July 10, 2015
It has been over a month now since our book hit the virtual shelves. It has done well, by almost any measure and certainly better than we had expected. Still, we hope that it will help more and more people as time goes on.
For my part, as the past one-and-a-half years since we worked on the final edits of the manuscript, have demonstrated, time goes on and what I wrote three years ago about therapy that had occurred 10 years prior, feels even more distant now as with my new therapist, I move even deeper into the process of setting things right, at the very core of where they were upset, broken, and torn apart. I hold no illusions about ever coming to the end of that road, but I am not usually discouraged because I see progress that is sometimes slow, sometimes seems to leap forward, and sometimes seems to take a rest. There are even times when I suspect I’ve regressed, only to be goaded into taking the next step forward. I suspect that is true for everyone who attempts to follow Socrates’s injunction, “Know thyself.”
I said I am not “usually discouraged.” That is honest because sometimes I am. I have a great therapist but her goals are ambitious because, though she says they’re possible, they are always the next great, seemingly unreachable thing. Looking back over the past two years, I am amazed that one woman’s completely closed mind on certain beliefs could change so much, sometimes 180 degrees! How does that happen? I do know this as a certainty: we both work hard. She has considerable powers of persuasion, is an experienced EMDR practitioner, and is a trauma specialist. Gretchen is neither disturbed nor bamboozled by my sidetracks, my stubborn clinging to long-held, irrational beliefs. Probably the most important element, beside her considerable intelligence and sense of humor, is her dogged patience. I see no deviation in her commitment to the goals we discussed early on, though she has seen plenty of wobble in mine! It is her unwavering belief that her clients can have their lives restored to them that is the greatest motivation. How do you say no to someone like that? How can you when you know that ultimately, she plans to win you over to, as she likes to say, “our side. We have the chocolate.”
Gretchen recommended a book that has been extremely helpful, Emerson, D. & Hopper, E. (2011) Overcoming Trauma through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body. North Atlantic Books: Berkeley, CA. I have had a somewhat regular morning yoga practice but, in the way many of us do, I imagine, mindlessly: Listening to the instructions, not my body, for what to do, how much, how intense, and so on. The first 63 pages, including the Forewards and Introduction, are excellent explanations for why this is so in PTSD survivors.
You know that you should not feel this way, but your body keeps getting hijacked into feeling intolerable sensations and emotions. This makes you feel crazy: on some level you realize that the danger is over, but your insides, the sensations that churn around in your body, keep warning you of impending doom (Introduction, p. xxi, Bessel A. Van der Kolk, MD, Founder and Medical director of the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute).
The rest of the book includes some yoga practices that can be done at home, a section for therapists, and another for yoga instructors. It is written in easily accessible prose, explaining to therapists and clients alike what happens physically during trauma of all kinds, including child sexual abuse. I had never read or heard it explained so lucidly but I understood, for the first time what Seanne meant by “The body remembers” and why, scientifically, that is so. I recommend it to anyone and wish that yoga instructors would read it and offer trauma-sensitive yoga classes within reach of everyone.