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I’ve read and own a lot of self help books. Some of the best that is out here is probably in my personal library. They are very special to me, each one reflecting a certain time in my life, a certain aspect of myself I was working on. There is a lot of wisdom in them, but something I have always bumped up against is this feeling like not everything applied to me and my history.
Over and over I bumped up against material that really doesn’t apply to someone who was has experienced trauma, and especially to those who were traumatized as a child because of the real damage that is done to the brain of a traumatized child, because of the deep wounding associated with sexual abuse, child abuse and neglect.
And while I do believe that we can alter our brain and rewire it, that kind of work is often not addressed or done by readers of these books. And women who suffered trauma often pick up these self help books, hoping to find some answers to help them be more positive, more open, allow more happiness in, become more embodied, find peace etc. and find themselves hitting these walls in which the material just doesn’t work for them or apply to them.
As a matter of fact, I was just listening to an audio meditation with Geneen Roth who I love, from her book When Food is Love (as I am currently working on my relationship with my body and food) and in it she asks, what is the tone of your relationship with your mother?, in the visualization. If I was in my twenties or early thirties that question would have sent me into a flashback and even now, it was not something I could even approach within 15 seconds, given during the visualization.
In another part of the visualization, she says now walk over to your father and stand before him… if you are like many of the women I work with who were sexually violated by their fathers or step fathers, just this one part of the meditation could send them into a triggered state.
It often feels as if we are in a category all our own with particular needs and aspects of ourselves that need to be addressed before we can effectively apply some of these self help concepts. Not that these self help concepts don’t have validity but in many cases they just don’t fit us without the proper trauma work.
You just can’t tell the woman who was raped as a child to think happy thoughts and you can change your life.
And for some this may sound very victim-y, but I think it is a true reality for many women who are victims of abuse. And when these events occurred during the formative years of a person’s life, the beliefs formed there are deeply engrained and become a part of how the person moves in the world, relates to themselves and others.
To restructure and recondition the mind and body, takes time, effort, therapy, body centered practices, community, love, compassion, and so much more than a book could ever offer.
This is an important realization even for me, as I am always looking for that perfect book that will have the perfect answer for my not so perfect problem.
I am learning to let go of that and take the wisdom imparted and learn what I can and continue to do the trauma work as well. I am my own best healing expert, I know when something doesn’t fit, or something is missing. Do I believe in positive self talk? Absolutely. But I also know that treating my trauma is what will allow me to use that tool and without treating my trauma, I am left frustrated and confused as I climb what seems to be an insurmountable wall.
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