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The Magic of Compassion: Acknowledging the Pain of Preverbal Trauma

Why is it important that we realize whether a preverbal trauma is still affecting us? Hasn’t it resolved by the time we are adults? Hasn’t it been entirely forgotten? Why drag the old into the present? Why contaminate the now with the was?

If only life were that simple. The truth is, much of the time, trauma that we experienced before we could talk is not resolved; it still haunts us. We don’t remember that early pain explicitly, but implicitly. Unknowingly our present is contaminated by the past and has been for many years, even decades.

In my case, I had healed completely from the condition that warranted stomach surgery at one-month-old—a blockage preventing the passage of food. I began to successfully digest food and gain weight and have never had any stomach problems since. Unfortunately though, the surgery negatively impacted me psychologically; I had no idea why my life was so laden with problems, including depression, panic attacks, and acts of self-harm. It has taken many years to understand.

Consequently, I am charged with writing about this issue; I want people to become aware that an early trauma could still be hurting their lives and that the acknowledgment of this, in itself, is a huge step in healing. I was reminded of this truth recently, reading the psychologist and Buddhist teacher Tara Brach’s words in her book Radical Acceptance: “As the trance of unworthiness becomes conscious, it begins to lose its power over our lives” (23). Similarly, as we accept the agony we suffered from an early assault, we gain sympathy for ourselves. Simply allowing ourselves to be open to the severity of the impact of the wounding begins the healing process.

We have been taught that we couldn’t possibly remember what happened to us so early on. But our bodies remembered—our breath, our skin, emotions, nervous systems, and so we suffered. Our bodies “kept the score,” as renowned trauma expert Dr. Bessel van der Kolk puts it. But with our new understanding, compassion can do its magic.

Into Sky: A Tale of Somatic Release

I’m growing a wing. More accurately, the wing that’s always been there, atrophied and flightless, is finding freedom. Strange as it sounds, my shoulder is being liberated from guarding my body where a surgeon cut my belly open when I was twenty-six days old.  Somatic release! Amazing. Check this out. All day every day, and… Continue Reading

Images of Healing

Drawing and painting have allowed me access to inner images. The original title of this piece is “Parts.”At age twenty-six in 1978 and in therapy with Lee O. Johnson, I watercolor-painted this snow-woman. I was starting to find some balance in my life. Even though I was wounded (dab of red), my body parts are neatly… Continue Reading

ReStory Your Life!

Lots of good changes coming to myincision!  By January 2013, this blog will be part of my website ReStory Your Life. This website will not only house my blog but will announce my speaking engagements, workshops, and publications and showcase my poetry, prose and artwork. I am excited to announce my first presentation of 2013,… Continue Reading

Incisions–Coming Full Circle

Last Thursday, a dermatologist cut out a melanoma on the back of my leg just below my calf. It was a slow spreading kind and since I caught it early, I am told that it hasn’t metastasized. That’s the good news. I didn’t think the surgery and recovery were going to be a big deal. But… Continue Reading

Draw what bubbles up

I was 25 years old, lying in sand by the Pacific Ocean. I had come to the sea to kill myself, depressed again after so many years of trying to make my life work since my suicide attempt at age 21. But I just couldn’t bring myself to harm; I had grown. So I drew… Continue Reading