So many of us had suppressed memories of our childhood abuse. It’s frustrating and terrifying at the same time. These memories come in all forms. Sometimes it’s a nightmare that occurs over and over. Sometimes it’s a sudden fear that makes no sense. Or it might be a flashback that flies in and out of our brain at such a speed we weren’t sure we really had it. If we have definite concrete memories of a childhood that wasn’t stable, healthy or happy you already have your first clue. Or if there were some point in your childhood where your life changed dramatically and you didn’t understand why but it wasn’t for the better you might have another clue. Signs along the way are indications of where you’ve been and sometimes where you are going. In the case of trying to understand suppressed memories the various footprints that pepper your life, sometimes on a daily basis, need to be dredged up even if they continue to be fuzzy.
In my case I had terrifying nightmares from the time I was 13 until my father died several decades later. They were of such intensity, happening several times a year, that I always awoke screaming, my body shuddering and dry heaving. Something had come over the top of me like a steamroller and was crushing the life out of me. It always took me more than an hour to get a handle on my emotions. I never knew where they came from but they contributed to my almost life-long battle with insomnia. Who wants to go to sleep when you can never anticipate whether you’re going to have that dreadful nightmare again? While in recovery I came to realize that it was my father entering my room while I was sound asleep with my rosary under my pillow and raping me. I remember clearly the first time it happened. My screams finally woke my mother who was a sound sleeper. My father made his escape into the hallway before she came. I clung to her sobbing hysterically saying over and over, “Momma, something came over the top of me. It hurt. Help me momma, help me.” She told me I’d had a nightmare and no amount of crying and pleading would change her mind. I’ve always remembered that night but only remembered it as a nightmare since that’s what my mother assured me.
I noticed through the years that half open doors made me nervous but I didn’t know why. Once in recovery in my mid-forties I began writing down all that made me nervous or apprehensive. When I was about 17 my father had music playing and grabbed me trying to get me to dance with him. I was so frightened that my knees turned weak and I couldn’t do it. He became very angry and thrust me away from him. This is not normal behavior for a young girl with her father. I started making notes on memories I did have. I began to learn of subliminal messages and behaviors I had adopted as a result. One example is my father letting me know that I had no right to set a boundary. This caused me to not know how to set boundaries with men when it came to sex in particular. I have been raped three times in my life and cannot discount the many times in my single years when I slept with men I didn’t want to because of my inability to say no, my total confusion as to where the boundaries were and whether I had the right to set them, even fearful of setting them at all. If your perpetrator was your father his subliminal messages could have been it’s okay to sleep with a married man. This may have been one of the directions you took as an adult, thereby breeding self-loathing. Another may have been, it’s not okay to set boundaries. Subliminal messages have diabolical power and take root even more than blatant ones. As I say in my book REPAIR Your Life, I was literally programmed to acquire a belief system at an early age that wasn’t mine.
These subliminal messages along with flashes of painful memories, nightmares that make no sense or sudden fears all show us that a trauma, an abuse, happened to us when we were growing up. The fact that we can’t see it clearly doesn’t negate the fact that our inner self is trying to send us a message. An important part of the essential nature of insight is your intuition, that part of us that knows and sees all truth. This quality is called ‘listening to your inner voices”. As we pass through life everything that occurs feeds into our unconscious. It may lay in wait for many years before it is utilized, but when called upon to give a command performance the truth presents itself. But how can we hear the truth when our life is consumed with distractions, especially unhealthy ones. Bringing you inner self forward is part of the work you do in recovery, specifically in the REPAIR program. You cannot heal what you can’t make real. I had a motto I used as steps for that when I went through recovery, Feel, Real, Heal. First you Recognize the pain, identify it and feel it. Then you make it real; at last you will heal.
Isn’t this what you want to do? See our website www.thelamplighters.org and read the pages on the REPAIR program and the REPAIR book and how to get it. Then get started. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
(Parts of this blog are taken directly from the REPAIR program)