Posted by: Marie | November 13, 2009

(184) No sparing the details

Post #184
[Book study – Wednesday, July 15, 2009]

The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse
(Third Edition, 1994)
by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis

Part Two: The Healing Process
A Stage of Healing: Remembering

[Table of Contents]


Green text: Quotes/Summaries from the book
Gray text: My words

This transformative work (the entire series of blog posts relating to this book) constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright law.


Writing Exercise: What Happened To You

Write about your experience of being sexually abused as a child.

Today, I’m writing directly to the readers of my blog.

The Pier by Martin Chen

The Pier by Martin Chen

The material I wrote in 2008 was written for “my eyes only” and/or for the eyes of my therapist. I didn’t have any intention of sharing it with others when I wrote it. Then, in January of this year (2009), I decided to “go public” with my writing by starting this blog. Despite knowing “the public” would have a window into my therapeutic process after that point, I have made a concerted effort to maintain the “private” nature of my writing and write as if I had no public audience.

I’ve done fairly well with not allowing my awareness of a public audience to influence my writing – up until today. Today, I’m really struggling with it . . .

In preparation for this writing exercise, I created a list of all the things I would like to cover. My list includes every incident or situation I experienced in my childhood and adulthood for which I still carry anger or shame. It is a huge list.

Despite this book (and this writing exercise) focusing only on sexual abuse, I have also included non-sexual abuse and hurtful experiences in my list. I believe that the non-sexual experiences helped create the environment that increased my vulnerability to the sexual exploitation. I believe my childhood experiences caused me to see the world in a way that increased the likelihood of my engaging in destructive patterns as an adult. I believe the sexual and the non-sexual are tightly intertwined and need to be dealt with simultaneously.

The book suggests only writing for thirty minutes – to save the rest for another time. I agree that is a good idea, especially when I’m supposed to write about my feelings and my sensory experiences – that means I have to move from the logical part of my brain into the emotional part of my brain. That means I have to keep my psychological energy up against my skin as I write. Those are huge challenges for me – fifteen minutes at a time might be more realistic, actually. I don’t know – we’ll see.

Regardless of how long I am able to write at each sitting, I want to stay with this exercise until I have worked my way through the entire list. Just like the book describes, anytime I have “talked” about these experiences, it has been in concise, clinical terms. Or, when I have been verbose, my descriptions have been about “the facts” of what happened or what logical thoughts went through my head.

I have never allowed myself to remember my emotions or the physical sensations I experienced. Never. No one has ever asked to hear those parts. I hadn’t even considered the possibility that I had experienced emotions and physical sensations in those moments until I started reading this book. I didn’t know remembering was an option.

I want to stay with this exercise until I have cleaned out all the infection – from all the wounds. I don’t know if that is possible, but I believe I can at least come close to doing so. The infection has been festering and spreading for long enough. I believe am strong enough now to withstand the surgery required to clean most (or all?) of it out.

I believe this will allow me to come to terms with many of my experiences. The ones that don’t get laid to rest in this process will become fodder for future work with a therapist (assuming someday I will find one with whom I can work effectively).

Given the size of the list, and the verbosity of what I need to write, my blog will likely be dominated by this writing exercise for quite a while – for weeks, maybe months.

This is where having a public audience is giving me pause . . .

Inline Teasers_Page_9

In order to appeal to my audience, I’ve been thinking I should not display my writing in its unabridged version – I believe people will get tired of reading all my bitching and moaning and pity-partying – I will lose my readership if I dedicate that many posts to this writing exercise. I started thinking that maybe I could generally discuss each incident in the body of a post, and then attach a .pdf file to the post that contains the detailed writing.

Or, I could include the full version in the body of the posts but include more words in each post, and push through a higher number of posts in a shorter amount of time – you know, get through it faster. (Yes, in all my anal retentive glory, I have a mathematical formula for calculating at what points I should break my writing into separate posts, and how many days each post should stay as the current post on the blog, LOL.)

About this point in my thought process, I happen to re-read the instructions for this writing exercise. I came across these words: “Rarely do you share the details, partly because it’s hard to tell even the general facts and partly because you want to spare the listeners. You don’t want to impose.”

Oh, duh. That is exactly what I’m doing here. I am trying to spare my readers – I don’t want to impose on you. I am afraid that you will stop reading my blog (translation: abandon me) if I write in a way that bores you. I am so afraid that I’m willing to minimize my need to explore my history in order to keep you happy.

Shit. How many times have I played out that dynamic in my relationships? (That was a rhetorical question, by the way – I already know the answer.) Now my destructive patterns are even invading my blog. Shit.

(Deep breath)

(A momentary pause for the purpose of pondering)

(A firm jaw and strong backbone become visible . . . eyebrows raise . . . fingers return to the keyboard . . . )

So, let’s get very clear about a few things . . .

This blog exists so others who are on a similar journey can glean hope from my healing journey. It also allows me to reciprocate support with other survivors. It also allows me to air out my “dirty laundry” and release the shame I have felt in connection with that dirty laundry.

So, this blog is about my connection with an extraordinary community.

However, my therapeutic writing – the source material for the blog – is all about me – and only me.

I cannot allow my writing to be affected by how it might play to my blog’s audience.

Therefore, I’m going to write as much as I need to write, in whatever format I need to write, for as long as I need to write. And, for the sake of authenticity, I’m going to publish it in the same format as it was created. And, I’m going to stick with my original formula for determining the word count and duration of each post.

I’m going to take up as much time as I need. I’m going to take up as much cyberspace as I need. I’m going to honor my right to say what I need to say. I’m going to honor my history and the impact it has had on who I am today. I’m going to come out on the other side of this, better for the experience.

I’m going to stick with this process until I can say, “Even if could, I wouldn’t change one moment of my history – there was good in all of it.”

(Excuse me for a moment – the tears and snot are dripping on my shirt – I need a tissue.)

So, you (members of my audience) can stick around and read what I write – or you can take a break and come back in a couple of months to see where I’m at . . . or you can go elsewhere . . . do whatever works for you. Whatever you choose, I understand.

In the meantime . . . onward and upward . . . I have A LOT of writing to do, so I guess I should get busy . . . .

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

Quotes 095


  1. Three words: GO FOR IT!

    I struggle with something similar – I started the blog for me, but then I got readers! And I like having readers and I find myself considering what they might want to read (or not want to read) and sometimes feel like I censor my “whining”.

    Your blog (like mine) is first and foremost for us. Thank you for posting this, it was a good reminder.

    You are very brave to be sharing your experience, I know it will help many and I hope you find the release and the peace you seek.

    • Hi, OAD –

      Thank you for the kind words . . .

      It is good to know that other bloggers are dealing with the same . . . thank you for sharing your experience!

      – Marie

  2. Hi Marie,

    I think people read your blog because of the emotional connection they sense with you.

    If you write through your emotion I think this will be appealing to those who are already reading and to lots of others who will come along.

    This is one of those times I think where your needs and others’ satisfaction can fit well together.

    Looking forward to your future posts.

    • Hi, Evan –

      That is a humbling and hopeful thought . . . that people feel connected to me. That gives me a warm feeling.

      I am hopeful that this blog can be a benefit for all involved . . . thank you for your supportive words . . .

      – Marie

  3. Hi Marie,
    Fom me this is almost is a life saving blog (if you can refer to a blog like that) :)
    The moments that I felt lost, I have writen here and have found inmense relieve and compation from you and other blogers. So, you do what you feel honors the real Marie. I’ll stick with you Girl!

    • Hi, Atabex –

      Wow . . . I am pleased to hear how much reading other people’s stories helps you feel less lost . . . well, good . . . I’m glad there are blogs for you to read! I appreciate you being a faithful reader of this blog!

      Thank you for your kind words!

      – Marie

  4. Yes, go for it. I’ve worried about the same things on my therapy blog, and have never lost a single reader. This space is for you, not us. But I guarantee that readers will benefit from your processing, even if it seems too long, or too self-referential. No writer is ever the best judge of what does or doesn’t work for the audience. :-)

    • Hi, David –

      Thank you for the supportive words . . . while I have already decided my course of action, it is good to hear that it probably won’t have a negative impact on the readers . . . that is good to know.

      I specifically found encouragement in your sentence: “. . . even if it seems too long, or too self-referential.”

      Thank you!

      – Marie

  5. You absolutely are right in giving yourself permission to write what you need to, in however much detail you need to cover, and for as long as you need to. This is your blog. While others may glean something helpful from your writings, first and foremost it is that one space in all the universe where you can say what you want.

    Healing is such an incredibly difficult journey. I myself have hardly ever said (to myself or others) how I felt during the years of my abuse. I know just what you mean. I can reel off the facts with no emotion whatsoever. I just don’t know where all the feelings went. I must have felt something. You must have felt something.

    Well, I just wanted to give you lots of encouragement. You have your work cut out for you–but it’s worth it because you’re worth it.

    • Hi, beautifuldreamer –

      I like the point you make . . that this is the one space in all the universe where I can say what I want to say.

      I so appreciate the encouragement . . it means a lot to me!

      – Marie

  6. I like how you are making the connection between sexual abuse and other forms of abuse that “groom” the survivor for abuse later on. It’s too important to leave out.

    I also like that you are seeing how important (though painful) it is to connect the feelings and the body sensations. I’m convinced that “feeling the feelings” is key to healing.

    Write what you need to hear and also consider submitting a post to THE BLOG CARNIVAL AGAINST CHILD ABUSE. I’m hosting this month’s edition myself in honor of Thursday being World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse. Details and a submission form link are at my blog. I hope you join us. Thanks for considering!

    • Hi, marj –

      I agree that all the abuse works together for a comprehensive result . . . and that the relationship between feelings and body sensations are key . . .

      Thank you for your kind words and for the carnival invitation . . . I’ll look into it . . .

      Thank you!
      – Marie

  7. I agree with what you said about the different types of abuse. They were all linked together in my life as well.

    Of course your blog is all about you and so it should be. Reading all about you actually helps me to understand me. I know that I am behind in reading so hopefully you are “going for it”.

    • Hey, lostinamaze –

      I think that it is rare for someone to experience only one type of abuse . . . it doesn’t make sense for an abuser to have problems in one area and to be healthy in all other areas — an abuser will likely be abusive in many ways.

      Also, when we experience abuse in one area of our lives, it diminishes our self-worth and makes us desperate enough to be willing to tolerate abuse in other areas of our lives — it opens us up for a lifetime of abuse from many sources.

      It makes sense that all the types of abuse are mixed together and layered.

      Thank you for the support in encouraging me to design this blog to primarily meet my own needs . . .

      – Marie

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