Last week, I wrote a little about meditation and how it is different from dissociation. One aspect of meditation that always astounds me is how easily I can communicate with my alters when I go into a meditative trance. Visions, sensations, verbalization, body memories all pass through a rotating amphtheater with unusual clarity and consistency. My alters and I are in the audience looking up as the sensory information reveals itself.
Sliding into that meditative trance is easy. Why, no one is knows for sure. Here are some possibilities: Being able to dissociate at an early age helped. Early meditation training taught me focus and patience. Practicing exercises and lessons from John Kabat-Zinn’s audio tapes reminded me to acknowledge whatever is going on inside instead of suppressing it. Reading about Buddhist and Daoist meditation practices, watching qigong videos, and practicing yoga opened me to other kinds of meditation.
Variety helps because I never know when I will need to meditate or for how long. Meditation is less scary and anxiety provoking than dissociation so my alters and I often try to meditate instead of dissociate during a flashback or panic attack. And being able to meditate anywhere allows me more freedom to move around.
How does this connect to remembering?
Meditation allows me to step back and view memories as an observer (think amphitheater) alone or with my alters. The meditative trance offers a safe space where the sensations and feelings are distant instead of acute. And since meditation is controlled and focused, my breathing stays steady. Steady breathing controls the nervous system and keeps my mind, body, spirit calm instead of stressed.
I can’t control when the memories come. I can’t control how my body reacts if a flashback slides in and takes over everything. I can do damage control and take steps to minimize the onset of a panic attack. Or I can set alarms in place to alert me when I get triggered. By “I” I mean everyone in the system. Different alarms for different alters, etc. It’s not perfect, but any little bit helps.
What about the moving on part?
Sometimes, a survivor can’t move on without remembering blocked memories. They are important and necessary to provide a framework that allows the survivor to make informed choices in the present and future. Problem is, many survivors with traumatic amnesia (myself included) don’t know they are missing vital information until they remember and can make the connections.
Recovering memories causes me to get physically ill and have panic attacks followed by painful body memories for days or weeks, sometimes months. They come as flashbacks and nightmares over a period of time; bits and pieces from different alters and different times congregating in a part of the internal world reserved for memory puzzles. The pieces stay there moving around, coming together, pulling apart, reforming themselves until something clicks and becomes a memory.
Last week, I remembered while in the shower. I was grumpy from cramps and PMS; the water and steam helped with relaxation. My alters and I slid into a flashback without conscious realization. Suddenly, it was a different bathroom in a different house with a different (younger) body. And my alters were talking to me trying to bring me back to the present. Their voices competed with the voices in the memory.
All I heard at first was muffled sound. As usual, I was blind; coudln’t see anything. My nose told me there were mold and stinky flowers somewhere close. My body hurt. I tasted chemicals in my mouth. And the water was cold instead of hot. My belly hurt. Back hurt too. Lower back and abdomen, not stomach area, hurt and moved funny. Suddenly my alter’s past thoughts came back to me. I cupped my hands around my abdomen and felt sadness. That’s when I came back to the present. That’s when I heard one of the adult alters talking to me; reassuring me that I was safe and that the memories my body shared were real.
Then other alters, young and old, confirmed the memories in their own way. And I had to face a truth I didn’t want to think about days before my favorite holiday. The memory scared me. It upset me and turned my world view upside down. And the memory explained so much about my reluctance to pursue the next part of recovery: intimate relationships. My therapist, after we discussed the memory and what triggered it, told me that maybe I had to remember this before I could move on to the next big change: moving out of state.
In another post, I wrote about not wanting to have children without knowing exactly why. I’ve also touched on other fears related to intimacy and sexuality. Now, I know why. An unexpected teenage pregnancy followed by a painful, non-surgical abortion. None of which was my choice. And that lack of choice, that fear of not having control over my body, keeps me celibate. I never want to go through that kind of experience again. And if I want to experience an intimate relationship, I have to figure out a way to cope with this fear. So meditation, moving on, remembering all comes together in one fell swoop. And now I have all of this to work through too because moving out of state opens up a lot of avenues for me.