Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The mandala of the wounded healer

Much of our wounding has its origin in historical experience, what happened and what didn’t happen at an earlier time. But as we all know, the neural networks which hold our wounding can and do open in the here and now. In these moments, our wounds begin to weep and to make themselves available for new relationship.

As painful and difficult as this can be, this reality is one of tremendous hope and possibility and what makes transformative healing possible.

We can’t go back and change what happened to us, or undo failures in empathic mirroring, narcissistic injury, and the tragic effects of an inadequate holding environment.

But what we can transform is how our experience has come to be organized, and update the networks which hold our wounding.

As the emotional and somatic material is digested and revised, we’re able to tell a new story of integration and wholeness, dream a new dream, and be the artist of a new world.

As midwife of the achy, tender shakiness that was once unbearable and unendurable, we provide a sanctuary where metabolization can occur and where safety is restored.

This is the entryway into the mandala of the wounded healer.

Somehow, by some grace, the ripening has brought us to this point in our lives, in ways we may never fully understand. Somehow, by some unfolding of mercy, the resources and the allies appear.

There’s nothing more hopeful and unstoppable than that, than the majesty of this body-temple and holy nervous system, and the wild realities of neuroplasticity and the human heart to reorganize and heal.

There is a trust and a confidence that dawns slowly, over time, that we can do this, that we can hold and contain and digest the grief, the fear, the heartbreak, the shame, and the rage. That new cloth can be woven. That we can feel home again, with ourselves, others, with nature, with the divine.

Alchemically speaking, that we can transmute the lead and the tin and the rust into the emerald and the silver and the golden, safe and connected, no longer alone, but fully here and welcome and wanted, and knowing that we truly belong.

Art credit: wolf as ally and portal by Krista Marleena

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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Safety and the stars

The tragedy of relational trauma presents itself as a cellular fragmenting, more primordial than a mere cognitive dissonance, neurally-encoded and rooted in the soul.

In these fields of disorganization, we simultaneously long for and are terrified of “the Other,” not knowing whether to move toward or step away. This sort of essence-disorientation runs through the entire psychic and bodily circuitry.

For a young child, the attachment figure is God or Goddess, magician, and seer - without them the end is near. But when this figure is also the very source of terror for the little one – or are shocked and traumatized themselves – 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. At times, our hearts shatter and break in grief with them.

In addition to the chronic empathic failure and narcissistic injury which goes to the very core of our sense of self, what can be even more devastating is a deep knowing that “I’m alone in this.” The absence of companionship, of feeling felt and understood, is at the heart of trauma and devastating to a human being wired to rest within a relational field.

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 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 coherence and validity of their experience. That you will not demand they urgently 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. A few 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.

To do this with just one person, one microsecond at a time, and then, together, allow this felt sense and knowing of safety to ripple out into the neural circuity of the stars. Always together.

Photo by John Lee

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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The purifying transmission of grief

Tending to grief is the essence of the 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 an old dream, for the entirety of the unlived life. It was just never going to turn out the way we thought. It’s too shimmering, too majestic for all that. It is these tears that form the portal to connection.

Grief is not something we “get over” by way of stages and techniques, but an eternal and faithful partner we spin with as the cycles unfold, purifying us by way of lamentation.

We live in a world that has lost contact with the holy yellowing of the soul. But to marginalize or pathologize the experience of grief is to work against nature. The earth grieves by way of her seasons, the rotting of leaves, and by way of the ache in her rain drop. Each evening as the sun yields to the stars we can know and commune with that longing.

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

Rather, we find ourselves in the procedure the alchemists called the rotatio, the holy spinning of vast cycles of rupture and repair that touch and open the human person.

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

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 a shattering, involving circle and spiral.

Photo by Karen Nadine

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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The wound as initiation

It’s important to honor that part of us that isn’t so sure about healing, about turning back toward the shakiness and the shattering, as at some deep level we sense what the implications of true healing really are: the ending of one world, without any solid knowing about the world that will replace it.

And while this may seem exhilarating or thrilling or “what we really want,” it is also disorienting and devastating to the psychic status quo, and there may always be an unconscious investment to avoid this sort of reorganization. This hesitation is not neurotic, but intelligent and human, and is deserved of mercy and understanding.

It’s natural to have some contradictory feelings about healing. While honoring that uncertainty, we can simultaneously have an aspiration to stay open to the ways our wounding may be a portal to deeper healing.

To stay open to the cry out from the heart of the wounded healer: This grief, rage, shame, melancholy, and sadness, these are not pathology, but path; with the invitation to stay open to the ways our wounding can serve an initiatory function.

The wounded healer isn’t only some myth that we can learn about: Chiron and his weeping wound and the Asklepian dream incubation temples in ancient Greece. But a living reality inside our very DNA, in our cells, buried in our neural pathways, and wired into what it means to be an open, sensitive, relational human being.

That Asklepian temple is alive within you now and its doors are open.

The medicine we’re longing for is not found in a wound that is already healed, but in one that is weeping and presenting itself to us, opening itself to be updated with new experience.

The medicine is inside the wound, not something we apply to the wound, a discovery of the alchemists and well as the neuroscientists of relational trauma. The wound has to open as well as the neural networks holding our wounding, so that we can go inside and seed those networks with new levels of holding, companionship, and safety.

Photo by nextvoyage

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Wednesday, June 2, 2021

An autonomic form of gaslighting

Much of our wounding occurs prior to the acquisition of language and is not able to be healed through the questioning and reorganization of patterns of thinking. In other words, we can’t think our way out of trauma.

When our capacity to process unbearable terror, panic, shame, and rage is overwhelmed, undigested pieces of experience are held subcortically and in our cellular circuitry, unreachable by thinking which is a layer removed from the fires of the alchemical body.

Encouragement to “just get over it, that’s totally irrational, you can’t really believe that, you know that’s not true” and so forth is experienced by an inflamed nervous system as the activity of violence and aggression.

It’s like an autonomic form of gaslighting and reflects a deep misunderstanding of trauma and the workings of implicit memory, and only contributes to re-traumatization, in personal, cultural, and collective networks.

In addition to shattering and unendurable experience – which is painful and terrifying enough – there is a profound sense of aloneness that goes with this, the sense that no one can understand, that there is no companionship into the dark night. I am alone in this. This is devastating to the soul.

When that raging alive little boy or aching little girl cries out longing to be held, to be known, to be felt, to be heard, to be remembered… peeking their little heads out as if to say, “Is it safe now? How about now? I’ve been waiting for so long for a companion and friend. How about now?”, they’re really not all that interested in our clear cognitive analysis, rational inquiry, powerful spiritual insight, and thoughts on the matter.

They’re yearning for something else… for you, for your heart, for your holding. To know that you will stay near, that you will not abandon or shame them, that you will do your best to provide sanctuary and safe passage for them to come Home, to be allowed to come out of that frozen state and live once again.

In this way they don’t even want or need to be healed, but to be held. And to feel safe.

Photo by Lisa Runnels

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