Wednesday, April 9, 2014

From Tine - Body Memories

Within our system, I think that I (Tine) have the most body memories. I'm one of the two alters who have had the most trauma, so I guess that it makes sense. 

I am someone who even has things show up on my body that aren’t actually happening (actual bruises, extreme redness, and even scratches on my skin - all of which have happened right in front of our therapist, so it was clearly not made up or done by me in accident).  But, other than just having pain, my body sometimes gets physically locked in different positions, too.  So, let me try to think of all the things I’ve learned and tried for all types of body memories. 

I guess that the most important thing to do is what is called grounding. If any part of your mind isn’t explicitly aware it’s the end of November of 2013, your body may not know it either.  So, grounding, grounding, grounding!  Anything to connect you right to that present moment and your surroundings.  My old therapist, who I miss A LOT,  taught me to combine this with separating past from present and reality testing.  So, if I know what general time frame this memory is coming from I can direct my awareness to things that are different from that time  (I am not in the woods right now, I am not at my parents’ house, [this person] is not here, I am not [x] years old, etc.).  And, will usually follow it up with what/where I really am in the present for contrast.  If I have no idea where the memory is coming from and can’t address it with specifics, I’ll still separate PVP (past vs. present) by general statements and heavy focus on the present (i.e.  I am not being hurt right now;  I am no longer helpless, I no longer have contact with [certain person], they aren’t alive; etc).  If there’s ANYTHING I know about the body memory, I can challenge that, too (I am not frozen/hypothermic, it’s the middle of summer; my hands are not constricted, I have free reign of them; this pain/pressure is not real, there is nothing on me, etc).  Some of those last things are part of the reality testing.  Telling myself what is real and what is not.  

I often combine this with an action that “proves” that.  So, if my hands/feet feel itchy/bound/are red, I’ll run them under cold water to get a clear sensory difference, but it’s also soothing to what my mind thinks is there.  I’ll move my hands and feet as far apart as I can to prove they’re free.  If it’s a temperature difference, I’ll use contrasting ice or a heat packs on the areas that feel it.  If it’s an irritating feeling, I’ll do soothing touch against the area.  If it’s pain of any kind, I’ll lightly and gently (with loving kindness) touch that area (with hands, a soft blanket/towel, something warm, etc) so it can feel the contrast and know more that it’s not actively being hurt.  If it’s an internal pain, I’ll attempt to stretch or do something for that area I wouldn’t be able to do if that area was really affected by injury.  So those are some of the things I find most helpful initially.

Some people are able to do containment of their body memories, we haven't had much luck with that, even though most of our other memories are in "boxes." But there’s an exercise called flick the pea (which is a really silly name) where you imagine the area affected as though its about the size of a basketball.  And then you visualize it getting smaller and smaller, getting less intense as it shrinks, traveling through your body and away from the place that hurts, over to your shoulder and down your arm as it continually shrinks to the size of a pea.  And then when it gets to your hands you flick it far away from you.  With satisfaction :) (You should know ‘where’ you flicked it, so you can revisit it in therapy [the difference between ‘stuffing/avoidance’ and ‘containment]).  Very helpful.

 But along with that, and the next two things I find to be most helpful, you HAVE to believe it.  You have to convince yourself this is really happening and that it WILL work.  You have to go through the motions as explicitly and sensorily as possible.  I personally have better luck with things like healing light and healing pool.  This is all about customization though.  Whatever appeals to YOU.  So, healing light is slightly similar in that you focus on the area that is in pain or feeling this upsetting sensation (this one is great for internal pains).  You imagine a bright, magnificent, healing light cast down on that area.  Maybe it’s white, maybe it’s silver, maybe it glows, maybe it pierces.  Maybe it’s from the sun or natural earth, maybe it’s fantasy with special powers - whatever appeals to YOU and would heal YOU.  You just imagine this light radiating to you and healing, soothing, drawing out that pain.  Anesthetizing it.  Replacing it with a GOOD feeling.  It knows just what you need and what to do with that pain.  If you spend time on this imagery and customize it just for you and parts inside, this can be really helpful.  It should be combined with strong grounding as you ‘leave’ the imagery and come back to awareness of the present.  Many also do better if the light “put” that pain somewhere.  Drew it out and held onto it in a cloud far away from you, or shrunk it down into a tiny little cube, etc etc — this way you can talk about it in therapy and it won’t revisit you against your will because you tried to “ignore” or “remove” it.  

Then, my favorite is healing pool.  (This one has been really helpful to me because I have a lot of external pains/irritation — but works in muscles and tissue and headaches, too.)  If you imagine a pool of healing water (maybe it’s in the forest, maybe it’s a lake, maybe it’s crystal clear ocean water) with all of its scenery as crisp and clear as possible - you can slowly immerse yourself in it verrrry gradually and have it soothe your pain.  Start with just your toes, feel the coolness of the water.  It’s the perfect temperature.  It’s shimmery and has power to help your body.  Then move up to your calves, it soaks your skin but goes deeper that that - into the muscle and tissues - healing any soreness or stiffness, even if it’s not related.  Then of course move up your legs as you’re ready, then slide in so your hips are covered, then torso, hands, arms, chest, neck…. stopping at each spot that really needs help.  It draws it out and fills you with cooling, refreshing, relaxing sensations.  Almost a tingle as it heals you.  Then, if you want you can dip your head under — to heal a headache or calm your mind or slow your mental frenzy.  You can stay in the water if you’d like.  Swim or relax - letting it continue to restore you.  Or you can leave as soon as it’s helped you.  It too can be heavenly, fantasy, nature-based, magical - whatever appeals to your mind and/or different parts inside to believe in its power to help you.  Then you can follow up with going somewhere else inside to rest, or front  and get really reallllyyyy grounded.  The more you make it exactly as you want it, can see and feel all the details, personalize it and can believe in it; the better it will work. 

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