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Healing Trauma: What it Really Takes to Liberate your Brilliance

Bethany Webster

As children we were wide open and vulnerable, without boundaries and depending completely on adults for survival. It's inevitable that as children we experienced some degree of trauma. This is unavoidable; part and parcel of being human. Some of us experienced trauma through a form of actual abuse and some of us just by virtue of how the limited cognitive abilities of a child's mind may interpret adult behavior as abandoning.

The most exciting part of the human experience is the creative potential that awaits in the center of our wounds waiting to be accessed and embodied.

If we choose to stay unconscious and unaware of our wounds and how they affect our present lives, we remain handicapped by the fog of projection and the cognitive distortions of our early experiences. However, If we choose to lean into our pain for the sake of transformation and address our wounds directly, we have the potential to live lives beyond what you can currently imagine where joy, love and peace are the primary reality we experience.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” ― C.G. Jung

Or by Loui Jover

For previous generations, including our parents and grandparents, children were to be seen and not heard. Adults were encouraged to hide their problems from friends and family. No one talked about issues such as abuse, addiction or mental illness even though these problems may have been raging in the family home. These problems were forced to fester under the cultural guise of propriety and social decorum. And women were often the prisoners of their own homes and the very limited options available to them.

The younger generations of today are feeling the urgency to grapple with the wounds that have been passed down through countless generations. The pressure is high and coming from many different directions, from our climate crisis to the broken social systems that surround them. Many are craving the experience of embodying their authenticity and are unwilling to sacrifice their lives to the ideals of a former era which highly valued social compliance and conformity.

There is so much energy trapped in our wounds, energy that once liberated through healing and transformation, can be used for creativity and innovation.

Cuming Out by Stefan Kuhn

Ignored and unacknowledged, our wounds keep us unconsciously trapped in self-preservation mode, in a perpetual state of emotional "fight or flight," leaving no surplus energy to access and develop our true potential. Many people live their entire lives hiding from or fighting off phantoms from their past, usually a form of rejecting or punishing mother or father, playing out the same scenarios over and over. This "repetition compulsion" is there for a reason, for us to have new opportunities to step out of the legitimate powerlessness of childhood and into the full maturity and power of conscious adulthood.

Growth is like a spiral, with life presenting ever-new opportunities to make new empowered choices we were unable to make as children by virtue of the fact that we were children and had limited choices. As adults we can find our will to make use of our expanded choices to heal and transform past trauma into new consciousness that benefits not just ourselves but all of Life.

"People say that what we're all seeking is meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive."~ Joseph Campbell

Left unaddressed, our wounds and the patterns that compose them, obscure the awareness of and contact with our vital center that Joseph Campbell speaks of, our innermost being which emanates the rapture of being alive. I like to call this rapture "the embrace of being."

As one heals from trauma, a profound sense of unconditional inner safety emerges as your primary reality. This safety replaces the existential anxiety and primordial fear that characterized the backdrop of our experiences due to unresolved trauma. From this newfound sense of deep safety, one has infinite opportunities to experience new levels of freedom and understanding.

What does it really take to make this contact and truly live from our vital center?

To live from your innermost being, it takes a willingness to go into the un-glamorous and often treacherous interior wasteland where we have sent parts of ourselves into exile. It takes grit, determination, guts and courage, to navigate the inner territory of our traumatic wounds, to go into the banished spaces to retrieve the parts of us we were forced to abandon long ago in childhood.

This self-abandonment or inner splitting is actually a survival skill that helps us successfully navigate the early trauma of childhood. Why is this journey to the inner wasteland necessary? Because the vitality and potential that seeks expression through us is only available in our wounds; they are the key to our mastery and purpose.

You do not have to be completely healed from all trauma before you can be your authentic self. The luminous core of your Being becomes more and more accessible to you as you take each tiny step on the path of healing. It's a gradual process, not one of instant gratification or quick fix. It's a slow transformation that happens in tiny increments. Each step is important, informing your true path, providing wisdom and strength along the way.

In order to go beyond the pain of separation, we must fully enter the pain of separation.

Having walked this path myself for about 15 years, I can say that the path is treacherous, requiring every ounce of strength and fortitude I have had, yet providing rewards, realizations and insights that are beyond comparison. What one gains through this journey to the authentic, innermost self is beyond words, containing everything you seek and more. What is discovered is that all that you want, you ARE. An abstract, intellectual understanding of this process is common, yet insufficient until one has experienced it for oneself.

Don't be satisfied with the possibility of your liberation. Seek it passionately, with every fiber of your being.

In our culture, usually the main place one can find the time and space to do this deep, inner work is in the office of a trained, compassionate psychotherapist whose philosophy and temperament match your own. One needs the loving, skilled presence of another person, ideally a dedicated therapist who has already been through this process themselves. It can take time to research and identify therapists until you find the right one that can effectively assist you in navigating this healing journey; a journey that can take several years. (I'm actually working on guidance for people on how to find therapists that can assist and guide you on this journey.) There are other places to get pieces of this work done, such as in workshops and support groups.

Many people try to bypass the process of healing from trauma, especially those in spiritual circles. Going into one's inner wasteland to heal from trauma is not as appealing as "Being In the Now" or "Embracing What Is," phrases which are very seductive to the childlike parts of us that long for an escape from the unconscious, background anxiety that accompanies unresolved trauma.

Address the trauma, not just to get beyond it, but to discover the gifts WITHIN it.

While it is true that our divine nature is available to us in every moment, this is not the whole story. Until we commit to the process of healing our trauma, the empowerment we feel will be short-lived and the spiritual bliss we experience will inevitably fade. It cannot be continuously and sustainably embodied in the human form until the process of addressing core trauma has begun. The only way they can be resolved is to go to the center of our pain, where the energy that has remained frozen is thawed, by way of our sustained, conscious, loving attention and with the presence of a caring other. When the frozen energy of trauma is released, this energy becomes automatically restored to its true function and intelligence, spirit itself.

Our true identity is pure awareness, openness and innocence, devoid of concepts or opinions. This realization is impossible without the removal of traumatic residues that distort our awareness into an egoic shell that defends against life. Once removed, the awareness that we are moves with an intelligence that is beyond the logical mind. It is a higher mind. As humans, we then become conscious and authentic vehicles of spirit.

Since the release of the phenomenal book "A New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle, I've noticed that in many spiritual groups and forums, there is a common pre-occupation with the ego--how to get rid of it, to go beyond it, to shed it, etc. The ego has become an enemy that one must conquer or it is seen as evidence of how un-enlightened a person is.

There is a key distinction to be made: As long as you are in a human body, you will have an ego. The ego in and of itself is not a problem. The challenge is to work with the ego, by releasing the trauma that causes it to be dense and problematic, so that the ego becomes transparent to Spirit.

An important piece I feel to be missing in these discussions, is the connection between human development and spiritual development; the connection between trauma and the evolution of consciousness.

The ego is actually a kind of shell, or protection mechanism that was originally formed throughout childhood and designed to protect the soft, inner core of innocence that we were as children. Our task is to access and re-discover the innocence that is our innermost self through dismantling the defenses we've acquired through the years as it functions as the dysfunctional ego.

We have to embrace the ego to go beyond the ego and into the boundless heart of Life.

It is common to see many facilitators, therapists and spiritual teachers who avoid the responsibility of healing their traumatic wounds. Sadly, these folks end up unconsciously exploiting the people that trust them as a guide. While it is truly an injustice, the exploitation and subsequent disillusionment may ultimately lead people to seek their own answers and their own wisdom, which can only be found within themselves.

Unhealed trauma muffles the inner impulses that guide your authentic brilliance to fully emerge.

I learned this the hard way, as an idealistic, "spiritual bypasser" in my early twenties. Eventually, I saw there was "no way out but through" and committed to going all the way, to the utter-most, to the core and essence of my Being. My spiritual growth and personal growth in therapy eventually merged into a single path and I saw how healing trauma was critical to embodying the spiritual power that I knew was seeking expression through me.

For so long I felt there was no end to the painful material to be processed and integrated. It went on for years and years. But to my astonishment, there was a point where the pain did subside and I was emerging from the other side of the wound into a new way of being. I had very powerful dreams during this time of emergence. In one particular dream, I was being magnetized into the air above my bed by a massive red and black sphere that emanated light. I was being sucked into it and I fought its pull. I realized that what the dream was depicting was my fear of annihilation from early infancy and how it had been confused with surrender to the benevolent light of Being. Subsequently I could mourn the fear of annihilation and de-couple it from the depth of devotion and surrender I wanted to offer to the core of love at the heart of me. It was a dark night of the soul, where I saw that true surrender is not death but actually true life.

As traumatic residues emerge once in a while, perhaps through a triggering event or situation, I see them as opportunities to gain even greater depths of wisdom and awareness, that I can integrate within myself and ultimately share with others. Ironically, my core wounds have ceased being sources of pain, but rather overflowing sources of wisdom and guiding lights for my soul purpose.

Unlike everything else in this world, the wisdom gained through healing trauma can never be lost or stolen. It remains within you as a stable foundation always available to you. It is worth everything it takes to find the light of Being within, and to live your life AS that.

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I recently attended a talk in Boston by the physician and author, Atul Gawande. He said 'In order to improve a system, you have to first disrupt the system. One learns from the disruption how to innovate and improve the system.' That simple idea really resonated with me, particularly in context of women healing from trauma while living in a culture rooted in female compliance. In order to heal from trauma, usually the dysfunctional family or internal system needs to be disrupted in some way in order for a new, healthier system to be created.

In order to disrupt the faulty systems, we have to be willing to withstand criticism and disapproval from others while rooted in the greater vision that motivates us. Women are coming together in mutual support as we disrupt the dysfunctional systems in our lives and create massive change both in our own personal lives and in the culture at large.

Despite the challenges, I am here to tell you that it is totally possible to heal your wounds and break through to a new level of Being. Everything you need is within you.

Thank you for reading! I invite you to leave a comment below. Would love to hear your thoughts. See Resources below.

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Resources on Trauma:

  • Jasmin Lee Cori. Healing from Trauma: A Survivor's Guide to Healing your Symptoms and Reclaiming Your Life. 2008.
  • Tian Dayton- Emotional Sobriety: From Relationship Trauma to Resilience and Balance. 2007.
  • Wendy Maltz- The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse. 2012.
  • Alice Miller- Free From Lies: Discovering Your True Needs. 2009.
  • Alyce Barry, Cliff Barry and Cindy Kalman- Practically Shameless: How Shadow Work Helped Me Find My Voice, My Path, and My Inner Gold. 2008.
  • Belleruth Naparstek- Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal. 2005.
  • MaryBeth Williams, Soili Poijula- The PTSD Workbook: Simple, Effective Techniques for Overcoming Traumatic Stress Symptoms. 2013.
  • Babette Rothschild. Eight Keys to Safe Trauma Recovery: Take -Charge Strategies For Reclaiming your Life. 2010.
  • Hal & Sidra Stone- Embracing Ourselves: The Voice Dialogue Manual. 1998.
  • Steve J. Wolin & Sybil Wolin- The Resilient Self: How Survivors of Troubled Families Rise Above Adversity. 1993.
(Art credits in order of appearance: Heavy Sky by Clare Elsaesser, Or by Loui Jover, Coming out by Stefan Juhn, Title unknown by Ademaro Bardelli (second from bottom).

© Bethany Webster 2013 - 2017

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