Recently a woman who had been molested wrote asking how to begin healing
Hi my name is Cherri and I was reading your site, the stories of the three women who were sexually molested. I was molested by my father at the age of nine. Right now I believe he also raped me four weeks ago and that it is this event which has caused my memories to surface.
Also, every time my boyfriend touches me, I cringe in fear. I have also been having dreams and nightmares about this and have woken up in the past week with several dreams. I woke up thinking someone was coming near me. I woke up thinking someone was about to touch me and I said no. Not tonight. Both times I woke up and said, we have to talk about this. But nobody was even touching me (my boyfriend was sleeping next to me, but he wasn't touching me.)
I believe every time I have woken up scared has been an indication of what happened to me four weeks ago. Is it possible to have blocked out all memory of this having happened? I have not seen any recent images and the only things I can bring to mind are from when I was young.
A part of me believes this has been happening since then up until four weeks ago. The problem is that I am now twenty one years old and it bothers me a lot that I cannot picture what happened.
Right now, I am trying to heal. But I feel blocked, mostly because I only have the one memory and a bunch of scared, cringing feelings. What would you suggest? How can I get past my blocks and know what actually happened? Can I heal?
A few days later, I wrote back and said . . .
Let me begin by saying you are very brave to write me. Facing such a frightening part of one's childhood is never easy. More so because these journeys are always riddled with seemingly unsolvable questions. Thus your question to me: how can I pass my blocks and know what happened?
How? Start with this. Do not make knowing the details of what happened to you your main goal. Why not? Because knowing the details of any kind of abuse is never the real road to healing. At least, not knowing the exact details of the story.
How can I be saying this when you so feel this need to know? Because as you're now finding out, the mind can create these terrible details even when no one is touching you. This is not to say I believe nothing happened to you. From your words, I can indeed tell something terrible has happened to you.
Conversely, the mind can also reframe and even mask the worst of events, sometimes so completely that the person has no access. Thus, while we do not have the power to "block out " life events, shocking life events have the power to empty the screen of our mind and an empty mind sees nothing.
What I'm saying is, if you had the power to block these things out, wouldn't you do it each time you were hurting? Of course, you would. But since we humans do not have this power, we cannot, ourselves, be blocking out anything.
On the other hand, any time we experience an event in which we experience significant shock, our mind empties. This, in fact, is the nature of shock. Then, because we are by nature thinking beings, we actively seek explanations. Why? Because we cannot comfortably live with an empty mind.
Cherri, know this. I am so sorry you are hurting. You are a good person and deserve so much more. Including a face to face, warm and human therapist.
If you have one, I would consider having a dialogue with you about this in the hope I might point you in the direction of healing. If you are interested, please do write back and let me know.
Know I would then ask that I be allowed to anonymously post an edited down version of our conversation on my site, in hopes we might help those who suffer from similar abuse. Perhaps we might even outline a way in which others might heal as well.
If this would be too much for you, I certainly understand. And respect your decision.
Do write and let me know.
Warmly and with respect,
P. S. You might consider allowing yourself some distance from your father for now. No guilt. Just safe space. At least until you can sort some of this out.
Some weeks later, Cherri wrote back and said . . .
This is Cherri, I am writing you from a different email address. please respond to this email address. I wanted to say thank you for the reply. Ironically, on the 3rd, my parents broke into my boyfriend's apartment to try and take me home but i fought and they finally left when police came. So now I have been able to press charges on that incidence, which thus will keep my father away from me probably forever. which is good.
I had another question. do you think the body can hold memories? for example when i cringe with my nipples being touch, i know it is triggering my father's abuse, so can my body retain the memory of the whole event? could the event be replayed and depending on how my body reacts, could that be memory? like with direct emergence "playing the bad guy". When one does that, is it possible to remember the event through the body's reactions and not really as pictures and images in the mind? or do they need to go hand in hand to know what happened and thus heal? if it is really painful, how many times should one do direct emergence? till the pain stops? does feeling that pain help? will the pain go away??
also sometimes during sexual contact, i block myself, i get turned off and numb at certain things, which i know has to do from my father's abuse, will this eventually subside? will i be able to have complete sexual contact without feeling numb throughout?
I am looking into therapy. I am going this week to one, and hopefully they will be good. if not i plan on looking for one that i am completely comfortable with.
I am also at this point that you said on your email "these journeys are always riddled with seemingly unsolvable questions". I have millions of questions, that i am trying not to let get in the way, of knowing/healing/not denying, everything that is part of this whole recovery.
what will happen, lets say if i remember what happened just a month ago? Where do i go from there? what are common reactions, feelings, thoughts, that occur?
I do have many questions, which is why I am going to go to therapy, I was wondering where all are there emergence therapists?
you said that you may "point me in the direction of healing" I would really appreciate that, whatever you can say and tell me.
Cherri( to keep me anonymous use the name Cherri )
p.s. I do not mind you putting an edited version of our conversation on your web site, I know that that is what i was looking for when i first started my search, my healing. I will please ask you to use the name Cherri as the person going through this, from montana or anonymous, I just think using an actual name, not mine, may keep me more anonymous, really I'm scared about my parents, who knows they may look this information up..)
And a few days later, I wrote the following reply . . .
Sorry it has taken me so long.
I hope you are okay. Know you have been in my prayers and that you are very brave. Very brave.
As for your questions, I'll do my best.
Yes, the body definitely holds memories, albeit, these memories tend to be very, very physically specific. Thus, what your mind may expect should trigger a cringe response will often not trigger one. Why not? Because reliving an injury involves many sensations, not only the sexual contact. For instance, there will obviously be some sexual triggers such as where and how long and how hard or softly you are touched. But you will also have to watch for things like the amount of light in the room and the time of year or smells of rain or dampness and such.
Cherri, even specific noises can trigger a response, such as telephone rings and doors closing shut.. The main thing then is to try to build up a "yes, it makes me cringe" / "no, it doesn't" list.
Know also that your internal experiences, such as if your mind feels lost or you are unable to find your words for some reason may also be a part of this list of injury keys.
The thing to remember though is that if you go slowly and at your own pace, you can and will heal these injuries. I know. I have helped many people to heal these kinds of things. It may take time but you can do it.
So what is happening when you cringe from a touch? In essence, whatever the mind recorded in the instant in which your mind suddenly went blank got charged with the energy of this startling blankness. Knowing this; that an injury is actually just an instant in time, is the key to knowing how to heal, really.
on the other hand, despite that fact that injury is merely an instant, the mind can record a heck of a lot of small details in that instant, and each and every single one of these detail may or may not matter. Why? Because each detail gets potentially charged with the energy of the wounding startle.
So can you use Direct Emergence? Yes, Cherri. You can. Although you need to go very slow at first and make your controlling the process more important than you getting past your symptoms. In other words, you need to feel totally in charge of when you stop and when you try again. Period.
If you were to do this then, you might want to single out one response; your cringing from being touched a certain way, perhaps. Then, in a very controlled way, ask your boyfriend if he will be willing to slowly touch you there. Then tell him to stop. Know in order for this to work, he must be willing to do this immediately and without sexual overtones. And he must be willing to do this all on your command.
Know this may be hard for him. Still, if he cares about you and if he is aware of your goal, you can go far in healing yourself this way.
There is also much to be gained from your beginning a journal of your reactions. Things that you cringe from. Things you don't like done to you. Then try to narrow down the specifics of each and every reaction to what does and does not make you cringe.
Know this will always be less than you think. In other words, what causes you to react will always be more specific than your logical mind would at first imagine imagine.
Know too that when you do Direct Emergence, the main goal is to see the person who is playing the bad guy as not the person who hurt you. Rather do your best to see your boyfriends eyes or hear his reassuring voice.
Remember too that you must go at your pace and at no one else's. Your body will tell you what you can and cannot handle. Trust yourself in this.
Do write back and let me know how you are. Including how your therapy is going.
I'm so glad, Cherri, that you are getting help.