Last week people all over the world were glued to their screens as a courageous woman who remembered every detail of an attempted rape recounted her experience. And the testimony of a man who might have been lying or may not have remembered. A man who knew him at the time in college said that the experience as Dr Ford told it was consistent with what he knew of the culture Kavanaugh was entrenched in: of male entitlement, drinking and using women as sexual objects. This was not a trial. It was a job interview. It was appalling he got the nod to go forward.
Experts on memory and trauma spoke up. When we experience aggression and threat to our lives, the images and words are seared into our memory and we never forget. That was clearly the case for Dr Ford. The effects of that survival level threat remain with her through the decades since.
One psychologist said it is possible Kavanaugh does not remember. Sexually assaulting women is part of rape culture. Certainly then. Certainly now. From his perspective, the experience that so traumatized Dr Ford was, to him, not remarkable enough to sear itself into a permanent place in his memory.
Dr Ford’s courage and the dynamics at play during the hearing triggered us. There was an outpouring of I Believe Her. Women telling their stories, some for the first time, about assaults decades ago in historical time and still fresh in the bodymind. Speaking our truth is important. Believing each other is a radical act of healing.
We knew that if we had told at the time, we would have been shamed. Not believed. Women trying to report experience this all the time. Look how many women have to come forward to shift the balance and open the possibility that a single man will be charged with his crimes. Found guilty. Go to jail.
Part of what this triggers in us is a feeling of not counting. Our experiences are not believed and/or are discounted. In the Living Inquiries, we do a Boomerang Inquiry. What does this (event, words) reflect back about me? I don’t count. I’m not worthy of protection. I’m shameful. I’m bad. These core deficiency stories stay with us in the background until we are able to heal. They drive us into addiction. Into numbing and dissociation. They drive fight/ flight/ freeze.
It is possible to heal the effects of traumatic experiences and feel safe. What we know now is that the effect of trauma is stored in our body as energy with associated memories – thoughts, words, images. Practices like tapping can help lessen the intensity. The Living Inquiries help us find a way to be present with ourselves, to support ourselves, to be kind and compassionate with ourselves. To honor our defense mechanisms as necessary at the time and to let them go. Let the feeling in.
I would never say this is easy. For me, it has become workable. I understand now how this works. We really can’t be the one person ever whose nervous system and lives are not impacted by traumatic experiences. We are human beings. There is an impact on our nervous system, primitive brain and an assault to our sense of basic goodness. We can heal from this.
An experience of not being believed has nothing to do with the truth.
Being judged and shamed does NOT mean I am bad.
It was never my fault. Over and over I put my hand on my heart and offer myself my own attention, kindness and compassion.
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