A Day in a Life: Confronting the Uncomfortable

WARNING: Please note, as the title suggests, this blog contains adult content that may be disturbing. If you are in the midst of doing deep work it may be too uncomfortable. Please don’t read it if you feel you may be triggered.

It was important to keep going back into the woods, for as dark as it was that was where I found the light... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
It was important to keep going back into the woods, for as dark as it was that was where I found the light… – Photo by Jan Ketchel

By the time the second year of my recapitulation journey began I was confronting some very deep truths. I’d already recalled hundreds of visceral memories of rape, sodomy, and other forms of sexual assault, as well as deep emotional trauma. As hard as the memories were to accept, my psyche would not let me refuse them. I had to face what was coming through. Here is what I wrote on July 1, 2002:

The memories come like bombs, fast and furious, explosions taking place in my own private war zone. As the bombing missions fly overhead I crouch down and hide, shielding myself from their impact, but in so doing I know I’m refusing to connect with what’s being triggered at a deeper level. I catch a glimpse of something new as each memory bomb explodes, but I still refuse to fully accept what was truly happening to my child self. Jolted, the frightened self turns away, though it’s practically impossible to do so, for the pains are almost constant now, present throughout the day; my hands numb, my shoulders tense, my genitals sore and painful. I don’t have a choice in how this recapitulation process is unfolding—just as I never had a choice when I was a child—it’s just happening. I know what a frightened little bunny feels like; heart beating so hard you’d think it might burst.

On that same day, I went deeper still and confronted what was really being presented as my next challenge. I just couldn’t ignore it:

I admit that I’m avoiding the stark truth that my abuser was having sex, in one form or another, with a very small child, and that child was me. It’s been the hardest part of this recapitulation to accept. Even while excavating all the pieces of the puzzle of the unknown self over the past year and discovering the mysterious, hidden world of my childhood I wasn’t always able to face what my abuser was actually doing to me. Now as new memories torpedo into awareness, the truth presents itself all over again, but each time I admit that he was indeed having sex with my tiny child self, overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame come tumbling out of the depths of me. At the same time, I know I won’t be able refuse the blatant truth. I must fully accept what was truly happening so long ago, and my body insists, not letting me rest until I do. As soon as I lie down in bed at night and curl up to go to sleep, it all hits me again. Fear, pain, and the desperation of my child self come crashing out of nowhere, searing through my body like shrapnel. Much as I’d like to, I can’t really avoid the bombs. Even if I sit down on the couch for a few minutes of respite during a busy day it’s the same thing: BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! The memory bombs go off and all I want to do is run, to look for safe places to hide, to keep moving, ducking and dodging the incessant attacks, but I know it’s not productive, nor is it really possible.

So shame and guilt arose from my deeper self and came to teach me my next lessons. I confronted the supposed bad self, the self who thought she was at fault and to blame for what happened, and the self who felt so guilty for partaking. By the end of the second year I confronted just how attached I was to those elements of shame and guilt, for they defined me, who I had always been, showing me just how deeply embedded they were in my psyche and just how attached I, a little Catholic school girl, had been—and still was—to their bitter presence. Almost a year later, on June 2, 2003, as I prepared to finally release myself from their cloying attachment, gaining even deeper insight, I wrote the following:

Aware that I’ve just barely stayed in control, by force of will and old habit, I admit to myself that I don’t really want to be the old self anymore. I don’t want to “hold on” or “hang in there.” Physically, I’m exhausted and I’m fairly sure I’ll be unable to keep up this charade much longer. I’m wearing down.

“Try for stillness. Go for stillness,” I hear Jeanne saying.

I barely remember concluding last week that I do indeed need stillness—unhurried, unstressed, quiet living—and a break from this torture. I hoard my feelings, afraid that when they’re gone I won’t have anything left inside me and yet this is my torture as well. At this point, it still feels far better, and safer, to retain my stand, though the children in my dream (from last week’s blog) want me to be a feeling being. Their disappointment was clear as I passed them by and drove on toward the house of fear and emptiness, rather than greet them with equal joy. If I let go, I fear that all that keeps me connected to life will go too, that all my desperate attempts to align myself somewhere in this world will disappear. Maybe I don’t need to try so hard, as Chuck constantly tells me, but there’s a part of me that cannot abide the idea of not being in control, the thought alone sending me into a place of deep shame and anxiety. I know that such deep shame stems from my upbringing, for it was expected that I handle everything so expertly, without a show of emotion; coolly, without expressing needs or desires of any kind. Rather than be scolded, I found it far easier to be the unemotional being that I was so often reprimanded to be. I deduced that to want affection and love were shameful weaknesses to be avoided at all costs, though I harbored a secret desire for them. I was a child full of what I considered shameful thoughts, desiring simple human touch and affection. And yet I do not blame my child self for such basic human needs. She needs to know that it’s perfectly acceptable to want and need simple affection, to know that it’s allowed and necessary. Love is allowed. It is, isn’t it? An epiphany: Love is allowed! Wanting to be loved is allowed too!

The whole idea of needing and expressing love, tenderness, and affection was presented as something shameful: don’t even go there, don’t touch or be touched, it’s disgusting! This is what I was taught at home. Emotions are disgusting; expressing them is disgusting, letting anyone know you have emotions or feelings is strictly forbidden. No touching, no gentleness, no love was exchanged between parent and child, perhaps very rarely a pat on the head, maybe, if I was sick. No hugs, no kisses, no emotional support. Such an unemotional upbringing is wrong. To make a person feel so ashamed and so emotionally isolated is wrong. To deprive another of the most basic of human needs is wrong.

On top if it, I had to deal with my abuser, but I see where his abusive affections, as perverted as they were, tapped into that void created by my upbringing. Even though his type of affection was totally aberrant, I wouldn’t have known that as a child. I had nothing to compare it to. Perhaps I was drawn to him as much as he was drawn to me. I was trapped coming and going. I had no choice. I was a child living in a family completely devoid of human touch and emotions, the most basic of which were squelched at an early age. And then I walked into a family where they took their clothes off and touched each other all over the place, where feelings I never knew existed inside me were drawn out. And then I had to go back to my own family, which, with its cold, distant, and strict Victorian morals was as insidiously abusive and bizarre as my abuser’s family. And all I ever wanted was for someone to simply love me, just for who I was. I just want to be loved for me; that’s all. I see how easily a young child, starved for affection, could be confused and tricked by the attentions of a pedophile.

And so, as I followed where my psyche led me, pushed me, and often times forced me to go, I gained valuable insights. New ideas began to replace old ideas. Old themes that had defined me began to crumble. In that crumbling came new life. I gradually learned to take with me only what truly belonged to me, only what I truly believed about myself and life in general. I learned how to shush up the old voices and how to release my child self from her unemotional upbringing. I learned how to love that child self, as I taught her what I was learning. Having been apart for much of the recapitulation journey, we now joined forces more often. We now knew there was more to life and more to us that had to be discovered and lived.

By the end of the second year of recapitulation I was transforming rapidly. I had burned a lot of stuff that didn’t belong to me, and I was emerging from the ashes a new being. I was evolving in a very personally relevant way. Freed of what I felt I had to uphold—an old world that I no longer fit into—I was becoming the real me.

Thank you for reading. I send love and wishes for good journeying,

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