More on Memories

15 May

The comments on my post yesterday were thought provoking enough that i need a whole new post to respond.  

Thank you, Histoy, K, ewoman, Sbf, and HS for the hugs and prayers and general support ~ i really appreciate it.  And really, i’m ok.  

i’ve done a ton of therapeutic work over my lifetime, processing and working through the difficulties of the past.  i work with abuse survivors every day and certainly couldn’t do that work well if i hadn’t done – and continue to do – my own therapeutic work, particularly around my trauma history.

Which doesn’t lessen my appreciation for all of you.  Being able to talk about it, and hearing your support, is part of what helps me work back through it one more time.  

i do know that it wasn’t my fault.  Little Monkey, you’re right, it takes a a long time for our “inner child” to grasp that and believe it.  Most of the time, my inner child does know and believe it.  That’s exactly why ~ when i find myself thinking and feeling that old shame ~ i know that something has triggered me.  

It’s like an old knee injury that flares up from time to time.  You know what to do for it, you know it will pass, but it still has to be dealt with.  

And it’s a signal to pay attention.

The question youall ask – what does this mean?  What’s triggered you?  is exactly what the feelings are supposed to motivate me to ask myself.  The feelings are an alarm system, and the alarm’s going off.

Is it a false alarm – a malfunction in my system, so to speak, and something i  need to overcome?  Or is it a realistic warning; my gut telling me something’s not right in the relationship?  

You know, i used to have a dental phobia.  i had some reason for it, there had actually been a dentist incident when i was a kid ~ not a sexual incident ~ just a bad dentist incident.

But i was fine as long as my mother was making appointments for me.  On my own, i just quit going.   Of course, when i did go, it was a worse experience because i’d put it off, so that didn’t help.  And it didn’t improve the chances of me going back until i had to.

For a long time, i went to the dental school, when i had to go, and that didn’t help much either.  i could never know who i’d see or what to expect so i couldn’t build any kind of relationship or trust in the person.

i was in my 30’s when i realized that going to the dentist was a trigger for me.   That from the moment they made me sit down in the chair and i felt the chair lean me back, i felt as if i were being molested again.   

A mouth is a sensitive organ of sexual pleasure.  We don’t often think about it, but going to the dentist is intimate, almost as much as the gynecologist.   

Laying back in the chair, mouth open, i felt helpless, like i had no control.  i knew it was likely to hurt and there wasn’t anything i could do about it.  And it was my own fault, cause if i didn’t put off going to the dentist, i could have gotten this cavity taken care of before it got so bad.

My body would tense up, i’d be absolutely miserable, and i wouldn’t relax til it was over.   And i would’t go back til i had to.

So the dentist was a trigger.  

Avoiding  the dentist was not a helpful solution.  

But once i realized that was the problem, i could do something to change the way i felt. i told my dentist {i had my own dentist by then} that i had a dentist phobia.  He was very nice about it and willing to help any way he could.

So then i refused to lie back in the chair until he got there.  You know, usually they sit you down, lean the chair back and you wait?  

i said,  no, i’d rather not lay back til he gets here.  The dental assistant was a little shocked, but you know, they can’t actually make you lay back right away ~ i just perched on the edge of the chair.  

It felt awfully defiant, and a little scary, but she accepted it.  And it was easier the next time.  

i did some other things ~ i’d take a book and read through “waiting for the novocain to kick in” and other times that i could.   i’d practice muscle relaxation and relaxed breathing.

And it worked.  i can go to the dentist regularly and feel fine about it.

i’ve learned since then that dental phobias are common among abuse survivors.  i had a client a while back who was triggered because her dentist’s instruments were behind her.  As he brought them from behind to use, it gave her flashbacks to her abuser, a family member who always came up behind her to rape her.

Once she was able to talk about that and recognize it, she was able to explain to the staff that she had a dentist phobia.  They were happy to help, and when she goes in now, they move the tray of instruments so they’re in front of her and she can see them coming.   

So yes, when i get triggered, i think it’s helpful ~important ~ maybe essential ~ to figure out what’s going on and what i need to do about it.  

Donna, you ask an interesting question: 

“…is there a chance this Dom brings up these feelings because you want to trust him and he is knocking on a wall erected by your subconscious, a wall that is a deep distrust of men with certain traits? Maybe a wall that is a barrier to finding your Dom? So often the closer we come to our goal, the more walls pop up that have to be torn down.”

Obviously you’re right ~ it might be a false alarm, the settings on my alarm system may be wound too tight.   i’ve played with your phrase “a wall that is a deep distrust of men with certain traits” for a while in my head.

And i don’t want to sound defensive.  i appreciate the comment, and want to explore what you mean.  

i think, “ya know, i flew to Baltimore with nothing but the clothes on my back to meet a strange man because i thought he might be important in my life.   That took some trust.  i think.”

But in general, with or without the “certain traits” qualifier, i probably don’t trust men in general.  i don’t mean any disrespect to the men i know.  There are lots of men i trust in lots of ways.  

And i might have some daddy issues, some fear of abandonment going on.   That hasn’t stopped me from entering relationships.  But i am cautious, or try to be. 

So in my relationship with this Dom, when it happens, when i get triggered, i tell him how i’m feeling.  i try to tell him what triggered it ~ “When You say… i feel…”  

And i wait to see how He reacts.  What He does or doesn’t do will determine where the relationship goes.  i don’t know what else i could do.

When the dentist was triggering me, it wasn’t his fault.  He wasn’t doing anything wrong.  But once i told him how i felt and what i thought would help, he was willing to do that.  If he hadn’t been, if he’d said it was stupid, or refused, i would have left.  It might not have meant he was a bad dentist, but it would have meant he wasn’t the dentist for me.

Isn’t that the way it is in any relationship?

{Sin, the little girl in me thanks you for the hug, and the grown woman does too!  Mick, ‘Nilla, and Angel, thanks for the understanding and willingness to explore.  Little Monkey – thanks for sharing your story. Donna – thanks for being willing to put your thoughts out there.}

6 Responses to “More on Memories”

  1. angel May 15, 2011 at 7:53 am #

    This is really beautifully executed. Very thoughtful.

    Oh….and….i thought Donna was pretty damn brave too to have put that concept out there not being sure how it would be received.

    Its too bad we are not taught as children the “trust-is-practiced” model.
    Though, i know my own sexual abuse experiences made me very confident in teaching children to trust their own bodies and own ideas about touch. Something good came out of evil-doing.

    i had more i wanted to say but i’ve totally lost my train of thought.

    • aisha May 15, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

      Thank you, Angel. Glad you liked it. 🙂

      And i totally agree with you – it’s important to teach our kids to trust their own instincts and we can use the more difficult things that happen to us in ways that give them meaning.

      Thank you,


  2. striving for peace May 15, 2011 at 8:20 am #

    I feel really bad that I missed reading you the past few days — hugs sis — I don’t have anything brilliant to add to the others

    we are all a work in progress — but you seem to be doing your work purposefully — which is always better than doing it blindly


    • aisha May 15, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

      Hey, Sfp,

      Don’t feel bad – it’s good to see you back. Thanks for the support!


  3. sin May 15, 2011 at 8:23 am #

    Aisha, what does this Dom do when you tell him he has made you feel something negative? I assume that’s the way it emerges?

    I think your comment about not trusting men in general is an interesting one. I feel the same way I think… but am curious about what you meant about that.

    And I can just imagine the defiant Aisha perched on the edge of the dentist chair waiting.

    • aisha May 15, 2011 at 9:26 pm #

      Hey, Sin,

      Naturally, and unfortunately, it’s not quite that straightforward. I don’t want to do details here; I’ll message you if you’re interested.

      As for not trusting men in general – I’m not sure how to explain – other than ~ I guess I don’t trust anyone instantly, right? Then there are lots of ways to trust people. And I don’t trust people in different ways without some testing to see how they respond.

      So – I might trust somebody with my money, but not my kids. Or with my kids, but not my money. I might trust somebody to remember my birthday and listen when I’m upset, but not to show up on time for anything. It’s not like trust is a complete either/or; there’s lots of levels and degrees and types of trust anyhow, right?

      {Although, in Speed of Trust, which I just read, they break it down into character or competence, which has some validity too.}

      Anyhow, back to the point – I want to try to say this right – I am aware that men have a lot of power to hurt me. Physically and sexually for starters. Not that some women couldn’t too – yes, but I just don’t feel the same potential risk with women. I don’t know if that would be different if I were sexually involved with women – there’s an interesting thought…

      O, shoot, Sin, this might be a post. Thanks. What do you feel about it?



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