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On my blog entry entitled Words of Wisdom from “The Shack”: The Beauty and Pain of Emotions, a reader posted the following comment:

My therapist and I were just talking about this today. She says that the emotion has to be linked to the memory before healing can happen. It helps me to try to remember that… because it really sucks!! ~ Else

This has been a challenging part of healing for me, but it is so true. Not only did I split into alter parts in the reaction to the abuse, I also split apart the memories. A particularly traumatizing memory might be stored in numerous parts – the sights, the sounds, the smells, the anger, the pain – all encapsulated apart from one another. In order to heal fully from one particularly traumatizing experience, I had to connect all of the pieces back to the source.

Considering the vast quantity of trauma that I endured as a child, this can be a daunting task. I have found that I do not have to piece together every single individual memory, but I do have to piece it all together enough that I can heal.

For example, I have dealt with seemingly endless sadness in my life. A little thing like a TV commercial can trigger the sadness, and I cannot hold back the tears. And yet, I can recover an extremely traumatizing memory and be unable to cry. That is my red flag that I have not yet integrated the emotions back into that memory. So, instead of crying when I think about my slaughtered dog, I cry when I see a story on TV about a dog dying. My overreaction to the dog on TV is the missing part of my under-reaction to the trauma that caused the tears.

Now that I have wept the tears for my slaughtered dog, I do not struggle as much with uncontrollable tears for dogs on TV. Because I integrated the emotions back with the memory, I was finally able to heal that part of myself. Yes, I will always be susceptible to triggers that remind me of that trauma, but the pain is now all in one place. I can experience that memory in a different way now that I have put the puzzle pieces back together again.

Related Topic:

Associating Emotions with Traumatic Memories

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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