Terror Beyond Words

This morning during meditation a wordless scream formed and my face distorted. On Sunday afternoon during a conversation with my friend/former wife, I slipped into terror I didn't believe I'd ever experienced before in my life. My therapist on Tuesday asked about terror I'd mentioned to him I experienced 25 years ago during sensate focusing I was doing with my wife. The terror came as soon as I gained an erection. That experience was so unsettling that I essentially ran away as hard as I could. I don't believe I've been sexual with a partner since that day. On Sunday I stayed with the terror, sobbing uncontrollably. My friend asked if it was grief and I said no... it was terror beyond words, the feeling I had as an infant exposed to my mother's anger, depression, depravity, terror. When I came back to myself I joked that this was "the preview of coming attractions" referring to what I fully expected this round of therapy would be all about.

Yes, in therapy on Tuesday that is immediately where we went. I won't elaborate, but will say, this is the work I need to be doing. The wordless scream I encountered this morning which was overwhelming is simply a manifestation of the terror. I understand that when trauma happens at a very early age, there is no capacity to form a story about what is happening... it is completely held in the body by feeling states which eventually lead to dissociation. It is the deepest strata of who I am... terror. No, I didn't completely lose my connection with reality. I eventually went to school and did quite well. As I told the entire story of my acting out behavior to a friend yesterday I observed that because I'm bright, have a few talents, am reasonably good looking and capable of charming people, I got by. But I was always making it up, always scanning the environment, checking facial expressions to see what I needed to do to avoid being attacked, or worse, being abandoned.

This is the heart of my trauma, the core of my shame which was kept alive by acting out in a thousand and one painful ways, all of which alienated me from the comfort I most longed for. And, blessedly, I am finally able to look squarely at the truth of it all and to allow myself to be held. That is what I'm doing at the moment. I mention this because I think it is worth noting that the healing journey can take us to some places we didn't expect we'd go. The important thing is staying the course, telling the truth... something I was incapable of doing for most of my life. BUT it is never too late to find the peace we all deserve or the life we want to be living. I know I'm far from finished with this work, but I am hopeful that I'm finally toiling in the garden where pain was first planted.
I am so sorry about this, Visitor. I used to have what I called "the silent screams" when that terror manifested itself. The more you work on your healing, the less you will experience the terror. God bless.

((( Visitor )))
Thanks Jaxson. That scream was a shock for sure. I understand it, but had no idea it was there waiting to be known. I'm guessing there is a whole world the infant experienced that is becoming available to me as I do this somatic work. Blessedly, I have wonderful support among friends and a very competent therapist who knows this territory well. And yes, even in the first two weeks of therapy I'm feeling more spacious in myself. A funny thing to be still and yet available for these powerful emotions. I guess I'm ready to do this work. I appreciate your support. I've no doubt having found MaleSurvivor is contributing to my willingness and capacity for all of this.


Staff member
I am sorry we need willingness and capacity for such abject terror but so glad we have MSto help us through. Thank you for putting words here for us.


Wow. You really have suffered so much and gained and grown so much!
Thank you for putting this out here.
I have so many questions about how you are coping and what you are experiencing. I’d like to send them in PM.


Staff member
Hi, this thread presents fear in the word terror, and all the loss from early trauma. The ongoing interruptions of life, and the methods to find some way to keep going in whatever manifestation is required at that moment. I know I retreat as fast as I can if I find the situation is too confusing and frightening. I've not had to seek a relationship for nearing 4 decades, and the thought of it is disconcerting.

Like you Visitor, I have talked about terror with my therapist, mine was today. Whatever the situation, and this time it was about the uncertainty of income to pay bills and needs. It's not something I've ever taken for granted, I've always felt this fear. Combined with a the relationship circumstances I endure at home, I can go on the roller coaster of body reaction and mental state. Sometimes from a mind-storm of intense frustration and anger, to a depth of shut-down that envelopes me. If this happens more than once in a day, it can affect the week. How unfortunate trauma is, that it's played a role in setting this up as my norm. Unlearning it is on my radar, but the practice requires that I recognize it's started, intervene, and do the mindful work to get settled.

I had somewhat of a debate with my T about that. I kept judging myself, that I should have known it at any point now, that I am aware. I asked, is this me sabotaging myself, is this some setup to give me excuses? She asked me some questions, notably about what % of my past gets wrapped up in this exercise I described. I thought for some time and decided 50%. She noted that was a lot, and I was puzzled why? She noted there's an idea that I may have 10 times to use my energies toward managing a present trigger of anger or frustration, and that if I've already invested 5 in the past, and perhaps 2 in dealing with my wife's abuse, that leaves 3 purposeful uses of my energies to connect with a circumstance that triggers. I've been behind all this time, and that's what the trauma wired me to do.

She's noted that practice, will in time make this better.

Sigh, I'm older now, and at 58, with bad health creeping up on me, I just wanted to think I could manage this better already. I get that we have the right to be gentle with ourselves, and not be judging like I do. She asked if I would judge others, and it's always been, absolutely not. She'll say, then why do it to yourself? Yup, she's a keeper.

Ok, just checking in, and hoping you're all doing well. Thanks for the topic Visitor, best to you.
Thanks Ceremony. I find the work I'm doing with this therapist a bit confusing as well as surprisingly intriguing. It is clear he is not interested in my interpretations about anything. He wants me to access the raw feelings carried in my body, not between my ears, then share those feelings with what we've called ideal parents who understand everything about me and value everything about me. I'm held, cherished, supported in the midst of the terror I'm experiencing in the moment. What I've come to understand is that if I'd had the kind of parenting that allowed me to feel secure in my person and safe in the world, I perhaps would not have been a suitable target for the predator and I certainly wouldn't have been abused by my mother. What is understood about trauma is that if the child can tell a parent about what has happened, and the parent believes the child and protects the child, the likelihood there will be long term negative consequences is very low. So good enough parenting allows the child with "secure attachment" to simply live life with confidence that if problems arise he or she will have support in dealing with them.

Absent that secure relationship with loving parents I was left to figure it out on my own, to solve every problem, try to be perfect to avoid bad things happening, read every person perfectly so I could give them what they wanted... and I became pretty good at that, at the price of living with terror but not talking about it, and soothing myself with sex, drugs and rock and roll. What the therapist is doing is inviting me to stop solving the problems and to open myself to being held... by ideal parents, but something beyond my intellect and tenacity. I'm being invited to lean back and be held... correcting what was broken in my infancy and childhood. It isn't easy to do after a lifetime of staying in charge because I felt I'd die if I wasn't in charge. But I understand the price I've paid in working so hard. I really want to open my heart, to find the compassion I keep talking about, to simply trust that I'll be okay... and I probably will. I'm not two years old and being mistreated by my mother and I'm not seven years old and being raped by neighbors. I'm a grown man with friends who care about me. Why not let their love in and simply enjoy this day?

So I find myself with silent screams during meditation and engulfed in terror at moments in time... but these are all very old feelings that no longer need to rule my life. I believe I'm learning in therapy how to let them go.