The ‘Trauma-informed’ movement has become a beautiful wave over recent times. Like all waves it is there because it has something important and beautiful to add to the global conversation we are all having with our bodies and souls as we try to find our way forward into a more loving world. And like all waves it can be used indiscriminately to perpetuate ‘business as usual’.
This article seeks to show how the trauma informed work and the phenomena of soul emergence and planetary initiation are intimately entwined with each other rather than polarized approaches.
Developmental trauma is based around the idea and experience that human beings have basic needs that, when not met, result in trauma response. The classic example is when environmental needs ( for touch, food etc ) are not met, or even met with hostility, then it becomes dangerous for us to express and eventually even experience our own needs. We then develop coping strategies that become patterns of insecure relating that indicate ptsd (complex post traumatic stress disorder). Principally this can result in avoidant type behaviours where we tend to isolate from intimate relationships or attached/care taking behaviours where we ignore our own needs and focus on the other. Parts of our psyche stay in a child-like orientation that has a duality – on the one side a narcissistic focus on our unmet needs and on the other hand a repression and denial of them.
Naturally when we enter transformational spaces or when life presents us with challenges and opportunities we may meet them with an override of our true feelings or we may freeze and be unable to move forward. In a healthy dynamic we take risks, gain data and then take time to integrate it and bring up any underlying trauma for healing. Sometimes we need outer allies like therapists to help us with this.
I like the work of Gabor Mate and Laurence Heller amongst others. In particularly the cornerstone of developing ‘agency’ – the restoration of our capacity to influence our environment and our experience by the way we do both our inner psychological work ( the way we understand our own inner landscape including psyche and soma ) as well as the way we engage others and the world. This development of agency leads to self empowerment and is a real ally on the path of soul initiation. We see ourselves less as a victim of circumstances, our environment and others and more as an active participant co-creating our world.
I would like to extend the concept of trauma resolution however to more fully include the soul , the deep Self which is what depth psychology is supposed to be about.
Human beings do not simply have needs for food, shelter, emotional care and so forth. They are also spiritual beings and our world is deeply deficient in soul care.
One of the corner stones of psychological theory in the 20th century was Maslow’s pyramid of needs. It posits that human beings have developmental needs that express in a hierarchy meaning that if the needs at the base of the pyramid are not met then the conditions are not present for those at the top to be realised. Simply put, when a person is hungry or feeling emotionally abandoned they are unable to focus on things like self esteem or self-actualisation. It is a first things first approach. First take care of the physical needs and then later the spiritual needs can be met.
There is of course developmental truth here – we develop the capacity for more integrated functioning over time. There is also an unexamined assumption – that we are primarily physical beings and that our primary motive is survival. This underlies and drives the whole of western society. Things like love, self actualisation, soul purpose and ecstatic surrender to the whole are seen as supplementary pursuits to be undertaken ‘after’ we have survived. They are the province of the ‘privileged’ who have met all their other needs. After years of working with people in transformational spaces I realise that this is fundamentally flawed thinking. I have often experienced more soul joy and presence in third world countries than I have amongst the privileged elites that have all their needs taken care of and are coming along to workshops to fill the gaping holes inside their souls.
What if, for the world that is emerging, we need to turn everything upside down and see that the primary need an individual or culture has – is to be seen and affirmed as the love that they are at their core.?
Most people realise on their death bed that love was the most important thing in their lives but they did not live as if that was the case. This is because we have made love ‘supplementary’ to our survival needs and fears.
I propose a radically different ‘hierarchy’ of needs to complement Maslow’s pyramid. A descending wedge that represents the emergence of the soul in the world.
What I have learned in working with soul emergence is that the primary need everyone has is to be ‘seen’ and validated as a soul. Without this they are forever ‘hovering’ in their lives feeling alienated and as if they do not really belong here. This need, when it is unfulfilled creates a life long trauma. It is not developmental but fundamental. All the feeding, nappy changing on time, emotional care and attention in the world is not enough if the soul is absent in the world around us and unrecognised at our core. Ideally it should be met not only from birth but before birth from conception all the way through pregnancy. Parents who are alive in their soul consciously calling to the soul coming into incarnation between them, seeing them, singing them in, letting them know as soul they have come to the right place and they are welcome. The soul is not something that just appears developmentally in later life. It is present all along and the longer it takes to be seen and recognised the more soul trauma patterns need to be overcome. Those patterns tend to make us either feel like an outsider who does not belong ( if we close around our soul to protect it ) or to try to provide what is missing in our environment ( by pouring our own soul energy into our family etc )
The second soul need that I observe is the need for ‘place’ – what the Maori would call Turangawaewae – a place for the soul to stand. Every child needs connection to the earth, the land – a place that they can always go to – a river, mountain, even public park that they can feel their connection to ground. Soul needs soil. The third need is for community – soul family. This is often not the birth family and is not the same as the emotional or personal belonging needs. Sometimes it is a grandparent, neighbour or friend of the family – someone who resonates and naturally supports their soul growth and expression.
The fourth need is soul purpose – to feel and develop their unique ‘daimon’- the inner calling to express the quality of love they are in the world. This is not the same as a career and can clothe itself in any outer occupation. It the essential emanation of the soul’s reason for incarnating as love. Finally the need to ‘initiate’ – this is an inherent need in the soul to grow and expand its capacity to love and express its purpose in greater and greater spheres of activity. It concerns the soul’s relationship with and atonement of the two streams of matter and spirit.
It is very easy to see through the illusion that all our own developmental needs have to be met in order to express as soul. Think of people who have been through concentration camps or other serious trauma producing experiences and still managed to spend soulful lives in deep service to others. The soul can come through even the most broken personality because the soul is fundamental. I once worked to help fundraisers for world hunger and there was one woman who had suffered severe trauma in her life as well as having strong physical disabilities. When she stood up to speak she shook visibly, one side of her face quivered so much she drooled and one eye semi closed and watered. But her soul was magnificent and opened so many hearts. She would say ‘ look at me! What do you think would make me stand here in front of you all like this and expose myself through my fears of rejection and judgement? Love! Love. Love is what gets me to my feet. Love for those who need your help to simply survive.”
Was she ‘re-traumatising’ herself every time she got up to speak? Is a fireman running into a burning building traumatising himself? Soul initiation always has the potential for trauma because the soul is standing up and breaking through the survival issues of the personal self in order to express something fundamentally more important to it. Love!!!!!! Trauma, even soul trauma is not to be used as an excuse to avoid showing up as we truly are in our essence. Deeper than the soul is the human spirit which is part of life itself – and that life is invincible, eternal and ever present. Healing our trauma can make us much more able to connect with, become and express our deepest potential but that deep self is inherent and must be chosen.
In terms of the soul initiatory process and ‘re-traumatisation’, when the soul comes online it radiates or shines through the personality and brings to the surface all of the pieces that were unfulfilled, unintegrated or traumatised on the developmental path of the upward pyramid. For example when soul purpose activates it may cause activation at the level of employment and security. Questions may emerge about whether the vocation one is in is simply security based or can it also serve as a vessel for expressing soul purpose. Relationship issues can also surface when soul based relationships and personality based relationships come into tension.
If the person is stable in their soul unfoldment then when unintegrated pieces on the lower levels of the developmental pyramid surface they can be bought into loving awareness and integrated.
Re-traumatisation occurs when our identity is not able to maintain itself in soul and ‘falls in’ or regresses into experiencing ourselves and the environment through the lens of the traumatised energy. A good therapist holds the souls gaze and helps us gradually gain that perspective for ourselves. A therapist who has not made their own soul journey however can easily reframe what is essentially a spiritual crisis in a psychological context that reinforces personal development goals at the expense of soul unfoldment.
These two imperatives – Love and Survival – do not have to be in polarity to each other. The needs of the soul and of the personal self can be integrated. For this to happen however each self must decide in the core of their own being what is more important to them. This is soul initiation. It is the choice of who you truly are when it comes down to it. During times of crisis we often do not have time to meditate, consult the scriptures or get a cranio-sacral treatment. We are called to act and where that action comes from will determine the next phase of our unfoldment. Globally humanity is in such a crisis and it is self evident that eight billion people on the planet will not each have the time to all go through their developmental trauma before the consequences of our collective actions overwhelm us. We are caught up in a global trauma that has as much to do with our denial of soul and lack of initiation as it does to do with our childhood emotional wounding.
Because the soul is group conscious – part of the world soul – those who have achieved or received a degree of nourishment and emergence as souls in the world are expressing a way forward for us all. This is the true meaning of the idea of privilege. The personality considers that privilege means some other personalities have had it better than them and they should be apologetic or more considerate. The soul knows the exquisite privilege of realising itself as an inherent part of humanity and the soul of the world. It pours itself back in willing and joyful service to the collective evolution and the liberation of more and more of its Self.
Fortunately we have the force of evolution on our side. More and more young people are experiencing less developmental trauma as well as less soul trauma in their lives. I also believe that stronger spirits have been arriving on the planet for some time now. Souls that see through the endless preoccupation our dying civilisation has on its need for acquisition to fill an emptiness that cannot be met with more stuff. Souls who are not living in denial of their fear of death so that it is projected out onto the natural world around them. Souls that are here to live a courageous life in synergy with the whole. Souls that are here to pioneer a new world based on the essential divinity at the core of all beings. Souls who have agency and willingly accept responsibility , not only for their own lives but the life of earth. May their soul shine lift all our collective unresolved trauma to the surface and resolve it in the love that we essentially are and are increasingly coming to be.
Bruce Lyon – BSc, Dip Clin Hyp, MSE, PHD, has been teaching in the area of esoteric wisdom, the tantric arts, cosmology and universal spirituality for over twenty years. He is part of the wisdom council of ISTA, founder of Shamballa School and the author of many books. He established an esoteric school in New Zealand – Highden Temple.