At the heart of healing is compassion for oneself. This acknowledges atavistic fantasies of power and revenge. The embrace extends even to the unlovable ‘exiles’ who lurk in the unconscious; shame, rage, self-loathing.
Our inner saboteurs all have roots in extreme adversity. When light and love are extended to their dark defensive ramparts they begin to transform into protectors. I was listening to a well-loved and widely acclaimed therapist. She spoke about her own story. There was abuse and neglect during her infancy. She had a troubled youth, striving to be accepted, getting involved with drugs and failing in relationships. After hitting rock bottom she turned a corner, slowly surfaced, and all of her hard-won experience fed into her work. Were they the grit that created the irritation which formed pearls of wisdom? She is now a widely loved therapist who speaks with authenticity and empathy.
I haven’t named her because I have encountered so many people of different genders who fit this description. Virtually all of the beloved ‘celebrity’ therapists in the field of somatic and embodied trauma work have this kind of life-story to tell. Trauma can be an initiation which opens the portal to our potentials. It is a ‘rough initiation’ in that we did not choose it, and it involved enormous pain and – often – shame. Yet on the far side of these intense trials we can witness that some people emerge with heightened capacities. In early infancy I experienced the dread of abandonment. As a hyper-anxious child living almost out of my body I was yearning to find answers. This set up a quest, a personal hero’s journey, which ultimately led to me working with groups worldwide.
What are trauma superpowers?
1. Empathy & compassion
2. Useful dissociation: to enter into & create fantasy, to be able to endure tough times, to be a good subject for hypnotism and image work.
3. The art of the turnaround. Of turning troubles into compost for growth.
4. Understanding of ‘sub-personalities’. Experiencing a community of feelings and parts inside us which yearn for inclusion and integration.
5. Not hypnotised by false goals, material things, status, veneer – the art of delving deep.
6. A profound appreciation of music, movement, tastes, aromas and tactile sensations.
I appreciate the following explanation of number 6:
“Sensations are sensational! They do not hold trauma. Patterns are stored events that get stuck and embedded in the nervous system. As soon as we pay attention to the body’s sensations we deepen our awareness of the moment, which goes beyond the form of your body. Things begin to flow without restriction toward an unlimited experience, to be at ease in the moment.”
B Prior - Originator of ‘Form Reality Practice’.
Many who grapple with the effects of traumatising experiences get caught in a cycle of pain and struggle. Among the populations of prisons, addiction recovery schemes, pain clinics and depression support groups we find a high percentage of people whose lives have been constricted by the dark clouds of trauma.
It is never automatic that suffering will transmute into resilience and capacity. When it does so it seems almost miraculous, like alchemy. The possibility is far greater when the process is well-supported. Music, movement and dance have a powerful role to play. This is why I am so passionate about developing and sharing resources for trauma transformation.
- Stefan Freedman. January 2023