Not a False Memory

By Charlene Ackerman, C. Ht., C.I.A.


I realized that for my entire life I had felt like a "victim." Deep depression set in. I experienced periods of extreme highs and extreme lows, always knowing that something was not right.

Finally I was forced out of denial and I really began to look inside. I could no longer escape my own reality. The time had come! I have heard that suppressed memories of sexual abuse often begin to surface between thirty-five and fifty. I was now pushing fifty, and things were happening.

Unsettling emotions and dreams began to occur. My memories of being a small child had always been extremely sketchy, something not at all unusual in abused children. One very clear memory was of seldom smiling. Often when family friends came to visit it became a common joke to try to get Charlene to smile. The men would offer me a penny for a smile and finally they upped the ante to five pennies before I would give a smile that lasted only a split second. That was a lot of money for a four-year-old in 1940. The money meant nothing to me. I recall giving them the smile only to shut them up and get them to leave me alone. It wasn’t until nearly fifty years later that I understood why.

Through hypnosis I was able to recall being a four-year-old, going to a neighborhood grocery store to buy a penny’s worth of candy, then being dragged into the back room and sexually assaulted. Afterward I would be thrown out the back door and would hide under the front porch of my home until my family finally searched and found me there. I would have no idea how long I had been there, as I had developed the ability to block things out totally by then. This had not been the first incident of sexual abuse that I had endured, but it was the only memory that early hypnosis sessions revealed to me. I needed more time to prepare myself for the next step.

Now I searched for help with a new determination. I realized the need to work on a deeper level of awareness. I had accomplished all that I could with conventional counseling and I needed more. But what? A long search ensued. I was willing to travel anywhere, if only I knew where.

The hypnotist who had helped to retrieve my first incident that of being a four-year-old, planned to move. Things were put on hold for a while. When this one incident had surfaced, I experienced a tremendous relief, as though an enormous weight had been lifted. It explained so many of my feelings and emotions. The relief proved so great that it was really difficult for me not to stop strangers on the street and tell them what had happened to me. Fortunately, common sense prevailed.

Meanwhile, my interest in hypnosis had gotten the best of me, and I devoured all the information and training I could get my hands on. About two years later at an age regression workshop in Detroit, as I observed someone else regress to the age of two, when she had been molested, my memories returned. Apparently I was now ready to recall earlier events.

My own memories of sexual abuse at the age of two were now ready to be retrieved. They did not come all at once, but over a period of time, and only at a pace that I was ready for. This is how the subconscious mind works to protect us. It gives us only what we are ready to handle. It is this protection mechanism that allows children to block out such horrendous events in the first place. How else could they continue to function? However, it is the suppressed memories that are responsible for so many of our dysfunctional behavior patterns as adults. We react strongly to certain situations or people without knowing why. By becoming aware of "why," we are better able to discover more appropriate choices.

I continued to work through these memories. I finally found a therapist who used hypnosis. Garth Fisher, a local psychologist, helped me to retrieve them. He gently guided me through the healing process. I will always have the utmost respect for him, and I consider him to have been a mentor in my own learning process.

Through hypnosis, dreams, automatic writing, and flashbacks, I remembered the name of a neighbor boy (approximately 15 years old) who had raped me when I was two. I recalled having out-of-body experiences, as though I were observing the body of a child, better described as a lifeless lump of clay. Several such incidents had occurred during the time that my family lived in this apartment, and each time I would disappear until they searched me out. Through automatic writing, as suggested in the book The Courage to Heal, I recalled having broken my right arm by falling off the piano stool after repeated warnings of, "You’ll fall and break your arm if you don’t stop that." Then several days later, falling down stairs and breaking my left collar bone following similar warnings about the stairs. Now others could see my pain. Now I could stay indoors where it was safe.

Looking back on my intense reactions whenever I heard mention of sexual abuse of children, I now have a better understanding of why I responded the way I did, especially to hearing of the rape of a small child or infant. My response was one of total denial, of thinking that there was "No wayabsolutely impossiblenever happened!!"

As I reviewed the out-of-body experiences that had occurred to me I realized that they must be similar to a near-death experience. I felt as though I had been lifted and surrounded by a protective cloud, as though I were being held by a guardian angel and assured that everything would be all right. In my last experience of abuse, I recalled begging not to be returned to that body, and of being told there would be "No more!" Many years later, as more signs had been given to me, I realized it had been our Beloved Mother, the Virgin Mary, who had always been with me.

One day at the library, I noticed a room devoted to local history. Curiosity caused me to enter to see if they had city directories as far back as my childhood. Sure enough they did. The name of this fifteen-year old boy had come to me very clearly, and I wondered if indeed there had been such a family in that neighborhood. My parents had moved several times so it was not a name I had heard mentioned. I felt absolutely no surprise when his family name appeared. They lived on the same block! Looking ahead a few years in the directories I found his name. A few years later his name appeared along with that of his wife. It all fit! The ages would have been correct. I later heard through rather unusual circumstances that he had died of a heart attack. During one session of automatic writing I had written, "He Is Dead!" Another subconscious message had been stored away.

A major portion of my healing occurred once I was able to move beyond my hatred and anger toward the abusers. At first I never thought it would be possible, and I had no desire to release these negative feelings. No doubt other children had been molested as well. I now realize what sick people these child abusers are. With the awareness that exists today of mental disorders, the offenders must be helped to get proper treatment to control the illness. Any anger that I still harbor would be toward the ones who do not seek help. This is where abuse must be stoppedwith the perpetrators.

We have all heard of lawsuits against these offenders. In my case this was never an option. Because so much time had elapsed, these men were dead. I have had to ask myself what I would have done under different circumstances. One thing I am sure of is that if there were any chance that they were in a position to harm other children, confrontation would be a must. People in similar situations must find their own personal solutions.

Many positive changes began to occur following the recall of these events. It gave me more confidence in myself. So many "why’s" had been answered for me. Understanding myself better brought enormous relief.

My own experience of relief has led me to encourage others to seek the help they need, to free themselves from the inner demons that have scarred their lives. A reputable therapist will help to make this healing possible. I encourage everyone to continue their search until they find the right therapist.

Because I had received so much healing through hypnosis and age regression, my passion to continue to learn more became what I have called Excessive Compulsive. I couldn’t get enough information. I devoured every book, every tape I could get my hands on. I needed to find more people with whom I could share this information. I needed someone to talk to about this exciting field. That was when I decided that I must teach hypnosis if I were to find others with whom I could share my excitement. Thus, was born a new career that was just the beginning of one of life’s most rewarding adventures. I could have never imagined where it would lead me.

The road to enlightenment opens before me. Let the healing begin.