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  • Writer's pictureKaren Custer Thurston

Taming The "Fire Within"

Updated: Feb 25, 2021

Follow Karen as she explores her lifelong trigger around anger and surprisingly unearths an unexpected childhood trauma on her journey to healing and embraces a new way of taming her "inner fire."

My Journey of Healing

I have one daughter. I call her my gift from the Universe and I can’t imagine living without her. So when I am furious with her, as I am now, I should quickly realize that I’m having a limbic system meltdown but all I can think of is how furious I am with her. My soul is hurt. My brain is seething. My body vibrates with anger.

Rachel, her husband, and I are on holiday enjoying the beautiful and elegant campsite we created in the beautiful White Mountains of eastern Arizona. Lush green grass shades a burbling, deep and cold mountain stream, filled with tasty trout. Towering ponderosa pines shade us from the hot sun. Ice chests filled with delicious meats, cheeses, vegetables, fruits AND our swank first-time-ever shower tent should mean that we should be sitting on Cloud 9 but I’m hissing at her.

My son-in-law makes himself scarce which is a wise move. Smart man.

Does it matter what the disagreement is? Not really. I want to do something my way. She wants me to do it her way and thinks her way is better Rachel keeps pushing me with her arguing, standing too close, making me feel trapped. This is, at least, what my story is. Her story would be different, of course.

When I’ve not given enough physical or quiet space, I revert to a brain pattern or circuitry that is caused by an impaired limbic system. The brain pattern I revert to is exploding in anger and saying hurtful words.

This is beginning to happen now since she isn’t listening to me or noticing that I can no longer act or speak patiently. I feel trapped inside the kitchen tent where we have ended up.


I am a survivor of and am on a healing journey from childhood and adult traumas. On this path, I have learned that I am triggered by disrespect. I am triggered when I feel disrespected or when I see others treated that way.

For sixty years, I was told, by word, deed and action, that I didn’t count, was stupid, was worthless to my father. I thought, when I married, that I was choosing someone who treated me better than my parent but, in reality, I chose someone similar. This compounded my problems of emotional trauma, as a child, experiencing similar words, actions and deeds as an adult.

While I was going about being a wife, parenting Rachel and developing my businesses, I grew aware of seemingly random behaviors which--in hindsight--were adding up to a familiar pattern not uncommon among people suffering from PTSD.

1. Feeling assaulted and in direct danger when anyone came up from behind me and covered my eyes.

2. Feeling highly uncomfortable and unsafe around men of a certain age.

3. Feeling unsafe and panicked when people sat behind me in a dark cinema.

4. Loathing pullovers or any clothing I had to pull over my head.

5. Feeling unsafe and panicked when someone visited my home by surprise.

6. Panicking when a stranger rang my doorbell.

7. Feeling stalked when watched by men.

8. Feeling defensive and unsafe by men who stood too close.

9. Focusing on obsessive cleaning and strict organization in my house.

Rachel gave me personal support for years until she finally encouraged me to find a trustworthy therapist to explore the underlying reasons for these behaviors. Several more years passed before I was open to trusting such a person. How grateful I am that I did find a professional with whom I felt comfortable.

Within a few sessions, my trauma therapist helped me recall repressed memories of sexual assaults when I was a very young girl. I learned that I had hidden these shocking experiences deep in my subconscious for 65 years, functioning as best I could in life. Telling no one about this molesting created a complex system of behaviors, which helped me function in society as best I could, in the only ways I could. I have had the recent realization that--until I discovered specific types of therapy and DNRS for healing trauma--I have been operating in survival mode for most of my life.

When I remembered these repressed memories, I felt soiled, taudry, horrible. I felt ashamed, violated and humiliated. I wanted to hide these forgotten memories from the world but I had to sit with them as my truth and try to absorb the enormity of it.

I was violated so young that I had no idea what was done to me. I had no words for what was done to me. I chose to tell no one which meant that my body, brain, soul, spirit, intelligence had to figure out behaviors to help me survive and function. Telling no one, getting no help created more complications that mere words can describe.

Globally, one billion women and girls will experience rape or sexual trauma in their lives. I am but one of the survivors.

After several months of therapy, I started feeling self-righteous. Great stigma is societally placed on rape victims. But, now that I was one of the numbers, how could I be blamed as a small and innocent child?

Gradually, I became a cheerleader for all those assaulted before me, those who shared their personal stories with me, and those I read about. I began to read and join groups which support education, therapy, guidance within the community.

After six months, I shared my childhood sexual abuse story on FaceBook. I was scared to death to "come out" to loved ones with this pain and was worried that I would lose friends, be called a liar or shunned.

None of that happened.

I was stunned by the overwhelming support I received from family and friends. Almost 100 people responded with love, support and non-judgement. I was lucky. Not everyone receives support. Not everyone listens. Not everyone refrains from judging.

As the healing years have passed, my thoughts have evolved from those ideas in the earlier times. My trauma therapist suggested that I imaginatively create a ‘team’ of protectors and supporters whenever I need. The earliest team I created included the therapist, my daughter, a huge guardian spirit, two female tigers and two female cougars. These days, that team has evolved into the huge guardian spirit, several of my Spiritual Guides, three female tigers, three female cougars and two female cheetahs. This team is ‘with’ me when I walk the horses, when I ride and when I hike. I laugh at how they are playing around or are being seriously protective.

Why did the big cats come into play? Probably because I believe them to be fiercely protective of me. I have always felt blessed to be a woman and I believe the females of species are the most nurturing and protective.

So, when you think of Karen Custer Thurston, imagine me joyfully walking my road to healing with my supportive team of Spiritual Guides, ferocious carnivores, the trusted Dynamic Neural Retraining System* program, and the support of my friends and family as I continue this sparkling pathway to my happiest possible life.

* I am deeply involved with the Dynamic Neural Retraining System approach to healing my damaged limbic system. My limbic system has been cross wired for decades, protecting me in ways I am learning to retrain. I will be writing more about my journey with DNRS and what it entails. Please stay tuned...

@2020 Copyright Karen Custer Thurston

Photo Credits:

Photo #1: Cheetah- Michael Aleo/Unsplash

Photo #2: Tulips- Ales Krivec/Unsplash

Photo #3: Tiger-Praniket Desai/Unsplash

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