If one cannot run from inevitable harm and one cannot fight inevitable harm, one will instead freeze and dissociate from their body. It is a practice that becomes an art form for those of us who lived at the mercy of abuse. We become depersonalized and fragmented individuals who live in various states of dissociation from the physical world and most especially our physical bodies because quite frankly, that was the only way to survive our environment.
It seems that no matter how much I do heal, there is always another unseen, darkened corridor in my psyche or body that needs integration. Today, I discovered yet another corridor. During an EMDR session, I was pushed to the realization that I did not re-connect with my body after the abuse ended. In fact, I do not remember a time when I identified with my body. When I visualize my body, I see a non-organic (plastic like) image of skin that is hollow inside, a temporary mannequin for a soul to inhabit. When the therapist asked me to feel my body and realize that it is mine, tears started rolling down my cheeks. I did not want to re-identify with my body. I don’t want to feel it. When we explored my resistance, we discovered that I feel as if I have no control over the wellbeing of my body. I feel as if this world is brutal and harm is inevitable and so it is better to not care what happens to the body. Better to not see it as real. This is after all exactly how I emotionally dealt with being cut and being raped and being bruised and being completely out of control of my bodily integrity growing up. It is also how I dealt with years of pushing my body to the brink of collapse in professional sports. I stopped caring what happened to it. What’s more than that, staying dis-identified with the body is how I accomplished not feeling the pain of what happened to me (past tense). A part of me still does not want to face the damage that was done and really let the reality of it sink in. I have dissociated with my body to prevent feeling past pain and to avoid feeling future pain. And on a very deep level, I find that I still have a measure of hatred for physical form.
Why is this harmful? I’ll give you a few examples. When I first got away from my abusive situation, I used to get hurt all the time because of this. For example, when the average person touches a hot stove, they instantly remove their hand from it. When your brain has been trained that it can’t escape pain, it learns to dissociate in a shorter amount of time than it takes to remove your hand from the stove. My consciousness would leave my body before I had time to realize that I was in pain touching a hot stove and so, I’d burn myself pretty badly. I was so famous for pushing myself to the point where I’d pass out completely in training sessions that I had to hire a new coach, whose sole job was to hold me back from pushing myself too hard, rather than to push me further.
I also took to cutting. Cutting is a near inevitable past time for people who dissociate from their body. The depersonalization and anesthetic feeling of dissociative states, leads to an unbearable feeling of “surreality”. That unbearable feeling can be ended by creating a “jolt” to the body. You begin to cut to almost prove to yourself that you exist. You also cut out of the self hate and guilt you learn to harbor because of thinking that you must deserve to be punished (after all, if you don’t deserve it, why is the abuse happening to you?). It is odd that an action, like cutting, that could easily end your life is paradoxically used in order to preserve yourself. It is a pathological soothing mechanism that temporarily ends the chronic dysphoria that we feel.
I also did not care how other people used my body. If a woman gets raped, she feels like she is dirty, damaged, violated. She feels as if something of herself has been taken from her. Rape can alter the course of a woman’s entire life. This happens because she identifies with her body. She is attached to her body. So what happens if you are raped over and over and over again? You have 2 choices. Either you can’t survive it, so you let your body die. Or you stop caring what happens to your body. You detach from it and you stop seeing it as yourself. Now, when they rape your body, they aren’t raping YOU. When I first got away from the abuse, I did not care who used my body or how they used it.
Over the course of my life, I have had an immune system that is so weak that my family and friends are convinced I have an undiagnosed disorder. Rather paradoxically for a healer, if I am around someone who has a contagious illness, I always catch it. This has led to a deep fear of contagious illness. I detest when people go out in public when they are sick. I’m that person who always opens doors and touches shopping carts with my sleeve. I hate that my son attends pre-school (a hot bed of contagious illness). And it stresses me out beyond belief when people who are sick come over for a visit. I feel my heart start to race and my body go into fight or flight mode if someone coughs or vomits, because to me, it is inevitable that I will catch every illness that I am around. Aside from colds and coughs and flus, I was on antibiotics nearly every year for recurrent bouts with strep throat and even managed to have 2 recurrences of mononucleosis in my teens.
I am not a hypochondriac. In fact, I’m the kind of person who tends to under react to serious symptoms. But my immune system seems to be unable to block these viruses and bacteria and when I catch them, they make me very sick. What puts the average person in bed for a few days will incapacitate me for weeks sometimes. I have become convinced that it will be a one-celled organism that causes the extinction of the human race. A probability that is only going to increase with the “antibiotic resistant super bugs” we are creating as a result of our misuse of antibiotics.
I have gone to several specialists to try to figure out why I have this immune system issue. Today, I figured out the emotional reason why. I abandoned my body a long time ago. Much less of my consciousness (source energy) is running through my physical body because of it. This is true for many of us who are primarily spiritually focused. We tend to neglect our physical aspect. In fact, something that has struck me is that many spiritual teachers get sick often or have bodies that don’t regulate warmth adequately because they are so non-physically focused. We literally do not have enough energy running though their physical body because of it. Even though our vibrations are higher than the average person, we still retain a kind of resistance to the physical aspect of life and of ourselves. The contrast of our physical environments caused us to withdraw our focus from the physical and go seeking on a spiritual level and most of us have not yet healed that original resistance to the physical dimension that caused us to become so spiritual. This is why I hate yoga. It forces me to re-connect with my body. And that scares me. When there is less energy running through the physical body, the immune system is impaired. Pair this with the general feeling of being victimized or the belief that the world can hurt you, and you have the perfect recipe for falling prey to a communicable illness. Also, I think the hate I feel for being embodied, sends my body the message that I am against it. This causes the immune system to malfunction. It is surprising then that I have not developed an autoimmune disorder. An autoimmune disorder is a condition where the immune system starts attacking healthy cells. The body essentially begins attacking itself. The vibration that backs up autoimmune disorders is always deep-seated self-hate.
So here we are at a crossroads. The body is a function of Ego. It is part of a temporary, separate identity. But Ego serves an important purpose. Without it, we could not stay alive. You could not learn. Obviously, it is harmful to identify with your body to the degree that you cannot face the temporary nature and the illusion of separation that is a function of the body. But it is also harmful to dis-identify with your body to the degree that I did in order to survive my childhood.
Today, through the tears, I felt my body for the first time since I abandoned it in my childhood. I felt the bones and muscles beneath my skin for the first time. It was by far the most frightening feeling I’ve had in a long time. But it was a life altering event. And I finally realized that the reason I cannot ever figure out what is going on with my body, is because I’m profoundly disassociated from it. When I tuned back into it today, even for a brief minute, I could feel the imbalances in my body. I could hear my ovaries, as if they were yelling to me “no”. I felt that my kidneys have stored anger within them. I felt that I have a lack of magnesium in my bones and blood and that there is a kind of bacteria called lactobacilli in my body that has died off, leaving too little of them behind. For a minute, I could read my own body as well as I can read the bodies of people who hire me as a medical intuitive. Even though it felt like venturing into shark-infested water to feel my body again, there was an underlying feeling that I was experiencing a miracle. I imagine it felt a bit like it would feel if you were paralyzed for years, only to regain movement in one of your limbs. I think I have manifested a daily life and most especially a husband that has made me feel safe enough in physical life that after nearly 30 years, my brain has decided that it is time to heal and re-integrate the physical aspect of my life. It is obvious that this is the next step in my expansion. It is obvious that I will be teaching the process of healing the connection between our psyche and our bodies to other people who have suffered this same disconnection as a result of abuse. Today, I have more hope than I could ever express in words. Hope for healing. Hope for re-integration. Hope for wholeness. And most especially, hope that one-day we will all (myself included) be at one with our physical bodies and the physical world that our bodies call home.