A SIA World Service Conference Roundtable Discussion:
(A Part of Chapter 1 “Of Victimage & Protection; The Many Traits & Coping Mechanisms Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors in Hope Heals: The SIA Gold Book)
Purpose: To create text for the SIA Big Book, Hope Heals
The SIA WSC Literature Committee & Big Book Subcommittee is seeking your assistance in making our dream of an SIA Big Book come to life. To help with the creation of this text, we are conducting a series of discussions by experienced SIA members about various chapters in the book. You may listen in and participate in these discussions. Each discussion will be 2 ½ hours in length and non-speaker panel members are encouraged to participate during the last portion of the meeting. Additionally, all SIA members are encouraged to share their experience, strength and hope in written form with the committee.*
Date: Sunday, 4/07/13
4:00 P.M. – 6:30 P.M. Eastern Time
1:00- 3:30 P.M. Pacific Time
To Participate: Dial 1-626-677-3000; then press 673296 #
* If you’d like to participate in a future WSC SIA Roundtable Discussion as a Speaker Panel Member, feel free to contact Becky (firstname.lastname@example.org)or John+ (email@example.com)
Topic Background & Questions
Panelists Will Address
Of Body & Brain undefined
Healing the Mind-Body Split:
Challenges & Solutions
One of the common reactions to childhood sexual abuse is to deny pain. In dysfunctional families, this denial process is the only means through which survivors can cope with the physical, emotional and mental pain that abuse creates. This denial often takes the form of a mind-body split. The mind denies what the body knows. The mind ignores what the body feels because emotions are grounded in the physical body. This process of coping with the pain of abuse sets into motion a series of challenging responses because the body, and the emotions associated with the parts of our bodies that were hurt, do not forget. Some of us start overeating as a defense mechanism while others of us try to starve our bodies into non-existence. Along the way, the body and self are often blamed for being weak or for carrying pain. Some of us come to believe that the body is the betrayer, rather than those who abused us. Needless to say, survivors use a host of defense mechanisms to blunt the pain of abuse--food, over-exercise, prescription and non-prescription drugs . . . the list is endless. Many of us develop chronic medical conditions in parts of our bodies that received abuse or parts of our bodies where we carry the remnants of abuse tension. Often, just like our minds become triggered by events and people that remind us of our abuse, the same holds true for our bodies. When a person or situation unexpectedly triggers memories of our abuse, our hearts can start to race, nausea can sweep through us, and physical pain can suddenly take our breaths away. We can start to gag or re-experience the same sensations that we experienced while we were being abused. The process of recovery means that we must learn to give to our bodies the same support, acceptance and compassion that we learn to give to our emotional/mental psyches. Our growing sense of health identity must include our bodies. This is not an easy process. Initially, upon accepting the fact that we were abused, our bodies start to express their needs for help and healing. Suddenly, physical reactions that were kept under tight lock and key, start to manifest unexpectedly. These responses and the many forms of trauma trigger reaction that occur as a consequence, often make life challenging. Like so many areas of childhood sexual abuse response, emotional body memories and the mind-body split can be healed as well. A growing sense of personal safety and recovery can allow us to integrate our bodies into our emerging sense of well being.
Questions for Consideration
1. How/why does sexual abuse cause survivors to freeze or disown their bodies or various body parts?
2. What is a body memory and what are some of the ways you experience body memories?
3. What are some of the trauma repetition behaviors you’ve engaged in as an adult, (such as self mutilation, inflicting harm, eating disorders, lack of self care) as a result of your abuse and how did you begin to get to the underlying mental/emotional roots of those behaviors?
4. How do you tell the difference between an emotional body memory and actual physical illness?
5. Put another way, how do you know when pain is a body memory or actual physical pain?
6. Body memories often occur as a result of various trauma triggers. What are some of your body memory triggers and how do they express in your body?
7. In addition to stirring up physical responses, body memories also stir up certain types of emotions and thoughts. What are some of the emotions and thoughts you experience when having body memories?
8. What does it mean to you to give frozen body parts a voice?
9. What is the connection between your sexual abuse body memories and your inner children/child?
10. How do you re-parent your inner children when working with the huge emotional responses that working with frozen body parts and body memories can release?
11. How has working with the 12 steps helped you to deal with sexual/physical abuse body memories?
12. What other recovery tools do you use when dealing with sexual abuse body memories?What are some of the other safe and effective methods you use to process body memories that you may not have shared thus far?