Being With Trauma Memories Without Shame

Painting black lines and dots on this work in progress abstract painting helped me to process some of my feelings about the childhood sexual abuse memory that emerged. Using arts is a way of expressing something creatively that cannot be expressed in words. The process of using arts can be soothing.

There’s something about the conditions of lock down that reflect the conditions of childhood and, therefore, trauma, for me at least. In fact last weekend I had a trauma memory emerge during my meditation. It was a small child part of me that was sexually abused and I was able to hold it and listen to it and respond to it.

Part of responding was being with the hurt part and also the angry, murderous part without judgement. Just being with them, asking them what they need and listening. Another part of responding was following the urge to mix black paint to the ‘right’ consistency and then make marks on the canvas that is a work in progress. Again, whilst painting I observed what was going on for me: disgust at the sperm-like nature of the marks I was making; cognition that the yellow spots looked like eggs and I was way too young when the abuse happened to have sperms looking for my eggs; an urge to paint black dots around the red blood-like blotches on the canvas; cognition that the dots were a kind of protection; joy at discovering a different, easier technique to painting dots.

When I stood back from my painting and observed it, I loved it. It looked so vibrant and full of movement. I realised that for the first time ever I had not felt shame about a trauma memory emerging. This was astounding to me. I think this is because of several factors: self-care practices, creative practices, more connection with friends than ever before, an amazing therapist, fantastic support from people on my psychotherapy course. I’m sure there are other factors that I’m not conscious of right now.

These strange times are a collective trauma that we’re going through and of course they’re going to reflect our childhood traumas. We each have our own stuff to hold and work through on top of the collective trauma being experienced. It’s more essential than ever to have self-care, creative outlets, connection and support if we are to create and maintain health. I urge you to be gentle with yourself and other people. We’re all doing our best.

Love, Julia

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