Updated: Aug 4, 2019
When is the last time you looked in the mirror and stared into your own eyes for longer than 5 seconds? And, putting on mascara doesn't count!
Have you ever known someone who DOES NOT want to look in the mirror? Or, maybe you know someone who refuses to be in pictures. Or, maybe they will be in pictures but absolutely wont look at them after they are taken?
Sure. The people around me may think its because I'm not happy with my weight. Or because I don't feel attractive, or because I don't love they way I look in the shirt I am wearing that day. And honestly? That's what I think myself sometimes.
What if that isn't really what is going on?
I had a friend send me a highlighted picture of an excerpt from Bessel van der Kolk's Book called The Body Keeps the Score. Have you read this book? Oh, man. Its a long read but it's full of trauma goodness. I've attached the picture...read the yellow part!
"Knocked out." That is what it said. "That the structures in charge of self-recognition may be KNOCKED OUT along with the structures related to self-experience."
I've been thinking about how dang powerful an image can be. An image of me in my strongest and most powerful mindset. One that captures my heart and passion. My truth is that these types of images changed my life. But, why? How could a picture really be THAT transformational?
I had a makeover and a photo shoot done for myself for my 30th birthday at the very same time I was choosing to end a 9 year miserable marriage.
Why is it that when I looked at these powerful pictures...my mind was shifted. Something connected for me. It was like I was looking at myself for the first time. Seeing all the good that people would often compliment me with. Seeing myself with kind eyes. Kind eyes that offered grace to the woman in these pictures.
Knowing her pain but seeing her fire.
I am not a therapist. I do not specialize in the brain.
I am a specialist in my own trauma. I am THE only human alive who has experienced my trauma. My healing. My recovery. I am the only person who knows when something shifted in me. Who knows when something is or is not working that helps me to heal.
Because of the amount of trauma I've experienced in my life I believe I experience a bit of dissociation.
When I look in the mirror in times of stress, PTSD, fight or flight, or in full blown trauma I do not connect what I see in the mirror as me. Now. Don't get me wrong. Do I know it's me in the mirror? Yes. But there is something happening in my brain that isn't connecting what I'm seeing...to what I'm feeling or experiencing. It has scared me to my core at times.
To bridge this gap and to connect in the moment what you see to what you feel is powerful. I believe there is some reconstructing going on in the brain when this can happen. Like a shift or a repair of something that wasn't functioning right before.
Not only have I experienced this for myself, but I've watched as hundreds of women tremble after seeing themselves in the back of my camera. The sneak peek image displayed on the tiny 2x3 inch screen changes them. They shake, and cry, and fall into my arms with disbelief. They are SEEING themselves for the first time in many, MANY years.
The reality of a reflection can be scary. But, it doesn't have to be.
As I've worked on my healing I've practiced looking at myself in the mirror. I've made it a point to stare at myself, and look into my own eyes for long moments. I want to know myself. I don't want to fear my own reflection. I want to embrace it. To love it.
And, I want that for you too.