What are Body Memories? And How to Heal Them… #PTSD #sexualassault

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), one woman’s quest to reclaim inner peace, take back her life, and stumble into love… Mack has also seen her creative non-fiction writing in various publications such as The Washington Post, Nickelodeon Jr. Magazine, Advances in Bereavement Magazine and Nesting Magazine.

You can visit her online at www.LiaMack.com.

Taking a Vision Quest…an Old Way to Recover from Challenge

Soul Surrender, collage by Licia Berry 2006

Soul Surrender, collage by Licia Berry 2006

I feel this is an important message for survivors ..one of the ways I recovered and empowered myself was to revisit the old tradition of Vision Quest.

Excerpt from my blog:

“I traveled the southwest, camping in the desert under the stars and in my car, purposely avoiding contact with people, my only companion my journal.  What did I do with myself for 10 days?  A lot of sitting in the dust and on the rocks, a lot of looking at the simple horizon of sky and land, a lot of listening to the wind.  I was searching for guidance, but of course what I was really searching for was myself.

“The result of that journey was a tremendous breaking open of the dam in my heart and the resulting flood of tears, the bliss of knowing in every cell that I am part of something larger than me and my little mind, and the quiet reinstatement of my center as the thread of my life.”

 

Do you feel the calling of your soul? Perhaps a Vision Quest is in order!

Read about the wild cast of characters I encountered on mine…and what I discovered.  Read more here!  

http://www.liciaberry.com/2013/05/14/vision-quest-mapping-the-story-of-our-life/

 

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!

For more informative articles (and direct experience of the Sacred Feminine), subscribe to my blog!

Buy SOUL COMPOST – a memoir of unapologetic healing

For more daily juiciness, please “like” my Illumined Arts page on Facebook!