Archive for October, 2010

A reader asked me to share this link with everyone about a Child Abuse Survivor Monument.

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The fact that you are hearing about a 10/6/10 blog entry today tells you how backlogged I have become in my email! Blooming Lotus was featured as one of 40 Excellent Blogs for PTSD Support. Here is what the blog said about this site:

Blooming Lotus: Faith Allen’s blog serves as a well-respected, insightful and frequently-updated resource for survivors of childhood abuse.

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I was waiting on my hairdresser yesterday when the cover of Redbook magazine caught my eye. Trust me – that is unusual for me! The cover was advertising an article inside about the real reasons that women have trouble losing weight. I flipped over to the article curious to see if my observations (the need for more rest and sleep) would be included. Instead, I was treated to more insights that I had never considered.

The article is about Geneen Roth’s book Women Food and God. According to the article, the author had been binging and dieting for 17 years and was just “done” with the cycle. She says that she stopped dieting, started listening to what her body wanted to eat, and settled into her “natural” weight. You can read the Redbook article here.

The author touched upon an area of compulsive overeating that I had never considered but that really hit home for me. Her first point is to “realize that the size of your body isn’t just about food.” She says that you have to look at the big picture and recognize that your relationship with food is expressing “all the self-defeating beliefs you have about yourself and your life.” She says that you cannot separate out the way you eat from the way you live. Wow!

Then, she provides a couple of examples. She says that the person who eats “on the run” and will not take time out to sit and enjoy a meal is expressing a belief that everything else in life is more important than you are. If you do this, you need to be asking yourself how you want to be spending your time. All of this ties in with my need to set aside time to rest and relax. I used to eat on the run, and now I do set aside a “lunch break” every day that I thoroughly enjoy.

Her other example was feeling guilty for eating one cookie. The author asks, “If you feel guilty for eating one cookie, for instance, what does that say about the pleasure you deprive yourself of in daily life?” This article has given me a lot to think about, and I might just have to order that book.

The article includes four other points:

2. Understand that weight loss isn’t everything — but it is something.

3. Go ahead and feel bad.

4. Believe that you deserve happiness.

5. Eat when you are hungry.

Her point in #3 about feeling badly is something I have been working on for years through therapy. I ate as a child to “stuff down” the painful emotions, and I have gotten much better about just allowing myself to “feel bad” for a little while. The pain always passes. I am still a work in progress with the other three points. It is point #1 that I really want to focus upon.

Again, here is the link to the article on overcoming food addiction.

Photo credit: Amazon.com

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I “met” another inner child through a dream, and I will be curious to see if this inner child returns in my future dreams. I have shared previously about my son, N, representing my inner child in my dreams. A reader helped me recognize that N is now okay and is actually smiling. I have continued trying to “rescue” N, but he needs no rescue. He is okay.

So, the other night I had a dream where I “grew” my family by adopting a foster child. This was another little boy who was the same age as N in my dream. He refused to tell me his name, so I gave him the name of T just so we could have a way of communicating. He was very quiet and sad.

The three of us (me, N, and T) were hanging out in the kitchen, and I was getting them ready for school. N was happy, but T was quiet. The kitchen sink was piled high with dishes. I looked up and saw that T was trapped in the kitchen sink, and he was scared. He wanted to cry and looked so sad, but he said nothing. I immediately pulled T out and hugged him tightly. I told him that I love him and that I was so sorry that he had been scared.

T then spoke for the first time and said, “My name is M,” which is my deceased father’s middle name. I told him that I loved his name and that my father shared his name. I held him close, and then I woke up.

I don’t know the story of M or why he shares my father’s name. All I know is that I love him and that I want to “parent” him so he is no longer so sad and scared.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Over the weekend, I saw Matt Damon’s new movie Hereafter. I was not overly impressed by the movie in large part due to the V-E-R-Y S-L-O-W pacing, but that is irrelevant to the point of today’s blog entry.

Matt Damon’s character, George, had the ability to connect with anyone’s loved ones who had died by touching the person’s hands. So, if George touched my hands, he might be able to serve as a conduit for communication between me and my deceased father or grandfather. George’s brother said this was a “gift” that George had a responsibility of sharing with the world. George saw this ability as a “curse” that prevented him from having a normal life.

This got me thinking about whether those of us who have healed from child abuse (or are further along our healing journeys) have a responsibility to interact with other child abuse survivors and help them along their own healing journeys. In my case, I have been blessed with the gift of being able to express myself well in writing (and I do see this as a gift without a downside). Because I have this gift and have made a lot of progress in healing from child abuse, does that give me the responsibility of using this gift to help other survivors of child abuse?

My answer to that question is no. I do not write this blog because I feel a responsibility or sense of duty to my readers to write it. I could shut down this blog tomorrow and feel no guilt whatsoever about shunning my responsibility to fellow child abuse survivors. As my therapist told me repeatedly, I get to choose the course of the rest of my life. I can choose to spend it helping others or pursuing my own dreams that have nothing whatsoever to do with my past, and either path is okay.

So, why do I write this blog? Because I care. I have been blessed with the ability to express myself well in writing, and I have the experience of surviving the early stages of healing from child abuse. I have combined the two to write this blog as a gift to fellow child abuse survivors simply because I care. Does that make a person who chooses not to do the same thing an “uncaring” person? Absolutely not. That person might have other gifts to give the world that have nothing to do with his or her history of child abuse.

Writing about and thinking about healing from child abuse on a daily basis is not always easy. Nobody who has healed from child abuse should ever feel compelled to stay in this painful world of healing, and I actually recommend against it unless and until you develop the ability to empathize without being sucked into the desperation of someone else’s struggles. Readers frequently send me emails telling me about the gory details of their pain, and all of you have seen the comments that are posted on this blog. I have developed the ability to provide hope without falling back down into the pit when reading the stories. Not everyone has this ability, and nobody should be judged for not wanting to go back into that pit after finding the way out.

For those of you who feel a responsibility to write your own blog after you are farther along in healing, please don’t feel compelled to do so. If you want to do it, write your blog as a gift, not out of a sense of duty.

Photo credit: Faith Allen

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On my blog entry entitled We are the Ones Who Heal Ourselves, a reader posted the following comment:

I met a girl [alter part] last night. She told me she lives in a peach colored room that the others built for her to keep her safe because they love her. There is no door in the room and the windows are very small so no outsiders can crawl through and hurt her. I don’t know who she is exactly, or how old, but she is very young. She said the others hid her because we would all die if she died. I have a vague recollection of the building of this room. I know it has white carpet and lots of soft and fluffy white bedding and that no one can get in. Except I think I remember going there before. I’m confused. I’m too afraid to tell anyone or post this on my own blog, so I will leave it here because I think you might understand. ~ Anon

I understand much better than Anon could possibly realize. I, too, have my own version of a safe room, and I think visualizing such as safe place can be amazingly healing for child abuse survivors whether they have alter parts or not.

Here is what my “safe room” is like. It has no windows at all so nobody can crawl in. The room only has one door that has a doorknob on the inside only, so if an alter part wants to go to the room, he or she can close the door from the inside, and nobody (not even I) can open the door from the outside.

Inside the room is a canopy bed that changes colors at will. When I was in elementary school (during the worst of the abuse), my best friend had a beautiful pale yellow canopy bed. I really wanted one myself, but my parents said that it would just collect dust. When an alter part enters the room, the canopy bed is that shade of yellow but can change colors at will.

Beside the bed is a toy chest filled with any toy the alter part wants. Next to the toy chest is the one toy that I always wanted as a little girl but that my parents never bought me, no matter how many times I pleaded for it. If you were a kid during the mid- to late-1970’s, you will likely remember the Fisher Price toy castle that was all the rage during that time. It folded open and had the members of the royal family inside. There was a drawbridge and a plank at the top that a toy person could fall through and wind up in the dungeon. Just about every kid I knew had one, and I would always gravitate to that toy on play dates even when my friends were sick of the toy.

Most importantly, the room is cozy warm and located right inside of my heart. My alter parts were “frozen” during the abuse, and as they “thaw out,” they tend to linger in my stomach (causing me to binge eat) or my thighs (which is where I hold my fear). If an alter part is not ready to integrate, I invite him or her into this safe room, and my heart is big enough to hold one safe room for each alter part. The alter part chooses when to open the door up and integrate.

Photo credit: Fast-autos.net

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On my blog entry entitled We are the Ones Who Heal Ourselves, a reader shared in the comments about expressive therapy. I confess that I knew very little about expressive therapy, so I asked him to explain further. Here is an excerpt of his description:

I think it is very very personal…Your writing here is expressive therapy. Perhaps think of what it would be like to write only to yourself and no one commented then it would not be expressive therapy rather a journal.

For me I need to do it with my therapist. It is much without words. I am totally self directed. It does not work for me to have someone give an instruction. That is art therapy and my intellect just takes over. That is not what I need.

My therapist had all sorts of things like puppets and a sand tray. Pretty much in the context of my relationship with my therapist it just happens. For me there has to be a very special relationship…In a way expressive work gives me relief and psychoanalysis gives me understanding. If I am not mistaken you once described hitting a pillow that is expressive therapy. I can do a lot with a box of 8 crayons and a piece of paper. Just happens. It is well not art. ~ MFF

About a week after reading this comment, I had the pleasure of meeting a woman who worked as an expressive art therapist for a number of years. She did a great job explaining expressive therapy to me. In a nutshell, she said that it is an outlet a person can use to express feelings and emotions. This can be done with painting, sculpting, drawing, etc., but it doesn’t even have to be art-related. Expressive therapy can be done through drama, writing, or any other way that you find to express yourself.

She gave me a few examples of prompts she used in group art therapy sessions. She might invite the class to think about how they would cross a chasm and then express it in some manner such as drawing or painting. My first thought was teleportation. Someone else’s might be to jump, build a bridge, or another method. The resulting expression would reveal something about the person’s feelings or emotions.

Another example she gave me was to think about an unpleasant experience. She said that lots of her patients would draw a rape scene while others might choose something completely different. There was no “right” or “wrong” response.

Ultimately, the goal is to give yourself another outlet for expressing your feelings and emotions. In her case, she was leading a group art therapy class, so she needed to use prompts. As individuals, we have many forms of expressive therapy from which to choose. Some might be fine to express alone while others should be done in the presence of a therapist.

For example, I know a woman who broke through a pane of glass (under her therapist’s supervision) as a way of expressing “breaking through” her emotions. I did expressive therapy (but did not know it was called that) when I broke an entire bagful of popsicle sticks and threw them against the wall. Expressive therapy can be as creative as you are. What matters is that it is providing your feelings and emotions with a “voice.”

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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A reader named Jen sent me a wonderful letter to her body that she has given me permission to share with you. Last week was particularly grueling for me, and I was not kind to my body during that time. I need to follow Jen’s example and seek forgiveness from my body for the ways that I tend to take out my emotional pain on my body. I also need to forgive my body for acting and reacting in the ways that it was designed to do.

Dear Body,

I am sorry for not listening to you, and I am sorry for hurting you when you needed me most. I let you down, because I thought you had let me down.

But really you were just doing what you have been programmed to do. It was not your fault, like it wasn’t my fault.

They tortured you, and they made my mind split from you leaving you to endure it alone. So I am sorry for being absent from you for so very long.

Today I forgive you, and I will allow you to feel your memories and I will hold them and I will accept them, and I will not cover them up by harming you.

Maybe you can forgive me too, for never listening to you, for putting you in that situation, for not being able to get away, and for hating you for so long.

My mind left when you could not. You had to endure the things that were done to you, and for that I am sorry. ~ Jen

Throughout my years of healing, I have learned that I actually have a relationship with my body, and I have not always been kind. In many ways, I have been my own body’s abuser, from banging its head into pillows to overstuffing it with food that it did not need. I have hated my body for having orgasms during sex, and I have hated my body for not having orgasms during sex. I have taken a lot of my anger out on my body even though my body did nothing to deserve it.

In fact, I have a pretty amazing body. I am in my forties and have a body that feels like it is in its twenties. My body looks younger than it is. It can endure 45 minutes on the elliptical machine followed by 20 minutes of weight training. My body can walk three or four miles without trouble. My body is quite resilient and able to adjust to the feasts and famines that I have put it through over the years.

Through therapy, I learned that I need to treat my body as my child. Why do I permit my body to live on junk food while insisting that my son’s body be fueled with healthy foods? I vacillate between caring for my body and abusing it, but my body continues to serve me well. I have spent 2010 trying to make caring for my body a priority, and I am making progress. Part of this progress has come from forgiving my body for the abuse it endured, even though I recognize that there truly is nothing to forgive.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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In my blog entry yesterday, I highlighted Sabrina Mesko’s book, Healing Mudras: Yoga for Your Hands. The book contains basic information about alternative healing methods in addition to healing mudras. I was fascinated by a section on healing colors. The colors apparently align with the colors of the Chakras, which I admit that I know very little about. Nevertheless, I have noticed that I am sometimes drawn to one color more than another for different situations, and this could explain why.

For example, I prefer to wear red if I need to be bold, such as at a job interview or when I am walking into a confrontational situation. According to this book, the color red positively affects a person’s vitality, grounds you, and connects you to the earth. I probably need to feel grounded when walking into a confrontational situation due to my tendency to dissociate, so it makes sense that I would be drawn to the color red.

Here are the descriptions of each color from page 25 of the book:

Color Description
Red Vitality; grounding; connection to the earth
Orange Empower sexuality, creativity, and relationships
Green Heal your heart and feel loved
Blue Calming; helps you see and speak the truth
Indigo Enhance intuition and sixth sense
Violet Centering and calming; help connect with universal healing powers
Black Help communicate as a leader
White Feel cleansed and pure; help clear negative feelings and depression

According to the book, you can visualize these colors to help achieve the different goals, or you can wear those colors to help. You can even surround yourself with a particular color if you want to work on a particular area.

Has anyone ever used healing colors in your healing journey? Was it helpful? I am fascinated with trying to use some of these strategies to help me when I am struggling.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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A friend recently told me about mudras, which is basically yoga for the hands. I had never heard of such a practice, but yoga and meditation are actually filled with mudras, such as the mudra of making a circle with your thumb and index finger when you meditate.

My friend recommended Sabrina Mesko’s book, Healing Mudras: Yoga for Your Hands as a great place to get started. I really like it because it is written in very simple terms that I can follow. If you research mudras online, you will find a bunch of difficult-to-pronounce names that do not necessarily tell you what the mudra does, whereas this book provides pictures and an explanation underneath what you are trying to accomplish (inner integrity, recharging, patience, etc.).

Mudras only involve the hands (and sometimes the arms), and you only need to hold them for three minutes while doing deep breathing exercises (either deep breathing or the “short breath of fire,” depending upon the mudra) to feel the effects. You also need to sit with your back straight, just like with meditation. I have been doing three mudras a day this week and have been pleased with the results so far.

The book that I am using lists the mudras in three categories: soul, body, and mind. I have been trying to do one of each every day to achieve more balance.

My favorite is the one for contentment. I can feel a rush of contentment flowing through me whenever I do it. It is hard to explain, but it is a wonderful way to help bring yourself down when you are triggered, and it is very easy to do. With the right hand (for women; left for men), make a circle with your thumb and middle finger. With your left hand (for women; right for men), make a circle with your thumb and little finger. Hold them a few inches apart near your naval area and take long, slow, deep breaths for three minutes. When you finish, make fists and then relax. It is amazingly relaxing.

This is just one example, but there are numerous mudras included in this book. Here is a sampling: For the soul – happiness, trust, inner integrity, wisdom, guidance, and powerful insight. For the body – preventing stress, overcoming addictions, healing a broken heart, recharging, and eliminating fatigue. For the mind – facing fear, releasing guilt, overcoming anxiety, inner security, calming your mind, removing depression, and unblocking the subconscious mind. There are many more included in the book, but you can get an idea about why I wanted to share this with you based upon the topics I provided in the sampling.

Have any of you ever used mudras? What was your experience?

Photo credit: Amazon.com

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