Welcome to A Life Examined

What is the examined life? A life worth living! As I look at the road ahead, I take all the baggage from the past and use it as experience - the pain and the passion, the sorrow and the joy - allowing it to carve wisdom into my mind and hope into my spirit.
There is no experience that can't be useful to me at some point in my life. There is no lesson learned that cannot make a contribution to the future.
A tiny drop of water is a part of the ocean. A tiny speck in the night sky is a ginormous star in the distance. It all depends on perspective.
So, this examined life is to offer reflections in the hope of discussing things which are of value to myself and to others.
Love, Sarah

Thursday, 27 June 2013

My "Perfect" Life - Part 6

TRUTH OR FICTION - How do you know a childhood memory is a piece of reality or a fantasy?

 A Moment in Time:

I used to wrestle with a recurring dream. In the dream I was 9 years old. The setting was a real field of tall grass I remember playing in as a child. Picture a lovely, quiet, open space on a warm, sunny day. There in the field I was sitting, alone under a tall tree, content, until a shadow screened the sunlight and I became terrified.
The terror always woke me, so at this point the recurring dream always stopped. The shadow that screened the sun was that of a human figure, and while I never saw the face belonging to the shadow, I knew the person was male and adult. In the dream I was always nine, although I had the dream intermittently from sometime after the age of 9 until my late twenties.

Through a maze of various real-life experiences and stressful situations which I thought were linked to the dream, I decided at age 29 to see a psychiatrist. He hypnotized me.

I will digress for a moment to say that I was quite surprised by that single experience I had of hypnotism. It wasn't what I'd expected. I'd always thought that during the experience a person is unconscious. But I believe I was fully conscious throughout the process, and I remember the occasion very clearly even now. I'm not sure I agree with the process, now that I have matured in my faith and theology. I'm not sure that it isn't a spiritually corrupt way of taping into our minds. But at the time I did what I thought was best, in order to rid myself of mental confusion and emotional distraction.

Of course it is completely possible that what I remember was manipulated by the psychiatrist and that I only remember what he wanted me to remember. He could have 'put me under' and then had me think, say or do any number of things, or made specific suggestions and then told me what to remember, but that isn't what I believe happened.

I remember counting back, then being in a deep sense of awareness, and then of recounting this dream. The doctor asked me to look at the face of the man and when I did I got a shock! The familiar face was vivid, as clear as the shadow was powerful. And it was then that I understood why I had always been afraid of this person.

The details of the actual event from which my dream evolved I will not recount. Indeed, they are a flashback of sexual abuse which is ugly and which I will not exploit. In fact, once I had identified to the psychiatrist the face of the perpetrator, I was brought out of the hypnotic state. Shortly thereafter the session ended. It wouldn't be until later that I would remember further details of the abuse that had spawned the dream.

I remember returning home after the session, sitting on the stairway inside my house, and knowing I was in a state of shock that was healthy and protective. My mind was clear, my emotions naturally suppressed, so that I could absorb the full implications of what I had just learned. I believe it was the Holy Spirit of God that was protecting me, so that I could continue to live and work. It would be over a span of the next 18 months that I would uncover the history of my abuse that was either real or was a fantastic and complicated series of imaginings that made me shudder, cringe and cry out until I could eventually say "enough" and move on in my life.

I do not condemn the man who perpetrated the abuse. He had his own horrors. The time has passed, the man has died and I have survived the ordeal. But if what I remembered on that occasion was true, and if the subsequent series of flashbacks that I endured, overcame and moved on from were all real, then I was abused as a child and that part of my life had over-shadowed my existence into adulthood. Either it happened or in my adult misery, I concocted it to rationalize my own sense of shame and failure.

I'll let you the reader decide for yourself which you think is true. The assailant, when confronted, denied it. There is no one else besides myself who can testify. Healed and at peace now, what shall I conclude? The abuse is probable. That's as near to fact as I can get.

Emotional memory was a hot topic in the 80's and 90's. I went through a series of memories once this most poignant one was unveiled. If 'memory' is correct I was abused from age 9 to 16. If the flashbacks were wild imaginings then I experienced a complex series of emotional traumas for no apparent reason. 

It's kind of scary posting this, but I've ruminated on the idea of blogging about it for some time. If anyone out there has had similar experience, or knows of someone who has, I'd be interested to hear from you. What did you do with your memories and what part has their unveiling played on your life? Are you now healed or do you still wrestle with issues related to the abuse? Know that God was there and wept with you, no doubt, and can heal.

As for me, at the time and over the 18 month period, I had good counselors and dear friends who let me bend their ears from time to time. But most of all, I had the Holy Spirit to protect me from becoming emotionally overwhelmed, and a gift of wisdom to be gentle and patient with myself.

May this post offer release and be a blessing to those who read it.
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