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.

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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What to do when no one believes you… Healing from sexual assault and sexual violence

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Few people would believe you if you told them there is something worse than rape, but there is: it’s finally finding the courage to speak up – to tell someone that you’ve been raped – only to be called a liar.

“All girls cry rape.”

“Guys can’t get raped.”

How many times have you heard someone say something like this? Dismissive comments hurt, especially when the victim just needs someone to talk to. Because, as they say, talking is the best therapy, so long as you can trust you’ll be listened to. Heard. Believed.

Being disbelieved is a survivor’s greatest fear.

According to Rape Response Services (RRSonline.org), there are “many different ways perpetrators use sexual violence to hurt their victims and there are many different ways in which people respond to sexual violence.” It does not matter if your trauma happened according to the rules that other people would agree upon. It does not matter if they would consider what happened to you as rape.

You know what happened because it happened to you and you were there. Not them. And it’s still bothering you because rape is an enormous challenge to heal from. If you’ve been hurt by someone not believing you, tell them this: according to The National Coalition Against Sexual Assault “false rape reports only happen 2% of the time.” That means 98% of the time someone is telling the truth. You’re telling the truth. You just need someone to talk to who will believe you. It’s the best way to heal.

Call a Sexual Assault Center: it’s a good place to start.

If you’re afraid that no one will believe you – or you’ve already found that the one person you entrusted with your story does not – go to a validated and trusted source of support for sexual abuse survivors. People at national and local sexual assault organizations are trained to not only help you handle the trauma, but also be there for you in support. If you have no one else to talk to, or are too afraid of being shut down by not being believed, start here. Call someone who you know will listen and start the conversation of your healing.

Don’t let the fear that others won’t believe you get in the way of finding the help and support you need.

You need help. You need support. And everyone is different.

Don’t let the fear of someone not believing you stop you from finding that one family member of friend who will. Or don’t let them stop you from seeking out professional help from a trained sexual assault volunteer or counselor. There are people out there, just for you. And they will believe you. Rape doesn’t happen in just one way to just one type of person and they understand that. Once you find someone to talk to who believes you, you can ask them to be involved in helping you talk to others who won’t, if you feel you need to tell all to help you heal. Everyone is different. Heal in your own way.

Don’t let other people’s perception or reaction deter you from speaking up and seeking help.

Out of a handful of people you might tell in your lifetime, some will believe you and others will not. It’s just the way it is. People often times have a set belief system in place, long before you speak up, that inhibits them from understanding, listening or even hearing you when it comes to rape. They will only believe what they believe to be true. But you don’t let their perception of what rape is or their reaction to hearing you speak about your experience stop you from healing. What one person or even a handful of people say of your story is not your story.

Be in control.

You own your story. This happened to you. Someone took away your control and you will get it back, right? So be the one in control of who you tell, how you tell, when you tell someone about your trauma. You pick the time, the place, the person. And you set up boundaries with yourself beforehand of how much information you want to give out and to whom. Some people will be able to hear it all and be there for you. Others will only be able to handle an ounce of what you’ve been through. And that’s okay. That is their reaction. Not yours. Do not allow their reaction – good or bad – be part of how you feel about what happened to you. Keep your story safe with you and only give out what you are comfortable telling. And to whom you are comfortable telling it to.

If there are some people in your inner circle that you don’t trust to believe you, don’t tell them. You do not owe anyone. You don’t have to tell anyone you don’t want to. This happened to you, so take charge in a way that helps you feel more in control over what happened. And even if you can only find one person who believes you and will listen, don’t let that get in the way of your healing. Sometimes all it takes is one person to be there for you to open the door within you that will lead you to a path of better healing. Whatever you chose to do, do what you need to do to stay in control and heal.

It’s okay to wait until you feel safe.

If you’ve just been assaulted or raped, report it ASAP. The authorities will help you find the support you need. But what do you do when it’s been years and it’s still eating at you? You still have the details and emotions rumbling in you?

Or what if you’re like me and you’ve talked until those who were there just don’t want to hear or talk about it anymore. What then? Many of us know what it’s like to still need to talk beyond the limits of what others think is normal or necessary.

Write. Create. Run.

There is more than one way to help release the pain. Talking is one, but doing is another.

I found that by writing my story out in journal form was just the right dose of catharsis I needed. It’s helped me find peace. Then it grew into something altogether new. A novel.

Although I wrote the story from a totally fictional standpoint, bringing my character to life and through the same sort of trauma – and healing – was healing for me, in that I had to be honest with myself as to what healing really was. Looked like, from the inside. In writing this fictionalized version of a truth that so many of us live through, it also gave me just the right outlet to vent and talk as much as I need/want to. It doesn’t matter that my personal truth never make its way into the novel. It was the simple act of writing that helped.

And what’s more, I get to use my novel as a tool to help others heal! Talk about empowerment.

Just keep in mind, through the nature of our own creativity, you can find ways to help vent frustrations and emotion.

Writing. Cooking. Painting. Running.

There are more than a few ways that can help empower us that heal us too.

Healing. It’s not easy. It’s not clean. But if you find it helpful to be in control of who you tell, how you tell and when you tell your story, do it any way you feel fit.

It will totally release you.

If you’re about to talk about your trauma with someone who you’re not sure will believe you – or you’ve just talked to someone who didn’t believe you – check this out. It’s a list of what NOT to say to a survivor, along with an extended list of what TO say what will help us all heal.

And good luck. I believe you.

This post was originally published for The Survivor Manual on April 4, 2014.

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.