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.

Trafficking Survivor’s Film Launches UK Campaign

In a world where the trafficking of humans has become the second-largest criminal industry after drug dealing, a child-trafficking survivor launches a campaign for social change, with the screening of her powerfully moving, autobiographical film on 9 April in London.

Raven Kaliana with PuppetsHooray for Hollywood, a film for adult audiences, written and directed by Raven Kaliana, artist, human rights activist, and survivor, utilises puppetry to highlight the intersection of trafficking and familial abuse with organised crime, shown from a child’s point of view. A Talkback Panel discussion, facilitated by Anita Amendra (Project Manager, Sustainable Communities Programme, Initiatives of Change) will follow the film, featuring: Raven Kaliana (Outspiral), Adam Weiss (The AIRE Centre – Advice on Individual Rights in Europe), and Esther Davidson (OXCAT – Oxford Community Against Trafficking).

Kaliana states: ‘It’s my goal to humanize this issue – bring it into public discourse, so that it’s not taboo to talk about this crime… So that the perpetrators, however monstrous their actions, become in the mind’s eye only human… So that the children, however anonymised by the medium of their abuse, become living people with faces, names, families. We can begin to view this as a social problem that people who are also ‘only human’ can address. It is by caring that you unlock the door.’

Trafficking is modern day slavery, with children and adults held captive and sexually exploited in the UK and world-wide. Increased public awareness can help prevent children and vulnerable adults from falling victim and help survivors to safety. Lydia Cacho, international authority on trafficking, states: ‘The global sex industry has HoorayForHollywood-FilmStill(c)2011RavenKaliana,camera by GordonAnderson3-hirescreated a market for sex slaves that may soon outnumber the African slaves sold from the 1500s to the 1800s…The means to fight this crime lie in the hands of the world’s citizens.’

Kaliana established Outspiral in 2011, an organisation which employs puppet-based film and theatre productions for adults, combined with training, to raise public awareness in efforts to prevent the crimes of human trafficking and child sexual exploitation.

Initiatives of Change, Sustainable Communities Programme in collaboration with Outspiral presents Hooray for Hollywood as the first in a series of awareness-raising and skills-building events to build stronger communication between agencies, foster understanding of the effects of trauma, address legal enforcement issues, and enlist members and leaders of spiritual communities to take a proactive approach to protecting children and trafficked adults.

The Sustainable Communities Programme supports, promotes and works with community projects like Outspiral. Currently, the Programme provides practical advice and assistance to a range of community-based organisations, many of which engage in the arts or provide trainings working towards community cohesion, justice and protection of vulnerable people in the UK.

The event will take place at the Initiatives of Change Centre in London at 24 Greencoat Place, Victoria, London SW1P 1RD from 18:00-20:00 on Tuesday 9th April 2013.  Entry is free, but booking is essential – RSVP to reception@london.iofc.org or call 020 7798 6000.

 

Making a Positive Difference in the lives of Survivors

overcoming abuse and domestic violenceI have such an affinity for survivors and the struggles that we go through on the road to healing. I see the pain inside a survivor of sexual abuse or domestic violence. I see the brokenness, I feel it too and I understand the trust issues and remember the feelings of hopelessness. But I also see the beauty, the possibility and the uniqueness and gifts in each person who survives and I know that with recovery comes freedom and when we find freedom it is never too late to live up to your full and true potential.

Angela Shelton talks about recovery and potential on her video about raising money for this site in order to make a series of helpful videos. She talks about her journey making the documentary “Searching for Angela Shelton” and how the lives of all the women she found were impacted. It is an amazing story. Like Angela, I have a heart for this work. I am passionate about the healing process. I am dedicated to the message of surviving to thriving on the journey to wholeness. There is life after abuse; full life, rewarding and amazing life. Like Angela, I am passionate about contributing to the solution.

On my blog, “Emerging from Broken”, I try to write about how I got to where I am today; how I worked through the issues, how I realized that they were not my fault, that I didn’t deserve them. There is no magic bullet but there is some sense and order to the process. There were some really amazing things in the process of recovery that I realized looking back were a huge part of the wall that was between me and overcoming the past. I try to articulate the obstacles and the victories.

I can honestly tell you that I don’t feel the pain of the memories anymore and I don’t have the burning anger, or the feelings of shame. I have not forgotten, but I don’t re-live the abuse anymore and the nightmares no longer come. I am free of the resentment over having my innocence taken from me, and from feeling like my life was ripped off. I feel safe most of the time. I have come a long long way when it comes to trust, especially self trust. This is a gift beyond my wildest dreams or expectations. Really, I just wanted to be “okay”. I never dreamed that I could live in such wholeness, fullness and freedom. I never dreamed that I would be a mental health advocate because I believed that I was crazy, invalid, unimportant, used, unlovable, damaged and unworthy. I never dreamed that I could make a positive difference in the world because of my past, but each day I reach for the stars, and I do.

To your dreams; may they be realized,

Darlene Ouimet

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