For First Time Visitors

If you are a first time visitor to this blog, I invite you to start from the beginning, especially if you are unfamiliar with the potential emotional impact of long-term child abuse.

Trigger caution to unhealed survivors!

Understanding the Incomprehensible

Children of incest or long-term sexual abuse grow up to be wounded adults with complicated emotional issues. Unfortunately, some symptoms are misinterpreted or often dismissed as "crazy", only serving to maintain a tormented victim status. We, as a society, have the power to change this dynamic. Each of us can make a difference.

Oct 11, 2008

The body remembers too

Body memories are weird, scary, freaky, fascinating and an important aspect of healing. While more and more therapists working with dissociation are aware of the need to work with body memories, most physicians, specialists, physical therapists...okay the whole medical community... are unaware and/or dismiss them. The good news is survivors know they exist. Two good resources to help survivors and therapists are The Body Remembers by Babette Rothschild and Trauma and the Body by Pat Ogden.

If you are not familiar with a body memory, it is when the body holds a piece or pieces of a trauma. Research has proven memory cells exist within the entirety of the body, not just the brain. However, as with all of recovery from DID, there is no simple explanation. What looks like a body memory may also be a fragmented self "living" in a specific area of the body. Or a fragmented self could be causing part of the body to move to convey a message or it could be a true body memory of trauma being released that's been stored since the original memory.

Body memories can be rather dramatic or as subtle as a twitch. The importance is on the survivor understanding that pain and/or movement might be re-enacted. And it is important for the therapist to understand this may happen to help the survivor release the trauma in a safe manner. I have read texts that encourage therapists not to allow body memories in the office.'s not always a choice. Some therapists have the opinion that body memories are intentional drama by the survivor. As if survivors don't have enough to work through, they make things up?

Resolving a body issue can have truly dramatic impact. I had two long-term health/body issues resolve after working through a memory or experiencing a healing event. I'd had allergies since I was a teenager. Early in my memories, while in my mid-40s, I processed a memory having to do with feelings of suffocation as a very young child. I knew as soon as I processed that trauma that I would be free of those allergies in a few months when pollen season began. I was right. No hayfever since then. My nose was trying to expel the trauma through sneezing? It doesn't matter; allergies stopped.

I also had a sore lump on my left breast below my arm pit. It was monitored by mammograms since my late 30s. Before I turned 50, I came to know that a number of alters "lived" in the vicinity of my heart. I felt them integrate after processing a memory. It was actually painful as they passed through the heart muscle but a relief at the same time. The lump in my breast was gone at the time of my next mammogram and hasn't returned.

My question to the medical community is why they don't understand about the impact on the body of child abuse both physically and mentally. Or why don't they check for a history of known child abuse for their patients? And how many survivors are taking drugs for something that needs to be processed psychologically to resolve? I took allergy shots for over 20 years and they only ever seemed to make the allergies worse. This would be where the doctor would say "it's all in your head". If a survivor is aware of his or her DID-ness (?), that is a physical issue that could be targeted in therapy.

I do know this is difficult to grasp even for survivors. Many suffer from multiple physical conditions, many of which can be or must be relieved through medications or surgeries. For survivors going through the healing journey, just as you tune into your internal world, you can learn to tune into your body. Wonder "what else could this be" if your body develops something "out of the blue". Often I would have some strange body twitch or pain begin as I entered my therapy session. I came to know that was where to begin for that day.

Body work is helpful even for those not holding onto trauma memories. I've had clients mention a recent headache or pain somewhere in the body. I'd ask, "If your knee could speak, what would it be saying to you right now?" The strangest answers would come out more like free association which always got to some issue right away. No one can tell you what anything in your body means except you. No one on the outside can translate. As much as survivors hate the phrase, "Ask inside," that is how you will know.

Under the category of possible too much info, I'm going to share a body memory I would not have believed could happen to anyone, let alone me. It was huge validation in an extraordinary way. I think I already spoke of a memory with ants. I also had memories with other creatures to include spiders. About a year after the memory surfaced about being enclosed with ants on me, I woke up with big red blotches all over my body. Since I lived pretty much isolated from the outside world, I knew it had to be a memory. And it itched to the point of pain. Always having my internal guide, I used the internet to research insect bites and found my welts identical to army ant bites. I hadn't made the connection that the ants in my collaged memory were "army ants", but on words taped to the collage it said "an army of ants".

A few weeks after that outbreak, a different type of bite covered my body. I have photos of this stuff but any naysayer would just say I did it intentionally, I'm sure. Like people would choose to have insects bite them all over. Anyway, the second round was fire ants. Very distinctive bite. And another couple weeks of constant itching and flare ups. Finally, I broke out in what appeared to be a bull's eye target. It goes with a spider. I think it's from a black widow which isn't poisonous. But a child can get sick from being bitten so many times. Shortly after I began to publish this blog, the ant bites surfaced just on my left leg, hip and lower back. Nothing on my right side. Leftover reminder of telling? Or possibly still fearful littles remembering what happened when we told at age 5. Definitely bizarre. Definitely validation. The body does remember.


Anonymous said...

Ive had body memories. 1 In particular which is gradually being resolved.
This body memory also seems to be the trunk of the tree where all the other memories are attached too. In a sense i guess thats handy, as i know once thats resolved most of the other stuff is.
My therapist used a technique called see-more / seamore / seymore (not sure how its spelt !) on me, and its amazingly effective! Just wondered if you had heard of it? !

Take care, Simon

Grace said...

Hi Simon,
I don't know anything by that name. I'm sure therapists call one technique by several names. Likely it is a way for you to be mindful of what is going on in your internal world? Any technique that helps you is a good technique :-)

Anonymous said...

Body memories are the only reason that I believe I was abused. My body knows. My body reacts.

On a longer note RE Your comment on my blog: I hope my comments didn't come off like a critcism. I love your blog. It just gave me a lot to think about and I was just writing my thoughts as I went through your postings.

Survivorship and abuse are difficult topics to write about. There is little language for people outside the survivor community.

Grace said...

Hi ComingAlive,
Not taken as criticism. Just wanted to explain. I wish there were a different language for others. Maybe one day we will be accepted as survivors rather than treated as criminals and we can use the more enlightened language.

Thanks for the feedback!