innerlight


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atonement

I had a constellation done this weekend around the school. The experience was disappointing at first, and felt somehow incomplete, as if I had wrecked it by shutting down my feelings. I wanted to have it done, but I could not show up with all my feelings to be healed.

What it ended up being was an illustration of how all the individuals and entities involved could offer nothing to me in terms of the reconciliation I seek and have sought so deeply for so many years. There were representatives for the school, the teacher, my inner child, the police, and my parents, and all hands were tied. “Sorry, we can’t do anything; go deal with it by yourself, and have a nice life. Only you can love yourself.”

And so this was the constellation that happened for me as I withheld — no, I shut down — my feelings. I went into shut down (in retrospect) because I’m ashamed of my feelings, ashamed of even my desire for reconciliation. I still doubt whether or not my feelings are justified enough to exist because everyone in the story’s “hands are tied”, so no action was taken. No action was taken, telling me that neither my perceptions nor my feelings can be trusted. I — my feelings and my perceptions — am all wrong, and not worthy of love or support or action on anyone’s part.

So it is circumstance that abandoned me, more than any one heart. So who is there to atone for this loss and injustice, this exclusion, secret, banishment, dismissal.

Such a feeling of abandonment and the need for protection. Aloneness. World-unfriendly-ness. No support. No validation. Chronically needy, wanting to be seen, causes me to act like a child, doing childish things for attention.

The other internal pattern that came out of this for me is one of doubting myself, dismissing myself, wondering eternally if my feelings are real or justified.

This confusion, this neediness, keep me in my cage. The cycle of shame that goes on and on and on, around and around and around.

So I withheld both the story and my feelings for fear that they are not real, made up, coming from an impure place; and in so doing, I wasted the moment of healing.

When I block my feelings, I block their healing.

I do this uncontrollably, over and over again. I betray and abandon myself — and others — uncontrollably, by shutting down and failing to be present to the moment.

I also feel ashamed of my feelings because I’ve done so much therapeutic work and sharing on this issue that I’m embarrassed I haven’t healed it yet. That I need to share it again, spend more time and energy on it, take more from others on it.

So then I shut down again, so then I waste the moment, and everyone’s time again. So then I feel ashamed again.

The guilt, shame, despair and hoplessness get worse every time this happens.

The agony of being trapped inside myself.


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Determining factors in Recovery from Rape and Sexual assault

“The way the woman is treated as a victim may also influence her ability to cope. This includes treatment by:

  1. The police. Of necessity the police are required to question the victim thoroughly. If this is not explained to her she may perceive that she is not believed and this can reinforce feelings of guilt and self blame. If she is unable to accurately describe her assailant or recall details of the attack, this may reinforce feelings of low self worth and inadequacy.
  2. Hospital service. If the victim is treated in an impersonal manner then the feelings of depersonalization are reinforced. If hospital staff offer judgement comments on her behaviour then feelings of guilt can be produced.
  3. The courts. The above comments apply here as well. The cross examination can seem like a repeat of the rape experience.
  4. The circumstances of the assault can affect the victim’s coping capacity.”

Dr. Nicholas Jenner PsyD, MA

(Rape Trigger warning)

I was rather disturbed to read a recent newspaper article stating that certain sections of the police force in the UK had been encouraging rape victims to drop cases in order to keep statistics on the good side. READ.  This is horrifying and makes a mockery of the “serve and protect” stance taken by law enforcement.

Rape should never be encouraged and certainly not in these times where one cannot pick up a newspaper without reading about some vile act committed in one country or another. Anyone who has been raped,whether male or female will attest to the trauma experienced, the overpowering of will, the helplessness, the violation and the long, hard road to recovery. Some never recover (as I know from my clients) and spend their lives dealing with the ongoing effects of being attacked . So to have the very institution that is responsible for catching…

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visceral healing in therapy

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Two private therapy sessions ago, I sat on a beach by the ocean with my therapist and told him about a visceral memory from my abuse by the teacher.

The memory is one that I hadn’t had before, of a specific moment. It came to me while writing a ptsd inventory sheet in my ACA program. It is the moment the teacher first kissed me, after a long, full-body hug, and eye-to-eye contact, noses brushing. I was 10 years old, staying over at his house to get away from my parents, who had been arguing.

It’s the moment when my adrenaline system first became overwhelmed. My heart began racing immediately; I went into my room and began fantasizing, sexually for the first time. It was the start of my first crush — an obsessive infatuation that would see me waiting by the phone every day for his call, fantasizing wildly about sex on the beach with him, completely disregarding and abandoning my friends at school. My fantasies would involve him rescuing me in various ways, and then making love to me.

In the session, I sat in the sand and wriggled my toes in it, my legs stretched out in front of me. My therapist embodied the healthy, caring adult response to the scene I recalled. As it was a new memory, I had never spoken it aloud, or received this healthy, caring adult response. It felt like I regressed into my young girl self, which ended up lasting for several days. This was a re-do: An acting out of what should have happened so many years ago. I saw how different my life would be if I had been able to tell a caring adult about what had happened. If appropriate disciplinary action had happened at the school towards this teacher, if we had both received therapy out of even just this moment, not to mention all the inappropriate and damaging moments that happened in the coming year afterwards.

The feeling that lingered, from regressing into my young girl state, in the presence of a healthy and caring older man, was a feeling I described at the following session a couple of days ago as “tenderness”.  We talked a lot about what this word means for me, in this context; and this post is a result of that conversation.

At the session, we got to the description of ’emotional intimacy and attunement’, and he began conjuring any memories I had of being touched, swathed, cooed and coddled as a baby and young child. “Being touched with the awareness on the part of the parental figure of how their touch was feeling for me.” These memories do not flow freely in me. Simply imagining myself being touched in this way, as perhaps during a diaper changing, are actually totally repulsive to me. My physical response is to want to writhe and coil up into a ball, shuddering inside my torso.

I cannot recall the experience of being touched by my Father. There are no memories of ordinary moments of touching, such as diaper changing or dressing, bathing, cuddling, etc. with my Father. With my Mother, I remember brash and bold movements, not so much sensitive to how her touch was felt by me — not tender.

I recalled showering with my Father, even up until age 9, but even then, there was no touching; by the time I was showering with him, I was old enough to get in and out of the shower by myself. I also recalled being in a hot tub with both my parents, at around age 12, completely naked, while eating pizza, at a hotel. He had me find a living example of a healthy loving adult, and imagine him or her wrapping me up in a towel, protecting me, and removing me from the situation.

At the end of the session, I had to voice the inner critic that was blasting me with shame and denial — “you are being ridiculous. This is ridiculous. You are making a big deal out of nothing. You are such a flake and a drama queen. You just want attention. Shame on you. He is bored and only humouring you with all these explorations, but sooner or later, he is going to abandon you, and you will be alone again. It’s time you stop belly aching and get over it. Others have had it a whole lot worse than you; you don’t deserve these sessions. You shouldn’t be here. He is laughing at you. You’re not bad enough or sick enough to deserve this.”

When I got home, I cleaned house mindlessly, in a bit of a trance state, as is the norm after these sessions. That night, I sat out on my balcony by the river and wrote. What emerged was an awareness of the part of me that is still not being seen or validated, and would rather die than continue without. A couple of different names have come to mind for this part: My Psychiatric Self, or The Watcher. I don’t know why yet, but this part of me is a He.

I wrote a list of all the things I have been missing and pulling out of lately. It is quite an extensive list — one thing after another. All the people I have had to let down in the last few weeks. I realized that this Psychiatric Self is being honoured in all these cancellations in a way he has been longing most of my life. That I am not emotionally / psychologically well enough to attend … is an accomplishment and an immense relief to him, in the fact that it is being witnessed. I am acknowledging his experience, letting it be seen and seeking the healthy response; and this is something that has never been done in my life.

Letting positive things show around certain others — including my therapist — BETRAYS him; yet, around others — particularly and especially work-related / professional contacts — the positives are all on display. It comes back to my experience of being split, containing two different selves that are in opposition to each other, incongruent. And I am feeling that dynamic very strongly in my present. My gifts and talents are coming out and being seen, but also being undercut by my Psychiatric Self wanting and needing to be seen, acknowledged and responded to in a healthy way.

There is a player in me, and so really there is always one act or the other at play, while the other feels betrayed. It is compulsive and completely out of my control at this point. It is insidious and slippery like an addiction. It creates a constant underlying pain, anxiety and fear of abandonment.

The Watcher is the one in between, experiencing this incongruence and contradictory experiences. The Watcher sees how much pain, instability, isolation and failure this opposition creates in all areas of my life. He says that if he has to continue to witness and experience this, he cannot bear it, and he would rather die. Someone needs to understand and reflect this reality in me. I need to know how to present myself. I can’t bear to continue living this extreme identity crisis. The habitat of the Watcher is so dark that I cannot go fully into feeling it all at once right now.

Finally, I also came back to the definition of tenderness we had been working on. I realized that it is more than just emotional intimacy and attunement. It’s not just intimacy, it’s love. Love, innocence, fondness, affection and caring from a healthy, male, adult figure. These are the things I felt on the beach with my therapist; these are the things I remember also feeling when I was with the teacher. A list of phrases this energy would speak came to me:

I’ll look after you. I’ll always love you and be there for you, no matter what happens.

I’ve got your back.

I think you’re a wonderful person.

I will defend, protect and empower you, and I will never ever leave your side.

I care for you and your well-being deeply, and I will be a guardian and protector of it.

It’s okay. I’ve got you. Let me hold you. It’s okay. I’m here for you. I’m here for you.

I’m not sure how this all relates or doesn’t relate. I’m not sure where it’s all going, but I will speak it out, write it out. Follow it to find the gems that can heal me.