Body language was her expression because she did not have words in the beginning of her therapy. During one session after she had become "unfrozen" I asked her where do you feel the most pain from being abused and she would state emphatically, "I don't know." At the same time her finger would actually point to her belly. I asked this question of her probably 5 times because being new to this field I didn't believe my eyes. Each time her index finger would point to her belly in a very large gesture and then her finger would go limp. During this particular session there was another therapist there and I looked at her quizzically, silently asking, "do you see what I'm seeing?" The other therapist nodded her head yes.
I then asked my client if she realized her index finger was moving every time I asked that question. She stated, "My finger isn't moving what are you talking about?" I asked her again but this time made her look down at her hands that were clasped across her stomach and that's when she saw her own index finger pointing to her belly and that's when she looked at me and asked me if I'd been baking that day.
I said, "no."
She stated, "I smell baked bread." This olfactory memory of baked bread and her pointing finger was the beginning of her turning point session.
A turning point session in STR is usually a session where something miraculous happens and the client goes onto major changes almost overnight as if there were a miracle. That's what this lovely woman did that day.
Even though I was new to this work I was excited because I knew this was important. She was hesitant to go where her finger was directing us, but with a little safe guiding she did in her body. We worked through an association that day based on the intertwined association of the smell of baking bread, being slapped and being punched in her stomach.
Her mother had been a devout baker and unfortunately was also very physically abusive. The session ended with her realization that going outside usually meant going shopping as a child and going shopping meant getting a beating when they got back from the store. This then reminded her of going to the grocery store and going to the grocery store meant there were smells of food and especially the triggering smell of baking bread as well as horrible abdominal pain. Her abdominal pain was one of the reasons she had sought my help originally. We worked through multiple body triggers that day and then as I stated above something miraculous happened.
At our very next appointment she told me she had bought a brand new car. I asked, "You bought a car? Really? What are you planning on doing with your new car?"
She stated, "I'm going to travel. I've always wanted to travel and I'm going to do it. I want to start visiting friends and family again" I was floored. This was a woman who could barely drive to my office for her appointments, her husband did all the shopping for the home and she occasionally ventured out to the park or the hobby store.
I said, "That's wonderful. Are you going to travel with your husband?"
She stated, "No. I want to do this alone for now. I'll travel with him later."
Again, I was completely astounded. Agoraphobia is characterized by people who have a deep need to feel safe at all times. She was venturing out where no agoraphobic will venture and especially by themselves. Traveling was not just a baby step, it was like climbing Mount Everest. She went from not going anywhere to buying a new car so she could see friends and family she had missed for years. This was truly courageous as well as miraculous to me. I was a little worried about her sudden shift and we discussed it. She wasn't worried at all. She told me God had lead her to me so she could be free and she was ready. God is beside me and he's going to be with me all the way.
She followed through and would go on weekend jaunts to visit friends and family that she hadn't seen in years. When I would see her she would beam and radiate a new type of life. It was a beautiful unfoldment to witness.
After about two months of doing weekend jaunts she said she wanted her husband to go with her and then she surprised me again. She said, "I'm selling my business and going to work outside of my home." I asked her what she was going to be doing?
She responded, "The same type of work I already do, but I want to get out and meet people and be a part of the world. I don't need to work out of my home any longer. I'm ready to leave my prison for good." That one statement made my heart smile.
She re-affirmed my commitment to doing the Somatic Trauma Release. Over twenty years ago when I first started, Somatic Bodywork was a very new pioneering profession with few practitioners and little understanding. I was ostracized by mental health practitioners and sometimes even my peers who did similar work. My approach was very different and edgy. I work with both victims of abuse and addicts. Victims require a passive approach, but addicts require a more confrontational approach which was not accepted in the Somatic World at that time and sometimes not even today. She helped me stay on my path. I knew this bodywork would change lives and it has. She inspired me to stay true to my approach with the faith that what I was doing could help lives even if it was confrontational at times.
Somatic Trauma Release helped her life as well as my own and many victims/addicts along the way. Both passive and confrontational approaches are needed and now that is more widely accepted. (In some circles: I still get the occasional raised eyebrow but not as often as I used to.)
I will never forget this lovely woman. She taught me so much in that time I worked with her. She taught me that miracles do happen. The body is incredible and has such innate intelligence that we are only just beginning to tap into the depth of its knowledge. I was the one blessed to work with her and I have thought of her often over the years.
She would stop in occasionally and update me on what she was doing over the next 5-7 years. She never went back to being agoraphobic during the years she maintained contact. That part of her life was over and she was free. I haven't spoken to her in over a decade and sometimes wonder where she's at or what she's doing. Maybe she's in Greece or Italy. It's fun to wonder...
Until Next Time,