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 19, 2008

Handling your feelings (literally)

Unless a survivor has been in therapy for other issues prior to knowing of their own multiplicity, they are unable to identify feelings. And/or they are afraid of their feelings. A survivor may know sad, scared, alone, angry...likely to the extremes: rage, terror, isolation, depths of despair. Many who go to therapy are unfamiliar with identifying feelings. Regardless of reason, this was my most successful technique in helping my clients process feelings. It's an adapted version of a technique described in Beverly James's book, Treating Traumatized Children.

Tools needed are set of colored markers (washable ink so littles can join in) and index cards or any separate pieces of paper about the size of a notecard. My favorite was 8x5" pastel colored index cards, although nothing fancy is needed. When you identify yourself having a feeling, write only one feeling on a card for as many feelings as you have. This is especially good to do after being triggered to help process. Usually people have more than one feeling at a time. Writing one feeling down per card will help separate the feelings for you.

For instance, you wake up from a nightmare and need to do something to wind down. Depending on the content you might write: scared, trapped, dirty, mad. Later you might realize that "dirty" was really embarrassed, humiliated, intimidated all rolled together.

The cards help you to become more aware of when you have a new feeling. If you don't have a name to put with a feeling, you could write the circumstance, such as: was crying but didn't feel sad. At some point you may have a name to go with that description.

Whenever you process a new flashback or trigger, you can see what feelings cards you have that already go with the experience. I kept the feelings cards in a special box and put them away for each client after the session. You can do something similar. It's a metaphor or coping skill for putting your feelings away where they are safe until you need them again.

In the process of doing this, you will become more comfortable in literally handling your feelings and not be so afraid of the word on the card. You might want to bring the cards in to therapy and work with them. Any of these suggested techniques can be modified to best suit your comfort level. Colored pencils or crayons instead of markers...or even something more artistic. Choices choices choices. You have that power now.

No comments: