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Archive for July 29th, 2008

This post is part of a series in which I am providing an overview of my healing process from child abuse. The story begins here.

When I first started having flashbacks, I would have them one at a time. Believe me, one memory at a time was more than I could handle most of the time. After I recovered a memory, I would deal with the punch of the emotions for days afterward.

As I continued to heal, I developed several coping strategies that helped me manage the pain. As I moved through different layers of healing, I was able to use the coping strategies that I had used to get through other layers of healing. So, as I faced my most challenging memories, I went into them “armed” with the ability to survive them. I grew more confident that I would get through the current layer of memories because I had previously survived and healed from other layers of memories.

As I continued to heal, the pace of healing picked up. Instead of dealing with one memory for days or weeks, I would sometimes have a “montage” of memories – flashes of memories released that had a similar theme.

For example, I recovered three memories in one night. In one, my mother was abusing me in our family van. We had one of those “hippie vans” with the curtains in the windows. She had pulled to the side of the road and harmed me. I never saw it coming. I had a second memory of my mother abusing me at my grandmother’s beach house in the storage unit for the beach stuff. I always remembered being phobic of one of the three doors. This memory answered the question of why. And then there was a third memory of a similar theme – being abused in a place where I thought I was safe.

All three of the memories carried the same feelings of betrayal and removal of safety in situations in which I thought I was safe. I was able to work through and heal the emotions involved in all of these situations at one time because they all had to do with the same issues.

My therapist told me that it is not necessary to remember every incident of abuse. I needed to remember enough in order to heal the resulting pain. Sometimes a cluster of memories like this is enough information to heal the pain. I did not have to relive each memory – I just needed to know enough to understand what I was healing.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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