Our bodies are the texts that carry the memories and therefore remembering is no less than reincarnation. – Katie Cannon
There is one very important thing to remember when submersing yourself into a subject as daunting as trauma…
YOU WILL GO THERE.
Furthermore, you might get stuck. <<< Word to the wise.
Such has been my lot for the last two months or so.
Who’m I kidding? Many of the books I’ve discussed here over the years have either touched-on or jumped right into the center of trauma.
And there is, of course, my life.
This book is excellent, as the others have been, but there is one chapter title should stand as a warning to all who attempt this work…
THE UNBEARABLE HEAVINESS OF REMEMBERING
Van Der Kolk is a truth-teller.
A few thoughts before I go on…
- All of the books I’ve discussed on trauma basically say the same things.
- All talk about the mind, brain and body with an exploration of what trauma does to the developing brain.
- All talk about medication, therapies and treatments.
- I could have saved myself a bit of added trauma by stopping, listening to myself and doing the hard work with the first (or second or third) book.
- Childhood neglect, sexual abuse, physical or verbal abuse, war-time and pandemics wreak havoc on a body.
- And by that I mean, yours personally and the body human (including a nation and the world).
- Memory is fickle (pg 177). “Our stories change and are constantly revised and updated.”
- This is POWERFUL.
- But also, it begins to paint a picture of doubt and that is VERY UNHELPFUL when dealing with trauma.
- The memory may be related to a person or people, songs, smells and places (pg 177).
- Most are only a snapshot in time. Think September 11, 2001 between 9am and noon. Now think September 10 or 12th.
- Page 166 says something so profound I must also share it here: “Trying to explain [the patient’s] behavior in terms of victim/ perpetrator isn’t helpful, nor are labels like “depression,” “oppositional defiant disorder,” “bipolar disorder,” or any of the other options our diagnostic manuals offer us. [We need to understand how the patient] experiences the world.
- There is SO MUCH TRUTH in this! It’s also one way to understand how one person can be gobsmacked by something that another finds as “normal” or no big deal.
- There are clear differences between those who had suffered trauma as victims of child abuse vs. those who had survived natural disasters. Diagnosing *every*one who has trauma with a wide brush would be “tragic”. (page 145) The consequences for caretaker abuse and neglect are vastly more common and complex than the impact of hurricanes or motor vehicle accidents.
- I would add a caveat as I know a mom who was shown the (freeway) accident scene that killed her child. I won’t describe it here though I’ve never forgotten what she said. It was absolutely HORRIFIC. No parent should have to see that! I would suggest that her trauma is absolutely as devestating as any other.
Of course, none of this understanding is possible without knowing there has been trauma and what it is. For many people, including myself, this is where the trouble begins. And why a book like this – in particular – is helpful.
My mind may have buried whatever trauma I suffered but my body never forgot. I would suggest that FOR ME, the fat has always been a cloak I’ve worn for protection. This is NOT the first time I’ve realized it. It is the most obvious, though, which is why I’m discussing it.
Here’s the thing…
In all of my adult life, I’ve only lost weight a half dozen times or so even though I’ve been on a hundred (or more) diets. I have tried literally everything but surgery!
ONLY ONCE have I lost it in the right way and for the right reasons. It was the spring of 2007 and my husband and I started walking – on purpose, for the goal of losing weight. All spring and summer we walked. Every day after dinner. We also watched what we ate. We allowed ourself one treat a day – a 100 calorie ice-cream sandwich. It might have been tofu or-no-sugar added. I can’t remember. We did it together and we both lost around 50 pounds. Then we went to visit my kids in California – here’s a photo at the Disneyland hotel:
And when we got back… I can’t tell you exactly what happened… but we gained it all back. Plus some. Winter came. No more walking, true… but there was something else. There is ALWAYS something else.
Christmas is a HUGE trigger for me… in fact, the entire holiday season. It isn’t childhood trauma that brings it on, either. It’s ADULT trauma that I caused MYSELF. I moved to Canada on November 1st, 2000. It completely changed my life and that of my entire family – both blood and extended, my friends, and most of all my precious children. Now, I can add my darling grandson among them.
So, Halloween through the New Year, which would normally have been spent with family, turned into quiet days for just my (then-new) husband and me.
In twenty years, it hasn’t gotten easier. In fact, it’s all-the-more poignant since a few of my most beloved friends and family have died.
Beating myself up is so futile, I know. I’ve apologized and asked forgiveness (and received it). I’ve let go of the rope, so to speak.
But my BODY hasn’t.
Trauma is so tricky like that.
(Hey Trauma?! Is your name Guilt? Shame? What am I missing?)
So, what does this book have to say about HEALING trauma? Quite a lot…
From collective ceremony with your tribe (whether that’s with a therapist, friends, family or your fellow human) to singing, screaming and acting out in the healing theatre to EFT (Tapping – I’ve talked quite a bit about that already. Please follow link to read more.).
The bottom line seems to be that *something* significant needs to be done or else you’re STUCK. <<< And this is where I find myself today.
Friends, dealing with trauma is not for the faint-hearted.
While all of these books have been validating, and one could argue that I’ve always had the tools to deal with the trauma I carry in my body, there is *something* in the way. It’s what holds on to my fat.
Do I enjoy hanging on? Is it comfortable ?( No! Just ask my knees! They tell truth!)
It’s a lot to carry.
Very, very heavy.
I should know.
I’m super-tired of it.
I need to set it down and walk away. <<< I’m literally going to visualize it… and make a bit of a ceremony of it. Will it be the most difficult or the easiest thing I’ve ever done? Stay tuned.
Let me know if this post resonates with you… or if you find this or any of the other books on trauma I’ve written about interesting, helpful (or too heavy to carry). Something tells me our tribe is here and waiting for us… we just need to join in!