The Desire for Love, for Joy and for Presence
Overview from my recent Webinar…
From the front page
For me the conversation about traumatic experience begins with the belief that love, joy and presence are foundational parts of who we are. That yes, despite how challenging things are in this world, my core belief is that we are being of love.
The challenge that we face though is to give meaning to the word “love” – given that we live in a world where that experience is not the norm.
Why then speak so much regarding traumatic experience?
In my work with consciousness in myself and with my clients I found that the separation from the experience of love was actually very deep.
That there was a literal separation from this part of who we are, that is best described as a kind of dissociation.
You will see in the alternative and mainstream personal growth and spiritual practice worlds, all sorts of exhortations to embrace the love. To the point that people start feeling there is something wrong with them for not being able to do this.
Or you will see people “embracing the love” in a way that feels off.
They will smile at but there is a kind of grimace when they do it. Then you will see them in relationship, being almost mean in some way – because they are not really at peace.
If as the research states, we as a culture are far more traumatized and therefore dissociated than we realize, then we need to look at what it means to face those traumatic experiences and the dissociation that is part of that. Real love then begins to become possible, in relationship to our actual experiences.
Let me back up here and see if I can be clearer about the language because the language itself is a source of confusion.
Traumatic experience occurs when our bodies capacity to cope is overwhelmed. (Dr. Dan Siegal.)
This overwhelm that he speaks about occurs on a spectrum, in regard to the level of explicit violence associated with those experiences.
On one end of that spectrum is more violent and acute traumatic experience – sexual and or physical abuse, emotional abuse, major accidents and diseases. All are possible acute experiences of trauma.
On the other end of the spectrum are more chronic and sometimes less obvious forms of traumatic experience – like unmet physical and emotional needs.
Unfortunately, many people experience both forms.
Also, unfortunately, because traumatic experience is so endemic in our culture, it is also almost universally denied or diminished. To the point where it is not uncommon to hear someone downplay their own, even extreme acute traumatic experiences because someone else has it worse or because, that is just the way it is – right?
It is true that there are varying levels of traumatic experience
What we need to do as a culture is to acknowledge those different levels of experience without diminishing or denying anyone’s experience.
We also can be clear that not every hurt becomes a traumatic experience. The human body is actually incredibly resilient and for that to be overwhelmed, takes an overwhelming force of energy.
A force, that is not uncommon in our culture.
Three factors keep traumatic experience deeply embedded in our culture:
- There is a huge denial of basic emotional and spiritual needs in our culture, so emotional neglect is normalized.
- There is an inordinate amount of abusiveness in our society which once again, all too often gets normalized..
- Lastly, there is a overwhelming level of denial of abuse and of traumatic experience in our culture related in part to the 1st factor.
That is overwhelming to speak about but there is also reason for hope here.
Given the space, our bodies have an immense capacity to heal from traumatic experience.
Everyone should take a breath into that.
The research shows that – given the space, our bodies have an immense capacity to heal from traumatic experience.
I don’t want to diminish the challenges we do face in that regard, as healing from traumatic experience can be incredibly challenging. But many of those challenges could be overcome if we made safe space for our natural capacity to heal.
One of the greatest challenges to healing is unprocessed traumatic experience
To truly understand our body’s relationship to traumatic experience, we need to understand the broader cycle that is part of how and of why the body responds the way it does to overwhelming experiences.
One of the body’s core tools in regard to traumatic experience is dissociation.
Dissociation is meant to protect us from the immediate effects of the traumatic experience, so for example, it turns down our capacity to feel pain.
It does this in order to give us space to survive the moment – so that we can get to a safe space to then re-associate again. To come back into ourselves and a kind of equilibrium.
Think about how extraordinary that is for a minute. Your body literally alters your experience of reality in order to help you survive.
That doesn’t diminish what you have been through.
But it does also acknowledge what an amazing being you are, in how you survived this world of traumatic experience.
The real problem in regard to healing is that as a culture we are taught to distrust our own bodies.
That is a shame because our bodies are extraordinary!
They are just waiting for the safe space to come back into a healthier integration. They actually want to come out of the separation that we feel and back into a deeper sense of self.
And that gives me great hope.
The other thing that gives me hope is the work that is being done around healing traumatic experience.
I am particularly encouraged by the work of Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, author of the book “The Deepest Well – Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity”.
You can see her TED Talk on YouTube also.
In her work as a medical doctor, she refers to a study called the ACE Study. It was a study done by Kaiser Permanente and the CDC on the long term effects of childhood traumatic experience or what they call “adversity”.
What that study does is acknowledge what many of us have been saying, which is that traumatic experience is endemic in our culture.
That research, along with movements like the #MeToo Movement and the Black Lives Matter Movement could be the beginnings of a revolution in consciousness in our culture.
I say that because when you begin to see how common traumatic experience and abuse is in our culture, then you can begin to understand yourself and the world around you in a whole new way.
This is the thing I love about Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’ book.
She is screaming from the rooftops that we are ignoring the root cause of many of our health problems.
That in order to be healthy we need to understand where our dis-ease comes from.
That just as infectious diseases were not curable until they were understood to be caused by germs, many of our diseases today are being treated in the wrong ways because we are ignoring the underlying cause.
She calls her book the deepest well because she is saying that our “water” is infected on the deepest level, in the sense that we need to get to the source of these issues. That is both shocking and potentially empowering. For if we can treat the well, then we can begin to heal not just on a medical level but also on an emotional and spiritual level.
With respect and gratitude,