When clients come to me for trauma work, sooner or later they find themselves mourning the loss of safety. Before whatever horrible event happened that brought them in to see me, they had it. A sense of what it is to be safe, or at least safe-enough, that allowed them to get through the day without feeling the need for eyes in the backs of their heads, or that constant spidey-sense that clinicians call “hypervigilence.” It happens in a shocking instant; before that moment, they did not question that they would be able to get through life without major wounds, other than the usual rules of discretion and environmental awareness: don’t walk at night alone, don’t trust the guy who can’t look you in the eyes,etc . And why not? Most people, after all, do seem to get through. After that instance, the terrible “aha,” we understand now that safety is an illusion, that despite due diligence, shit does happen. Usually it’s a mundane moment, perhaps the one where they come out of shock, look around, and realize they are now seeing life with different eyes. In that moment, so much dies. Their faith, their hope, their confidence in themselves that goes along with the lingering and self-serving delusion, “surely I could have done things differently, then this would not have happened.” Self-serving, because none of us is that powerful. Continue Reading Trauma 101: What You Need to Know On Your Journey
What the massacre this Wednesday leaves us with is questions, including as one correspondent on NPR put it, just how small is God, that she/he/it/they can’t take a little ribbing? That’s not just a Muslim thing, not even a religious thing…a Muslim comic conveyed a story of censorship here in the States, when the network told him to remove the mention of several corporations from his monologue because it might cost them a sponsor. There is not a Sacred Cow anywhere in the world that could not stand the paradoxical benefit of a humorous challenge. Continue Reading (Not) Having a Sense of Humor is Dangerous: Am I Charlie?
This series has been an important step on my journey, but I have no conclusions as yet. Religions have been the cause of much pain, but within them are beautiful rituals of healing, the comfort of tribal belonging, and the daily practice of faith.One of the practices that speaks to me shows up in almost every religion, the cleansing power of water. Pagan circles celebrate is as the western quarter, carrying the gift of emotion and of change. Monotheistic religions, including Judaism and Christianity, place high importance on baptism and cleansing ritual baths. It is not surprising that so many of my clients with highly distressed nervous systems find a rare calm in their tubs. Continue Reading Religion and Healing: Final Thoughts
I have been thinking a lot about healing throughout my life. It’s not like I’ve had some miraculous kind of healing at any one time, although there have been several times that I’ve been in quite a bit of pain, and I have asked Kevin (husband) to pray for me at which time he will put his hand on me and pray silently. I don’t even know what he prays, but the pain has several times immediately disappeared. I have prayed for healing from the Crohn’s disease, and depending on one’s definition of healing, it is not gone, but I live a healthy life and I am fully functional.
Healing has come to mean for me being able to live well in spite of pain or sorrow or disappointment. Additionally I think healing can be physical or emotional. I certainly believe that if God wanted to completely heal me or Katy (daughter) from her diabetes he could, but I have learned that it’s through our difficulties that we are made stronger and healthier. Healing us completely might not be what is best for us.
One other short story comes to mind and takes place when I was eight years old. A brain scan revealed that I could have a seizure at any time. The docs told my mom no bike riding no bathing alone etc. Mom asked for some trusted friends to pray over me that I might be able to live a normal childhood. Nothing ever occurred after that prayer time.
I have grown up believing the Bible to be the Word of God, my creator, but on my journey my belief in the Word and its power in my life have been made real, not just a belief. I have found that the Word describes me perfectly. I have also found that when I depend on the promises given in the Word, they are reliable. The most important part of the Word for me is using it as a guide for living, and it has not failed me. I am able to find joy, comfort and peace in all circumstances. I have been tested several times in this life with tough circumstances and oddly in those times I have experienced the greatest peace and reassurance through the Word. When life gets hard, I do three things every day. I pray for help, read the Word and exercise. It works.
Continue Reading The Case For…How Christianity Serves Healing
For many of my clients with significant childhood trauma, hypervigilance dominates their everyday experience. This is a state of constant arousal, as all senses are trained on potential threat and in a very real sense, defined by it. As they scan their environment, they often fail to see that which is pleasant or neutral, for… Continue Reading The Case For… How Buddhism Serves Healing
Hyper-vigilance is narrow, focused, worried, constricted like a flashlight beam nervously and constantly flickering around the darkness, alert for danger, for what is wrong, incessantly scanning for what needs to be done, to be fixed. Exhausting. Attentiveness is open, expansive, relaxed, receptive and allowing. Shining like the sun wherever it looks and wherever it looks seeing the beauty, the miracle that is always available in the present moment. Renewing, rejuvenating. Now for those of us that developed hyper-vigilance as a tool for dealing with trauma, that may sound discouraging, yet another way to beat ourselves up for not being the ‘right person’. I invite you to lay down the beatings for ever if you can, for right now at any rate. The next time you suspect you may be hyper-vigilating choose to investigate it, as an explorer. Choose to notice, maybe even write down the sensations. Track them like the expert you are. What does your body do? Continue Reading Hypervigilance and the Present Moment
Why do I believe that religion can be an important vehicle for healing? Because I truly believe it saved my life. It was the 60’s, and hedonism was in, not just for my parents, but for most families in our tony Western Massachusetts cul-de-sac. Supervising the children, what’s that? Building character, so repressive! Consistency, pure… Continue Reading The Saving Grace of…Religion?!
Ritual does not equal religion, but it is like the hint of color in the leaf presaging fall. All that is required is the loss of safety, the contraction into fear, and the organization that follows. At some point in my pretty story, the people lost spiritual touch with the land, and ignored the signs… Continue Reading Ruining A Good Thing, Part 2: Can Our Story Be Changed, And Religion Serve Our Spirituality?
Ruins. All that remains of a culture that lasted continuously for over 700 years at Mesa Verde. Like a skeleton, its bones and articulations telling a rich story, from a nomadic people tired of wandering, to a frightened and fighting society starved into leaving for kinder territory in Arizona and New Mexico. When I was… Continue Reading Ruining a Good Thing: One Story of How Spirituality Becomes Religion
Religion. Just the word itself brings a palpable, observable quake to most thinking persons’ systems. Even those who acknowledge the numinous quickly clarify, “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.” Who can blame them? We live in an extraordinary country, one founded on religious freedom; yet historically, religion in this country has been used to control, to… Continue Reading Are Religion and Spirituality Really at Odds?