Unwinding Trauma


Reunion with my therapists in 2010. From left to right: me, June, Peggy (a fellow MFR therapist and friend post Therapy on the Rocks), and Tina. These women gave me my life back. I love you!

Just as I was beginning to get the hang of being in my body, day three of the intensive treatment program began. On day three, all the patients, students doing skill enhancements, and two therapists meet for a group unwinding session. I am the only one who has not experienced or seen an unwinding. I have read about it and experienced local unwindings in my body. This does not prepare me for what I am about to witness.

One person volunteers to be first. She sits on the treatment table. All the others put their hands somewhere on this person. I don’t know what to do. June directs me to put my hands on someone who is touching the person on the table. As long as we are all physically touching, I am connected to what is happening. The person on the table begins to move like fluid and the hands move with her. They know where she is going to move before she actually does. They are not steering her. I can see that. They are following something in her that is coming before movement. [I learn later, that we can tune into feeling highly subtle movement coming from our bodies. It can be felt if you are relaxed enough and not in your thinking mind trying to anticipate the motion. I believe this level of sensing is taught in the martial arts.]

I feel terror. I disconnect and take my hands away, moving against the wall. I make an effort to touch each person as they are unwinding. I am scared yet curious. Terrified and fascinated at the same time.

Now there is no one left to go but me. My diaphragm is burning with fear as June says to me “you’re next”. I mumble, I don’t know if I can do this, as I sit on the table. My fear is that my body won’t cooperate. I’ve never done this; I can’t do this. My body won’t let me. These are the thoughts running through my head. I feel the light pressure of hands on my head, chest, diaphragm, back. There is a surge of adrenaline that knocks me loose of my frozen terror and my head goes down. I feel deep dejection and immediately start to cry. I feel a whirling tornado of movement inside me and the hands give me permission and support to be the tornado. I can no longer keep track of where I am moving. There are no words for the feeling. Chaos expressed inside out is the best description I have. In the whirl of my own movement I feel my back touch the floor. Hands are pressing down on my bent up legs and hands. I feel the suffocating fear I had the first time the rapist laid on me. The hands in the treatment room meet my hands and legs and I push back, terrified. It is so intense I have no choice but to get the cry out, “Get off me! Go away!” I cry and repeat the words desperately. My hands and legs are frantic now. I feel completely ineffective in my efforts to get them off. Powerless. They immediately back off. I huddle up to myself and cry. Shock at what has come out washes through me and still stunned, I slowly get up . June is drying her eyes. This too shocks me. She is crying with me. Somehow this is a relief. Someone gets how awful it was. I’m not alone in my pain.

Later I wonder: did the panic and fight stuck inside me really come out? I realize that I had repeatedly wished I could have done that back then – if only I hadn’t been afraid for my life. But, surely I could have done something to get away? What I just unwound sure didn’t work. I still felt helpless. Is/was there no way to break free? My feeling of powerlessness is intensified after the unwinding. But, yes, I guess I did what I said I couldn’t do. I unwound.
In time, I begin to understand the moment by moment response I had in that unwinding and the ones to follow. By not forcing or leading. By staying gently at each barrier for me, the therapists allowed me to feel and express what had been stuck inside me all this time: sadness, chaos, fear, desperation, fight, helplessness. They had allowed me to complete a process of escape I had only thought about while captured. Awkward as that first layer was, the feeling of powerlessness that I had buried, was finally surfacing after 16 years of suppressing it. Now in this protective environment, perhaps I could finally get the resolution I so desperately wanted.

This entry was posted in Healing.

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