ACKNOWLEDGE, EXPERIENCE AND KNOW YOUR BODY
(AS A SURVIVOR OF ABUSE AND/OR TORTURE)
Our bodies as victims of rape, incest, domestic violence, abuse and/or torture suffer when the trauma occurs. The trauma affects us physically, mentally, emotionally and often spiritually. Many times, especially if the abuse is repeated, a victim escapes her body and the pain through dissociation. When the incident (or incidences of abuse) ends, the victim can become separate or stay separate from her or his own body.
Often times, survivors are not very aware of how their bodies feel at any given point in time. Many survivors treat their physical bodies poorly. Self harm, cutting, alcohol, drugs, and overeating are common. If you ask a survivor where they feel anger, sadness or any emotion in her body, the person may not be in touch enough to answer.
Eventually through the survivor’s healing process, the body is acknowledged, experienced, known, and loved. There are many healing modalities. Trauma-based yoga (and yoga in general) has been shown through research to facilitate healing.
On September 12, 2015, I attended and presented a workshop entitled, “Survivor’s Resume” at the WINGS Foundation Conference in Denver, Colorado. The WINGS Conference is an annual event. The first day is mainly for clinicians; the second day is for survivors and loved ones. Anyone can attend both days. It was an honor to tell my story in my workshop to help others. The feedback from those who attended was positive.
Fortunately, I was able to attend workshops on both days. What resonated with me most was the sense of community that this conference offers to survivors, loved ones, supporters, and therapists. To know one is not alone and that others have healed enough and now thrive brings hope and confidence to other victims/survivors. From receiving feedback after my workshop, I realize even more how ritual abuse, extreme abuse, and torture are still somewhat covered in darkness, secrecy and silence. For me to be able to shed light on these subjects at the WINGS Conference as other ritual abuse survivor presenters have done in previous years is a gift. I am grateful.
The workshop that I enjoyed from a body (and even spiritual) aspect was titled, “Body Positive – Standing Your Ground”. Sandra Oliver was the presenter. Sandra Oliver is a positive, vibrant, and energy-filled woman. She has the ability to welcome you – individually and as a group – by providing an atmosphere of comfort and non-judgement. This dance/body movement workshop contained no formal dance routines or previous knowledge. Believe me, I appreciated that!
As we moved, Sandra Oliver provided gentle directions. I could tell that I have progressed quite far in my healing process body-wise (as well as mentally, emotionally, and spiritually). It was easy for me to be in the present moment, to relax, to let my body flow, and to appreciate this physical presence of mine.
Later, in the “Body Positive” workshop, Sandra Oliver asked us to repeat some affirmations. I know from past experience, that affirmations do not help me unless I believe – at least partly – what I am saying. In fact, when I was in high school (eons ago!), the teacher asked us each to say, “I am great.” I could not and did not say it because I did not believe it at all. It shows how beaten my psyche and self-image were at that point in time. Sandra Oliver asked us to repeat silently or aloud, “I love me.” There was no hesitation in my voice as I voiced the words. What a transition! Experiencing her workshop brought joy into my heart and body. I was grateful.
You may find more information on Sandra Oliver and her workshops at: SandraOCoaching.com
Our bodies are precious. If you are a survivor of any type of trauma, your body served and serves you well. I am amazed at the resiliency of my body, mind, and spirit.
As you read this, how is your body reacting? Do you feel heaviness anywhere? Pain? Lightness? Energy?
Do you think of your body as an enemy? Maybe you believe it betrayed you during the abuse? Do you treat your body poorly? I have, mostly in the past. It takes time to heal and thrive.
Do you think of your body as a friend? Do you treat it with love and compassion?
Loving oneself is a process, I believe. We each have moments of strength and weakness. At times we compensate for all the stress and overwhelm in unhealthy ways. Are you able to find healthier ways to cope?
May you be in your body today – acknowledge, experience, and know your body.
You may be surprised by the results!