Monday, February 9, 2009

PTSD Healing: The Power of the Word

So here we go with the second week of PTSD Healing Resolution #2 in the BRIDGE THE GAP workshop: putting the words together.

At the beginning of my healing, when I finally began being able to tell the story in a coherent way, I published this poem:

Turning The Tables

“I will put Chaos into fourteen lines/
…I shall not even force him to confess;/
Or answer. I will only make him good.”
Edna St. Vincent Millay

It’s Fear, not Chaos, I fit into fourteen lines
and do not promise to make him good
but build for him a smaller neighborhood
in which to prowl around a habitat of rhymes,
and growl at each new word that severely binds
him while I stand outside the fence with food:
a bucketful of meat, dripping with the blood
of memory. We learn to read each other’s nervous signs.

Anxious, starving, the predatory captive paces
dark and overgrown, familiar places
of my past. Caged, here’s no dangerous cat,
sleekly muscled and nourished on the fat
of my trembling, unstrung timidity –

I am his captor now; his life depends on me.

In being able to tell the story of our trama to ourselves, we become the captors of our memories instead of being held captive by them. Do some healing practice to build up the power of your subconscious. When you finish, sit down in that peaceful state, in a comfortable place, and invite the memories to come. Slowly, one memory by one memory, tell yourself the chronological story of your trauma.

Elizabeth Stanfill, the stress guru over on DESTRESS YOURSELF, left a comment on a post last week. She writes, “I know whenever an emergency worker experiences a terrible trauma, the best thing for him/her to do is defuse the situation by retelling the story with someone who is trained. I know this keeps people happier, a lot longer, and in the field.”

Wouldn’t you like to be happier, a lot longer, and in the field of life? In order to be able to tell the story to a trained individual, you need to achieve some ability to tell the story to yourself. This is an important step; take it carefully but TAKE IT.

Fot those of you who have already achieved this step -- don't think you're off the hook! Go over the story. Identify the detail(s) you haven't discussed. Why haven't you brought them out of your head into the stark light of conversation? It's time, now. It's really time. In order to progress your healing explore what you keep secret. Put it into the chronological mix - don't just let it be a blip in the story. Begin to develop a comfort with the idea of sharing it.

If you have thoughts, tips and ideas of how to make this task easier, please share them with us all by leaving a comment.

(photo: rocdam)


Elizabeth Stanfill said...


This post brought tears to my eyes because I remember, for myself, how important it is to remember intentionally. When we have had a traumatic experience we often remember unintentionally but when we remember intentionally, it gives us empowerment.

Thank you,


Michele Rosenthal said...

Elizabeth -- That's so true, empowering indeed. I still remember the day I wrote that poem very clearly; it was the first day the words came easily. Healing PTSD is a victory of inches, yes? Or in this case, of syllables.

Marj aka Thriver said...

I really enjoyed your poem. I very much like the idea of turning from captive to captor--powerful!

Michele Rosenthal said...

To me, healing is all about taking back the power trauma stole from us. When we rise up, when we become the captors, when we choose how and what and when and where and why to remember, those are the moments in which I believe we truly heal.