By Rick Belden
For those who are not familiar with the term body memory, here’s my brief take on it from a post I wrote a while back called “The body is the gateway”:
The body is a container, a vessel, a vehicle for the expression of energy. Sometimes energy gets stuck or trapped. This can result in physical pain, discomfort, structural problems, or illness. A story is also a container, a vessel, a vehicle for the expression of energy. Energy can be trapped in the body in the form of a story. Some stories that emerge from the body are literally true and verifiable in terms of one’s real world experience. This type of story is often referred to as a body memory.
Today’s poem came to me quite spontaneously one afternoon many years ago as I was lying on the bed having a little rest. In another previous post entitled “Poetry, dreams, and the body”, I wrote about the changing nature of my relationship with my body at that time in my life that opened the way for this poem to express itself to me:
I was also, at that time, coming into a new form of relationship with my body. I’d been treating my body like a mechanism for most of my life, a strange and mysterious other that felt external and separate from what I thought of as myself, an unreliable machine that suffered from all sorts of inconvenient problems and breakdowns that no doctor I’d seen could explain. I know now that this sort of separation and dissociation from the body is very common among men and boys in my culture. I also know now that it’s common to another demographic group of which I am also a member: adult survivors of childhood abuse.
Somehow, and I honestly can’t say how this came about, I found that my body was, like my dreams, another rich source of imagery and information that expressed itself well in poetic language. I believe this discovery was largely stimulated by the emotional processing work I was doing at the time, in which I was taught to tune into my body as a way to locate and unlock the psychological and emotional energy I’d been forced to repress as a child. As time went on, I gradually began to see my body as a partner rather than as an adversary. I also found that my body had something to say. I only had to give it the time and the space to speak.
The violent incident recalled at the conclusion of this poem is explored again from a slightly different perspective in a poem called “out of body” from my new book, Scapegoat’s Cross: Poems about Finding and Reclaiming the Lost Man Within.
For more poetry on video, visit my YouTube channel.
The Poetry on video: “body memory” by Rick Belden, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Rick Belden is the author of Iron Man Family Outing: Poems about Transition into a More Conscious Manhood. His book is widely used in the United States and internationally by therapists, counselors, and men’s groups as an aid in the exploration of masculine psychology and men’s issues, and as a resource for men who grew up in dysfunctional, abusive, or neglectful family systems.His second book, Scapegoat’s Cross: Poems about Finding and Reclaiming the Lost Man Within, is currently awaiting publication. He lives in Austin, Texas.
More by Rick Belden on Beyond Meds: