Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


Letting Go of (the myth of) a Happy Childhood

In the past week I've started seeing another therapist. No, not a replacement, in addition to the therapist I've been working with for years. The new woman specializes in using EMDR with PTSD, particularly childhood trauma. It is really stressful for me to take this step for all kinds of reasons (talking to a new person, having to honestly look at my childhood & process it, the feeling I don't deserve the tremendous expense of seeing 5 different care professionals, etc.), but it seems like such a necessary choice.

My primary therapist has been working with me to let go of the notion that I had a happy childhood on any level. I'm really fighting this. I can feel myself clinging to the idea that on some level, in some way I must have had a happy childhood. The truth that really I didn't have a happy childhood seems impossible to process. When I try to take it in I feel nauseated, dizzy, hopeless and notice tight pain in my stomach, heart & throat chakras.

That brings us to all the body work. I've started acupuncture again and once again it sets off little emotional bombs within two days of an appointment. I leave feeling rested and have a good day following and then some kind of breakdown. I had a couple of days where I felt utterly worthless and incapable of doing anything well. I had a couple of days where I just felt a lot of grief about my childhood.

After some discussion with all these amazing people who've done body/energetic work with me it is totally clear that there is a deeply somatic component to my PTSD. It is the reason why the cognitive work I do with my primary therapist is oftentimes so slow, so painful and at times feels impossible to learn. There are areas where the traumatic response is so physical, I don't get the negative voice of the Inner Critic so much as I feel the grief, the sensations of worthlessness and shame, in my body. I also am struggling with feeling a lot of shame around the fact that I didn't have a happy childhood, that on some level it was my fault after all.

So, in spite of my absolute resistance to working with another therapist, I am seeing one who specializes in the kind of somatic work with trauma I clearly need. On her advice I've also been trying to be more attentive to a yoga practice combined with regular visits for lap swimming or water exercise and using the steam room at the gym. A combination of burning off some of the energy and tapping into the comfort & safety I feel while in water or in the steam room.

I'm also returning again and again to the sensation of the breath in the body, my first and best known form of zazen. I'm combining this with a body scan to just take inventory as to what is there, not to respond, just to observe. Occasionally I offer in some phrases of Metta practice, but lightly and with less focused attention than I have used.

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