In my art therapy group for women survivors of childhood sexual abuse, we’ve recently completed body maps, coloring in different parts of an outline of the body with colors and shapes that represent emotions and sensations in those body parts. Now we’re to write a letter to one part, and I’ve chosen you, because you’ve played a big role in my experience of trauma and trauma healing.
Whenever I’m dysregulated, so are you. You tingle and feel warm. You turn on your hidden electric tremblers and start humming. Sometimes you even release tiny spiders to run up and down my arms (not often now, but you used to do that a lot).
I don’t really know *why* you do that. Often when I’m dysregulated, my breath is already short and shallow, and my thoughts are racing. I really don’t need the humming or the spiders to clue me in. So why do you also act up?
In the past, I’ve interpreted these sensations as a sign that I should burn myself. Burning helps to release internal pressure. It opens up an invisible hole in my skin, and a lot of that electric energy shoots out into the stratosphere. The spiders evaporate. Ah, what a relief. I can breathe more deeply. My thinking becomes more focused.
Thank you for that relief, by the way. I know it’s come at the expense of your personal discomfort.
Over time, I’ve tried to shift away from the burning, as I have come to believe that you and I deserve respect, safety and kindness.
I’d love to learn if there is something else you might like from me, especially when you are activated like that, when the electric humming is on high. I’m open to listening, if you want to let me know.
Thanks for paying attention to me. I won’t dwell on the fact that I could have used this attention a couple of decades ago. I know you weren’t able to provide it back then.
I’m not sure what exactly might help release that uncomfortable energy, the humming or the spiders, as you called it. Why don’t you try a few things, and I’ll let you know what’s most effective.
Some suggestions: fast movement (run or dance), a shower, a lotion that smells really good (maybe citrusy?), active yoga poses. And remember, ice on the back of the neck can be very helpful.
Just one main request: don’t give up!
CREDIT: Photo adapted from photography by Toan Nguyen on Unsplash