more experienced guide.

Skills and abilities are a gift from birth and from education.

Advocating for the mental health rights of children and survivors of childhood abuse could help save money and empower lives. Medications and talk therapy may not treat or reveal the underlying problems with communication learned in childhood. Screening questions for problems associated with dysfunctional behavior exist but may be infrequently used. For some conditions like depersonalization disorder, a problem seen in survivors of child abuse and in workaholics, education about the condition typically helps more than medications, but screening and accurate diagnosis are needed first.

A few other books are listed below which may be helpful for recognizing and recovering from mental health and behavioral issues:

  1. Steinberg, M., and Schnall M., The Stranger in the Mirror: Dissociation-The Hidden Epidemic, (Quill, 2003, New York, NY) [Amazon}
  2. Sanderson, C., Counselling Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, Third Ed., (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2006, London, UK) [Amazon]  *This book is written for counselors about counseling and is not intended as a self help book.
  3. Williams, D., Exposure Anxiety-The Invisible Cage; An Exploration of Self-Protection Responses in the Autism Spectrum and Beyond, (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2003, London, UK) [] *The author has professional and personal experience with avoidance behaviors seen in people with autism and discusses a variety of coping skills for caregivers and ideas are included for use in educational group settings. Excerpt: “The friendly person caught up in involuntary avoidance responses appears uninterested, cold, and unfriendly. The person capable of intense interest and focus who gets caught up in diversion responses can seem like a clown who never takes anything seriously. The accepting, empathic person caught up in retaliation responses can appear insensitive and selfish.” (p180)
  4. Butler G., and Hope T., Managing Your Mind: The Mental Fitness Guide, (Oxford University Press, 1995, Oxford or New York) [2007 edition, Amazon]

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause long term nerve degeneration

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin):

Neurological symptoms of B12 deficiency may include:

  • numbness and tingling of the arms and legs; problems walking; disorientation; memory loss; mood changes that may resemble schizophrenia; and dementia.  Damage may occur to the myelin sheath which surrounds and insulates nerves like the plastic coating around an extension cord.  Nerve damage and mental health symptoms may become permanent with long term deficiency of vitamin B12.

Digestive symptoms may include:

  • loss of appetite, a painful tongue, and constipation.  The reason for there to be digestive symptoms associated with B12 deficiency is not well understood.  One theory suggests that undiagnosed digestive problems might have been an initial cause of the  B12 deficiency.

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency may also include:

  • pernicious anemia and megaloblastic anemia which are hemoglobin deficiencies that have symptoms of tiredness.  Folate deficiency symptoms are also possible because B12 is necessary in folate metabolism.  Increased heart disease risk from elevated homocysteine levels may result from B6,  B12, or folate deficiency.

People who may be more at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency include:

Those with malabsorption problems, or people with chronic use of antacids and those who are over age 60.  A specific protein cofactor called the intrinsic factor and normal stomach acidity levels are necessary for B12 absorption to be able to occur.  Some individuals receive monthly injections of B12 after reaching older age and some people need to receive them monthly throughout life due to having chronically low vitamin B12 for other reasons than normal aging such as a genetic issue with their production of the intrinsic factor protein.

Sublingual tablets of the supplement are also available which are absorbed in the mouth, bypassing any problems with the rest of the digestive system.

A genetic difference may exist that causes some individuals to require the methylated active form of B12 rather than being able to benefit from the more commonly available supplement which is an unmethylated and therefore inactive form.  [More about methylcobalamin.] A genetic screening test would need to be ordered to find out if there were any differences in the gene that might cause an inability to methylate vitamin B12 or folate/(folic acid is the commonly used supplement which is also in the unmethylated form, and therefore inactive for someone with a genetic inability to perform the methylation reaction – meaning an enzyme is malfunctioning somewhere in the complex chemical chain of events.)

A problem with lower digestive acidity in the stomach could also be managed simply by adding a side dish or condiment to meals that contains vinegar or acidic ingredients. Examples from around the world include chutneys, pickles, lime or lemon juice/fresh wedges, vinegary salad dressing, salsa or Tabasco Sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.

  • What is Worcestershire Sauce? (thespruce) (and how do you spell it?)- It is an interesting story – featuring the chemists Lea and Perrins. (Lea & Perrins is still the best selling brand of Worcestershire Sauce). Who knew chemistry could be so delicious?

Schizophrenia may also be associated with an increased risk for low levels of vitamin B12. Read more: (

Low stomach acid may be an underlying issue with symptoms of schizophrenia and in other mental health disorders. The balance and variety of microbes living within the gastrointestinal tract also may be involved in symptoms resembling mental illness. (Digestion & schizophrenia /PMC4437570/)

Pickles that are made fresh and need to be refrigerated  can be a source of healthy intestinal microbes, in a similar way to the healthy bacteria found in yogurt with active probiotics or Kefir drinks.  A variety of traditional products with live cultures are listed here – and a new one, probiotics are being added to chocolate in some products: ( & chocolate) Scientists studying the microbiome tend to recommend the live culture foods rather than supplements of probiotics – based on my overview impression of multiple sources. An overview regarding the current recommendations about probiotic supplements is available here: (washingtonpost/people-love-probiotics-but-do-they-really-help/2017/05/19)

Probiotics refers to products that contain actual good guy bacteria, while prebiotics refers to foods that contain fiber or other nutrients which the good guy bacteria need to eat in order to survive and flourish – in competition with the more negative strains of bacteria or with yeasts or other microbes which might be found within our gastro-intestinal tract.

Eating vegetables and other foods that are good sources of some types of fiber also helps support healthier intestinal microbes, a few foods that provide the types of fiber that our intestinal microbes need to eat in order to flourish and protect us from more negative types of microbes, are listed here: (

It is a very good idea to get adequate fiber in the daily diet – because starving microbes will start breaking down and consuming edible portions of the intestinal cells for nourishment – if forced, and it may leave the body more at risk for infection ( – but why starve your good guy microbes? Our intestinal microbes may also help prevent anxiety. (

Food Sources of Vitamin B12 include: 

  • shellfish, fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, dairy products, Nutritional or Brewer’s yeast.  Vegetarians who don’t eat dairy, eggs, fish or other meat products may need a supplement or nutritional yeast, a vegan food source of vitamin B12. (nutritional yeast/pubmed/11146329)
  • See the post on Vitamin B6 for more information about how the group of B vitamins work together in energy metabolism and cell growth.

Reference for more information:

An Evidence-based Approach to Vitamins and Minerals:  Health Benefits and Intake Recommendations, 2nd Ed., by J. Higdon & V. Drake, (Thieme, Stuttgart / New York, 2012)

  • A description and source for purchasing the text: (
  • A review of the text: (
  • The text is produced in cooperation with the Linus Pauling Institute. He is a researcher who used large doses of vitamin C to cure cancer tumors. His work was met with skepticism. More recently research supports his work in that a specific type of cancer cells is very susceptible to vitamin C – while to the rest of the body it is water soluble and non-toxic at the level that was toxic to the cancer cells. (

Last reviewed and revised on 9/30/2017.

Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a service for locating a nutrition counselor near you at the website (