Sexuality and the Sacred Feminine – Reclaiming our Sexual Nature after Sexual Assault

Sexuality and the Sacred Feminine

Original post on my blog, copyright  November 22, 2011 by Licia Berry

Readers of my website and blog know that I’ve been on a long  journey of recovery from sexual abuse and assault at the hands of men as well as from physical, emotional and mental abuses by my mother.  For 25 years I have worked hard and diligently to re-member myself, sewing the pieces together that had been ripped asunder, and realizing that I am a good person.  My process started with mental work to understand my history, proceeded into spiritual awareness to provide a bigger perspective, then came back down into my body as physical reclamation of the joy of being a woman.  I wouldn’t change anything about this miraculous journey back to myself!

The most amazing realization to date is that the experience of my mother, the more damaging parent in terms of attack on my well-being, is actually the greatest gift of my life.  This is because her mothering drove me into the embrace and awareness of the Sacred Feminine.  An un-mothered daughter herself, her inner masculine became a dominant force -aggressive, critical, and predatory.  The absence of the Sacred Feminine in my upbringing created a powerful thirst in me to find Her.

I have been working closely with the Sacred Feminine for several years now.  The energy of the Sacred Feminine is the most wonderful balm to my spirit, and lives in a very real, embodied way in my daily life.  In fact, the embodiment of Her is what opened the invitation to mature my inner masculine.  This year I was aware of these two dynamics collapsing into one another in union within me; it was a lived experience of bliss and homecoming that made my heart sing and my body pulsate with alive-ness.  I’ve been experiencing full-body orgasms this year, and I understand now that this has been a direct upshot of the joining of my inner feminine with my inner masculine, becoming Divine as they circled one another and merged.

Oh the delights of the body as expressed through the Sacred Feminine!  Having been more masculine-oriented in my life, the soaking of my arid inner landscape with the nourishing waters of the feminine invites the desert in my belly to flourish into a prolific garden.  The belly holds the keys to the flow of abundance,creativityplayfulnessmoney ease, and sexuality…as I’ve come into union, my belly has come online as a potent ally in my success and joy in this life!  What’s not to love?!

My observation and experience tell me that lots of us have been operating in our lives from an immature masculine place, unpartnered with the feminine, and the women in my circle of awareness are hungry for something deeper inside of their well of wisdom.  The belly is a location of mysterious power, power that gives us total joy and effectiveness in the world as well as the power to create.  The masculine is one part of the equation and deserves respect, but the feminine demands it, and calls us from a deep place in our psyche as well as in our body.  I LOVE my life because I AM life!

The balance of the feminine and masculine within us creates such an alchemy as to transform our lives into utter magic; I wish this for everyone, not just women.  The men have been damaged by the absence of the Sacred Feminine, too, and deserve the wholeness and bliss that comes from inner union.  Our world seems ripe for love, balance, and people who are spilling over with the joy of fulfilled lives!

To your Joy and Juiciness!

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The 5 Stages of Healing from Trauma

“The 5 Stages of Healing from Trauma” Original post first published on my blog

copyright Licia Berry 2013, All Rights Reserved

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While organizing my local One Billion Rising event in Tallahassee in 2013, I was reminded of the different stages of the process of healing after trauma because I saw women in every stage attracted or repelled by the event, based on where they appeared to be in their recovery.

I’ve healed myself from a lot of things, including physical, sexual, verbal and emotional assault, as my readers know. My recovery process began when I was 23 years old in a therapist’s office in Atlanta, where I first learned the name for what had happened to me. It’s been a long journey of 25 years since that day; I’m going to be 48 years old in April, and I’m happy to say that I am at the other end of a spectrum that I have developed in my practice of observing and recording my healing. I wrote about this spectrum of healing after trauma in my 2012 book SOUL COMPOST (available for purchase here).

After a diagnosis of PTSD in 1990, I began my long process of climbing the rungs of the ladder to wholeness and a happy, actualized life. I’m happy to say that I am now an expert in PTG, or Post Traumatic Growth, defined as positive psychological change as a result of one’s struggle with a highly challenging, stressful, and traumatic event. We all know the old saying, “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”; as it turns out, there is a scientific term for this phenomenon that is measurable. “This growth is measured by the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1996), a 21-item instrument for assessing positive outcomes in people who have experienced traumatic events. Five domains or factors are contained within the larger construct of PTG and are measured on subscales within the PTGI. The five factors include Relating to Others (greater intimacy and compassion for others), New Possibilities (new roles and new people), Personal Strength (feeling personally stronger), Spiritual Change (being more connected spiritually), and a deeper Appreciation of Life (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004).” (quoted from SOUL COMPOST, 2012 by Licia Berry)

I developed this spectrum of healing after trauma only after living through each of the 5 stages:

Victim  >  Survivor  >  Thriver  >  Server  >  Empowered Server
A short (and incomplete) description of each stage follows:

Victim
I call this the “Puddle on the Floor” stage. After a traumatic experience, the person who lived through the trauma may feel paralyzed, lifeless, as if there is no energy or will in them. From a shamanic perspective, it is the stealing of the life force from the victim that creates the sensation of lifelessness. From a psychological perspective, the shattering of the person’s well-being creates a schism in their psyche that renders them temporarily powerless. This is a dangerous stage because the Victim is very vulnerable, and it is essential that they seek assistance immediately from a qualified helper or someone who genuinely loves them. If they do not seek help, a pattern of learned helplessness can settle in and the person can feel powerless as they remain stuck in this stage.

Survivor
I call this the “Fight to Live” stage. In this second stage of healing from trauma, the fight begins to start to live again. There is a spark, however small, to integrate the scattered parts of self that were blown apart by the trauma. The puddle on the floor grows teeth and fingernails, and there is a mobilization of energy that can feel like gritting those teeth and crawling across the ground. An active determination to heal, as well as anger and rage identify the fight present in this stage. This is an important and difficult stage; it is easy to revert back to Victim if the Survivor does not have adequate help and resources to keep them moving forward in their healing. It can also be easy to get stuck in identifying with the Survivor stage because it feels so good to have energy after being a Victim.

Thriver
The fight to heal gains momentum and starts to propel itself forward of its own accord. The good will generated within the person who is healing starts to carry them, and the joy that is inherent in life returns. The Thriver thinks less and less about the trauma, focusing on other blessings in their life. The sun shines again. This happens in short bursts at first, when the Thriver can be triggered back into Victim or Survivor stage, but bounces back fairly quickly to thriving again.

Server
A determination to make good of the experience, to offer the lessons learned and the well-being gained to others who have experienced challenge or trauma in their life. This stage can include the Survivor and Thriver stages. Frequently a Survivor will feel the energy of the anger about their trauma and use this to become a healer or practitioner of some kind, resulting in a wounded healer who has not completed their recovery process; however, because of their stage, they may positively impact victims by mobilizing them into Survivors. A Thriver who has become a Server has a better chance of positively impacting

Empowered Server
The Empowered Server has completed enough recovery work that she feels the ground solidly underneath her, even if she is triggered by an external stimulus. She can see the trigger point and knows what is happening without falling from her confident stature into Victim or Survivor. This confidence enables her to present as a person who didn’t encounter trauma (even though she did), and to be fully present to her desire and commitment to be of service to others.

Of course, I will never be “done” healing…I find there are times I can revisit any of the 5 stages depending on the situation. However, the vast majority of the time now I spend in Empowered Server….and I find this is what changes over time….the percentage of the pie in the more joyous sections increases the more healing that I experience. May you, too.

This article is one of the most visited and popular on my blog. You are welcome to direct readers here, but please do not copy/paste. Copyright Licia Berry 2013, All Rights Reserved

There is much more to say about the 5 Stages of Healing! Read about resilience and the role of spirit in recovery from trauma in Soul Compost, first in the Woman, Awake series.

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Also see Embracing the Dark Self (or, there is no such thing as an evil baby) and other posts documenting deep healing

Disclaimer: Licia is not a psychotherapist, but a 25 year veteran educator and facilitator with the same numbers of years of active recovery from violence and trauma. These observations are her own, culminating from her lived experience, extensive research and study, collaboration with psychologists, and observation of her clients.

Licia (pronounced LEE-SHA) Berry believes passionately in women’s innate resilience and empowerment. As an artist, author, educator, leader, mentor, women’s advocate, and compassionate guide, Licia teaches by example that women can claim their life song regardless of their experience. Licia’s visionary leadership was the force behind bringing One Billion Rising to Tallahassee in February, in which 400 women gathered and danced on Kleman Plaza to raise awareness about violence against women. Licia has a global audience of readers and clients who share her commitment to spiritual wholeness. Her personal journey of recovery from violence and post-traumatic growth is chronicled in her 2012 inspirational memoir, SOUL COMPOST.

For more information about her work, please visit www.liciaberry.com.

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What are Body Memories? And How to Heal Them…

What are body memories?

Your body, believe it or not, remembers everything. Sounds, smells, touches, tastes. But the memory is not held in your mind, locked somewhere in the recesses of your brain. Instead, it’s held in your body, all the way down at the cellular level. Ever notice how, on a stage full of professional dancers, everyone still moves in their own way? That’s because our cells store memories – information – about our experiences, habits, sensations, everything. We are all unique and it’s in our bodies – our skin, muscles, tendons, nerves – which we actively participate through our day to day experiences; good ones and bad.

Sometimes, the memories that our body stores are not always memories that we consciously, as the survivor, remember. You may have been too young to remember. You may have blacked out. For whatever reason, you don’t know what your body knows. As Renee Fredrickson, Ph.D. says in A Journey to Recovery from Sexual Abuse, “The traumatic and the trivial are the two kinds of information your mind represses.”

Yet, your body remembers.

Your body may tense up, protecting you. “I don’t like that,” it says. “I remember that touch, sound, smell…and I don’t want it.” However, for a survivor of sexual abuse that has overcome and healed from the abuse, you may think you’ve done all the work to be done. You’ve healed. You’ve moved on.

Yet, your body remembers.

Respect that. Respect that memory, no matter what form it comes in. The trauma wasn’t just emotional. It was experienced on a cellular level. Respect that. There’s stored memories there. Don’t turn your back on it thinking it’s crazy. Nuts. Healing comes from accepting and being, open, honest. Transparent. There’s a hurt and you need to acknowledge it. Only then, can the healing begin.

Body memories are involuntary.

Body memories can take a long time to heal, most likely because they are the last memories to be addressed. To be respected. To be listened to. I mean, really. My body remembers, at a cellular level? What is this, the Science Fiction channel? “When the body remembers the traumatic incident at a different time from when the mind remembers the incident, it can feel very crazy making,” says Discussing Dissociation’s Kathy Broady, LCSW.

Remember, memories, flashbacks, in all their forms, are our body’s way of getting our attention. If we don’t accept, honor, and deal with them, no matter how crazy they may seem or feel, they will return again and again. Why? Because you need to heal. Your body lived through the same experience. If you are dealing with body memories, your body is telling you, “It’s time we heal this. Together.”

Healing Body Memories.

Think about it this way. Your body and you, although one in the same, are two separate beings with two separate set of memories. Some intertwine, some are exactly the same. After all, you’re you! Yet, there are some areas of grey. Some aspects of your life’s experiences that your body remembers and your mind was too young to understand it, strong emotions deny it or your mind didn’t consciously experience it at all.

Therefore, you’ll have to approach this from an ‘outsider’ perspective – speak to yourself as someone somewhat separate from yourself. Like you, as a counselor or a friend, speaking to you, your body. “Okay, body,” you might say. “We need to talk.”

And you can do this anywhere, of course. You don’t have to be all zenned out, seated on a mountain top with upturned palms. Although, if that works for you, go for it. Wherever you find peace, peace that you can feel within you, that’s where you can open this conversation. You might be out hiking, inside reading a book on the couch, laying out on a beach under the sun. Wherever you find your cool, peaceful, quietness, this is where you can speak to yourself – your body.

Start by reminding yourself – your body – about the most important fact: “We survived. It’s over. It won’t happen again.” You can do this all in your head or you can say it out loud. Either way, the message will be sent. Just visualize who/what you are speaking to. Your body.

After you feel the message of, “we’ve already survived,” being accepted, tell your body, “We want to thrive now. We are in control. We want to live now, free of this trauma.” Keep sending this message to your body, all the while reaffirm that you – all of you – is okay. Only in safety, can we feel free to move on.

Now, what about when you’re actually having a body memory moment? Well, ask yourself this, are you ready to accept it? Honor it? Deal with it? If so, do this visualization-conversation with your body while you are having a body memory.

Note: You’ll have to be more forceful, yet still compassionate, to get your message through. Your body is having a flashback, living through a memory, whatever that may be. It doesn’t consciously know it’s over. That’s where you come in.

You need to talk it through the flashback – the body memory. Tell your body it’s okay. “You’re okay.” Say it out loud. “You’ve already survived this. It’s over. We are in control now. We survived.” Be stern, yet understanding. “We are going to make it. We are going to thrive!”

Be confident. Be positive. Be understanding. This is you you’re talking to, remember :)

So, go for it. Heal yourself. All of you. Open the conversation, the willingness to accept that, yes, your body knows something. And it needs to heal.

This article was originally published for The Survivor Manual in November 5, 2011, and has been reprinted with permission in Advances in Bereavement Magazine

Lia-Mack-400-400Lia Mack is the author of Waiting for Paint to Dry (Pen L, May 2015). She has seen her writing in various publications such as The Washington Post, Nickelodeon Jr. Magazine, Advances in Bereavement Magazine and Nesting Magazine.

A ceaseless cheerleader of the underdog, she writes fiction that travels the line between everyday life and the extreme challenges we must face, as she enjoys diving into the minutia of our human existence and finding those key moments when the turns of life can either make or break us.

Visit her online at www.liamack.com.