"Because I was anally penetrated, my bad dreams can trigger me to experience excruciating pain in my rectum. It feels as if some is inserting a sharp poker. I break out in a cold sweat. One time I even fainted when I was trying to relieve myself to get rid of the pain. I did not know how I had gotten to the floor of the bathroom," she says, trailing off as if the memory is too painful to bear. "It was very scary until I understood what was happening. I didn't know when some event, person, or place would trigger my body to respond like this. I would just hit me. It was like when I did not have control when my father would orally or anally rape me."
Jenny is not alone in her somatic responses. Like many sexual abuse survivors, he experiences body triggers. I like to explain the healing process to clients by noting that trauma frozen in a person's body. The manner in which the body received the violations is imitated with the response is triggered. The tomato seeds or a dentist's drill recalls her gagging when she was orally raped. The traumatized body does not distinguish between her father's penis, the tomato seeds, and the dentist's instruments. Jenny's body knows only that something foreign is being forced into it, and its survival response is to gag it out. It is as if that part of the body "thawed" for a while and, once it was released, it froze back up., preserving the energy for another potential attack.
I explain to Mary and Jenny that the goal of treatment is to expel and dissipate the energy so it can no longer "thaw" under the instigation of a body memory and spread its traumatic poison. Through our work, we want to figuratively "melt" away the frozen body memory.