Rescuing the Traumatized Baby

This was first posted in July 2010

(Written in June 2004)
In a session of the “Wave Work” at Kripalu: there was a confusing struggle with my body’s tendency to cramp up (esp left hand) and kick, shake, jump.  Finally I let it shrivel up into a crippled, spastic child (I could see the starving baby from my collage book) — and it felt, not exactly good, but valid, solid, like this is who I really am.  I stayed with it for a while, feeling huge compassion for that shriveled, spastic, starving baby.
Later came a sense of “wrong” — “Who’s saying it?” They are, mom & dad.  Then I got angry and started to growl & she said “Let it get big” — and it got huge, a shell of fire expanding outward.  I felt safe inside it.  The wounded child guarded by Tigress Mother Durga.  I could feel both at once and like the baby really was safe, and fiercely defended, and OK just as she was.  As I stayed with the picture, the limbs of the baby began to plump up — tho her skin was grey black.  At that point Helah said I was integrating and just to stay with the feelings of huge compassion.

Told Karen about the Wave Work, about being the baby — then about feelings of resistance and disgust to the idea of taking care of myself.  She said it was OK to have those feelings.  We explored the reality — that it’s not an infant that requires 24-hour a day care.  When I paid attention to the infant I got that what she needed was just my presence, my attention, my willingness to be with her, and to see her correctly.  OF COURSE!  She’s not a physical baby but an emotional one, she doesn’t need physical nurturing so much as  emotional nourishing — and I can do that.  I told Karen that this time being with the baby was different — I felt compassion go out to her, but not that I had to fix it or make it better.  Karen said she could tell that, that in the past I had seen the baby as a ‘chore’, a ‘burden’.  (which of course is how mother saw me).

(Written in December 2004)
Dear Guides and Guardian Spirits, I’m having a hard time.  I feel so bleak and despairing and empty.  At least I’ve been able to cook & eat breakfast, make phone calls, wash dishes.  But I feel so bereft.  My life stretches out in front of me like a bleak grey wasteland.  Please help me.
Dear Jenny, we love you a lot.  This is a difficult passage you are going through, but it is a passage.  You will get through it.  There is life on the other side, never fear.  It’s going to be OK, it really is going to be OK.  It’s OK for the moment to sit with this level of despair.  This is truly the experience of a baby who has been left alone by her mother.  She can’t take care of herself, all she can do is wait to be rescued.  The longer rescue does not come, the more everything looks utterly hopeless.  There, there, dear.  Imagine yourself holding the baby who is so frozen and scared — too frozen to be able to feel your presence.  And we are around you, holding you as you hold her.

(Written in December 2005)
The hopelessness and helplessness feel so HUGE. I say to myself “These are the feelings of a baby who’s been left alone too long.”  At the moment I’m feeling, overwhelmingly, “Nothing I do makes any difference.” I can see that’s the baby’s experience, but it doesn’t bring any change.

When I don’t have a Neskaya/Circle Dance activity, when I’m alone in my house, then I fall into the lost baby — hopeless and helpless, who will die if no one rescues her.

(Written in January 2006)
Bleak.  Cold stony wasteland bleak. This hard cold stoniness is not who I am.  It is the product of trauma and adverse brain chemistry.  This is what a baby feels when she has been left too long by her mother.  The hard cold stoniness is a defense, and it’s also how the world feels when mother is gone: no hope, no warmth, no love. My job is just to stay with her long enough for her to get it that I really am here for her.  Until she gets that, my attempts at self-soothing aren’t going to work.  So I need to just sit next to her, with kindness, reassurance and patience, understanding that her anger and rejection and mistrust are because of her pain at being left for so long.  I know and understand that pain.

Somewhere in here, I had an experience of committing myself to the traumatized baby. I didn’t write it down so I don’t know exactly when it happened.  I was imagining a war zone, wrecked buildings, burning cars, dead bodies, a few people wandering dazedly around, smoke drifting, colors all grey and black except for the fires.  I see a shriveled dark grey baby lying on a garbage can.  I think of picking her up, but I realize the orphanage has been bombed.  There’s nowhere to take her.  If I pick her up I’m stuck with her for the rest of my life.  I spend a moment wondering if I really do want to take on this task.  Then I pick her up.

Saw Deborah St. Cyr for acupuncture yesterday.  Told her about the feeling in my chest, and that if I said to myself “It’s a traumatized baby” then everything softened and it was easier to be with the fear.  When she started putting needles in, she said something about “strengthening the container.” That reminded me of Beth’s sculpture and the one I had wanted to make and how I had seen that the heart was shielded because it needed to heal, and then the heart needed to connect with the baby, not turn outward again.  Then it came to me — the baby is in the heart!  That’s why the heart is all grey like the baby was.  That was very exciting — it’s not the grey of stuckness, degeneration and death, it’s the grey of a frozen traumatized baby.  Even writing it down I can feel the shift — from being angry at myself for waking scared again to compassion for the terrified frozen baby, and willingness to stay with it as long as it takes.
And if it takes the rest of my life, I’m willing to do that.  It’s amazing that I care so much about this baby, who is me, as though the baby were the earth, or all the babies traumatized by war, and not Jenny who I’ve never thought was worth that much focus and effort.  But the baby doesn’t seem like “me”, more like the task I’ve been given and I’m willing to take it on.  My work to heal this traumatized fragment of the universe is meaningful.  And I think one thing that’s helped this shift is Sharon Salzberg quoting the Buddha as saying there’s no one more worthy of your love in the whole universe than yourself.

This entry was posted in Guidance, Healing, Trauma. Bookmark the permalink.