Self Love for healing early non-physical, attachment Chronic Covert Trauma = A Special Valentine

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Happy Self-Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day is a good day for celebrating my relationship with my beloved self. After all, I’m the only person I will never leave and never lose. Here’s an image of my present day self taking care of my teen-aged self taking care of my 8-year-old self in a SoulCollage® card I made to honor that relationship:

sending love to my little traumatized CCT self

sending love to my little traumatized CCT self

Love Yourself on Valentine’s Day

The Valentine’s Day Challenge

Valentine’s Day is supposed to be sweet, but it can be sour…no honey in sight? or maybe your honey forgot? or you only got a crumby card and a mindless kiss?

For those of us with attachment CCT in our histories, Valentine’s Day can really be fraught with perils.

At its lowest, it’s a day for displaying trophies representing a successful hunt for validation from outer environment that one is lovable, adorable, treasured, beloved.

If there isn’t anyone in your life providing you with that external flow of appreciation, or if their appreciation isn’t enough, you might have to deal with state-of-being flashbacks to the non-physical attachment traumas (naCCTs) of childhood.

State-of-being flashbacks are painful experiences encompassing emotional flashbacks, physical flashbacks, and even cognitive flashbacks to earlier times when you felt forgotten, or like you didn’t really matter to anyone.

So, what’s an attachment CCT survivor to do about the Valentine’s Day Challenge?

The short answer, of course, is “Love yourself.” That secure connection within yourself can help weather challenges from other people.

BUT…

Lots of people with naCCT have trouble loving themselves. The scars from childhood traumas mar that natural primary connection. It’s there, of course, but it might be buried or really troubled.

SO…Valentine’s Day is a good day for “acting as if,” for “faking it until you make it.” Take some actions that can’t hurt and might help by opening some doors to healthy self-love. Experiment with some self-loving actions and see what happens.

Some Self-Loving Actions for Valentine’s Day:

There’s always a heart-shaped box of chocolates. Or hastily grabbed flowers on your way out of the supermarket.

Seriously, there’s the luxury bubble bath with candles and spa music.

As a massage therapist, I’m biased towards the benefits of a Valentine’s Day special treat massage for yourself.

Going deeper, other gifts to yourself are closer to the heart for Valentine’s Day.

#1 Write to Yourself

For example, write to yourself, using words to build a stronger bond between your adult nurturing self and your naCCT survivor self.

Buy yourself a card. Write some affirmations of your positive lovable qualities.

Here are some words you might use:

“Wow! Am I lucky to have me! I am a catch. Here are all the things I love about myself and all the ways I am lovable.” Then list as many of these things as you dare to.

Or spend a few minutes writing to yourself in your journal.

Uplevel this by writing yourself a poem.

Experiment with using Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s (1806 -1861) classic sonnet “How Do I Love Thee” as a template model for a love poem to yourself. Can you love yourself “to the depth and breadth and height your soul can reach”? “freely” and “purely” and “with passion”. Can you love yourself without falling into the pit of narcissism on the other end of the spectrum?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

#2 Visualize Self-Love in a Guided Meditation

How about taking time for a guided meditation? Head on over to Youtube and do a search for “guided meditation love yourself.”

One I like is Andrea Schroeder’s “Creative meditation: I deserve all good things.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2KFeSwWNiQ

#3 Make Art for Yourself

Explore some expressive visual arts for your beloved self. As I did. The card I’m using for my own self Valentine this year is one I made using the SoulCollage® process, a rich process for embracing your authentic self. And it requires no more art skill than the ability to use scissors and a glue stick.

(OK, I’m a certified SoulCollage® facilitator, so I’m biased. But don’t take my word for it. Head on over to SoulCollage.com or Kaleidosoul.com to learn how it’s done and you can decide for yourself.)

For Valentine’s Day, I’m going to put my Self-Love card on a picture stand. I’ll be reminded of the love that flows down from my present self, through my teenage self, to my little 8 year old self.

How can you strengthen and celebrate the loving bonds within you on Valentine’s Day this year? (or, for that matter, how can any day become a good day for you to love yourself?)

Anyway, send yourself a Valentine. It still isn’t too late. Your self is waiting and might be delightfully surprised to get a Valentine from you.

And, please, let us know what happens.

(C) 2016 Ricia Fleming…feel free to share with my name and CHRONICcovertTRAUMA.com credit.

Retrieving Inner Athlete Squashed by naCCT

 

  Part One of this (long) post reprints with permission my guest column from “Soul Songs” (March 2016), the free monthly newsletter on  Anne Marie Bennett’s rich SoulCollage(R) website Kaleidosoul.com. Check it out.  Part One tells how my “Inner Athlete” self part got found when I used the process of SoulCollage(R) to make personal cards for my own psychological and spiritual growth. I share the card and the images on it in that spirit.

Welcome “Soul Songs” readers. Scroll down to continue with Part Two.

Part One:

“Athlete? You’ve got to be kidding…”

Oh, why did I volunteer to write this column about my Inner Athlete? Me, who often gives thanks that she was born before Title IX. That law gave American women a place in athletics in 1972. Until then, only 1 in 27 American girls competed in high school sports. I was not that one.

But I trust the impulse that made me say “I’ll write that column.” So the quest for my Inner Athlete begins.

She’s not among the cards already in my SoulCollage® deck. It’s time to make an intentional card for her.

Head to the used book store. Invest in two books of sports photos. Behold the images, and imagine becoming those athletes with their rippling muscles and their strained grimaces, their dejected losses and their elated wins.

Try to imagine organizing my life around winning. Championship boxer Muhammed Ali said, “I hated every minute of training.” I try to imagine training; to imagine hating it and doing it every day because I want to win.

Rummage in my memory banks: take out memories of swimming, bike riding, caving, skating, dodge ball, somersaults, monkey bars. So much is forgotten, so much just packed away in boxes marked “unimportant” or “entertainment” or “playing.” Not “athletics.”

Stick with it, make some cards: Roger Bannister breaking the 4 minute mile; teammates in uniforms straining for the ball; a gymnast accepting an Olympic gold; a competitive woman body builder, muscles greased and bulging; determined.

As I hang out in that alien world, it becomes a little more familiar, though never home

And then, from all the memories and images, something emerges.

It’s her! My Inner Athlete!

She is 10 years old, maybe 11, jumping rope on the blacktop driveway of Spring Garden elementary school.

Here’s her card:

Inner Athlete SC

Title of Card: “Champeen Jumper”

And here is My Dialogue with Her, the girl in Saddle Shoes

Me: Who are you:

Her:
I am the One Who
is focused and determined to win.

I am the One Who found something I am physically good at, and practiced and practiced with the Little Girls, and now I’m in the Big Girls Champeen Jumper competition, and I’m winning!
I am the One Who you have forgotten about but still lives in your memory and your body cells

Me: Do you have something for me today?

Her:
Yes, I give you the kinetic memory I carry of leaping over that rope,
flying across the playground, around the tree and the parked car,
and running fast, much faster than the girl behind me,
and getting back to the turning rope just in time to make my jump

I give you the memory I carry of the rhythmic snap of the rope on the blacktop,
the pause as I work out the exact timing so I can get in,
jump over the rope,
and get out without getting a rope burn on my neck.

Me: Do you have a message for me?

Yes, Don’t ever forget me again! I run so fast and jump so skillfully and plan so strategically. I can help you in your present life: Call on me when you need drive, adrenaline, force of will. I’ll help you keep your eye on the prize.

Tears well up when I read this. I minimized her. “What’s a jump rope championship compared to the Super Bowl? the World Cup?” I was wrong. She is precious.

“Welcome back into my consciousness, my dear contender for champeen jumper of New Jersey, Spring Garden School Playground Division.”

<<<>>>

My Little Inner Athlete joins others in my Inner and Outer Worlds.

She’s in my deck with the basketball players and Olympic champions. She joins the spiritual athletes who do yoga. She joins the artistic athletes who dance, especially those in my beloved “Debbie Davis and the Senior Moments Tap Dance Troupe.” We may not be on TV “Dancing with the Stars,” but we are a powerful team showing physical skill, determination, and grace in our dance performances.

My Inner Athlete has been in my life about a month, and together we’re learning how she got squashed and forgotten, and what will help her grow, prosper, and help me to find and follow my bliss.

Part Two:

Did naCCT Squash My Inner Athlete?

When I began my exploration of my Inner Athlete, I wrote “But I can’t say any traumas played a part in my not becoming an athlete.” Such a telling remark, and so typical of an naCCT survivor.

 Someone could, of course, simply step back from athletics because other activities were more appealing

9 ways to stunt, squash or banish an Athletic Self Part

But as I continued on this quest for my lost Inner Athlete and poked around in her storyline, I realized so many factors can squash athletic expression: Blatant physical trauma such as beating, incest, medical traumas, natural disasters, war. And more covert, often non-physical factors, such as:

  1. competition itself, fear of losing AND fear of winning
  2. body image: especially at puberty: feeling ambivalent, or even terrified, of putting their bodies out in public, fear of exposure and being found lacking, being laughed at
  3. bullying experiences, on the field, in the locker room, with peers, teachers, coaches
  4. challenging parents, for example, over-involved “helicopter mom” or “stage mom”
  5. too many responsibilities at home to have the freedom to take part in athletics.
  6. poverty made it impossible to afford expensive uniforms, lessons, fees
  7. attachment issues made belonging to a group such as a team feel dangerous
  8. unsupportive environment: uninterested non-athletic family, cultural indifference as in USA before Title IX, or social restrictions “It just isn’t done”
  9. Shame-filled experiences of failures, for example, of letting teammates down by a poor performance

And my Inner Investigator tracked down one more that I am focusing on here; one that was truly “covert” because it wasn’t identified as a factor until decades later. That factor is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

SPD, formerly called Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID) is a neurological problem. In SPD the parts of the nervous system that process information from our eyes, ears, and other senses don’t work together to help us move and act effectively; instead the information stays disorganized and confuses us.

Like naCCT, SPD kind of “didn’t exist” because it wasn’t identified and given a name. But, also like naCCT, SPD was still there nameless, covert, causing damage.

When I look back on being introduced to American softball in third grade, it’s clear that I had SPD. Organizing my vision and my movements for hitting a softball was totally beyond me.

At the end of the season, my kindly gym teacher said, “Don’t worry, you’ll probably get a hit next year”

My catching problem was even worse. It was handled by sending me way out to the edge of the playing field when the other team was at bat. There I could safely scuff the dirt and daydream. Nobody in third grade, except maybe Babs Franklin, ever hit the softball out that far.

But sometimes Babs got a turn at bat.

I felt terror as I looked up from my daydream and saw doom flying through the sky toward me in the form of a white softball, a softball I would invariably fail to catch.

The terror seemed to be short-lived, only lasting as long as the ball was bouncing away from my fumble. My teacher was kind and the other kids still eventually chose me to be on their team. In my typical fashion, I’ve downplayed it, thought it was funny. Softball was just something not important that I couldn’t do.

But looking back, it must have been pretty traumatic.

As I investigated my Inner Athlete story, I remembered how the trouble turned up in a recurring dream.

 A really bad dream, a cold War, Atom bomb, air raid drill driven dream. We knew what the bomb would do. Our homes all had maps with bull’s eyes around New York City, each ring defining the nature of our annihilation. People in my town, 12 miles from the prime target of midtown Manhattan, would either “vaporize” or “liquefy.”

In school we had air raid drills. We kids all filed into the basement and lay down sort of on top of each other with one hand cushioning our faces pressed against the smelly floor, the other supposedly, unrealistically, “protecting” the backs of our necks.

My undiagnosed SPD, my hyper-responsibility, and the very real societal dread of nuclear Armageddon merged into a recurring nightmare for my budding (non)athlete.

I dreamed I was in my backyard, looking up through the birch tree branches.

The atom bomb was falling out of the sky and my job was to catch it and save the entire New York area from nuclear annihilation.

Just as I did in gym class, I ran hopelessly towards the falling bomb, extended  my arms, turned my cupped palms upward to make the catch, knowing it would either land a foot away from my miscalculation, or else land in my hands, bounce out onto the ground, and explode.

Then I woke up, terrified and guilty.

That was a trauma dream, an intrusive trauma symptom. The core of trauma is fearing for your life. This was a multifaceted, many-layered Chronic Covert Trauma, with elements of neurological challenges in the SPD, of interpersonal challenges in the excessive responsibility and guilt for letting down my teammates (forgiving as they may have been) and all woven into a fear of literal death and total annihilation.

We would all die, and their dying thoughts would be of me, fumbling the catch, causing the end of our world.

 <<>>>

Thankfully, many years later, I’m here, not annihilated.

No bomb fell. The cold war receded into history.
I no longer have to take gym class.
I found jump roping, and then moved on to other activities.

Several decades later, after recurring dizzy spells and vision problems, I was diagnosed and treated for SPD by an occupational therapist. I’m much more comfortable in my body, with no dizzy spells. I haven’t yet tried to catch a baseball…Maybe that’s next on my agenda!

Thank you for coming along with me on my quest and for listening to my story.

Telling the story, or “creating a coherent narrative” in the buzzwords of the trauma treatment world, is a crucial activity in trauma recovery.

Sometimes the story’s told with words, sometimes with movement or sound, sometimes with the images used in visual journaling or SoulCollage® cards.

Calmly, compassionately narrating the story helps
organize memories and feelings,
make sense of what happened, and
give a little witnessing distance from painful events that puts what happened into a bigger framework.

After meeting these aspects of my Inner Athlete and teasing out and telling their stories, I have a much more realistic, complete, and nuanced sense of this aspect of myself.

 And now it’s your turn…

Telling our stories is also a way of communicating and connecting with other people, as we connect here on this modern miracle of the internet.

What about you?
SPD is fairly recent diagnosis, could it apply to you?
What other experiences could have constricted or enhanced your use of your body in sports, dance, yoga?

Can my story here in this post serve as an inspiration or model for you?
Is this a good time for you to delve deep, encounter lost or hidden parts of your precious self, and get to know them and help them narrate their story?

How can you take some actions today to welcome lost aspects of your inner athlete back into your sense of your self, your inner family? How can you celebrate those aspects that have been joyously present with you all along?

 

 <<<>>>

 

 

SoulCollage® is a trademarked process created by Seena B. Frost.
For more information about Seena and the origins of SoulCollage®, please visit her website
SoulCollage® cards are made either from one’s own art or from images found in materials which have been bought by or given to the SoulCollage® card maker. These collaged cards are used only for the cardmaker’s own inner exploration. SoulCollage® cards are not sold, traded, bartered, or copied (except as a back-up for the cardmakers own use) as is stated in the “Principles of SoulCollage®.” Where SoulCollage® cards are available to be seen by others, it is for the purposes either of demonstrating the SoulCollage® process or of sharing the cardmakers’ inner process in the context of community. SoulCollage® is grateful to the artists and photographers who make this deep awakening process possible and in all ways SoulCollage® seeks to be respectful of their rights.

© 2016 Ricia Fleming

 

“Non-physical, attachment Chronic Covert Trauma” (naCCT) clearer, better name for this experience?

“Non-physical, attachment Chronic Covert Trauma” is a lot of words, but it describes the full traumatic experience more clearly than just “Chronic Covert Trauma”.  When I talk to people face to face in my attempt to get the word out and built a community, I get more of an “Oh, yeah, I know about that!” response when I clarify that these are not physical abuse traumas and they occur in those significant relationships, especially kids’ early attachment relationships with caregivers.

The long description could be shortened to the acronym “naCCT,” so we wouldn’t have to use all those words every time we talk to people about those traumas and their effects. What do you think?

In a State-of-Being Flashback to Interpersonal CCTs from Childhood? Internal Family Systems Therapy Helps

“How can we help someone who comes flooded by an inner part of themselves to a therapy session?” asked a therapist over on an Internal Family Systems LinkedIn group. Here’s a copy of my own Inner Exile’s answer. Does it match yours?   

(If you’re new to Internal Family Systems, Professor Google can help you learn this valuable approach to healing. Meanwhile, the basics: “Exiles” are parts, or aspects of our total selves, that have been upset and upsetting in the past, and so have been pushed out of our conscious sense of who we are. “FireFighters” are parts, or aspects of our total selves, who come screaming onto the potential disaster scene with the equivalent of axes and hoses, with the intent of protecting us from disaster)

Let your Beloved Little (Ex)Exile and your Inner Therapist peek over your shoulder as you read this:

“Dear Fellow Therapists:

“My Beloved Little Exile–well, (Ex)exile actually–asked me to respond to your question about how to help when she has flooded my entire consciousness…..she thinks you sound caring and open and she wants her story to help other therapists and other Beloved Little Exiles.

“I am a therapist with a very common history of Chronic Covert Traumas such as non-responsiveness and unattunement in my childhood interpersonal relationships. Because these Chronic Covert Traumas are so ordinary, I have often gotten triggered by ordinary exchanges with other people, including therapists. When I’ve gotten triggered my Beloved Little Exile part has popped up and I have found myself in places, including therapy, in a State-of-Being Flashback (alternatively known as Emotional Flashback or Mood Flashback) to my Chronic Covert Trauma.

“Here’s what my Beloved Little (Ex)Exile wants you to know about handling those hard times when she has been the part that flooded my consciousness experience.

“My BLE wants you to know the best thing is when you do Direct Access with her…… just as though you were a nice person who found her all bunched up and scared and ashamed because some well meaning Mommy told her “big girls don’t cry” or “go take a nice deep breath and listen to your nice music and think of happy things” or “calm down,” or “turn the corners of your mouth up, you look so pretty when you smile.”

“She felt so ashamed and didn’t know what to do with her upset feelings that wanted out and managed.

“My BLE says she is a little girl and she really likes it when someone crouches down and lets her cry and be mad and scared and helps her understand why she feels that way and that those scary lonely feelings will go away and she is still OK and loved even when she has them.

“BLE especially gets scared and protectively angry if someone, like a therapist, tells her to go sit on her cushion and meditate. She says that’s like being told to go to her room and come back when she has something nice to say. Her Beloved Little Firefighters come out then.

“She really gets scared when an IFS therapist says to go sit in that room while the therapist talks to someone else (another part). It was OK she says, “In that class when that nice Dick Schwartz guy said to someone else’s BLE that he wanted to get to know them better so could they sit a little bit away in that chair. It was nice he wanted to get to know them. That wasn’t scary and no Beloved Little Firefighters had to come out then.”

“She says, “Remind those nice therapists that we Beloved Little Exiles are little children and children need their secure attachments and that when we’re in a flashback to a Chronic Covert Trauma time, we can use some nice safe caretaking. I think you guys call it a corrective emotional experience. The caretaking could come from the nice therapist or it could come from an Inner Good Mommy or Daddy part like you found for me.”

“Thanks for listening to us!

Your “Inner Therapist” or your external real world therapist is welcome to adapt this letter to your own experience. “We”, my Beloved Little Ex-Exile and me, would love to hear how you tweak it and how it works.

“Queen OnlyMe”

Writing and illustrating a soulful parable for adult seekers and CCT survivors called “Adios, Queen OnlyMe” is keeping me busy. Here is the first illustration, a portrait of the self-absorbed Queen OnlyMe.

B&W QO page 1

Thinking about the twists of plot and imagery and bringing them “to life” have helped me get clear and inspired. Fiddling with some of my juiciest attachment trauma themes: narcissistic injury, trauma bonds, naïve idealism, empathic failures, feeling invisible and insignificant. And, thankfully, I’m also getting to create images of healing from these compelling relationships of inevitable harm.

The like-minded soul seekers I’ve shown the illustrations and story to could relate and have found them inspiring.

So, I’m committing to finishing “Adios, Queen OnlyMe” and bringing it out into the world. Maybe this community will be its portal…

 My hunch is that Queen OnlyMe gets around. Have you met her?

Hand-Me-Down-Trauma (Legacy Trauma) & Genealogical Facts Can Lead to Some Healing

Hand-Me-Down Traumas—also known as Legacy Traumas– and Genealogy? Whatever you call them, the traumas that get passed down from one generation to another through families or other caretakers can be a mysterious source of trouble in the present. And genealogical records (now easily available on the internet) can help your Inner Detective solve some of those mysteries.

I’m reviewing some of my own genealogical detective experiences as I get ready for tomorrow’s workshop “Trauma and the Internal Family Systems Model: Releasing Personal and Legacy Burdens” at Therapy Training Boston with Percy Ballard, MD, Marushka Glissen, LICSW, and IFS developer himself Richard C. Schwartz, PhD.

Remembering…how my mom always asserted “everything was fine!” when I came back from a family therapy course looking for information about my family background. My family definitely lived by the motto: “Keep calm and carry on!.” And my mom’s parents, from what little I’d been told, had indeed married young, had 6 healthy and successful kids, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, and died at ripe old ages.

But I was skeptical. My professor suggested, just as I’m suggesting to you, “Try genealogy. Just the facts from family documents and from public records of marriages, deaths, births, and military service can give you a lot of information.”

The information my inner detective found confirmed my hunch that my family, like most families, was not entirely “fine”.

And my Inner Detective turned up some information about what I’ll call “The Poison Ivy Smoke Inhalation” mystery of my childhood. Here it is:

“Be careful. You don’t want to breathe in any poison ivy smoke,” my mother would always caution me during the autumn leaf burning season. Never mind that none of my friends’ parents seemed concerned about that threat at all. To me, it was a given that Poison Ivy Smoke Inhalation was a serious and prevalent threat in the New York City suburbs where I grew up.

So, off I went to yellowed old family records and to the microfilms of United States Census records. A sad story began to take shape about both my mom’s parents. I learned that when they were little children, both my grandparents had parents and little brothers die. Here’s my poor grandmother’s story:

Little Lizzie, my grandmother, had a little brother die before she was even born. Then shortly after she was born, her father died. Her mother married again, and Lizzie soon had a little brother Arthur. Who soon died. And then her stepfather died.

After learning this story, I felt so sad for my grandmother. So I decided to use Make Believe to help her. I pretended I was Little Lizzie, and I pretended that back in the 1890’s they had Grief Groups for Children Dealing with Loss of a Parent and Loss of a Sibling. Actually, they had no such groups back then. They “sucked it up”, just coped however they could. Kept calm and carried on.

Here is Little Lizzie’s Make Believe Healing drawing.

Healing Grief Drawing

The amazing thing to me was that my mother was so surprised when I told her this story. The family trauma of all these deaths had become a covert trauma. She had not known her own mother’s and grandmother’s sad survival story because in those days people kept their chins up and “didn’t dwell on the past.”

 

I guess part of keeping calm and carrying on was not telling your children about the true losses of your childhood.

And the Poison Ivy Smoke Inhalation Mystery? Well, I found amongst some old family records a yellowed newspaper clipping. It said my great grandfather, a farmer, had died after suffering a mysterious respiratory ailment that came on suddenly after he burned some brambles found along the fences of his farm. The doctor, according to the clipping, thought “maybe he died because he inhaled some smoke from some poison ivy hidden amongst those brambles.”

My mother had not known of this sudden traumatic death of her own grandfather. The facts were hidden, but the post-traumatic expectation of danger awaiting in everyday life was communicated through the generations without knowing where the fear came from. My mother had inherited the lesson of this Hand-Me-Down Trauma, or Legacy Trauma, from her own mother. Surely her mother had warned her own little girl when it came time to burn the brambles on their farm, “Be careful, honey, you don’t want to breathe in any poison ivy smoke.”

So, before I head of to the workshop tomorrow, I’ve reviewed one of my stories of  Hand-Me-Down Legacy Trauma and my attempt to bring some Healing Make Believe and realistic present day sharing and processing to an old wound.

I believe it’s never too late to bring healing to old trauma stories, and part of healing is sharing. I shared this story with my mom, and I’m sharing it with you here. Thanks for listening.

Do you have a story to share?