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Common's Metaphor About Recalling Childhood Trauma Is Spot On

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

On Tuesday, rapper Common released his new memoir, “Let Love Have the Last Word.” In the book Common revealed he was sexually abused as a child and how he remembered it years later. If you’ve ever experienced childhood trauma, you may relate to Common’s metaphor for what it’s like recalling repressed memories.

Common shared he had repressed the memory of his abuse, which only surfaced while working on the film, “The Tale.” While going over the film’s script with actress Laura Dern, Common said the old memories “flashed” back. He said the content of the 2018 film was a trigger as it follows a reporter who explores her repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse while filming a documentary on the subject.

“One day, while talking through the script with Laura, old memories surprisingly flashed in my mind,” Common wrote. “I caught my breath and just kept looping the memories over and over, like rewinding an old VHS tape. … I said ‘Laura, I think I was abused.’”

It’s not uncommon for survivors of childhood abuse to forget traumatic memories for years. One study of sexual abuse survivors, for example, found that 19% of participants had forgotten their abuse history for a period of time. Many times, forgetting traumatic memories is a coping skill to survive a traumatic situation. Common reported a similar experience.

“I just pushed the whole thing out of my head,” he wrote. “Maybe it’s a matter of survival — even now, two years after that flash resurgence of memories, as I’m writing, I’m still working through all of this in myself and with my therapist.”

On Wednesday, Common also released a bonus recording for the audiobook. In the recording he explained why his childhood trauma was difficult but important to write about.

“When you talk about mental health or therapy, it’s something that’s looked down upon,” Common said. “I talked about being molested because, as a black man, many men have hidden that. Many people have hidden that. And you carry that weight with you. But at some point, you’ve got to let it go.”

On Twitter, Common echoed what he said in his recording and expressed hope that his openness will give others the strength to reach out for support.

“I hope being open about my childhood trauma can give others the strength to do the same and help them on their healing journeys,” Common tweeted. “We all have experienced pain and suffering. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Header image via Common’s Facebook page

Originally published: May 9, 2019
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