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Archive for December 30th, 2009

Now that I have shared my story about seeing my mother/abuser again, I am ready to dive back into helping all of you! On my blog entry entitled What is a Body Memory?, a reader posted the following comment:

I have a question- I know about body memories. But I don’t get how to process them. When I try to work through them, I end up just being stuck. They come back again from time to time but they never seem to change. It was good to learn how to “manage” them. But it’s really starting to get on my nerves that I can’t seem to be able to change them. I’m working on this for almost 20 years and have been in therapy. How exactly do you do it? Any tips? ~ Anon

Body memories can be difficult to manage and heal, especially when you don’t know the origin of the trauma. This is doubly an issue for anyone whose trauma began when you were preverbal. The book When You’re Ready does a great job talking about how to process body memories for trauma that occurred when you were too young to process the memories with language.

The key to healing body memories is to relate them back to the source. For example, I used to have body memories of tasting cigarette smoke in my mouth and feeling it in my lungs, even though I have never smoked. This phenomenon happened long before I started having flashbacks. I used to wonder if it was some sort of weird “past life” phenomenon.

When I recovered the memory of the origin of the trauma (being choked nearly to death and then having mouth-to-mouth administered by my abuser, who had been smoking), I started having the body memories again. This time, I knew what was going on, so I was able to connect the elements of the one traumatic event back together again. This helped me to heal this particular body memory. I can still access that body memory or have it triggered, but, just like with any other type of triggering, I use my tools to bring myself back to the present, and that heals the body memory.

Body memories really are not any different than any other type of flashback. They can be triggered, just like visual or emotional flashbacks, and you heal them by processing the trauma that created the body memory. The most difficult part is often connecting back the body memory to the underlying event.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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