Trauma robs you of enchantment – the wonderment of life – leaving you gutted.
There I am sitting in my car, on the coldest day of the year, listening to Sharon Blackie’s book: The Enchanted Life. Tears are tumbling down my face like huge raindrops dripping from my chin. Sobbing, as I wait outside my child’s high school. Hopefully, no one will notice, I think to myself. Followed by, I don’t care if they do. The tears are piercing my heart and I am grieving yet another layer of loss that continues to unravel from developmental trauma. A soul wound that severed my roots of attachment; flailing desperately to be received. I hear the words spoken by Blackie and my bones know that she is speaking the truth. An ancient truth. A truth about the madness we find ourselves in; a madness that is devoid of soul.
My body is attuning to these words, as I sink deeper within to find warmth. I have a re-membered felt experience of the natural world she speaks about. This world is a living breathing conscious Being of Life: The trees, the rocks, the waters, the birds, the animals, the winds, the fires, the dirt, the plants, and all the organisms that are alive. I am interconnected with this world, my biology is a part of it and will return to it. There is a yearning that is coming from my heart and I am reminded of how I feel when I commune with Life.
Yet, at this moment I feel the pain, the gutted pain, of disconnection. My soul, my body, my Being is longing to be received and reunited by Life itself. With a flash of felt insight, it occurs to me with blurred vision, that my deep suffering longs for this union. At this moment, I understood that my developmental trauma, which has scarred me with an imprint in which my whole being is terrified to be alive, can only be healed through reconnecting with Life itself. The remembering I am speaking about is not cognitive (it does not come from the mind as an idea) it is awakening the cells in my body to attune towards that which is alive.
I have been working very hard lately while spending hours in meditation, in hopes to create space from this inner core turmoil. My personality wants the terror to stop flooding my system, and there is resistance to ‘loving what is’ – A core survival fear. While listening and noticing the tears, it occurs to me that my ego cannot re-wire my system to stop believing in the core belief: Something bad is going to happen, I am powerless, or I am fundamentally flawed. This core belief encodes my cells and it has given rise to how I think, feel, and behave. It also activates a tremendous amount of terror; the terror that when I still myself, floods my system like lightning throughout my body. This terror is the water I swim in. It has given rise to profound insecurity and anxiety, and a need to control (everything). My olympian part (the need to be the best) was also born from this place.
The point being, this core wound, and belief is the prefix to my personality, my inner parts, my identity, my choices, how I relate, how I behave, and how I perceive. It has become the lens through which I ‘know’ the world. And the sick part is that experiencing the world through this lens ‘feels’ safe. The devil you know, is better than the devil you don’t know, so they say. So it is, in this moment of inspiration while freezing in my car, that I come to know that I have been robbed from an enchanted life. Enchantment and terror cannot co-exist. Thus, out of survival and a profound need to attach, terror has reigned.
I wish I could excavate my felt experience and smash it onto these pages. Sometimes words are frustrating because they are flat. To sit in the felt experience of realizing that there is an entirely different way to experience the world – a magical, playful, beautiful, alive, engaged, connected, belonged, wonderment – and you have barely touched it, need alone tasted it with your body, is devastating. It is crushing; hard to breathe. All the while, simultaneously experiencing something stir inside and long with a thirst that will do anything to be quenched. It hit me how starved my soul has been. What does one do when they land in the wells of these waters? I hear the words: stay with the breath; stay with the body.
Is it any wonder why healing is hard fucken work? There are days when I wish I never started this journey home to the heart. I often wonder if it is easier to remain asleep to that which is dormant within; doing everything in your power to not wake the sleeping beast. My inner beast was awakened nearly ten years ago, and today, I am still learning how to befriend her. She is not evil; she is terrified.
As a trauma-informed psychotherapist, I am my own experiment so to speak. I embody the notion: Healer, heal thyself. It seems that as one layer is exposed, I am met with yet another layer of embodied trauma. All of which is stemming from one primary core wound. I can’t help but think to myself: When will it ever end? Or does it end? Once my core wound is excavated, I notice another landscape. This landscape is what I refer to as the collective wound. Often, it feels like I am swimming in the pain of humanity and find it hard to differentiate what is ‘mine’ and what is ‘yours’. I find myself questioning if eventually, there is no need to differentiate.
I am in the cave. This is what I have been telling my friends. Incubating in my terror. Investigating once again. Desperate to liberate myself from my biological imprint that lacks trust in Life itself. This insecurity ripples throughout my body. There are experts within the field of traumatology, epigenetic and neurobiology that suggest that healing is possible; that we can ‘change’ our brain. That we can re-wire our brain to no longer engage in programmed beliefs from our past. I teach that a traumatic stress injury (PTSD) is a nervous system injury. And, that it is possible to restore an injured nervous system to health and homeostasis. Further, I emphasize that optimal health is when a system is flowing with coherent wave patterns; harmoniously communicating energy and information to all the differentiated parts. From this vantage point, there is hope that restoration is possible. Viewing mental illness through this lens is empowering indeed. At least, I found it to be so.
Humans, however, are more than just a nervous system (unless you hold a mechanistic point of view). We could have a healthy functioning nervous system and still be searching or longing for something more. Thus, an emptiness can still exist in those with coherent integrated nervous systems. In my experience, healing from trauma is multifaceted. True, there is a need to complete the stress response and discharge the emotional debris from the system (body, brain, heart), in an attempt to facilitate the harmonious flow of energy and information throughout the system. However, healing doesn’t stop there.
I remember when my system was back ‘online’ so to speak. I felt like I had gotten my brain back. There was a sense of relief knowing that the discombobulated mess I was experiencing, due to a traumatic stress injury and a dysregulated nervous system, was calming down. It was akin to the calm after a storm. Many of us stop engaging in our healing at this stage, without diving deeper into the interior landscape. On one hand it makes sense: Why would you keep going when things have calmed down? What is the point? I mean, when the nervous system is functioning well, usually, the person functions well in life. I am talking about the norms: can hold down a job, can manage in the world without too much distress, can maintain relationships, can regulate emotions, engage in conversations, can have fun, can laugh and rest. Basically, live well (enough).
So why is this not enough (for some of us)?
What draws some people ‘in’, whereas others, can coast with a ‘good enough’ life?
For myself, a healthy nervous system was not enough. It felt good. I had energy and could function as a human again. And yet, something inside was knocking and yearning for my attention. Trust me, I wanted it to be done. I had worked hard with my Psychologist; sometimes visiting 4 times a week. Yet, even in the quiescence, there was an emptiness. Taking care of my nervous system was only the beginning. Albeit, it was preparation for what was to come. This next phase of healing – the soul phase – is what I wrote about in Midwifery for The Soul. I am talking about the inner war with the Hungry Ghost and the desperation to belong.
Returning my attention towards these tears that are spilling over while engaging in the mundane duties of life, I am reminded that they are about the felt discovery that trauma has robbed me from the enchanted life. I have never voiced this before, not in this way. The realized notion that I have been disconnected from the Source of my living – from Life itself. This breaks my heart. Sitting in this heartbreak, I understood what trauma experts mean when they say that trauma fractures you from your soul.
My soul longs for enchantment, wonder, magic, mystery, and love (because it knows what has been lost). It does not long for more success, money, work or things (my wounded ego does). We have got this all wrong, us humans that is. We are living for money, a lifeless commodity, rather than enchantment. We are told that when we have ‘enough’ we can be enchanted by life – we can play, sing, and dance. We are reminded that adults are not allowed to live an enchanted life – that is magical thinking. So we strive until we die. We are not encouraged to live in relation to the environment, or one another, because our primary relationship is to money. We have been taught to worship money, not wonder. And, unresolved trauma keeps this beast alive.
I ask myself, during a time of utter financial vulnerability that would leave any Westerner terrified, what would more money offer me? The answer: More money would keep me playing this sick game. Indeed, on the surface, we need money to survive because we humans have made it this way. But the insatiable drive and insecurity of not having enough is a trauma to the soul. In this state of hunger for more money, success, or fame, we remain disconnected from the enchanted life. We cannot long for money and wonder at the same time.
It occurred to me, I’m not merely aspiring for freedom from my biological imprint and the subsequent terror that resides within my bones. I’m thirsting for wonder, magic, and enchantment in Life itself. I crave to know and be united with that which is ever-present and has never died. Perhaps, the only way out of the imprinted past is to embrace the enchanted life? All of which bears the question: How does one choose enchantment over terror? How does one cultivate an enchanted life that is free from the societal sickness we find ourselves in? And, how does one acknowledge the terror within (because there are genuine reasons that humans should be feeling terrified about the state of our world) and concurrently bravely seek wonderment? I am reminded of the movie: Life is Beautiful. Even in the most horrifying of circumstances, our soul can be enchanted.