My Body Keeps Your Secrets: Dispatches on Shame and Reclamation

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My Body Keeps Your Secrets: Dispatches on Shame and Reclamation

My Body Keeps Your Secrets: Dispatches on Shame and Reclamation

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In My Body Keeps Your Secrets , Lucia shares the voices of women and trans and non-binary people around the world, as well as her own deeply moving testimony. She writes of vulnerability, acceptance and the reclaiming of our selves, all in defiance of a world where atrocities are committed and survivors are repeatedly told to carry the weight of that shame.

In language, survivors sometimes avoid the words ‘rape’ or ‘assault’, replacing them with phrases such as ‘the incident’ or ‘that difficult time’ and this can be because of a myriad of reasons including feeling ashamed or wanting to protect those around them from hearing the brutal details of reality. In any case, changing the language we use following trauma is a way that survivors adapt and is a completely legitimate response. As far as who else is interviewed in the book, there is a chapter on 'girl-adjacent' non-binary people, which ended up feeling token in the scheme of the whole book. The rest consisted 95% heteronormative and cisgendered women. Apart from an extremely short lesbian testimony (which was a lesbian-lesbian power dynamic), there was no mention of how male violence can impact lesbians, trans (m-f or f-m) or gay men. Osborne-Crowley's language and awareness of these other folks' vulnerability to sexual violence seemed to be completely blinkered. Working poor and disadvantaged people were also not included in the book. As Frances, the protagonist in Sally Rooney’s novel Conversations with Friends, says about her chronic illness: The characterisation of masculinity – as driven by the sexual desire to dominate – seems simplistic at times, and overlooks how male experiences of gender norms and trauma can be drivers of male perpetrated violence. In addition, her exploration of chronic illness frames auto-immune conditions as a physical manifestation of psychological trauma . She writes at length about her experience of endometriosis, and the way in which the condition is triggered by external trauma for some sufferers. She explores the conditions of Crohn’s disease and vaginismus through the same lens: as direct results of experiences of assault and trauma.

One of the book’s most powerful messages is insistence on our embodied selves: it’s a fact that we try desperately to escape, the inextricability of the mind from the body, but the book is very clear about how trauma “show[s] up on the flesh” – how it permanently changes the body and the brain’s chemistry. It led me to read The Body Keeps the Score to which this book is a kind of sibling. I wanted to ask what it was like to discover these deep links? My Body Keeps Your Secret by @luciaoc is one of the best non-fictions I’ve ever read. Seriously. It’s up there with the greats in my hall of non-fiction fame. It’s range of topics, all centred around trauma, mean it keeps you on your toes. It’s written powerfully but without the flouncy words you’ve got to google. It’s honest, heartfelt, devastating and beautiful. At twenty-five, Lucia for the first time told the truth about her rape. This disclosure triggered an endless series of appointments with doctors, trauma specialists and therapists. Meanwhile, Lucia threw herself into researching the shadowy intricacies of abuse, trauma and shame. Adelaide Writers’ Week Podcast, March 2022: AWW22 My Body Keeps Your Secrets – Lucia Osborne-Crowley Trauma, as described in Morton’s book, can be caused by many things including racism, family, bullying, accidents, and grief, but in society today it is more commonly associated with violence or abuse. As discussed in both books, no trauma should be compared to another and the aftereffects of trauma can vary from person to person regardless of how ‘serious’ the legal system or society might deem the catalytic experience or experiences.

Even though we all experience shame in the same way, there are people whom society shames more than others. One of the shame researchers I rely on a lot says that shame comes, in part, from being cast out from society: it’s about rejection or alienation. I think that’s why shame is so structural: it’s the group saying, “Here’s what we want you to be, and you have failed.” So society says: “We want gender to be binary and if you don’t fall into those categories, then we will shame you for it.” It’s the same with society telling you what your body is supposed to look like and how thin you’re supposed to be. Lucy Hall for the Guardian, 28 September 2021: I survived rape, but I didn’t understand what trauma would do to me Author of My Body Keeps Your Secrets, Lucia Osborne-Crowley, on the lessons she learned after a devastating breakup -- Lucia Osborne-Crowley * Stylist *

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I’ve also been thinking a lot about philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s fly in the bottle. Wittgenstein said that systems of abuse are like putting a fly in a bottle. The fly can see out at the world because the glass is transparent. But the structure of the bottle is so vast and so consuming of the fly’s small world that it cannot see the glass it is looking through; it thinks it is seeing the world as it really is. I want to move on from the men we call monsters and start talking about the greyer space. The smaller acts of shame transmission. The ones we cannot pinpoint because they do not have a beginning or an end: a jury's verdict, a healed bruise. They are just moments. They come and they go, and we think they don't hurt us, but they do. A tender, intimate and generous meditation on the burdens of structural and personal shame on bodies and lives; and a radical call for the transformational power of speaking and listening.’

For the first time in my life, I understood fully how much time and energy I had spent fighting my own pain. And I saw clearly what I had to do now. I had to let the pain in.

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What I love about books like The Body Keeps the Score is that, if this had all been said to me in a conversation, my defences would have gone up. I would have said, “No, no, this doesn’t affect me, I can’t deal with this conversation.” But something different happens when you’re reading something, I think. This is why books are so powerful: you’re communing with an idea or a feeling in a way where you’re not expected to respond, and I think that’s why that book was so important to me – because I could just sit with it. There’s something so safe and calming about books; they’re always the thing for me that opens up new parts of the world. When I’m in my safe space I’m more open to new ideas that otherwise would scare me. This morning, I went for a walk on my own in the sun. I grew up in Australia, and I desperately need vitamin D to stay happy. It is a spring day in London, 23 March 2020. There is not a cloud in the sky, and there are daffodils everywhere.

Late To It Podcast, November 2022: Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Saidiya Hartman and My Body Keeps Your Secrets by Lucia Osborne-Crowley Lucia Osborne-Crowley for Stylist, 2 September 2021: Author of My Body Keeps Your Secrets, Lucia Osborne-Crowley, on the lessons she learned after a devastating breakup Not so for too many women. Not only are women much more likely to develop chronic pain conditions resulting from acute pain, but many of the hitherto untreatable chronic illnesses we contend with either primarily or exclusively affect women. For women, pain is not valiant and fleeting. Questions for writer Lucia Osborne-Crowley: The author of 'My Body Keeps Your Secrets' on trauma, shame and community -- Jessica Payn * The Arts Desk *A beautiful, unflinching book that dives into shame what it does to us, how it affects us all and more. 🌻 this is a book that people really need to read. 📖 Jessica Payn for The Arts Desk, 28 September 2021: 10 Questions for writer Lucia Osborne-Crowley: The author of ‘My Body Keeps Your Secrets’ on trauma, shame and community

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