Archive for December 21st, 2007

Safe Passage to Healing

The book Safe Passage to Healing by Chrystine Oksana was very helpful to me in explaining the importance of associating memories back with the memories of traumatic experiences.

Throughout my healing process, I worked on associating the memories, feelings, etc. If I was sad, I cried; if I was angry, I threw things, etc. But I had a deep well of sadness inside that never seemed to go away, no matter how much I cried. I have a friend whose anger never seems to go away, no matter how often she expresses it.

In this book, I learned something that I have not read anywhere else. I had been associating memories as I had them, feelings as I had them, etc. But I had not put the pieces together to associate them back as a whole experience. This is why the well of sadness kept recycling. I cried for years, but I never fully released the sadness until I cried about the reason for the tears.

For example, my beloved dog was slaughtered in front of me to ensure my silence about the abuse. Even though I dissociated the memory, the sadness remained beneath the surface for my entire life. Every time I cried at a commercial, I was really crying about my dog. But until I actually shed tears about my dog, the tears just kept coming. It was through grieving my dog that I finally emptied the well of sadness.

Safe Passage to Healing talks about the different parts of an experience that we dissociate. There is: (1) the event that happened; (2) the emotions we felt in reaction; and (3) the feelings we felt. I never realized that feelings and emotions are not the same thing until reading this book. An emotion is anger or terror or grief. The feelings are how our bodies respond, such as the turning of the stomach, rapid heartbeat, etc. when we are terrified. Most traumatic events will cause several emotions, including terror, anger, grief, and shame as well as the resulting feelings for each emotion. So, one memory can actually be dissociated into many different parts – the event, the rage, the terror, the sadness, the shame, etc. Part of healing involves bringing all of these parts back together and healing them as a unit – healing our reaction to an event.

I had tried to heal the parts individually, but for me to fully heal the traumatic events, I needed to bring them together into context and associate them as one event. That meant crying for the loss of my dog, comforting myself, punching pillows in anger, etc. – all for one particular trauma.

Photo credit: Amazon.com

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