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Sometimes, Therapy: Untethering Trauma Part II

In my last post, I described the ways that my former therapist, Lee O. Johnson, worked with me –through my body, my emotions, and my intellect. I want to share another example so that you get an even better idea about how trauma can be untethered through therapy in which one does more than talk.

Once she had me lie down on the floor on top of a large piece of butcher block paper. She outlined my body in magic marker and asked me to label some places that were “hot” spots or  in some way an issue for me and places where my feelings were positive. Then she suggested that I write a brief story about that part of my body next to each marking.

I know for one that I circled my left wrist, the one I cut deeply when I was drunk as a teen-ager. I marked my tempero-mandibular joints or jaw joints, that were always inflamed due to constant teeth grinding, especially in my sleep. I circled the scar on my belly from my surgery for pyloric stenosis at 26 days old. I marked my arms; I’d always felt good about them, for they were strong and freckled, which I liked. And I marked my cheeks and nose–had I thought them cute? Maybe. I circled my eyes, brown and clear, as positives as well. Even though I needed glasses, I liked them. My eyes were home.

After I finished, Lee asked me to tell her about some of them. What I recall most from this exercise is the enormous amount of shame that I felt–shame about the places on my body where I felt good and where I felt bad. My body was one big bag of shame. A burden baby body. We spoke of this, and I remember the relief I felt acknowledging my true feelings. When I left that day with the paper rolled into a scroll in my hand, I felt lighter and freer. I didn’t feel joy or happiness, but I felt seen. I felt me more. More solid and real. Embodied.

A witnessing had taken place. Lee had quietly watched me draw and listened to my narration of the stories. She asked me some questions, encouraging me. I suppose this exercise was a way of clearing away debris so that the spaces were clear again. These parts of my body were mine, were me. In some way, I took a step that day in reclaiming them. Re-seeing them.

Allowing another to see my body through my eyes–through drawing, written words that I read aloud, and the words that I spoke in dialogue with Lee–was a sacred act of disclosure. I was no longer alone in my shame and heaviness. Sometimes therapy that integrates body, emotion, and insight is the answer to untethering trauma.

Sometimes, Therapy: Untethering Trauma

In order to heal from trauma, therapy is what we sometimes need. Someone outside ourselves to make observations, give feedback, suggest new ways of responding to life’s situations and circumstances, and offer emotional support. While I am a big proponent of self-healing, I have also been the recipient of therapy at critical junctures in my… Continue Reading

Stomach Speaks: Healing through SomatoEmotional Release

Yes, a laughing stomach! As many of you know, I am healing from a head and neck injury. My old trauma from infant stomach surgery was reactivated by the fall,  and so my therapy includes work with this aspect of my health, too. As my Cranio-Sacral therapist was working with my jaw, a dialogue began with… Continue Reading

In His Words: Healing Trauma Guru Peter Levine

Here is material quoted from Peter Levine’s brilliant book about healing trauma, Waking the Tiger. I blogged about him years ago; it’s time to think about his message again. You can also watch this YouTube in which Peter Levine describes his ideas. In response to threat, the organism can fight, flee, or freeze . .… Continue Reading

The Divine Self: Believing What Is

When I graduated from college, my cousin sent me a doll in the mail. Without knowing why, I immediately took the scissors and magic markers to it. I snipped off the white yarn hair and drew a recored of my abuses onto its body. My eyes are black tear drops, my jaw is aflame from… Continue Reading

It's National PTSD Awareness Day!!

I just found out that today, June 27, is National Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day! Please check out the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work’s infographic. One fact that needs to be included is that PTSD can also be caused by invasive medical procedures, especially those performed on babies who received no anesthesia. I… Continue Reading

"Trauma Therapy: Healing and Hope"

I just finished watching the series of TV Shows on the Freedomscalling.org website that I introduced in my last post. I REALLY enjoyed them and learned so much. What was especially affirming for me was the last segment entitled “Trauma Therapy: Healing and Hope.” Traumatologist Margaret Vasquez details the system of healing that she works… Continue Reading

Our "Fourth Quadrant"

Two weeks ago, I attended a storytelling workshop, Retracing Our Steps (But I forgot the bread crumbs), given by Dr. Hetty Rodenburg, a medical doctor from New Zealand. Her own personal story was one of the most moving and inspirational stories that she shared that day. Years ago, she had signed up for a workshop… Continue Reading

Pre and Post Depression Brain

Here’s a photo of me from 1975 fresh out of Synanon. I’m 23 years old and feeling some despair about my life. I’m confused and in search of a way forward. A year before, I had entered Synanon, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation community, as the only person ever admitted for depression. Rather than be… Continue Reading