April 3, 2010
This is Easter weekend.
For DID trauma survivors with a ritual abuse (RA) background, this is a very difficult weekend, full of difficult memories, painful emotions, and system conflicts.
*** I’m going to speak of some of the horrors of ritual abuse – here is your trigger warning – for those of you that need one of those. ***
With ritual abuse, anything that represented something positive in the Christian faith would have been turned into something dangerous and harmful in the dark worlds. The good would have been twisted into evil. The light would have been made dark. Distortions, perversions, confusion, pain, violence, and chaos would have been celebrated.
Opposites are taught – white becomes black. The day-world church is very distinctly different and opposite from the night-world church.
Children should never ever be exposed to the level of sadistic violence that occurs in ritualistic ceremonies. It is wrong for this to happen.
Children should never ever be forced to participate in the outrageous activities and horrendous practices of the dark night ritualistic world. It is wrong for this to happen.
If you were forced to participate in sadistic ritualistic activities, my heart goes out to you. You’ve seen some of the worst of the worst that happens in this world. It is not ok that anyone hurt you like that.
If you were ritually abused, you would have been painfully traumatized, emotionally tortured, sexually assaulted, and physically beaten. These are horrible crimes. It was wrong for anyone to do this to you. It was wrong if your parents did this to you. It was wrong if strangers did this to you. It was wrong if friends or neighbors did this to you. It is wrong, criminally wrong, for any and all children to be forced to participate in these kinds of activities in any way, shape, or form.
You did not deserve that kind of treatment. (Don’t believe lies that say otherwise.)
You were not born to live in the darkness. (Don’t believe lies that say otherwise.)
You were not destined to belong to evil. (Don’t believe lies that say otherwise.)
You are not the child of Satan. (Don’t believe lies that say otherwise.)
You do not have to live your life chained to this darkness. (Don’t believe lies that say otherwise.)
It is ok and important to get healing from any kind of ritualistic abuse that has happened in your life. RA is gory and violent, it’s controlling and demanding, it’s hateful and sadistic, but it does not have to define who you are. You do not have to stay connected to anyone or anything that pushes you into that direction.
You can separate from those people, places, organizations, and become your own true, genuine self.
You can make your own decisions for what you believe in, and for what kind of life you want to have. You don’t have to be involved in a RA lifestyle if you don’t want to. You don’t have to go to any more RA gatherings, and you don’t have to be one of them.
Your abusers would have told you otherwise, but now that you are an adult, you can decide for yourself. You can think on your own, and you don’t have to be bullied any more.
You can be your own self, with your own life. You can develop your own values, beliefs, and preferences. You don’t have to like the things you were told to like – you can decide for yourself what it is that you like. You don’t have to want the things you were told to want – you can decide that for yourself as well.
You don’t have to be one of them. You can have a life full of kindness, gentleness, compassion, empathy instead. You don’t have to prefer violence and hatred. You can be different from that.
If you have dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD), be sure to let the parts who were ritually abused to experience some of the more positive things in your life. They might initially say they aren’t interested (I’m guessing they were taught to say that), but if you encourage them to experience some of the positive things in your life, you can help to bring healing to them too. Don’t leave them stuck in their traumatic history – help them to heal and to have a chance to live in a safe, positive, warm place.
All the parts of you can heal from the atrocities of ritual abuse.
But for that to happen, you will need to be willing to introduce the light of the day-world to those parts that were split off into the world of darkness. Invite them to actively participate in your day-world. Let them have a cup of coffee or your favorite soda. Let them sit outside in the sun. Let them listen to some of your favorite music, or watch television, or walk the dogs in the park. Let the have a turn at your favorite computer game, and to nibble on your favorite treats and munchies. The dark-side parts will need to experience some of what your world is like in order to understand how it can be better for them. Be gentle with them. Slowly show them the things that you like.
It might feel scary to interact with these parts, but keeping them separated from you only keeps them stuck in the darkness they have known. With the help of your therapist, let those parts become more connected to your personal worlds where they can learn about kindness, gentleness, peace of mind, etc. Build up your courage and ability to listen to them. Comfort them from the hurts they have experienced. Help them to get out of those places that have been so violent.
Separate yourself from anyone in the outside world that wants you to stay in the darkness. Firmly reclaim all your insiders as parts of you that belong with you, and not to anyone else. Work very hard to not leave any of your parts left stuck in such violence. Have the courage to pull them all out into a life of safety.
Your whole system can have the life that you want. Don’t let any of them stay stuck in the yuck of the past.
Let them experience the goodness and joy that can be part of Easter.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
October 31, 2009
It’s Halloween weekend.
This is a difficult, heavy weekend for a lot of dissociative trauma survivors.
I’ll say right upfront – and please hear this clearly — that it is NOT a difficult or triggery weekend for every DID trauma survivor. To assume that every dissociative survivor has experienced the same kinds of abuse is completely wrong, and I will be the first trauma therapist to say that not everyone has gone through the dark sadistic abuses associated with the days most commonly known as Halloween.
If you can enjoy the fun sides of Halloween – bags of candy, apple-bobbing parties, carving pumpkins, or trick or treating in silly costumes — that is great news for you. Halloween is a non-abusive, non-holiday, safe-on-the-surface level social event for most people. For these folks, it is not intended to be anything more traumatic than seeing the pretense of gross plastic items stocked in the party aisles of a store. For the more courageous and daring, they will spend $20 at the locally created “Haunted House” – something quickly assembled much like a traveling carnival booth.
But for some dissociative trauma survivors, these days surrounding Halloween are very dark, and very scary, and filled with deep historical meaning. There are far too many triggers everywhere, and the hidden, layered symbols feel anything but safe.
For anyone who has experienced the horrors of organized ritual abuse, the days surrounding Halloween are very truly difficult. The nights are worse. The heaviness, the darkness, the pulls toward things not comfortable feels very disturbing and over-powering.
Many survivors feel scattered or disorganized within their system. Or they might feel like the internal dark ones are enveloping or surrounding them. Or they feel pulled to gory pictures, or negative thoughts, or self-injury. Images of gorging on food, or death and violence, or various sexual abuses might flood their mind. These snippets can be indicators of memory flashbacks, or pulls to participate in current day nightmares.
Even if you went there in the past, you don’t have to go there anymore.
Even if your insiders are remembering their past, remembering then is not the same as being there now.
DID survivors with an RA history might not feel like their usual selves during the time around Halloween. They might feel like isolating from their safe support people, and feel more drawn towards their abusers. They might feel pulls to go out, or to go to some unknown somewhere…
However, on days like this, staying home – literally staying indoors and refusing to leave the safety of your home – is often the very best thing you can do. Reassure your insiders that they do not have to participate in anything scary, and that they are allowed to be safe. They do not have to be hurt anymore. They do not have to be handed over to danger.
They can stay home in the safety of your home.
It might be a battle.
If you been ritually abused, it probably will be a battle.
You might have parts in your system who have experienced unspeakable horrors during this week of time. But the more you can protect them from ongoing abuse, and gently comfort them in regards to their past abuse, the better.
The days surrounding Halloween can be some of the most difficult, triggery days of the year.
However, I encourage you to use this time to get to know those parts of your system that have managed this for you. Listen to them, and let them tell you some of their life experiences. They will need the opportunity to heal from their trauma history as well. And yes, it will be very hard for you to hear their life stories, but they have the same right to begin having safety, comforts, healing, and protection just like the rest of you.
Even if you feel afraid – don’t leave your most traumatized parts stuck in their abuse because you are too afraid to work with them.
Even if you feel horrified – don’t turn your back on helping these parts simply because you are horrified about what they had to go through.
Ignoring their pain, or refusing to teach them about the lighter sides of life means that they are left neglected and stuck in the darkness.
That’s not ok.
They need your help, even if that is not how they are first saying it.
Be brave. Allow your whole system to heal and to experience safety. Don’t leave any of your insiders stuck in the darkness. It is not their fault they were abused in the darkness. They are there because they were forced to be there. It’s not their fault they were split off in that dark place. But they originally came from you, so they belong to you. Don’t let the darkness keep those parts, not even one of them. They need you and your help to get them out of that darkness.
They need you to have enough courage and willingness and compassion to allow them the same chance at healing that you are having.
So be kind to your insiders. Be willing to help the ones that have experienced the worst of the worst. Let everyone within your system find freedom – healing – safety – gentleness – acceptance.
Help them find the way out.
Kathy Broady LCSW
October 23, 2009
There is a young woman who will always be precious to me. I haven’t spoken to her in years, but she forever changed my life.
This date – October 23rd — had specific meaning for her.
And every year on this date, I specifically think of her.
Back in the 80’s…
Annemaria was a 13 yr old wildly aggressive but enormously quiet girl that kept setting fires in the residential treatment center and starting fist fights with grown men. She was a complicated child, and was court-ordered to have an assessment by a psychologist. Fortunately for Annemaria, the psychologist had just attended a presentation about multiple personality disorder (MPD), learning about the symptoms of dissociation and trauma. Annemaria was quickly diagnosed with MPD and due to the variety of extreme acting out behaviors she demonstrated within the custody setting, she was given an unusual opportunity.
It was clear that Annemaria was acting out her child abuse history. She openly admitted to purposefully committing violent crimes so she would be taken out of her abusive home. It was a brilliant plan for finding safety from her offender-parents. Unconcerned about the long list of legal charges against her, she knew she would be safer living in residential treatment centers, and she was glad to be there. No one doubted her abusive past, and a long string of child protection workers advocated for her safety.
As requested, the Court agreed to give Annemaria the longest sentence possible so she could remain in the residential treatment center instead of being forced to go home. They did this for the preventive safety of the people she would be willing to assault in the future, but also for her own current-day safety and protection. The Court also ordered that she be given specialized treatment and intensive therapy.
Since she was so violent towards men, she was to be assigned a female staff member, and this staff member was to devote the vast majority of her time to working individually with Annemaria.
This is when Annemaria changed my life.
I was assigned to be Annemaria’s personal staff member.
I knew about sexual abuse, but I didn’t know a thing about MPD. I had been trained to work with family systems, but I didn’t know anything about internal systems. But I was thoroughly pleased to have been given the assignment of working with Annemaria. I knew it would be fascinating work, and frankly, Annemaria and I already had a little bit of a connection. Afterall, I was the only person in the entire treatment center that she would speak to.
I had two years to work with Annemaria. We did hours and hours of therapy every week, and even more hours of everyday life-skills work. She blossomed in that safe, healing environment but for such a young child, her stories of abuse were more than any of the treatment staff could fathom. Eventually, a non-threatening but strong young man was assigned to assist me during Annemaria’s acting out or heavy-duty memory flashbacks. She bounced a lot of male anger in his direction, but he handled that like a pro. The work was tough, and we leaned on each other a lot. Even so, I developed secondary PTSD, and experienced numerous nightmares after listening to Annemaria’s stories of trauma. I really hadn’t known such horrors existed. Talk about a learning curve… They hadn’t explained ANY of that in grad school!
I had so much to learn. I had no idea anyone could be abused in the ways that Annemarie described in such vivid detail. She was only 13. It had just happened. She had been abused her whole life, but still… it had just happened! Even though she was dissociative, she knew a lot about it.
She and I taught each other about two very different worlds. She taught me about her world, and I taught her about mine. We both ended those two years in a very different place.
I was truly never the same.
I hope that I impacted her life in the same way.
I also wish I could re-do those two years with Annemaria. Now that I have had 20 years experience working with MPD – currently called Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) — I would do those first two years very differently. I’ve learned more about self-injury and how to manage those behaviors effectively. I’ve learned about depression, anxiety, PTSD and vicarious traumatization. I’ve learned about flashbacks, amnesia, body memories, and internal system communication. I’ve learned about organized abuse, the sex slave industry, pornography, and ritual abuse. NOW I am properly prepared to address the issues that Annemaria was speaking about.
I just didn’t have a clue.
And how sad was that.
Today is Annemaria’s day.
And today, while I was recording my BlogTalkRadio show on Internal Communication, I thought of Annemaria.
While I felt confident in explaining how so many things work for DID / MPD, I thought of Annemaria.
I just wish I knew then what I know now.
I could accomplish so much more with Annemaria in two years at this point in time than I could have back in the 80’s when I was new to the field. It saddens, me in that respect, because I didn’t give to her then what I could give to her now.
But she changed my life.
In fact, she changed the entire course of my life.
I would not be where I am if it were not for Annemaria.
And for that, I owe her a few years of decent therapy.
Annemaria, if you ever find me again, you’ve got yourself a therapist for as long as you need one!
And thank you, Annemaria.
Kathy Broady LCSW
July 14, 2009
When you have dissociative identity disorder (DID/MPD), and you’re thinking as a multiple personality — thus having a multitude of different thoughts at once time — it can be very difficult to make decisions.
How do survivors with DID ever make up their minds?
How do survivors with DID decide whose opinion to follow?
How do survivors with DID ever decide what is best for them?
How do survivors with DID sort out having a dozen different opinions at once?
It is complicated to think like a multiple.
There are gaps of missing time, non-sequential pieces of information, jumbled feelings and emotions, snippets of conflicting facts, confusion, voices from the past, fears of more punishment, flashbacks, internal arguing, programmed thoughts, insistent introjects, personal insecurities, etc. The chaotic internal workings of a dissociative trauma survivor can make it very difficult to think clearly.
Non-dissociative “singletons” (people who do not have multiple personality disorder) can experience simultaneous mixed feelings, opposing thoughts and conflicting perspectives on specific situations as well. Singletons can write out extensive lists of “pros vs. cons” on any number of situations. Non-dissociative singletons do not experience just one thought or one feeling at a time either. They see the big conflicting picture all at once.
So what makes decision making even more difficult for survivors with DID?
All too often, dissociative trauma survivors functioned through the difficult times of their life by separating their thoughts and feelings into individual compartments and using dissociative, amnesiac walls to keep these compartments separated. Having mixed emotions and conflicting beliefs at the same time was often too much to manage in the middle of a traumatic event. Dissociative survivors learned to split the different feelings and the different perspectives into different parts of themselves, blocking one perspective away from the other. It is easier to separate and contain overwhelming conflicting emotions when the two opposing emotions did not have to directly collide with each other.
For example, all children love their parents. But if a young girl has a father who is sexually abusing her, and a mother that is either pretending not to see that or is helping the father to abuse her, then huge conflicting emotions are going to occur. The child will want to please her parents, even in this painful abusive situation. But in order to do that, the child will have to find ways to separate her experience of the parents she loves from the parents who are hurting her. Dissociating the conflicts into separate parts help this to happen.
- The child can split off a part of herself that is willing to obey her father even to the point of acting like a passive or promiscuous young child that appears to want to be sexual with the father.
- She can split off a part of her that feels the physical pain and injury of the assault.
- She can split off a part of her that contains the intense betrayal by the mother.
- She can split off a part that holds the emotional pain, deep wounding, and heartbreak of the assault.
- She can split off a part that holds the anger and rage at having been assaulted by both of her parents.
- She can split off a part that holds the fear of being violently assaulted by her parents again and again.
- She can split off a part that is the happy little girl who goes to school the next day, blocking out all the pain, acting very connected to her parents, not showing any sign of having been through a horrendous assault the night before.
The person as a whole sees the situation as a whole. But if a dissociative trauma survivor has separated the different feelings and perspectives and kept that information separated locked and blocked behind various dissociative walls, then the survivor is aware of only some of the information at any given point in time. She is not aware of the whole picture, because she has it dissociated parts of it away from herself.
Dissociative people are accustomed to separating the intense conflicting emotions and managing only one or two at a time. This might help in the short-run, but it does not help in the long-run.
So how do dissociative trauma survivors make good decisions if they are used to looking at situations from the constraints of one limited perspective at a time? What happens when they cannot see the situation as a whole? How can they make a good decision if they cannot put the entire picture together at the same time?
This is a common problem for survivors with DID. The part of them that sees and recognizes the dangers cannot always communicate with the happy naïve part who is determined to believe she is safe and unharmed. The ones that believe they are out of harm’s way (and who wouldn’t want to hold tight to that belief?) refuse to connect with the fear, anger, pain of the trauma (because who would want to feel that?!)
The problem is that by not seeing the whole picture at one time, dissociative trauma survivors find themselves tangled into a variety of dangerous situations. For example, they can bond to dangerous people without recognizing the danger. They see only as much as the current perspective allows them to see, and they don’t even realize that there is trouble looming in the near future. By dissociating the perceptions and experiences that might better recognize the danger, dissociative survivors can put themselves in high-risk situations over and over and over again.
Building the strength, the courage, and the willingness to talk to all the other internal parts in your system is key to getting past the dissociative walls and being able to make decisions from a more complete perspective. Face your difficult emotions, confront the truth of your trauma, listen to all of your inner selves, and recognize that other internal parts have valid information. No one can make a good decision based on partial information. Be willing to look at the whole picture.
As you learn to trust your internal parts to give you the rest of the story, you will be less vulnerable to people who aggressively or suggestively tell you what to think. The more you can trust yourself, the less vulnerable you are to people who would manipulate your thinking by maneuvering behind your dissociative walls. Predators and perpetrators will have less ammunition to use against you when you can trust your own selves. They will not be able to abuse you as much if you are aware that it is happening. The less you dissociate time and information, the more you can appropriately handle life’s current day conflicts.
If you truly know the whole story of what happens in your life, both in the past and in the present, then you are less vulnerable to feeling or thinking or believing something just because someone else more aggressive tells you that you do. You can learn to connect to and trust in your own thoughts or feelings or beliefs, and to make your own assessment of a situation based on that.
Look at the whole picture and think for yourself.
Kathy Broady LCSW
June 28, 2009
Trauma survivors know all about perpetrators. Dissociative trauma survivors know all about sadistic perpetrators. Dissociative trauma survivors with a background in ritual abuse, or mind control, or sex slavery organizations know all about truly evil perpetrators.
Those of us in the world who were not directly exposed to such darkness have a hard time grasping its depth. It seems surreal to us. Unfathomable. While many therapists may truly believe “in their heads” that abuse and evil exist in this world, having that head knowledge is still a far cry from truly knowing and experiencing yourself as the target of evil.
I’ve been working almost exclusively with dissociative trauma survivors for over 20 years, and I have listened to and believed what my clients have told me. I know the politically correct answer is to say that I can neither confirm nor deny the abuse of others, but let’s face it. Either trauma therapists believe their clients were genuinely abused or they need to get out of the field and go work somewhere else.
But do therapists really know what evil is? I dare to say, no, most do not.
They have head knowledge, but most mental health therapists have not experienced evil. They haven’t been the target of a predator. They haven’t had their soul ravaged or clawed into. They haven’t had their body destroyed or ripped apart. Of course, there are some wounded healers that have truly been able to rise above their own traumas and actually do have a genuine sense of how deeply evil can wound, but these are a rare find.
(But be careful, there are far too many wounded who should spend more time on their own healing before jumping into the helping profession. If you happen to find a therapist that truly has done their own healing, then you are very fortunate – that person will be able to help you. But please watch out for the professionals who are still mid-process. They can cause a lot more harm than they might mean to cause.)
Despite my sheltered upbringing, in the past few years, I have been getting a deeper grasp on how cold and evil people can be. I’ve had a closer look at the destructive handiwork of predators. Initially it took me off-guard, because I really believed in the goodness of people. I was raised to trust, to forgive, to love, and to see the best in others, and I do that easily.
So being targeted by the calculated coldness of predators has been quite an eye-opening experience. I still shake my head in surprise, completely amazed at how vicious people can be. The lies, the twists, the deception – the depths to which people will sink when they have no conscience to guide them – it’s totally mind boggling to someone raised by a family who truly believed in goodness.
How does someone protect themselves from blatant attacks by a predator trying to destroy them? When someone is trying to rip at your very core, how do you stay safe and solid within yourself?
First, know that they don’t know you. They know what they want you to be, but they don’t know who you truly are apart from them. As a result, they don’t speak the truth about you, or about anyone. They speak through the tools of their trade. They tells lies, they create deception, because these are the things they know. They know darkness, and they know cold, calculated, purposeful destruction of people. Yes, they purposefully work to destroy good people. But they are not you. And they are not me.
You don’t have to listen to them. You don’t have to believe them. You don’t have to be who or what they say you are. You don’t have to do what they say to do or think what they tell you to think. They are flat wrong in their words, their actions, and their motives. Learn who you truly are, apart from their lies and their manipulations and their tricks. Learn to think for yourself, neither in obedience to them nor in reaction to them, and that will help you to separate yourself from them.
And believe in your true self. Your life, your beliefs, your heart, and your soul belong to what you are willing to fight for and to what you stand for when there is nobody but you yourself telling you where to stand. You don’t have to give any of yourself away to the dark, cold emptiness of a predator. If you know and connect to your true self, that alone can be a protection against any predatory attack on your self. Knowing who you truly are is an armor against the lies and tricks intended to destroy you or hurt you by telling you who and what you are.
And learn how to compassionately love. Hold onto that gentle love you feel, and never let it go. Evil does not love. If you can genuinely love and care for others, you are not one of them. Stand solid in the knowledge of your own goodness, your spiritual faith, your strengths, and your ability to think and to feel and to love. Let that repel the evil away from you.
Separate yourself from them. Know who you are apart from them.
And stay far away from them. The best protection you can have is not to give them the opportunity to say or do anything to you. Protect yourself. If you know that somebody is a predator or a perpetrator, stay away from them.
Because you are not them. And they are not you.
You do not belong to them, no matter how much they come after you.
You do not belong to them, no matter what they did to you or what they said to you or what they made you do.
Stay true to yourself, and be who you are. Be who you truly are. And let the power of compassionate love overcome any darkness that tries to change you.
If you forget, remember the beauty and simplicity in an opening quote from the movie, “The Notebook”:
“I am no one special – just a common man, with common thoughts. I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me, and my name will soon be forgotten. But in one respect, I’ve succeeded as gloriously as anyone who has ever lived.
I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and for me, that is always good enough.“
Kathy Broady LCSW
June 13, 2009
In the television show “One Life To Live” — Bess tried to rescue Jessica one more time by taking baby Chloe and going on the run. Their secret had gotten out — baby Chloe belonged to someone else and the dear little one was not Jessica’s baby at all.
Tess was angry with Bess for trying this last stunt. Every time Bess looked in the mirror, she would see Tess’s angry face making comments to her. Tess had plenty to say — she was not at all impressed with Bess.
Meanwhile, Jessica was tucked way down inside. She had no awareness that she had driven hundreds of miles away from her home. She didn’t know she was in trouble or that she was about to lose her baby. She wasn’t aware of much of anything.
Despite Tess’s protests, Bess was determined to do what she defined as protection of Jessica. It was Bess’s mastermind plan to switch the babies so that Jessica would never know that her own baby had died at birth. She was determined to never let Jessica feel the pain of having lost her baby. She really believed she was helping by hiding out of town.
But they were found. Their safe person, Broady, found them. (That’s quite an appropriate name for the safe person, don’t you think?!!!)
With the secret out, Bess had no other option but to let Jessica remember the truth of what had happened. Bess did not know if Jessica was strong enough to handle the emotional pain, but there was no more blocking out the reality or dissociating away the truth. Jessica was going to remember.
And Jessica did remember.
Painfully, reliving minute by minute, even having body memories of giving birth to her child, Jessica remembered detail after detail of the incident that had previously been totally dissociated from her awareness. For months, Bess had completely held those memories from Jessica, but the dissociative walls between the two of them were no longer necessary. Bess was letting Jess remember.
Jessica remembered going into labor, birthing the child, and seeing that her child had been stillborn. She recalled the plan of switching her baby for another newly born baby, and she knew that she had to return baby Chloe to her rightful mother.
Jessica was addressing her pain. She was remembering in an emotional and physical way. She felt the labor pains, and recalled the birth of her baby as if it was happening all over again. She felt the emotional agony of losing her child. She remembered all that had been dissociated from her awareness.
And she was strong enough to handle the pain. And by doing so, she will be able to heal.
The writers of “One Life to Live” provided a fairly accurate portrayal of this process, for sexual abuse survivors with dissociative identity disorder even if it was fast-forwarded in typical soap opera fashion. But for a television show, they did pretty good.
In real life, body memories are a common occurrence for trauma survivors.
For most survivors, the body memories are much more involved, and occur as a much longer process. They will happen more frequently, and not come in such a neat package. But the point is, the body will remember the trauma, and the body will feel the same physical sensations all over again as it “tells the story” of what happened.
Body memories are the body’s way of remembering, storing, and telling the trauma. The survivor’s mind may have blocked out the pain and created dissociative walls around the traumatic experience, but the physical body itself can remember the trauma through cellular memory.
Sometimes survivors experience the body memories separately from intellectual understanding or emotional remembrance of what happened during the trauma. Dissociative survivors will feel intense body pain and have no idea why they are hurting. When the body remembers the traumatic incident at a different time from when the mind remembers the incident, it can feel very crazy making. The therapeutic goal is to put the various pieces together so that the survivor can work through, process, and heal from the memory as a whole.
The body feels the trauma in much the same as in the original incident and the various physical attitudes occur as if the trauma was happening all over again. The physical pain, shaking, trembling, jerking, physical reactions, intensity, and various body responses happen in a similar fashion as in the original trauma.
For most sexual abuse survivors, body memories will also involve feelings of pleasure or physical response. This creates a particularly difficult emotional dilemma for the survivors, as it is difficult to reconcile the pleasure responses that occurred during the middle of an abusive event. But the body, being a biological entity, cannot distinguish safe touch from abuse, and if stimulated correctly, it will naturally respond. Survivors often feel a great deal of shame about this reality, and will need to discuss this situation in their therapy.
Body memories are an important piece of the healing work. The body can say a lot about the incidents of abuse, and it really is impossible to re-create a body memory when there was no memory in the first place.
Because of that, body memories are often helpful in breaking through the denial layers of dissociation. The body may remember moments of the abuse that were too emotionally difficult for the survivors to manage, but by truly listening to their bodies, survivors can learn a great deal about their histories.
What is your body saying to you?
What does your body remember that your mind refuses to think about?
What does your body remember that you don’t want to hear?
What will it take for you to listen to your body? Your body was there for the abuse too. Maybe it knows more than you think it does.
Kathy Broady LCSW