Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Holding the orphans of psyche and soma

You don't have to fix anyone's problems. You don’t have to save them, heal them, or urgently get them to take on your favorite beliefs, theories, and techniques.

Just be there with them so that they feel felt and understood. When they look up at you, you are really there.

Listen, to the story they are telling you, of how they are making sense of their experience. Listen also to the somatic story, to the secret, sensitive language emerging from their body and their heart.

And also listen carefully to their story of safety and what makes them feel safe. This story is told in the language of the nervous system and will speak to you if you attune to it.

Momentarily bracket your beliefs, ideas, and systems of change. With the poetic beauty and power of your mirror neuron system, enter into the miracle we-space with them, where they can know for just one moment that they are not alone.

I'm with you. I'm here. I feel you. I understand you.

Extend to them a soothed nervous system, a sanctuary of holding, a field of permission where their experience can unfold without any pressure for it to shift, change, or heal. Remove the burden that they become someone or something else in order for you to stay close.

For just a few moments, resist the temptation to “teach” them, but instead “reach” them.

The mind will doubt if this is enough… but the body knows. The heart knows.

We are able to do this to the degree with are in touch with the orphans of soma and psyche that dance out our own unlived life – the unmet grief, the untouched sadness, the unmetabolized rage.

If we are not in conscious, embodied, and compassionate contact with these ones, we will not be able to recognize and hold them as they surge in the interactional field, and our friend will not feel safe to access, articulate, and integrate what is alive within them.

The Other – whether manifesting outside us or taking internal form – is not in need of new information, strategies, techniques, or beliefs, but longs and burns for you… your presence, your tenderness, your raw unfiltered being, your love.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Unfolding spirals of grief

Tending to grief is the essence of the alchemical wounded healer. Proving a sanctuary and safe passage for its unfolding – in the body, the psyche, and the nervous system – requires that we fall to the ground, at times, and weep.

Weep for the shattering, for the dying of a dream, for the entirety of the unlived life. For it is these tears that form the substance of the portal to joy.

Grief is not something we “get over,” but a partner we spin with, honor at times, argue with at others, and lament with as the cycles of our lives unfold.

We live in a world that has lost contact with the holy waters of reorganization. But to marginalize the experience of grief to work against nature. Out in the natural world, the earth grieves by way of her seasons. We can feel that grief in a rain drop, if we allow ourselves to be taken apart and put back together.

There is no endpoint to this restructuring, no final state of resolution where we land in some untouchable place, free from our embodied vulnerability, our somatic aliveness, and from more burning.

Rather, we find ourselves in what the alchemists called the rotatio, the holy rotation of vast cycles of rupture and repair that touch and open the human soul.

The soul is endless and the visitors of grief may companion us for a lifetime. But the grieving, orphaned ones of psyche and soma come not to harm, but to reveal. And to open a doorway into wholeness, mercy, and light.

Grief is not so much a process that we “make it through” and come out the other side fully intact, but a non-linear, purifying midwife of the unknown. It moves not by way of straight line, but by that of circle and spiral.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Matt Licata's new online course - Embracing the Shadow and the Path of Light

Dear friends, 

My new self-guided online course – Embracing the Shadow and the Path of Light – is now available. 

This is my most recent home study course, and one I recommend for those interested in a contemporary, embodied, trauma-sensitive approach to transformation and healing, weaving together therapeutic, meditative, and neuroscientific streams of insight and practice.

The course is over 13 hours in length and includes guided exercises, talks and lectures on important themes related to the shadow and depth psychological work, as well as responses to many of the most commonly asked questions that I receive. The course draws extensively on my personal and clinical experience over the last 30 years.

While embracing, integrating, and working with the shadow is emphasized in some circles, the truth is that it is left out of many of our spiritual, self-help, personal growth, and healing traditions.

As Jung noted, shadow work is “disagreeable” and therefore unlikely to ever be that popular. Yet here we are, the misfits, along with the mystics, alchemists, and wild women and men who came before us.

In my experience, we’re never going to be able to meet that longing we each have to feel fully alive, intimate, and connected with ourselves, others, the natural world, and the divine, if we are not in conscious, embodied, and compassionate relationship with the unfelt and unlived dimensions of our experience.

In this sense, embracing and working with the shadow is the foundation of all spirituality and healing, and is ultimately a path of love, a gift we give to ourselves and to all of life.

I hope you enjoy the course and find it interesting and meaningful.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Free video on "Trauma and the Wounded Healer"

Dear friend, 

I wanted to share with you free access to a short webinar I recorded recently where I spoke about an embodied, trauma-sensitive path of spirituality and healing through the archetype of the wounded healer. 

>>Free access to the "Trauma and the Wounded Healer" video 

Many of us interested in things like spirituality, yoga, mindfulness, meditation, psychotherapy, and plant medicine have been wounded in our lives – physically, emotionally, or at a deeper soul level.

What is the relationship between our wounding and our healing? In what way might our wounding – whether it manifests as relational trauma, attachment insecurity, depression, a sense of meaninglessness, or a profound restlessness or exhaustion – not be an obstacle to our path, but the very path itself?

The great mystics, poets, and alchemists have suggested that our wounding serves an initiatory function in the psyche, but what does this mean and how does all of this fit into our modern understanding of trauma and its profound effects on our bodies and nervous systems?

On the webinar, I speak a bit about the nature of trauma, how trauma is healed through an “updating” of the neural networks which hold unprocessed material, and how a new relationship with our vulnerabilities, sensitivities, and eccentricities can be a portal into psychological growth, emotional healing, and spiritual transformation.

I hope you enjoy the video and find it interesting and helpful. 



My online course - Embracing the Shadow and the Path of Light - is now available in a self-guided home study version

Thursday, April 15, 2021

A sliver of hope

The tragedy of relational trauma and disorganized attachment presents itself as a synaptic or cellular sort of fragmenting, which is much more primordial than a mere cognitive dissonance, as it is one that is both neural and rooted in the soul.

Where we simultaneously long for and are terrified of “the Other.” We don’t know whether to step toward or step away. That sort of essence-level confusion and shattering runs through the entire psychic system.

For a young child, the attachment figure is God or Goddess, magician, sage, and seer, and without this person the end is near. But when this figure is also the very source of terror for the little one – or where the other is terrified and traumatized him or herself – we find ourselves in uncharted waters.

It takes everything to sit in this field with a brother or sister who has been touched in this way, who has come to organize their experience around this sort of rupture and betrayal. But it’s important to remember that this response was coherent, adaptive, and creative at the time. In ways that may seem paradoxical, that it was lifesaving and prevented full scale fragmentation.

To provide even a sliver of hope, a moment of safety, where they can feel felt and understood, just one moment where they can re-link, re-associate, re-embody, and know that a new world is possible.

To look up at you and see and feel and sense that you are there with them. That you honor who and what they are and the validity of their experience. That you will not demand they quickly change or transform or heal or be different in order for you to stay near.

Never underestimate the power of love and what we can do to help. Just some kind words, listening to another and their story, holding them, offering shelter and refuge, helping them to feel safe, even if for only a few seconds.

Photo by Alexas_Fotos

Monday, April 12, 2021

The journey of the wounded healer

Many of us interested in spirituality and healing have been wounded in our lives – physically, emotionally, or at a soul level. Whether this wounding takes form by way of relational or attachment trauma, or through personal and archetypal betrayal, it has a way of coloring our perception and affecting our capacity to feel safe.

Our increasingly speedy and fragmented culture has come to pathologize valid human experience such as grief, melancholy, anger, and uncertainty, giving rise to a psychiatric and self-help community determined to “cure” or “transcend” dimensions of the psyche that contain important (and even holy) data for our unique paths of individuation, creativity, and meaning.

For some, initiation occurs only by way of transition, dissolution, and loss, through an embodied confrontation with the unconscious and the unlived life. These experiences are not signs of error or mistake, but calls to depth and evidence of how our wounding can serve an initiatory function.

At times, deeper healing will require that the wound disclose itself in more subtle ways within the psyche and the body, where it can seem like things are getting worse. Tending to this organic unfolding of the healing process requires newfound levels of courage, patience, and trust.

It is not an easy life, that of the wounded healer – one that we do not choose consciously – but is the honorable and noble inheritance of many who are called to the path.

It requires that we walk in this world against the grain and remain open to further wounding and revelation of shadow, and to dare to consider that radical possibility that the ally will appear in infinite ways. Not to harm, but to reveal.

Even though it may seem as if we are alone – and in part we must walk this path by ourselves – we are never truly alone, as unseen helpers, friends, and companions are always nearby. But at times will take forms that are not always immediately recognizable.

Art by Enrique Lopez Garre

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

The portal to new life

We’ve been through so much over the last year, full-spectrum reorganization and the loss of our familiar reference points. A wearing away of the axis around which we’ve been spinning and orienting - personally, culturally, and collectively.

Not only external, but internal quarantine, where so much of what we thought we knew about ourselves, who we are and what matters most to us, what we’re doing here, and where we’re headed… has been called into question, dismantled, and fallen apart.

Who I am and the way things were supposed to unfold: the person who was supposed to be by my side, the work I was supposed to do, the body that was supposed to be healthy, a psyche where there was never going to be any restlessness, depression, loneliness, or anxiety.

It’s important to slow down, fall to the earth and the mud and the womb, to hold the broken pieces near, and to grieve. To mourn not only the loss of health and life, but also the dream of the way we thought it was all going to turn out.

The rebirth part of the death-rebirth cycle is embodied by way of our willingness and capacity to grieve. The portal to new life opens through conscious, embodied lamentation, to gather the shards of the heart and collect them in a holy vase.

And open to the possibility that this process of “falling apart” is not some great cosmic error or mistake we need to correct or repair, but an emissary of the archetype of wholeness, as we open to rebirth and what it is that will emerge from the ashes of dissolution.

It is love, of course, that will guide the reorganization and its unfolding. But it is love, too, that is the substance of the ashes, and also of the tears, the tears of grief and the tears of joy… the tears of the earth herself.

Photo of Yosemite Tunnel, Tuolumne Meadows by James Donovan

Friday, April 2, 2021

Free video from Matt Licata - Spiritual Bypassing, Shadow, and the Figures of Light

Dear friend, 

I’m writing to share with you a recent free video I recorded entitled, "Spiritual Bypassing, Shadow, and the Figures of Light,” which you can sign up to view at no cost. 

In this short webinar, I explore the phenomenon of spiritual bypassing and how through greater awareness, understanding, and kindness, we can engage our spiritual lives in a deeper, more heartfelt, and more embodied way.

We are wired as relational beings to attach and connect with others, and as little ones with open and sensitive hearts, brains, and nervous systems, we'll do whatever it takes to feel safe, seen, held, and included.

In order to be received and to feel that we truly belong, we inevitably disconnect from parts of ourselves, aspects of our personalities, and vulnerable pieces of our souls. These split off dimensions of what we are end up being "relocated" in what is referred to as "the shadow," where they remain, awaiting a time when it is safe to return.

"Spiritual bypassing" is one of many protective and avoidant strategies that we employ to keep us out of too much pain, fear, panic, overwhelm, and shame, from a direct confrontation with our own shadow, trauma and attachment wounding, and from the terror of rejection, blame, and abandonment.

By bringing curiosity and discernment to how this phenomenon may be expressing itself in our lives, we can discover the light and the gold that have been sent into the shadow, and what it would mean to allow and help it to return home, back into embodied, conscious awareness.

Also, there is now a self-guided, home study version of my online course, Embracing the Shadow and the Path of Light. This course was originally presented live online between December 2020 and February 2021. It is a 9-session course that you can take at your own pace and which explores an embodied, contemporary, trauma-sensitive approach to shadow work and healing. 

Please take care of yourself and I hope you enjoy the free video!