A protective mechanism
It is amazing what the mind will do to protect you from powerful negative emotions. The mind helps you to forget things that you may not be able to process or that you may not be ready for. This is a magnificent survival coping mechanism without which we wouldn’t be able to survive trauma.
Enduring sexual abuse as a child is one example of trauma that is too much for a child to mentally process. The experience of being sexually abused by your own father is too disturbing and there is no place for the mind to store these memories. Where would the brain find a suitable place to file these away in your mental cabinet? There is no comparable experience that the mind can relate it to.
Instead it is stuffed down so deep into the psyche that it is completely denied, forgotten or the child disassociates from the experience completely.
Dream or real
I have read that because these memories of abuse have been stored in a very different way to other childhood memories, the memories may be disjointed, fragmented and at other times they take on a dream-like quality.
I used to have a dream around the time of the abuse. Well until very recently I thought it was a dream. I now entertain the possibility that it might be real.
I am lying down on a bed and there is an incredible, overwhelming and suffocating weight on top of my body. I find it hard to articulate the immensity of that weight. But I can say that it feels heavier than a ton of bricks. The weight is suffocating me and I can’t break free, I can’t move. I lay paralysed but mentally I am fighting to get out from under it.
It’s a horrible ‘dream‘ and I remember it even now as I had this sensation many times. It was a recurring ‘dream‘.
I have also read that when sexual abuse occurs at a very young age, the memories are pre-verbal. They are beyond articulation because at the age when you experienced the abuse, you didn’t have the words to describe it. Pre-verbal memories are hidden in the body. Once the key is unlocked, and the secret is out you allow the body to remember. Think of a cola bottle, when you shake it vigorously with the lid on and then remove the lid. What happens? Yes, it fizzes and fizzes and bubbles out, spewing out all the trapped liquid.
I denied the abuse for many years and my body is remembering.
I can be at work and without any warning, I start to feel nausea. I want to throw up but nothing comes up. It is uncomfortable and I want to run from it. It is not related to anything physical. There are no medical tests for it. They are body memories.
Feeling the feelings
What do I do when my body remembers?
I am learning to just sit with it. I breathe in and out deeply and I let it stay for as long as it has to. I nurture the feeling with compassion, patience, acceptance and respect. I meditate and go deep into the storm of feelings.
I wait until it passes.
When it has passed, I feel renewed!
I am stronger and can face the next challenge more effectively.