I shall re-experience each set of memories of the abuse as they surface in my mind.

REMEMBERING [Step 4]: This step represents the major task of the first stage of recovery and may require the most time to accomplish. Often, survivors of extreme and prolonged abuse will need to return to this step again and again as new recollections of the same or additional episodes of abuse surface. This step essentially involves going through the memories of your abuse and expressing them at BPDFamily.com, to trusted friends, supporters or your therapist in as much detail as you can remember and to the extent appropriate for your listener(s). If at all possible, we encourage you to find a therapist before beginning work on this step. If this is not possible, this is the time to strengthen your support network and continue your participation in BPDFamily.com.

"Re-experiencing the abuse" comprises many things. First, you will need to allow yourself to re-experience the various feelings, express them as they arise and eventually be able to label them so they do not confuse and overwhelm you. Second, you need to try to describe any sensory impressions connected to the abuse: visual images, sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations. Third, you will need to recall your thoughts about the abuse, both during and after each episode.

Try to notice if you have any body memories of the abuse while you are reexperiencing it. Body memories include aches, pains, numbing or other physical sensations that appear suddenly in key locations of your body such as your arms (suggesting you were hurt while trying to ward off blows), genital areas (which may have been physically injured during episodes of sexual abuse) and face and mouth (which may have been injured when you were slapped, or gagged your abuser). These body sensations mean something. By allowing yourself to re-experience them, you will help to discharge them and thus allow them to gradually fade away.

Finally, try to remember what behaviors you engaged in during and after the abuse. Did you try to run away and hide, roll up into a ball to protect yourself or fight back and scream? Or were you immobilized and unable to move while the abuse occurred? What about later? Did you run out of the house, crawl under the bed, hide in a closet or wash off in the bathroom?

This step likely will be very difficult to achieve because it means returning in your mind to the scene of the crime. But this time you can have all of the control you need. The experience will not be as painful or scary as when you were a child. Remember that you are dealing with memories, not present reality. Move slowly, step by step, memory by memory so that you can manage the feelings and share your reactions with your therapist and trusted members of your support system.
© The Norma J. Morris Center, San Francisco, California