Sunday August 17, 2008
Dear Alice I have been making my way through your books and I think they are great! Like most folk, the things I am realising about my past, and the strength and liberation they are giving me to confront it are worth far more than the cover price. I am currently having Schema Therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder. Having had many years of unsuccessful behavioural therapy amongst others, I am finding that the psychodynamic, gestalt and attachment theory elemtns of schema, the imagery, going into depth, the therapist being an ally with the patient against their past – to be wonderful. I am experiencing emotions that i did not even know were there, and more are flooding through. I have cried for the first time in my life over these things. The one thing that leaves me puzzled, and the reason for my email, is that something continues to linger for me. I read with great interest about body sensations – those lingering feelings that make you suspicious but seem to have no grounding in evidence, theres no memory tied to them consciously. For me, I have always had a very strong sense of what I can only call sexual discomfort around my family, and I also experience it when I feel I am getting close to people eg male or female workmates, a male of female boss, and male friends. With female friends it is ‘acceptable’ and so I dont feel disgust so much as shame. It is a brief feeling of sexual arousal – like a nano-second, then disgust. In the books you discuss the benefits of uncovering the hidden past, and some of the people you talk about remember things from when they were a baby, even though before they did not remember – they retrived them from their bodies. How do you do this? I have many many sensations that confuse me, and certianly the schema is bringing through memories all the time. We are steering clear of any cognitive components because its clear that they wont be any help, and are focusing only on emotions. I feel I can tell my therapist anything, and I realise and have ENORMOUS anger (at my mother the sensation is bitter loathing) at the things my parents did to me or failed to give me. I do not remember any sexual abuse – yet I feel so sexually uncomfortable around all my family. I felt my sister was always uncomfortable around me (she is 4 years my senior and I couldnt understand why she hated me so much, aside from the jealousy thing). On occasion she would look at me with fear and I would feel like she saw me as some sexual predator, and I would feel hurt, confused and ashamed, though I had done nothing. In my teens I felt this overhwhelmingly with my dad, it sickened me and it was very hard to suppress it. How can I access what those body sensations are telling me? Is there a ‘method’, or does it come after other things begin to drop into place in therapy? Really appreciate everything you are doing to give people like us a voice, and thank you for taking the time to read my lengthy email!
Norman: “Borderline Personality Disorder”, which is really a complex post-traumatic stress disorder, is always a result of severe childhood abuse, and this usually includes sexual abuse. Your sensations indicate clearly that you were sexually abused in childhood. Like many victims, this abuse is not available to your conscious memory. From my own experience, it is possible to remember the most difficult and painful elements of the abuse we suffer in childhood only after we take seriously the abusive memories we already have, and the signals that the body (the child) is using to communicate with us and tell us what happened to us. You need to take completely seriously your body sensations. The little child you once were needs to trust you very much in order to give you back your conscious memories, and he will not do it if you don’t take him signals seriously. He may try to inform you with dreams, too. These things take time and patience. I hope that your therapist is brave enough to see the importance and meaning of your sensations, and that she will not be afraid of them or try to impose on you harmful psychodynamic interpretations.