Several years ago we tried to create a hand drawn map to show our therapist where the different places we talked about were. This turned into a triggering and self-destructive experience as a young one came forward and was overwhelmed by looking at the different “bad places” on the map. Last night we tried something slightly different. We were talking to another survivor online and we decided to try using Google Maps to show each other significant places in our present and past. It was an interesting experience, it didn’t have the tactile component that caused the dissociative switch to a younger one who would see the exercise as a threat or a trigger for a flashback. Instead it became an exercise for the computer literate, analytical thinkers.
The road where we grew up has been covered by Google Street View, so we could see how that house looks now. This was probably the hardest part of the exercise. It looked like such a normal, boring, middle class, typical New Zealand house. Our old bedroom window is visible, but we couldn’t look at it. The most we could do is look at the garden, this has changed dramatically. But there was no indication that anything awful happened in that house. In some ways this is comforting, as it helps us to understand why no one asked any questions about us. We were the quiet girl from a sometimes rough family – we were the lucky one in many peoples eyes.
We probably ended up with about 12 markers on the map; these included schools, places where the father worked and a few other random places where abusive events had occurred. We became very conscious that there had to be some “good” markers placed to try and balance the “bad”. But we tried not to dwell too much on efforts to balance things out, but rather to purely put a marker in the map. By doing this, the place became just that – a place. It was where something bad happened to us, and that will never change. But that place became a blue marker on a map, it wasn’t about the emotions, events or anything overwhelming.
I suppose in some ways, it was opening the door to further exploration about what occurred at each of those markers, but I really don’t think that is necessary. Those markers became an acknowledgement. They were the sign to us and our friend that a little girl was once hurt in that place. Our friend respected that and some of us internally needed that…