There a several phases and stages of sexual trauma recovery, and each one is given various clinical definitions and prescriptions. I needed an easy way to recognize which how much I had moved toward healing. I needed to know a) How whole am I? and b) How free do I feel?
When I first started my healing process, eight years after my abuse occurred, I was probably 20% whole and 0% free. I had a lot of work to do. As of today, nine years into my healing journey, I feel about 85% whole and 99% free. Those numbers are gold stars in my book. They represent my healing. I am thriving.
I am able to effectively help others find wholeness and freedom, too. I am not a slave to PTSD. I am resourced and able to be powerful in my resiliency. The trauma doesn’t control me. That is freedom. Do I still have occasional intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, fears and walls? You betcha, but they don’t reign supreme.
Wholeness is trickier to grasp. Why? Because I can be a dissociation ninja! I conceptualize the phenomenon of disconnecting from reality in order to survive psychically/spiritually in terms of macro and micro. (Disclaimer: The following are not clinically recognized definitions.)
Macro-dissociation (Macro-D) is characterized by blacking out, losing long blocks of time, assuming alternate “personalities”, out of body experiences, and so on. Macro-D will get you a fancy DSM diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) or Dissociative Fugue.
Micro-dissociation (Micro-D) is Macro-D’s ninja cousin. Micro-D is characterized by a disconnection from the parts of the self, repression of the soft and trusting traits within us, unawareness of sensations in certain body parts during distress, zoning out or dimming awareness of emotional experience, stranger danger reactions when we encounter aspects of ourselves that ‘belong’ in our shadow, and other subtle skills.
Micro-D is my ninja specialty.
I remind my clients all the time that it takes a long time for our deep psyche to agree to transform trauma survival skills into post-trauma thriving skills. Our deepest self needs to experience safety for a longer period of time to know that it’s real and trustworthy — and that includes feeling safe with ourselves. Without the safety track record, Micro-D persists. I know this because I live it, and I see many others along the path who are also living it.
My Micro-D ninja skills kick in when my self-safety track record seems a little shady and I don’t trust it. I will, sometimes consciously and rebelliously, emotionally cut-off parts of myself from my awareness. “Who needs that inner child anyway!?” And just like that, I leave her behind and walk away an 85% whole being.
I decided awhile back to retire my Micro-D ninja suit, to quit leaving pieces of myself behind. I realized it was time to deepen the intimacy I have with myself. Rather than disconnecting from myself, I am courting myself. That’s right. Me, Myself, and I are dating, exclusively. And it has been a daily practice of grace and forgiveness.
This courtship has a few relationship guidelines:
- Mutual respect
- Nonjudgmental curiosity
- Trusting the self-safety track record
- One date at time, take it slow
- Enlist the help of a professional when needed
What I have learned during this courtship:
- I am a pretty awesome person
- My “dark” sides are actually gifts when given the freedom to breathe
- I can show up to life and relationships authentically
- I am not just comprised of the pre-trauma me, traumatized me, and healed me – I am so much more than that sum of my parts
- There are many parts of myself that I see waaaaay over there and I know I am not ready to get too close, BUT I am not repressing or shooting arrows at them
- This whole dating myself thing is hard, exciting, exhilarating, scary, comforting, empowering, anxiety provoking — but mostly fun
There are still days when I slip on my Micro-D ninja suit, but I don’t wear it all day. I’ll take it off before too long. It is restrictive and doesn’t fit that well anymore because I have grown and evolved into a more full and vibrant person.
Maybe you have outgrown your ninja suit, too. Maybe now is just the right time to give yourself permission to hang it up and ask yourself out on a date.