Last week I wrote about how we have to feel to heal. Our implicit memories, those strong feelings often experienced as being 'triggered', have to be open and felt to be integrated.
This is why leaning in to these difficult emotions is so important for healing.
But having them open up and feeling them is not enough all by itself for healing to happen.
If we are feeling them and everything seems to be just how it was when the original pain occurred, that isn't healing. It's re-traumatizing.
Something needs to be different. Something needs to feel different. And that difference is the key to integration and true healing.
It could be as simple and profound as feeling like another person really understands your experience.
Or that someone actually stays with you and cares for you when you feel those feelings.
Something different that wasn't part of the original trauma needs to be experienced.
This is called a dis-confirming experience.
Here's how it works and why it's so important...
When these implicit memories open up, the way you felt then is how you are feeling now - exactly the same.
And that younger (and sometimes very young) part of you has certain expectations of what things will be like and how they will feel. And it's much deeper than a thought or belief. It is an embodied expectation - it happens on the level of your body.
We may expect to be abandoned or shamed or dismissed or ignored or punished...
And if this embodied expectation has the embodied experience of something different - someone stays with us, someone listens and understands, someone acknowledges our experience and makes room for it....
When this happens, something really new enters into this old, isolated experience. And it begins to connect with other parts of our brain - to integrate.
Sometimes it integrates a little. Sometimes a lot.
Usually we need to have a dis-confirming experience more than once - we need to have it often enough to begin to feel it is reliable.
Now it would seem that having a dis-confirming experience would feel good. And sometimes it does.
But often when it happens, we feel wary, confused, disoriented... and we may not be able to fully take it in right away. It can feel quite bewildering or even scary.
Even so, every time this happens, we integrate and heal a little bit more.