Visualization is a tool that's been very useful for me during my 'healing' journey.
In my last post I talked about how significant it could be to learn to try and parent oneself. Which is necessary (though virtually impossible) if one hasn't had access to a model of effective coping strategies.
For me the first significant stage to achieving this is being able to separate the adult self from the triggered child.
I think I'm just starting to consistently separate these two parts of self this, but I'm profoundly aware that there were many stages I had to go through before this was possible.
I had to obtain a detailed awareness of the sensations I experience when I'm triggered. I used to just feel completely overwhelmed and panicked when I felt unsafe or threatened. My adult and child were completely merged. In truth there was no adult, just a terrified child. Forming and shaping those adult parts of 'self' is a gargantuan undertaking.
Since engaging with emotional focused therapy I've isolated different aspects of what occurs in my body when my internal alarm sounds. My response to the alarm was to do whatever had to be done to change the real event behind the trigger. Now I've learnt to focus on which part of my body is most impacted by these horrible sensations. I've an acute awareness of my fight, flight or freeze mode. This has given me enough space to stop responding with attempts to alter the event. Which is great because the cause of these sensations lie in the past not the present. Altering a situation only gives temporary relief, like a drug. I've not used illicit substances to numb my discomfort but I can completely understand why people do.
Another prerequisite for me to be able to visualize the horror within was obtaining some sense of safety. it's essential to feel safe (ish) and supported. My support is predominantly from an external source, my partner. I've had some shame around this but I've learnt to accept it because I know my internal sense of trust and safety was non existent. External safety was always going to be necessary for me to obtain a felt sense. Only once I'd tasted safety and support was I able to move forwards with my healing journey. In some ways my partner has given me the spark of security that my parents never could. I now feel secure enough and loved enough to go to the deepest and darkest parts of my grief.
When I'd attained enough safety and enough understanding of the sensations in my body to separate them from my experience, I was ready to focus on where my spirit was in my body, but before I could do that I had to work with the demons. This is when the visualization really kicked in.
I could spend hours talking about the slimy cat like creature with rotten teeth and an over active saliva gland that lives in my left shoulder. The shoulder I scratch in my sleep. Or where I find my ancestors. Or even where the terrified child lives in me and the transformation he's gone through. From squat, small, malnourished and timid boy with his arms wrapped around his legs, to a strong vibrant happy kid that frolics in the grass with his spirit fox.
But I won't. I really want to tell you about what I saw on Tuesday when the terrified child in me was triggered into existence. I saw a man step out in front of that child to protect him. For so long I've wished my father could have done that for me. But instead he was one of my two abusers. The man that stepped in to protect this child was me. The first adult version of myself I've experienced. This is equal in measure and significance as any other visualization of my spirit and demons. And the first clear signal that I'm starting to be my own parent. From this can grow an internal sense of safety. There's a way to go but this offers me a little more hope.