Many people who come to me have complex physical pain of long duration. It is a detective story to figure out the origin of the different elements and how to untangle them so as to return the person to harmonious living. One of the elements can be, sadly, sex abuse as a child or teenager.
Recently I became acquainted with a nationally-known incest survivor, Marilyn Van Derbur. Her story of inexplicable physical pain parallels that of many people I have worked with.
As a young woman Marilyn Van Derbur, born in Colorado in 1937, achieved great honors: she won the Miss Colorado Pageant in 1957, the Miss America Pageant in 1958, graduated from the University of Colorado with Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1961, and then moved to New York where she was the host of several television shows, including Candid Camera and the Miss America Pageant. This radiantly successful persona was her “day self.”
Then there was her “night self”. From the age of 5 through 18 Marilyn had been the helpless sexual partner of her predatory father. During the abuse she pretended to be asleep. She also dissociated, so successfully that during the day and in public she and her pillar-of-the-community father acted like a normal, affectionate father and daughter. There were many costs to this deception, beginning with back pain, for which she first saw a doctor in fifth grade, and, then, over the years, progressing to more serious disorders, including ulcers, severe anxiety and, beginning at age 39, intermittent paralysis. For a long time, the origin of the pain was mysterious. But then, gradually, Marilyn opened up to the memories and feelings that she had so effectively repressed.
Marilyn’s experience of mystery physical pain in adulthood is common to many people who have survived sex abuse during childhood and adolescence. The origin of the pain is rarely understood when it arises.
The gentle, functional, at-your-tempo pace of the Feldenkrais Method can help women and men regain contact with the body from which they have dissociated.
You can learn more about Marilyn’s painful and inspiring story here on YouTube.
I also recommend her biography, here at Amazon: Miss America by Day.