Like a big honkin’ zit that was finally ready to pop, current events have brought the issue of sexual assault and sexual abuse to a head. It’s a good thing. So let the healing begin.
It’s not my place to say what anyone’s healing path should look like. I can only tell you that when it comes to traumatic memories, it can be tricky. My own experience is an example. First and foremost, it taught me that I can always count on my body to tell the truth and lead the way to lasting healing.
I had no visual memories of what happened to me. I still don’t. But in time I learned how to work with and release terrifying “body memories." Feelings of dread, terror, and rage would rise up, unexpectedly at times, exacerbated by the frightening out-of-control feelings that came from not knowing where all of the other feelings were coming from.
Of course there were plenty of times I doubted myself - figured I was just crazy. But the feelings wouldn’t leave me alone. My body was relentless and would continue to present me with physical pain, and an accompanying sense of something terrible happening, until I acknowledged the feelings and let them run their course.
Early in this process, I was working at a mental health facility whose director did not believe that sexual abuse really happened or that repressed memories were possible! So there I was, going into enemy territory it seemed, as a tightly wound ball of unresolved primal energy. It was a serious “walking-through-fire” experience, in which every button I had was pushed hard.
One fateful day, back in 1993, I was triggered by an argument with my ex-husband. I slammed down the phone in a red-hot rage and declared to myself, “OK. Let’s go. I’m ready to get this thing (traumatic event) out of me.” So I called on Divine help and let myself surrender to the full flood of feelings and sensations and let my body express and “act out” what it remembered.
Again, I don’t remember, in the way we typically think of as memory, but I can tell you this: whatever happened, whenever it happened, wherever it happened, I was very very small, I thought I was going to die, it physically hurt - my face and my jaw - and I felt trapped and tried to brace against it with my neck and the base of my skull. Afterwards, I was cold and wet, shivering, in shock and alone, and I didn’t want to be here anymore.
It wouldn’t hold up in court. I can’t prove it. But in my case, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that in those years of intense healing, I got really good at working with primal emotions, the bodymind, the felt sense, and the unknown. I came to trust myself and what my body has to say. I guess you could say that I got my body back and when I did I found something in myself that no one can take away – ever again.
And while I wouldn’t wish it on anybody else, I wouldn’t trade what happened to me . . . for anything.
Peace and healing to all of you,
To see video, Trauma and the Bodymind: Shelly's Story, click below.
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