A piece of personal experience to illustrate how childhood trauma can be caused by abuse, mistreatment or harassment. But also how it can heal in a therapeutic setting.
A long time ago, around the age of eight, I did competition swimming. Every Monday-evening we had lessons in the swimming pool near our house, with the creative dutch name: ‘De Grondslag’.
In the group was Daan, a tall guy who was also much older than the rest of the group. Daan was special, he was tough, cheeky and always put himself in the center of attention. With his appearance and his behavior he commanded ‘respect’ from all of us. But his behavior wasn’t that respectful.
One of the ways in which Daan commanded respect was by choosing a ‘mascot’ from the group, the weakest, and using this to confirm his toughness. He did this by using him after class, in a weekly ritual, in the dressing room as a kind of play object and humiliating him in front of the others.
This mascot was me.
Today, during the third block of Heart & Sexuality, I came into contact with Daan again after 45 years. Or better said, with the anger that that evoked in me at the time, but from which I then had to split off. It was too unsafe, there was no help, Daan was too strong and I suffered a lot of embarrassment and shame at that time. Because of this I did not dare to tell anyone and was therefore an ‘easy prey’ for Daan.
Even though I have always consciously had these experiences in my memory, I was strongly dissociated from them. When I thought about it I could see the images, but otherwise this memory had no content at all. I remember experiencing it as in a haze. Just as you sometimes see in films, where sounds become silent, everything becomes a blur and seems to slow down. There were no affective feelings and no sensory feelings. This is what I mean by separation and dissociation. The ‘normal’ reaction to these kinds of experiences should be a feeling of anger, chaos or despair, with the accompanying emotions. I remember that I did NOT feel anything, like an animal that allows itself to be skinned in the slaughterhouse without being able to resist.
But the anger and despair were there. By splitting them off, they became hidden in the deeper let’s of my soul. But not only that, also the fragile innocence of the little boy of eight years old has become hidden under the internalized anger. Deeply hidden, it has continued to lead a life of its own, which manifested itself in inner criticism, fear in social situations, self-condemnation of my body. not to mention vague complaints such as heat attacks with eczema, high blood pressure, and the inability to relax.
During training today, we were invited to dance as an 8-10 year old with all the playfulness and autonomy that comes with it. Then, this turned into a so-called kundalini movement, where you let your whole body shake and vibrate to the music. Everything in my body shook nicely, except my belly. That had become rock-hard. With my attention to it I invited my belly to relax and join in.
And then there it was, the deeply hidden rage was released in the form of a dark snake, which was awakened from its hibernation like a monster. A frightening experience, if it weren’t for my awareness and knowledge that this had to be suppressed anger. And then soon the association with this memory returned. As a bycatch his name up again, that name I had forgotten a long time ago.
Then I was able to do what I always invite my clients to do; see it as a manifestation of the mind and see that it was once suppressed out of self-preservation. That there is actually a very beautiful intention attached to it. It was too unsafe then, and the innocence of the little boy of that time could only be protected by suppressing the anger and separating it from it. In other words, suppressing it helped me to survive the situation.
By realizing this while dancing, softening began to come into my belly. In the next exercise, with the help of a ‘loving ideal parent’, this invited the energy of anger to come out. How did this express itself? My whole body began to fizzle and tingle, and shocks went through my body as I felt the energy of anger flowing through my system internally. A violent but also healing discharge, supported by the loving presence of a male companion.
In that discharge, which remained exactly within the limits of my resilience, the innocence of the little boy of eight years old also reawakened. That boy, who had once learned that certain types of men cannot be trusted, could finally relax in it, and thus heal in it. The dissociated memory was once again approachable in all its facets.
I don’t know much about him, except it wasn’t very nice at his house. Daan was a victim of domestic violence, and this manifested itself in transgressive behaviour, like to me. But also to himself. Two years after this, he crashed into a tree with his moped filled with booze. I hope he has found peace in his suffering.