If you're like me, you've spent many sleepless nights feeling frightened in your
bedroom. It may have even felt like a torture chamber at times. If you're
determined to thrive, it's time to take charge and turn your slumber chamber
into a comforting, healing sanctuary. First get rid of the piles of laundry, junk
mail and nameless clutter. The goal is to have nothing in your bedroom that isn't
functional, comforting and/or pleasing.
Next, make some investments to install some pleasing accouterments. Start with
the list below, then let your imagination soar. Get creative. Have fun. Splurge!
You deserve it. Some of the higher-ticket items may take some time, budgeting
and planning. Some of the "Quick Fix" ideas can be purchased and put into place
immediately. Sweet Dreams!
- High-quality mattress and pillows
- New bed sheets (perhaps you'd find flannel especially cozy)
- A beautiful quilt, comforter or bedspread
- A fountain (preferably something that looks and sounds natural, like metal and stone)
- Matching bedroom furniture (no odds and ends or cast-offs)
- A bouquet of fresh flowers that can be seen (and smelled) from the bed
- Throw pillows and a throw blanket
- Linen spray (fragranced spray for pillows and sheets)
- Photographs and framed prints for walls and tabletops (beautiful scenes/nature subjects work well)
- A plush, pretty throw rug to step onto when you get out of bed
Grounders/Comforters To Have Within Reach:
- A vial of fragrant, essential oil (lavender is a proven relaxer)
- A framed photo of yourself (a recent photo of you as an adult--something taken at a happy time)
- An eye pillow (a bag made of silk and stuffed with fragrant seeds/flowers)
A real thriver comfort that I have found is ear massage. It is simple, yet
powerful. If you go for a professional massage with a massage therapist,
ask him or her to work on your ears. You will be pleasantly surprised by
how great this can make you feel. And, unlike other areas of my body where
I've tried self-massage, I find that I like massaging my own ears almost as
much as when someone else performs the task for me.
I start by gently rubbing behind my ears. Next, I massage all around the
outside and inside of my ears (except the ear canal, of course) and end with
the lobes. To top off my massage, I finish by gently tugging four or five spots
around the outside of my ears, including the lobes. You can do one ear at a time or do both together.
This is a great way to start the day, and is also a relaxing way to unwind after a stressful workday. It is one of the few things I have discovered that has the amazing capacity to energize and calm me at the same time. For me, ear massage is also a wonderful grounding technique when I feel over stressed or about to dissociate. Give it a try!
When I learned to recognized my dissociating and eliminate it from my daily
routine, I discovered a paradox: I felt more present and in control of my thought
patterns, but felt less in control of overwhelming feelings and memories. So, one
of my therapists taught me a visualization technique for creating a "container."
When I needed to wait for a therapy session to process emerging traumatic mem-
ories, or I was in a situation where I wasn't prepared to deal with intense emotions
(but did not want to dissociate either), I could use a container to "hold" any over-
I believe that there are various therapy methods for creating containers. Yours
could be as simple as visualizing a metal box, steamer trunk or safety deposit box.
The visualization I came up with was a bit more complicated, yet worked wonderfully for me.
First, I visualized an angel assistant. I called her Shirley, and saw her as beautiful, light-filled, compassionate, wise and kind. Shirley had a magic pitcher--a gleaming silver pitcher. Shirley would take whatever junk I dumped in and mix it with pure peace. Then, Shirley would pour this mixture into a huge rain barrel that swirled everything around until the junk was neutralized. The rain barrel would disappear underground, and in its place, a hand pump would appear. The hand pump would let me retrieve any problem I wanted to go back and work on later.
Copyright 2005-2006 by Marj McCabe ~ All Rights Reserved
What Works ~ Archives
Safe Place--Some Additional Notes
When trying the "safe place" exercise for yourself, make sure you do not limit
yourself in any way. Use all of your senses to combine the most comforting
scene you can imagine. In this safe place of mine, I've included two of my past
pets who have passed on in real life. I also include a lot of white that I would
never decorate with in real life because it shows too much dirt. But this is my
dream space. Here I don't have to concern myself with such practical matters.
Another technique I came up with has been incorporated with the safe place
visualization. It is another visualization that I use just prior to focusing
on my safe place. It is used for added safety when I am about to work on
particularly disturbing memories or during times when I am dealing with a
lot of flashbacks.
What I do is imagine an "inner child rescue" in my mind. In this visualization,
I fly back to my childhood home with an angel. There, a SWAT team is waiting for us and we all burst into the house to rescue my little child self. The armed law enforcement officers grab my parents and immobilize them. Sometimes I envision them being bound or handcuffed, other times they are somehow "stapled" to the wall. Then, I and my angel whisk little Marji off to the present and deposit her in the safe place to swing with Whiskers while my adult self works with my therapist.
This sounds rather odd, I'm sure. But, the technique has helped enormously when I've had to process traumatic events that I never thought I'd have the courage to deal with.
"Affirming The Positive"
My personal recovery journey from childhood sexual abuse involves breaking the
bonds of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and dissociation. As I stop dissocia-
ting and become more aware of my body, I also become aware of some of my
debilitating thought patterns. The thoughts that sometimes dominate my mind
get in the way of my thriving even when I was not actively dissociating.
Two of my most bothersome thought patterns have been negativity and judgment.
A simple affirmation has helped me stay cognizant of my negative, judgmental
thinking and move toward tolerance and optimism. It goes like this: "Out with
negativity. Out with judgment. I choose to focus on beauty."
Note: When the negative chatterbox in my brain gets particularly noisy, I reinforce
the affirmation above by clapping my hands together each time I say the word "out" aloud.
"Simple Meditation: Reeling Yourself Back In"
I have not had substantial experience with meditation. I do not have what they call a
"regular practice." At one point, one of my therapists urged me to avoid meditation.
I think he felt that mantras and such were too close to dissociation and this concerned
him. While I don't use--and have never used--mantras, I have found some forms of
meditation extremely helpful on my journey from victim to thriver.
You can do a modified meditation any time you feel like you want to get back into your
body and the present moment. Here's a version that works well for me:
First of all, keep in mind that the objective of this meditation is to start broad, then
narrow in. To prepare, turn on your answering machine and set the volume way down
low. Click on your fountain or light a candle. Then, lie down or sit comfortably. You
may want to have some support behind your back such as a few pillows.
To begin, bring your awareness to what you can see and hear outside. What can you hear out there? Are there leaves rustling, birds chirping? Acknowledge other sounds without judgment, e.g., "I can hear a train far off in the distance." Sometimes, I'll even do a little preparation to diffuse other noises that I may find annoying. I might acknowledge something like, "I can also hear cars going by, but this sound doesn't distract me from my meditation." Finish your outside observations with anything you can see, such as trees, sunlight, rooftops, etc.
Next, bring your attention into the building in which you are sitting. What can you hear, see and/or smell inside? This will include things like your fountain or candle, houseplants, furniture, and the sound of the furnace or air conditioner cycling on and off. When I find that I'm very stressed or agitated, I will do the inside observations in stages--a step-by-step narrowing in from the house, to the room, to my immediate surroundings.
If any intrusive thoughts emerge, don't judge. Simply acknowledge and redirect, e.g., "Oh, there's a thought about dinner tomorrow night. But, that's not what I'm observing here and now. What can I hear, see, feel or smell here, right now?"
Next, focus your awareness on anything with which your body is in direct contact. Notice how the chair, bed or floor supports your weight. Feel the pillows, carpet or blanket against your body. Feel your clothes against your skin.
Finally, bring your attention all the way into your body. You could do a complete body scan, starting at your toes and working your way up to the top of your head. If you feel pain or uncomfortable stiffness, try to stay with it for a few moments. You may notice that uncomfortable sensations shift or completely disappear with simple observation. If not, try not to get stuck on any one spot. Depending on the level of tension present, you could decide to alternate flexing and releasing various muscles as you move up your body. Sometimes, I use an affirmation alone, or in combination with the flexing. At each body part, I think, "My (back, ankle, forearm, whatever) is completely healthy and totally relaxed." If you find yourself getting too focused on aches and pains, thoughts and judgments, go directly to the next step.
Now, focus on your breath. Breathe in and out through your nose without trying to control your breathing in any way. Notice how your chest rises and falls with each breath. Feel the air around your nostrils--cool on the inhale and warmer on the exhale. Listen to the sound your body makes as your lungs fill up with air and then release it.
While your focus is on your breath, notice if you can stay with this for a bit without any thoughts coming into your awareness. If you can't do this, don't worry. You've already made great strides toward being more in your body and living in the present moment. And, it's always a good thing when you can just slow down, giving your body rest and your mind some relaxation.
If you want more, there are many formal meditation practices and books on the subject. A good place to start is Lawrence LeShan's book, How to Meditate. I also like some of the meditations recommended in John Bradshaw's books. Many of his meditation exercises are specifically aimed at inner-child healing.