Using Your Dissociative Skills In Healing
While it is, of course, very important to recover memories, there is really no reason why you need to take on more than you can cope with at any one time. The point of therapy is not to retraumatize yourself! In fact, experienced therapists agree that keeping yourself to a gentle pace throughout your recovery work is essential. Pushing on with a memory beyond what you can reasonably tolerate is actually counter-therapeutic as it ignores your level of readiness, risks an intensification of dissociative defenses, and terrorizes the inner system often to the point of suicidality.
Therefore, when you have obsessed all weekend over an horrific new memory, spending most of your time crying, dealing with physical side-effects, not sleeping, and you no longer feel like you are getting any value from the process, and you have to go to work tomorrow, and you are so tired you just want to die - stop! Distract, dissociate, distance yourselves from the memory.
If you give yourselves permission to do this before things get too much, you will not drive yourselves to desperation and end up using unhealthy dissociative and distractive techniques, like self-harm, taking drugs, or overeating. You also learn that you are in control of your recovery. The long-term benefit is that you become less frightened of having new memories, because you know you can stop and start them whenever you need, and so keep yourself safe.
Swamp the imagery with a beautiful color or white light until it has dissolved.
If you have a computer, put the memory on file and then shut the file, lock it with a password if you can, then switch off the computer.
Treat aspects of your memory in a very concrete way in order to stop the story from continuing. For example, if you are remembering being given electroshock treatment, imagine someone pulling out the plug. From Safe Passage to Healing by Chrystine Oksana
Give yourself a specific period of time (in addition to therapy) to explore aspects of the memory - for example, five minutes a day. Set your alarm clock to let you know when it is time to stop. Afterwards, distract yourself immediately with some enjoyable occupation.
Pretend you are looking at the memory through a "backwards telescope" so that, instead of being magnified, it is tiny and becoming smaller and more distant from you until, at last, you can not see it anymore. Idea by Richard Kluft
Give the memory for safe keeping to another self inside who will not be affected by it, for example an angel, animal, totem, or wise one. Although it is usually not recommended to create new selves, you may find it helpful to create a "fragment," a pseudo-self who personifies positive energy and can soak up the negative energy of the memory.
Let the remembering self go to sleep until the rest of you have the time or renewed strength to support her process. Assure her she is not being punished, but in fact that you want to comfort and care for her. She may like to imagine the bed she will sleep in and/or the room, cloud, island, mountain top, cave or garden in which the bed is held. She may also like another self to sit with her while she sleeps.
Have a long, warm shower. Imagine the memory is a color painted on your skin, and let the water wash it away. After the shower, pamper your body.
Put the memory in an imaginary chest and sink it to the bottom of the sea, under coral and plant life, guarded by sharks.
Use your dissociative skills to empty your mind, thought-stop, or simply let the memory slide away.
Put the memory on an imaginary television screen and switch it off.
Erect a big, strong wall to block the memory.
Copyright © Sara Lambert
Originally published in Team Spirit
Reprinted With Permission