Saturday, January 21, 2012

Memory Work and Catapults

     I am a hardcore believer in getting to the bottom of things, finding the source, pulling up gnarly issues by the roots, and taking on any problems head on.  If I get sick, I want to do more than treat the symptoms, and if I get hurt, I want to understand why so I can process it and move on.  Many people heal from trauma by healing the most apparent results of trauma, like PTSD symptoms, without going in depth to what put it there.  They make their life manageable and continue on as best they can by not remembering their past in detail.  Everyone has different ways of healing, so for some that must work.  I myself cannot imagine being fully healed without knowing and understanding my past, which has shaped my present and continues to influence my day to day actions.  I am sure that has a personal bent on it also, I have an ego and I take challenges personally.  I put on my Aries ram horns and charge into the thick of it without really considering the consequences.

     In hindsight, I can see why so many people do not like immersing themselves in traumatic memories, aside from the obvious eek and yuck factors.  It can completely floor you.  It can make you lose sight of your present, make you blind to joys and happiness you have now.  It can be dangerous, leading to depression or suicide.  I think these are serious points to be made, and why it is so important to do memory work carefully.  As with many other risks in life, I do not think the danger is in moving forward to begin with but in getting stuck once you have.  In trauma memory work, getting stuck is like being weighted down in a mire that's pitch black with 100% humidity.  You can't move, you can't see, and you can't breathe.  That is where you get stuck, and that is where any serious danger comes in, not the process itself.  This is why anyone considering or doing memory work needs a backup plan; friends to call, uplifting movies, a comfort food stash, a nightlight, self defense classes, a fort, fuzzy slippers, extra locks- whatever works, just as long as it is picked out and agreed upon beforehand so it can be accessed at a moment's notice and doesn't require any preparation.  Sometimes, though, when we get stuck, our backup plan isn't enough, and this is where we need what I like to think of as a catapult.

     This is for when little nudges won't work.  This is for when you are REALLY stuck, and the only thing that can pull you out is divine intervention or a medieval sized catapult to fling you out of the mire and send you speeding along your way.  It can be as small as an unexpected phone call or upbeat songs on the radio to snap you out of it.  Any of the senses greatly influence change, so hearing, taste, touch, smell, are great to use in your catapult.  It can be as big as calling a help line, taking time off work, or checking yourself into a psychiatric hospital.  Some people are more helped by this than others, so it's best if you can research it beforehand in the possibility that you might need it.  Same as a backup plan, anyone doing traumatic memory work needs to have and expect to need a catapult.  Because you will.  Sh*t happens.  And as scary as it may seem, the worst really is over.  This is just accepting that it did happen and working through the aftermath.
     Now I realize this does not sound like much of an encouragement to start with traumatic memory work.  What I think many people don't realize, though, is that if you have lived through trauma, especially consistent trauma, it will stay with you until you do something with it.  And not buried down where you won't see it, oh no.  Un-dealt with trauma will always fight its way to the surface and make itself known.  For better or worse, it's there, and it's going to affect not only your past but your present and future as well.  HOW it affects you in the present and future is something you do have a choice in.  The other thing I don't think people realize, myself included, is how much better life gets once you have done the memory work.  Then that trauma that has actually been ongoing in your head for so many years is OVER.  Then you really are done.  Then you really do have the freedom to do what you want with your life.

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