Difficult and Painful

Yesterday I had the most difficult and painful therapy session I’ve ever had.  I’m going to record it here in case it is helpful to someone else.  It’s likely to sound very strange to anyone who’s not had the experiences I’ve had.  I was traumatized very early, in infancy, and probably traumatized over and over by being left alone too long.  Very early trauma impacts the development of the brain and nervous system.  I have suffered from periods of severe depression and terror all my life.  My first attempt to try medication resulted in 5 days of escalating terror, and I now realize that it was in fact a traumatic experience.  When I finally got on anti-depressant medication that worked, and found out what normal brain chemistry was like, I realized I had no memories of ever feeling that way.  For most of my life I thought I was defective, but the truth is that I didn’t have the skills necessary to live effectively.

One of the reasons I never thought I was traumatized was that I couldn’t remember a traumatic event, not realizing that it doesn’t take much to traumatize a baby.  Why someone is traumatized has more to do with their psychological development than the violence of the event.  I also didn’t have visual flashbacks.  What I had were body state flashbacks, which were things like sudden severe depression coming out of the blue, suddenly needing to withdraw or hide, etc.  Such relivings of the trauma can be triggered by almost anything: a tone of voice, a particular smell, a change in the weather, something so small or “normal” that it’s not seen as related.  Because trauma prevents the brain from processing normally, the memory of the traumatic event is not like normal memory.  Instead of being stored as a complete memory, it is separated into chunks: a visual component separated from the emotion that went with it, an emotion that has nothing to do with current reality, a movement of the body that doesn’t make sense, etc.  These “flashbacks” can be triggered by any little thing that is a reminder of the trauma.  They are experienced as in the present, instead of part of the past.

What I experienced in this therapy session were the feelings of an infant that has been left alone, feeling unloved and uncared-for, but also afraid that she won’t survive.  A baby has no concept of death, but she is truly dependent on another human being for survival.  So after a certain amount of time the baby has been left alone, her reptilian brain stem concludes that she’s in a life-threatening situation, and her system goes into trauma.  When I am waiting for someone to show up, it can become unbearable if it goes on too long.  “Too long” can start at about 5 minutes of waiting.

The reason this session was so hard for me was that it required me to get in touch with far off and barricaded parts of myself, who were in desperate pain, terror, and confusion.  I don’t think I could have done it if I hadn’t trusted my therapist a lot.

Hard painful session with Erica.  Having trouble connecting with her.  Cried a lot.  Found a part of myself, down deep in something like a well that closed in.  It was closed at the bottom so she didn’t fall forever.  She was just a little round ball – like an embryo.  Looking at her now I see that she’s curled up in a ball, trying to be as small as possible.  Erica said she was defending herself against my friend’s energy.  Seeing how much it cost to defend myself.  Periodically she would ask where my energy field was.  At first it wasn’t. Then it was out about 6 inches from my body.  When she asked where she was, I didn’t know.  Later our energy fields were overlapping in a sort of fuzzy area.  I think by the end they were more balanced between us and moving back and forth like breathing.  At one point she suggested I pendulate between the little tiny being and the things in the room which would bring me into the present.  So I did that, in fact I did it all the way home.  She would periodically ask how I thought she saw me.  That’s always a very difficult question.  Once I said she looked concerned.  Erica asked why.  I said “because you care about me,” and convulsed into tears.  So painful to imagine that someone could care about me.  She suggested I try to let it in, one drop at a time.  So I let one drop come in and the tiny being took it in.  “Where in her body did she take it in?” asked Erica.  I couldn’t see the tiny being as anything different from a ball, so I said in the center.  I imagined the drop as honey and it appeared as a golden glow in the center of the ball.  We did another drop, and then the little one said “That’s enough.”  Actually I put up my hands, palms outward, in a “stop” gesture.  I did it in response to a feeling of energy inside.  When I first got in touch with the tiny being, Erica said that we weren’t asking her to change.  I could feel the relief in my body.  No, she’s fine just the way she is, and I’m fine just the way I am.  With this permission, my body relaxed in relief.  When it was time, I didn’t want to go.

Toward the end of the session, looking at the root of my life in this tiny frightened and despairing being, I saw an utter lack of foundation for any sort of healthy meaningful life.  She had received no guidance and support, no comforting and reassurance, no tenderness and forgiveness.  Looking out across the wasteland of my life, a battered war zone with a very few bright lights and green fields, I cried out “I WANT A LIFE!”  Erica heard that cry as an “anguished protest for vitality, integrity, authentic expression and voice.”

Even though this work is so difficult, I know it’s the way to heal, perhaps the only way to heal.  The experience has to be felt in order to be processed.  Afterward, I didn’t feel rejuvenated, as I do after an encouraging therapy session, instead I feel lost, scared, and discouraged.  I hope/trust that it will lead to healing, but it looks like a very long journey.

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