I have come to a point in my healing where the sometimes dichotomous thinking and advice that I have been given has become confusing and counter-productive. I said in a previous post that I have become so good at distraction techniques, that they have become another form of dissociating the pain and problems away. I understand why they were shown to me, during the last two years of the marriage, I was consistently suicidal. I thought death was the only way out of the marriage, as I knew he would never let me leave. One of the first strategies they tell you when you are suicidal is to distract. This makes sense when you’re so overwhelmed that suicide is the only option you can see. So for years, I was told to distract my problems away. This was the equivalent of telling me to put the problem in a box and put it in the archives of The Basement – which is exactly how I dissociate bad experiences, memories etc. I’m pretty good at dissociating, and I am pretty good at using the distraction techniques to the point where they are also a dissociated and sometimes self-harmful experience.
Recently, I’ve heard more and more about looking at the pain. The exact opposite to what I’ve been told to do for years. It started off with practising some modified Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) – modified so that the names of the points have non-violent connotations and the taps to the head are not utilised. EFT uses tapping pressure points on the body in combination with phrases to help ease emotional pain. The phrases used are what I would consider ones which encourages you to think of the pain e.g. “even though I want to self-injure I fully and completely accept myself”. So it was encouraging me to accept that this painful fact is part of me and that I’m not a bad or negative person for feeling that pain. What was interesting doing this, is that it depended on who held the pain as to whether it was helpful or not. If the pain was buried within the dissociative system, then the EFT often makes the dissociation worse. Remember – this is just my experience and not necessarily one that others will encounter, or even one that I will continue to experience as time goes on.
Then today I read what was probably the most obvious and moving reason why I need to look at the pain. It was Shen’s (Reunited Selves) entry in the Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse (September 2009) called The Hole in the Soul. This post shows why we need to heal, the consequences of not healing, the positives that come from healing and acknowledgement of the pain and fear that the process creates. It doesn’t encourage any particular method of healing, but rather advocates for an attitude, a willingness to do the work and a strength to keep on that journey. I’m not sure if I have any of these qualities to the point of being able to look at, what Shen describes as, the hole in my soul. Some of us balk at the use of the term “soul”, but I understand that we have a lightness and a blackness within. Our internal Basement is in total darkness, while our internal Attic is bathed in light. The Basement is where the most painful memories and emotions are kept, so I see the correlation.
As an aside, when M draws within therapy, she often does a black swirling circle, I wonder if she is drawing our “hole” and a representation of our feelings about all of this. She’s our worst artist, so it could just be that’s all she can draw. But it’s always black and it’s always circular, like a spiral or a tunnel. This again could correlate to The Basement which is perceived as being bottomless.
So this need to face my pain is what I’m taking to Liz next week. Liz has asked if we can put aside issues before to try and cope, but this isn’t possible with our current levels of functioning and being in the world. We must either dissociate or distract it away from existence… If nothing else, this new possibility for healing has helped to ease the place we have been in for the last week.
Thank you Shen for that amazing story and to those friends who have helped over the last few weeks, it is appreciated.