July 06, 2010
Going Through The Memories
I feel very honored, actually. This new reader is coming to my dot com site, Survivors Can Thrive! and my blog at the referral of her therapist. I had no idea anything like that was happening. I'm am touched. And like I said, I feel honored.
This reader wanted to know if I had any advice about how to help her share an abuse memory during a counseling session, but, "not go through and experience it again in my mind." I told this reader that I always hesitate to give advice and that I am aware that each person's healing experience is different.
However, this is a huge survivor healing issue. At times, I am really struck by how much it sucks that someone else did this to us--abused us and caused trauma--but we are the ones who must be responsible for our healing and do the work to recover. But, this is the ironic reality.
Another ironic reality, that I have struggled to come to terms with in my own healing, is the fact that I have not been successful at finding any way to go around the painful feelings associated with the abuse. It sounds cliche, but for me, I have found that I really have to go through it to get to the other side. For me, this "other side" is life more in the moment, feeling safe, having functional (as opposed to dysfunctional) relationships, and no longer feeling completely disabled about the prospect of living my day-to-day life.
Now, before I launch into my battle cry of "feel the feelings; it's the key to healing," and you tune my pie-in-the-sky message out, let me tell you a little bit about how I came to this point and this conclusion.
First of all, you need to know that I have had many false starts in therapy and have really floundered many, many times. One of the reasons I blog and keep my dot com site going is in the hopes that some survivors reading about my story can avoid at least some of the long, drawn out, painful detours of recovery that I've experienced. For starters, I have been working on recovery from extreme child abuse, incest, torture, PTSD and a dissociative disorder for about 15 years. I think you could call me a therapy "veteran."
Now, I didn't even find out I had PTSD until about 10 years ago. Then, it took me a while to realize that a diagnosis of a dissociative disorder was appropriate for my situation. That came about eight years ago. I finally got a really excellent therapist who has a lot of expertise (over 20 years worth) in dissociation in January of 2007. You can read about how I started really (finally) working on my dissociative disorder in this post from 1/07 here.
Back before I found my current therapist--and after my family moved to Colorado--I was given the diagnosis of PTSD. At this time, I attempted EMDR. As many of us know by now, EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. You can link to some EMDR sites on my dot com site's "Treatment & Research" page here.
My first experience with EMDR started out amazingly hopeful but almost ended in disaster. The practitioner that I went to the first time around promised me that the feelings I would experience surrounding a particular trauma memory that we would process in this way would be significantly reduced, or neutralized so to speak, at the end of a session. I want to say that there were times when I experienced this to actually be the case. Unfortunately, my first EMDR therapist neglected to get me appropriately grounded before we started doing EMDR and I became extremely re-traumatized.
I always tell folks, who ask me what I think about EMDR, how important I feel that the grounding piece is. Now, I'm not a doctor, and I would have a hard time advising anyone on exactly what they would need to do, individually, to get grounded before this type of therapy. But, I do advise that you look into the prospect of finding a T who is an expert in traumatic stress if you want to go this route. That person should know exactly what to do to help you get grounded before EMDR...and will know what this means. My second therapist here in Colorado is an expert in traumatic stress and he taught me many grounding exercises. Some of them I still do, almost on a daily basis. If you want to find one of these experts yourself, there are links to lists of therapists who are board certified experts in traumatic stress on the same Treatment page of my dot com site that I mentioned earlier.
But you know what? Reducing the feeling stress associated with my childhood trauma hasn't worked out to be the key to my healing at all. I didn't hear this battle cry of "Feel the Feelings" until I went down to the Colin Ross program down in Dallas in September of 2006. There is a link to the Colin A. Ross Institute For Psychological Trauma on my dot com Treatment page as well.
Down in Dallas, they were really big on "Feel The Feelings!" I didn't really know why at the time, but after I allowed myself to feel the buried feelings associated with my response to my childhood abuse, I would feel amazingly better. First, I would be amazed that the feelings didn't somehow kill me...then I'd feel devastated...then, slowly, I'd feel better...somehow more healed. One of the "Feel-The-Feelings" exercises I did with materials from the Ross program is talked about in this post here from December of 2006. It really gets into the feelings of grief and loss.
What I later learned is that my dissociated parts were keeping many of the feelings from me in order to protect me. A child just can't come face to face with those kinds of life-shattering feelings during the childhood abuse and still expect to be a kid, go to school, and grow up to be an adult. It was my dissociated parts who really needed to realize (and still continue this process today) that I am now not going to die when I get in touch with these feelings. Also, they need to know that they can now let go of their burden. I am the adult and I can carry it on my own now, with the help of my therapist.
One of the things my current therapist always comes back to, in regards to her training, is something called the BASK model. Unfortunately, I can never find much written about it. If I had a book on it, I would add it to my survivor-to-thriver library. I do know that it was developed by Bennett Braun as a model of dissociation. The letters in the BASK acronym stand for Behavior, Affect, Sensation and Knowledge. You can read a little bit about it using this link here.
Here's what I understand about BASK: First of all, my dissociation kept all Knowledge--the "K" in BASK-- of the sexual abuse and torture from my conscious awareness. But, I started to get clues to how my childhood abuse led to my disorder by my Behavior--the "B" in BASK. One of the classic behaviors I exhibited was gravitating toward other abusers. I had "Victim" stamped on my forehead for years. One of the "Sensation" mysteries that always astounded me was my extremely high tolerance for pain. But later, when I was diagnosed with PTSD and started therapy about my child abuse, I started having body memories of physical pain.
What was missing for such a long time was the "Affect" piece. These are my feelings and how I express them. If you--like me at one time--are walking around like a robot with a smile plastered on your face that doesn't seem sincere, I'm going to guess you are also not yet dealing with the feelings, and have little affect showing at this time.
My therapist firmly believes that I need to join all four of these BASK pieces--Behavior, Sensation, Knowledge and Affect--as they relate to my trauma memories, in order to stop relying on dissociation in order to cope...and to recover and heal. I have to say that I've come to the point where I agree with her.
It's an on-going process. I am continuing the journey. But, I am amazed and truly pleased that I am now finding myself much further down along the path than I ever thought I would be!
JBR: Thanks for saying that. And thanks for those blessings and those hugs. Backatcha!
Paola: Thanks for stopping by with your comment.
Paula: Thanks for stopping by from your journey with your sweet comment. I hope this can be helpful for some.
Wanda: Really? Wow! I'm so glad to know that. It's comments like that that DO keep me going! Thanks! *hugs* :)
Take care! *hugs* <3
Hi, Erin. Nice to "see" you. It's been a while. Actually, the working title of my book is "Survivors Can Thrive!" I started it a while ago and maybe if I can get over what I talked about in the previous post just a few days ago, I will actually finish it some day. :P And my dog just turned six last month. But, she still act like a puppy. You know those labs, they have long puppyhoods. ;)
Thanks for your sweet comment and your welcome on the blog carnival. You must have ESP, because it almost seemed like you wrote that post especially for it. The deadline is 7/21 BTW.
On a side note..I updated some Maui pictures for ya ;-)
Hugs to you my friend
I'll pop over and check out your Maui pix right before we head out the door for a five-day camping trip. Ah, it's not Hawaii, but I can't complain. We do live in a beautiful state. Take care, deary! *hugs*
Have a great trip girly.
Thank you for everything you do!
Let Go...Let Peace Come In Foundation
630 W. Germantown Pike, Suite 180
Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462
Wow! What a great post!
I, too, am finding that I must go through the pain part of the memories if I want the memories to get unstuck from my day-to-day experience. I'm learning to REALLY feel the memories . . . and the feeling is worse than expected, but I'm much better than expected afterward . . .
Thanks for sharing this!
- Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)
JBR: thanks for those hugs and backatcha! ((((((((JBR))))))))
Erin: Trusty was my first dog--a chocolate lab. He was one-of-a-kind. I didn't think we could replace him...and we didn't. But, we love Lyla, our yellow lab.
LGLPCI: Sounds great! Maybe after this week's blog carnival, I will look into that and post about it. Thanks for the info.
Marie: Thank YOU and you're welcome! I really like what you said about getting the memories to get "unstuck" from day-to-day life. Well said!
Hey, Jade! Thanks for checking back again. You're a sweetheart! :)
In March I was hospitalized in a trauma program. There was a method taught that takes out the terror of a memory, but leaves the memory intact to still be processed. During this technique you also are able to rescue Self from the abuse. It's really cool. Now when I think of one of those memories I worked on, I'm no longer in the memory. The first time it freaked me out. It was amazing.
The technique is called RRT - Rapid Reduction Technique and it's taught by Dr. Bill Tollefson. He has a book and website. The program he created is in Hollywood, FL and called WiiT - Women in Incorporation Therapy. It's very different from integration. Either way, I wasn't ready for that. It's another story.
thanks again. I look forward to the next post.
I looked into that program and wanted to go, but without any mental health insurance, I couldn't afford to go.
I hope you stop back again some time. Blessings to you on your healing journey.
Feeling the feelings has worked for me. If I allow myself to really feel them, to process them, to work through them, I move forward a step in my healing. Keeping them bottled up or denying them seems to cause me to still feel them (just in the wrong places-as in I might be dealing with a memory that makes me angry and I will direct that anger at my husband who hasn't done anything to deserve it. Once I acknowledge where that anger is coming from I can deal with it there and not heap it onto other people or situations.)
Adventures in Anxiety Land
Thanks for sharing this with the Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse!!
Marj,I miss you and hope you are doing well.