memories

The Heart of the Matter: Understanding the Body’s Memory Bank

Isn’t it fascinating how our bodies seem to carry the echoes of our past experiences? They’re like silent witnesses to every moment, storing away memories and emotions in the nooks and crannies of our muscles and bones. But have you ever wondered why our bodies have this remarkable ability? What purpose does it serve, and how does it shape the way we navigate the world around us?

To understand why our bodies hold onto our experiences so tightly, we need to look at the role of our nervous system. From the moment we’re born, our bodies are wired to respond to the world around us, constantly scanning for threats and opportunities. When we encounter something new or unexpected, our nervous system springs into action, sending signals to various parts of our body to prepare for whatever comes next. This is known as the fight-or-flight response, and it’s a fundamental survival mechanism that has helped humans navigate dangerous situations for thousands of years.

But our bodies aren’t just wired to respond to external threats; they’re also finely attuned to our internal world of thoughts and emotions. When we experience something that triggers a strong emotional response, whether it’s a moment of joy, sadness, fear, or anger, our bodies react in kind. Our heart rate may increase, our muscles may tense up, and our breathing may become shallow. These physical changes are not just random; they’re our body’s way of preparing us to cope with the emotional intensity of the moment.

memories

But the purpose of our body’s ability to hold onto our experiences goes beyond mere survival. It’s also a key part of how we make sense of the world and our place in it. Our bodies serve as a kind of living record of our lives, carrying with them the stories of who we are and where we’ve been. When we encounter a familiar song or smell, it’s like flipping through the pages of a scrapbook, reliving those moments all over again. And while this can sometimes be painful, it can also be incredibly healing, allowing us to revisit past traumas and come to terms with them in a new light.

n the end, our bodies are more than just flesh and bone; they’re vessels of memory, emotion, and experience. They have a way of weaving the threads of our past into the fabric of our present, shaping the way we see ourselves and the world around us. And while it can be tempting to try to escape the weight of our past, perhaps the real challenge is learning to embrace it—to acknowledge the stories our bodies hold and to recognise the strength and resilience they represent. So the next time you find yourself caught up in a wave of emotion or memory, take a moment to honor the wisdom of your body. It may just have a story to tell you.

Pink Letters Forming The Word #metoo

Your body doesn’t lie – covert sexual trauma

Take your time reading this. It might be too difficult for you; I understand that. We do need to talk about it, though. We cannot keep denying what is or isn’t sexual trauma just because we do not have a memory of it.

Somatically your body remembers everything. Memories of good and bad will sit in your nervous system until it needs to speak to you, or wants your attention. This happens even if you have no memories of the events. As the book title suggests “The body keeps score”.

Covert sexual trauma is rarely spoken about. These are the events that you debate with friends over for if what happened to you was sexual assault or not. I have read many posts in women’s Facebook groups asking precisely – “was what happened to me assault? Can I do anything about this?” The answers are often a mixed bag of reactions from “yes, it was” to “no, it wasn’t, and you could’ve done something to prevent it”. The victim blaming that occurs in those groups at times is beyond imaginable. I am positive it happens in the men’s groups as well. That’s if a male is game enough to post such a scenario with the same question.

What is covert sexual trauma?

Unlike overt sexual trauma, covert is behaviours, comments, or looks which are not wanted. It’s the coercion to make you do something to get the person to lay off you or the image you were sent that you did not request. Covert sexual trauma can be tricky, I understand that. Think of it this way – if you feel uncomfortable about it, it is.

Overt sexual assault is outright violent behaviour. No one questions overt; it’s clear and undeniable.

As a society, we do not classify unwanted sex by partners as sexual trauma. However, if you are being talked into or you give in to make them stop, that is covert sexual assault. I understand there are often unspoken rules that occur within relationships. That is okay if they are negotiated and spoken about beforehand.

Other examples of covert sexual trauma include:

  • unwanted photographic nudes
  • unwanted touching
  • breaching of privacy around intimacy
  • removal of sex toys from your room or possession without permission
  • body shaming
  • slut shaming
  • verbal sexual words or sounds
  • being introduced to pornography at a young age
  • sharing of your images without permission
  • reactions from partners during sex that left you feeling uncomfortable
  • sexting without permission

Quite often, covert sexual trauma occurs in childhood. The term used here is ’emotional incest’. It is described as the parent rely’s on the child to fill their emotional needs. I am talking about extreme emotional reliance. Imagine a child replacing a partner or best friend regarding emotional support. The child’s needs are ignored. In effect, the child has become the parent.

Some parents may extend their behaviours to being sexual in nature. They will take their children on dates and talk about their sexual needs and adventures with them. It’s important to note here, this then falls out of emotional and into physical abuse.

Parents do not often see an issue in how they interact with their children. They fail to see how the crossing of boundaries is harming their child. There are many reasons why the lines are crossed. The parent may have experienced the same behaviours growing up, and they are seen as ‘normal’, lacking in parenting skills for what is appropriate and what isn’t, or they may be struggling with a mental illness or addiction. Single-parent families are at a higher risk, or if the partners in the marriage/partnership are unhappy.

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Signs of covert sexual trauma

Often the symptoms or signs of covert trauma are unnoticed or not understood. You may find yourself doing one of the following unconsciously:

  • Struggling with arousal – you want to be aroused, yet struggle to get or stay aroused.
  • Pain during penetration – your body is speaking to you. Our emotional states are often felt as pain, covert sexual trauma may be stored in your nervous system and are released as a painful experience during penetrative sex.
  • Flashbacks – a particular touch, sound, or smell may produce a memory or flashback of an event.
  • Avoidance – you may find yourself avoiding any sexual advances, touch, or relationship.
  • Relationship issues and difficulties – it is not uncommon to distrust others or yourself. You may struggle with communication and vulnerability.
  • Hypervigilance – you may find yourself always looking for danger or feeling unsafe.
  • Self-blame – it is not unusual to blame yourself for what happened. It is common for women to go along with a sexual event as they need to protect themselves. You may experience shame, guilt, and low self-esteem.
  • Difficulty with emotions – you may find yourself wondering why your emotions seem a little out of control or intense. It is common to struggle with anger, sadness, or fear and have little understanding to why you feel this way.

Even though the list is fairly extensive, you may or may not experience any of them, as everyone is different. Some people have no signs or symptoms, others have many, and some show up months or years later. There is no hard and fast rule for how you will feel or cope after your experience.

How to heal

You recognise something is holding you back, or the symptoms you are experiencing are affecting your life. You want to heal. But how?

Firstly, recognising and acknowledging your experience is important. Give yourself compassion. Remind yourself it wasn’t your fault.

Self-care is important. Be kind to your body, heart and soul. Have long showers or baths, rest a lot, and read. Do the things you enjoy doing and what makes you feel good. Spend time with friends and family.

Find a support group. You may like to stay online, and that is okay. You may wish to have live human connection, which is okay too. Whatever feels right at this time. Finding yourself a community that understands what you are saying and feeling can help normalise how you feel. Not feeling alone is important.

Speak to a professional. Talk therapy can help you understand how and why you feel the way you do. You may be questioning yourself, and talking to a therapist can help clarify things for you. You do NOT need to go into full details about what happened if you do not wish to.

EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing) can help you move forward. Often, with sexual trauma, survivors blame themself or don’t feel safe anymore. EMDR can help remove those beliefs and the emotional reactions that come with flashbacks or intrusive thoughts.

The important thing to remember is you are not alone. There is help and support out there for you. You do not have to go through this by yourself. It is time we stopped feeling ashamed of covert sexual traumas and start to share the stories we hold so close. The #metoo movement started the ball rolling, it’s up to you and I to keep it going.

If you or someone you know has experienced unwanted sexual behaviours, know that help is available. As a therapist, I am here to support you on your healing journey. Whether you need someone to listen, provide guidance, or help you navigate the legal and medical systems, I am here for you. Don’t suffer in silence. Reach out to me today to learn more about how therapy can help you move forward and reclaim your life. Let’s work together towards healing and recovery.

Female Sexuality

5 Myths of female sexuality

So. Much. Pressure.

Turn the tv on, open a book, and tune into some porn. It’s everywhere. There is something wrong with you if you do not have sex 20 times a month, or have the biggest mind-blowing orgasm after 3 pumps whilst being held against a wall.

Reality? Throw all those misconceptions out the window and relax.

If you are not wet, you don’t want sex

Some women experience dryness during sex, and that is completely normal. Dryness can occur at different times and for different reasons. Medication, stress, hormones, pregnancy, dehydration (good excuse to drink more water), and menopause are just a few reasons you may be experiencing a bout of dryness. Grab yourself some good water-based lubricant, and don’t forget to slap some on your partner (or toy) to help create extra fun, slippery friction.

You need to be turned on to have sex

Wanting sex is not always available on tap. Sometimes you may be struggling to find any desire, and other times you feel as though you cannot get enough. You are normal! There are two schools of thought around desire. One includes you needing to be turned on first to want sex, the other states you can become turned on by touch and then want sex. There is a reason foreplay is important, and this is it. Next time you feel like turning your partner down, take a breath and, dive in, see what happens. You might be surprised.

You have a low sex drive (desire), and cannot help it

What if I told you, you CAN change how often you would like sex? Would that change your life? Here are the facts; you can change it. Let’s look at why you have a low desire to begin with. Are you on medication? Is your life full of stress? Are you able to switch your mind off? Do you have a good work-life balance? Are you sleeping enough and eating the right foods? Are you expecting to be turned on all the time? Is sex painful, or does it feel like a chore?

Any of these things and more can reduce your sexual desire or drive. We all know logically if we are tired, the last thing we want to do is bumping uglies till all hours. If our brains are flooded with the stress hormone cortisol, there is a slim chance you could get in the mood. Your body most likely will shut down to any and all pleasure. This is why having a balance is imperative for taking time to look after yourself and your sex life.

If you don’t have an orgasm from penetration, you’re broken

Thanks to movies, we are led to believe orgasms come quickly, fast, easily, and ALWAYS during intercourse. Ask the majority of women, and they will tell you otherwise. Ask your girlfriends. The reality is 75% of women will not achieve the wholy grail by penetration alone. Do yourself a favour, stop believing the movies and comparing yourself to them.

There are only 2 types of orgasms

Just like men, women can have multiple different types of orgasms. You will be asking your partner to lift their game or lifting your single romps up to achieve all of these.

VaginalVaginal walls are pulsing and may produce female ejaculation, usually created by g-spot stimulation.
AnalFelt in the anal canal and sphincter, not in the vagina.
Clitorial Often felt on the body itself, like a tingle.
ConvulsingYou will feel these in your pelvic floor area; try edging (long build-up) for one of these!
ErogenousThose areas that we take for granted or are often ignored. I’m talking nipples, ears, neck, knees, and elbows.
ComboAny of the above can occur simultaneously; if you have one of these, your whole body is most likely feeling it.

Now that we have a better understanding of the myths and misconceptions surrounding female sexuality, it’s time to take action. You can make a difference by educating yourself and others about the reality of women’s sexual experiences. We can have open and honest conversations with our partners and loved ones, promote healthy attitudes towards sex, and challenge the harmful stereotypes that still exist.

Sex is meant to be fun. There are many more myths and lies about female sexuality. These five just scratch the surface. As a woman, I am sure you have heard them all. I would love to know your favourites. Let’s take action together. Let’s work towards a world where women are empowered to explore and enjoy their sexuality without fear or shame. Let’s challenge the myths and misconceptions that hold us back and create a more inclusive and sex-positive society for everyone.