My first encounter with the shamanic practice of Recapitulation was at The Westwood Seminar in Los Angeles in 1997, that year’s annual summer intensive for Tensegrity practitioners. Carlos Castaneda stressed the seriousness of this ancient shamanic Magical Pass, which required a complete reliving of one’s life in preparation for the freedom to fly free, into infinity, at the time of the death of one’s human form.
For Jeanne and I, our ancient Catholic foundation was stirred, as we feared the equivalent of going to Hell if we did not complete our recapitulation before death! Well, I know that Jeanne did indeed make the cut when she left her human form, though she did have to touch back briefly to clear up some unfinished business with her birth mother before she could fully move on. (See the final chapter in The Book of Us for a recount of this unfinished business.)
When Jan and I discovered that recapitulation could actually serve as a total healing tool for complex PTSD, we realized that recapitulation had vast application beyond the shamanic preparation for one’s definitive journey.
In addition, I was synchronistically drawn to EMDR at the same time I was introduced to Recapitulation. I realized that recapitulation and EMDR shared a bilateral feature as their processing mechanism. I also realized that REM sleep shared this same bilateral mechanism, the processing function of ordinary dreaming.
I have capitalized on the innate biological mechanism of bilateral processing in much of my clinical work, but I have also come to discover that intent itself is really at the crux of everything.
When an individual sets the intent to recapitulate, that is, to fully retrieve energy that is sidelined or frozen, by incomplete processing or resolution of prior or inherent experience, something takes over and turns the totality of current life into experiences of what needs to be recapitulated.
Many clients, who are recapitulating traumatic events of which they have no current memory but which form the etiology of their complex PTSD, have discovered that memories begin to appear in no apparent order, haphazardly and from many different periods of their lives, which absolutely insist upon being processed.
Memories may be triggered by bodily pains, dreams, current interactions, smells, sounds—almost anything serves as a projective screen for a memory to reveal itself. Once fully recapitulated, another memory begins to flesh out, of its own non-conscious accord, often from a totally different time and circumstance, perhaps skipping over many other traumas that occurred in between.
The point here is that the intent of recapitulation itself, once engaged, becomes the director of the actual remembering, determining the sequence, frequency, and unique presentation of new memories and how they are brought to consciousness. I have come to trust intent’s illusive logic in directing an unfolding recapitulation, because the necessary healing appears to require its own idiosyncratic, sequential building blocks, constructed through the order of one’s personal unfolding memory triggers and encounters.
Though I hardly suggest that anyone embark upon the journey of traumatic recapitulation without a seasoned guide, I cannot deny anyone the knowledge of their birthright, their own access to the intent of recapitulation, the ultimate soul retrieval journey. To fully retrieve one’s energy is to be fully present to facing oncoming time.
Finally, when I learned the magical passes for intent in the shaman’s world, we practiced yelling the word, “Intent!” very loudly and firmly. And so, I simply recommend firmly stating, out loud, one’s intent to recapitulate, thus affirming one’s conscious decision to partner with the intent of recapitulation, a most worthy higher power.
My intentions for this blog are: (1) to offer knowledge that might be helpful to those working through PTSD, and (2) to provide a greater context to a core problem of humanity that is of particular relevance to understanding and resolving our current Earth crisis. This crisis has reached a point where none should hold back their piece of the puzzle, as all pieces of that puzzle are needed to solve our current woes and launch us into health.
The TV show Grey’s Anatomy offered a boldly graphic and accurate presentation of Acute Stress Disorder, experienced by a woman immediately after a rape (Season 15, Episode 19). This blog is a contribution toward the complete healing of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the typical clinical progression of such a trauma, due to violence inflicted by another. At a certain point in that healing journey, understanding the objective reasons for the perpetrator’s actions is helpful in clarifying the truth that it really wasn’t my fault.
My Irish biological father was a violent alcoholic who beat my mother throughout her three pregnancies. When mother and I were as one, in symbiotic union in our journey through uterine space, we both absorbed the shocks of my father’s rapes and many physical blows. I was born with PTSD locked in the marrow of my bones, as well as in the subtlest dimensions of my Soul.
It would be my destiny, my karma, to locate the cure for PTSD in this lifetime, a deeply personal affair. PTSD would prove to be my worthy opponent in this lifetime. A worthy opponent, in the shamanic world, is that which most forces one to wakeup. Outwardly, in my chosen career as a psychotherapist, many have trusted me with their own frozen selves, the legacies of their own abuse. Within the shaman’s world I was led to recapitulation, the tool central to the complete healing of PTSD.
But beyond healing, what is the true etiology of man’s violence—in its many forms—toward woman? Today it is discovered that mass murderers hate women. Jeffrey Epstein clearly had an absolute need to completely control teenage girls. What was he so afraid of?
In my personal case, my biological father hailed from deep Irish culture, whose perennial ally has been alcohol to dream beyond the felt tyranny of the Mothership, England. An ally, in the shaman’s world, is a spirit that grants access to other worlds but also exacts a high toll in exchange. That same ally also gives license to the shadow’s rage at its impotence to rise above its child prison. Many a ‘good’ Irish woman hides the true deeds of absorbing the rage unleashed by the drink.
My biological father’s mother suffered from migraines and insisted my father be the one delivered, as priest, from the family to the Church. He opposed her will with the help of his ally, alcohol, and displaced his rage upon my mother, the intimate mother replacement in his life, his wife. His ally eventually tricked him into early death. Such is the fate of the refusal to reconcile the forces within the psyche with consciousness.
My adoptive Russian Jewish father, my one true father in this lifetime, venerated my mother, to a fault. Both Mother Russia, which had been his family’s home until the pogroms, and his Jewish matrilineal heritage sanctified Mother, regardless of their patriarchal dominance in practice.
Freud recognized the overarching power of Mother for son. He little understood woman, but he knew of the primal attachment and attraction between mother and son. Freud also never really valued the world beyond the nuclear family. For a son, the oedipal complex, the wish to fully unite with mother, was the single most important fact of life.
A wife, like civilization itself, was but a sublimated second best for mother. Man can erect towers, but even they limply compare to union with mother. For Freud, the confirmed atheist, Mother truly was god, and her power, he believed, was transferred by man onto all subsequent permutations of her, especially in his relationships with women.
When Freud met Jung, he crowned him his prince successor and desperately begged him to promise to uphold, as dogma, what he was convinced was the eternal truth of the oedipal complex. Jung’s mother had had long psychiatric hospitalizations in his youth. Though she was an object of mystery for Jung, she was primarily an object of fear. Jung’s psychology was transcendent, reaching beyond the foundation of the family nursery. He saw a son’s primal journey to individuation as the hero’s battle for deliverance from dependence upon the mother, and the mother’s world.
For Jung, the psyche deepened beyond the nuclear family, into the depths of the collective unconscious. Ironically, both he and Freud remained chained to tortured relationships with their wives in their lives. Freud indulged in a hidden affair with his wife’s unmarried sister, who lived in their home. Jung indulged in a blatant polygamous life, with two wives (only one actually legitimate), which he publicly displayed and foisted upon his family at Sunday meals. Neither man could bear the tension of their projections upon woman without splitting themselves in two.
Freud’s theories of woman’s psychology dominated clinical practice for decades, forestalling the validation of women’s recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse, relegating them instead to mere childhood sexual fantasy. Jung never publicly explored the impact of having been sexually assaulted in his youth. Nonetheless, their personal journeys into the depths of their own psyches, and the theories they generated, shed invaluable light upon the psychology of man and his core terror of woman.
Freud captured the omnipotent power mother possesses over her infant and growing son. She is the source of life, source of nurturance, source of need gratification, source of love, source of desire, source of pleasure, source of ultimate security, source of soothing, source of entitlement, and yet, source of ultimate frustration via the oedipal complex.
Mother is the most important and most desired person in the world to son. Though his oedipal crush will not be fulfilled, his longing and rage toward her for disappointing him, or toward the power he feels she wields, is often defended against through violence toward all women, who represent subsequent molds of mother, throughout life.
Jung traced the roots of the archetype of mother to matter itself; the primal substance of all things physical in the world. All human life issues from the womb of mother. Mother is the only one who can give life. Mother is nature herself, who both giveth and taketh life. Man can never conceive or deliver life. Mother’s power is primary.
Men, from primitive times, have been fascinated with but terrified by woman’s primal power. Taboos restricting women and protecting men from contact with menstrual blood or menstruating women still survive in modern India. Menstruation, with all its emotional variabilities, threatens man with nature’s destructive, uncontrollable, and unpredictable power.
The true reason for the Inquisition was man’s attempt to control the creative primal power of woman that threatened the controlling patriarchal dogma of the Church. That same terror was the true reason for Hillary Clinton’s surprise 2016 defeat: Man’s terror of being dominated by the primal power of woman.
Man’s relation to his own primal power of sexuality, and its urgency for contact with woman, confronts him with his own nature. Mastering the irrational power and energy of the body’s sexual instinct requires a deep soulful journey; it’s not a simple business transaction.
Gaining control of and building a mature relationship with the sexual instinct is often forfeited, in exchange for demanding and expecting a woman/girl to perform to immature male fantasy. Here, control rules the roost á la Jeffrey Epstein.
Desire for, yet terror of woman—who is experienced as both a goddess who quickly overwhelms his potency, as well as a mother prototype who embodies his oedipal residue—often prompts a man to violence to overcome the supreme power projected onto woman.
Violence castrates a woman’s imagined power, making her touchable, and it titrates oedipal intimacy down to manageable proportions. This is often the reason for preference of teenage girls and children to adult women, who can only be encountered with full-out violence.
Most women have no clue of the supernatural powers ascribed to them. The mystery, for most girls and women, is why they are targeted. The truth lies almost completely in the projected imagination of the perpetrator. Her body is a blank slate for the man to act out his superimposed inner drama. That’s what it means to be an object. You really don’t exist at all. Not because you don’t have value, it’s simply that your person has been typecast in another person’s play, and you have no say.
Our current Earth crisis is man’s absolute patriarchal holdout to control, exploit, and fully dominate Mother Nature. Obvious to many, however, is nature’s growing impatience with such hubris. Young people have begun their own alchemical processes to free gender ship of its archetypal bindings, with the reconfiguration of gender assignments into he, she, and they, and beyond. Oh, what androgynous beings we are and may be!
Individually, all are empowered to reconcile their spirits with their human bodies. All bodies are composed of matter. All genders contain father mind and mother body. Mind over matter simply doesn’t work anymore. Nor does projecting one’s inner confusion onto others. All must grant matter the respect and place it is due, as well as be guided by its leadership.
Mother Nature is shifting the balance of power by forcing us into true respect and valuation of each other as the only course for survival. Begin with the self; love and care for the body. Get to know its true powers, needs, and wisdom and let them co-lead the way. It’s the only way to go.
Rather than imbue woman with the supernatural powers of an ally and subdue her with violence, may man accept woman, like matter itself, as his worthy opponent who offers him his greatest opportunity to wakeup.
Trauma is a rupture to the security of the known. The sublime effect of trauma is to involuntarily usher one into the transpersonal dimension of the High SOUL. PTSD is the condition of being caught between the everyday world of the known and this deeper transpersonal dimension of being.
Recapitulation is an ego-Soul retrieval practice that reconstitutes the fullness of the self that was fragmented by trauma, curing the condition of PTSD. For many, recapitulation also refines one’s psychic ability to travel in and communicate with the transpersonal realm. Many psychic channels trace their awakened abilities to the blunt force of a traumatic incident.
Thus, trauma can be seen as the ego-Soul’s involuntary initiation into the fuller dimension and abilities of its High SOUL. As with all initiations the experience is shattering and dangerous, and not everyone returns safely. Modern clinical methods like EMDR and SE (Sensory Experience) can also facilitate the ego-Soul’s resolution of its forced traumatic shamanic journey.
The world is currently experiencing blunt force trauma on many fronts. The impacts of global warming upon the body of Gaia are evident almost daily. The fires in California, the floods in the midwest, the Typhoon last week in Mozambique are but a handful of the most recent physical traumas on Earth. The great human migratory movements throughout the world now largely reflect these environmental impacts.
Human beings are the cortex of the living planetary being of Gaia, and as a whole are expressing the polarized symptoms of instability so familiar to an individual in the grip of PTSD. Thus, we see a compromised collective human ego-Soul grappling with survival, as its known world continues to shatter.
The latent impact of the Earth crises of now is a collective shamanic journey for the human ego-Soul. Though the side effects of bipolar and psychotic extremes are evident, many are adjusting to the evolutionary shifts on the near horizon. The almost complete lack of privacy, the transparency of now, though invasive and almost out of control, are actually signs of a coming higher level of consciousness; that is, humans communicating telepathically, with total transparency, in a world with nothing to hide.
Humans have no choice but to reach this level of truthfulness to be able to function sanely as the cortex of Gaia. Seen from this perspective, the trauma of now is actually a planetary birth trauma, where both the Earth and human consciousness are being reformatted for evolutionary salvation.
It was the conclusion of the Shamans of Ancient Mexico, in the person of the Nagual Don Juan Matus, that this energetic evolution was the only direction for humankind and for the survival of the Earth dream.
As individuals, we are all empowered to be midwives to a smooth evolutionary transition by facing the truths of our individual lives. Firstly, practice self-regulation, in some form of meditation or body practice, to achieve volitional control over the emotional terrors of the limbic system that react to the shocks of now. Stay calm, limit exposure to extremist rhetoric.
Keep thoughts positive and loving. Love is the most powerful and all-inclusive energy. It’s free. Bombard the world with loving kindness!
Hold onto the perspective that all the destruction of now is part of a major birth and an evolutionary initiation into a more loving, transparent, well-balanced world. Hold tightly to this knowing, protecting it like a candle in the innermost sanctum of the heart, amidst the violent storms of negativity blowing across the world. Know that it is simply another contraction in this amazing birth we are all participants in.
Don Juan comments to Carlos Castaneda in The Art of Dreaming: “Your unbiased reaction is that you can’t stand chains, and you would forfeit your life to break them.”
Carlos had been tricked in his dreaming, as he explored a world of spirit entities. Those entities have much to teach a journeyer, but they exact a huge price for sharing their knowledge. In this case, they sought to entice Carlos to stay in their world, as his high frequency energy provided much entertainment to the more stationary beings of that realm. He survived their obvious attempts to cater to his curiosity but hadn’t bargained for their trickery, which targeted his unbiased reaction that Don Juan spoke of.
What Carlos hadn’t anticipated was an encounter these spirit entities set up for him in their world, contact with a trapped being presenting as a seven-year-old girl, with powerful blue eyes, seeking his help. Spontaneously, he shouted his intent to merge his energy with that prisoner child and set her free. With this impulsive move he became the prisoner, nothing more than a limp figure lying at the bottom of an empty pit, his vital energy completely exhausted.
Carlos was rescued by his warrior cohorts, but his journey marked a turning point for the future of his shamanic line. Carlos and his warrior party ultimately decided to end the shaman’s code of silence and anonymity, launching Tensegrity, freely giving away the technology and knowledge of the Ancient Shamans of Mexico, and formally ending their shamanic line. These actions formatted ancient knowledge to gain footing and have utility in our changing times.
Shamans have always been the spirit journeyers who healed others through soul retrievals, finding lost parts and returning them to the victim, effecting the cure of restored wholeness. Thus, those afflicted with illness depended upon the shaman to provide their cure. In our time it has become clear that healing effected by the hands of another does not hold up if the individual has not inwardly solved the challenge presented by the illness.
The evolutionary shift Carlos and his cohorts made was to offer the tools of empowerment and healing to all to heal themselves. In my psychotherapy practice the tool of recapitulation that I learned in the shaman’s world has proven most effective in the total cure of PTSD. That tool offers every individual the opportunity to completely restore their own lost wholeness as they encounter and integrate split off parts of themselves that were previously lost to traumatic experience.
Through this method, rescue is transformed into self-empowerment. The role of helper becomes one of teaching and supporting this healing practice. The role of healer is transferred to the seeker who is empowered to truly know and reconcile the whole truth of their lives. This is healing through self-empowerment versus the tentativeness and dependence upon the actions of another.
Thus, Carlos transformed his proclivity to rescue into giving away his knowledge that all who truly seek to heal be empowered to heal themselves. In this time of great instability we are empowered to find stability in the consolidation of our wholeness through our personal practice of recapitulation. Thank you, Carlos, for this evolutionary gift.
Our woundings define us, control us, give us structure and purpose. They offer crutches so we can limp along through life making the best of it. What would happen if we threw away those crutches, if we decided to let go of everything we think we need and instead go in search of our dreams? If we lose touch with our dreams we lose touch with our spirit. The only way of getting back to our spirit is to get back to not only dreaming our dreams but actualizing them, and to do that we must get rid of our crutches.
Crutches can be everything from ideas, such as that we are not worthy of success, or a mate, or wealth or health, that we must bear the life we have, continually punishing ourselves because of some idea that that’s just the way life is, or because we repeatedly blame someone else for hurting us, for leaving us, for abusing us. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Crutches are also our comforts, and that’s where it gets tricky when we try to let them go. Part of us wants to just throw them away, but if we do will our back and legs be strong enough to carry us forward? Will our feet know where to take us? Do we have what it takes to go it alone without our crutches? Whatever our crutches may be they will try to convince us that we need them, that we can’t live without them, that we owe them for how they have helped us survive. How can you leave something, or someone, that has been so important to you? How can you just walk away?
When the time comes to change, to move on, to throw away the crutches, we have to dare ourselves to stand on our own two feet. It can feel as if we are throwing ourselves into the great unknown, which we are. As if we are jumping off a cliff, which we are. As if we are taking a great leap of faith, which we are. The first thing we will encounter as we take that leap is fear.
As we untether ourselves from what has kept us safe and secure for so long we go reeling into the great nothingness of free fall. We don’t know where we are, who we are, or how to navigate without our crutches. We don’t know what to do, so we grasp for our crutches again. “Just stay with me a little bit longer,” we say. “I know you and I trust you. Even though you are bad for me, you keep me safe and grounded.”
During my recapitulation such times of free fall indicated that I was actually making strides. I was being challenged to embrace life, to get out of my safety zone and confront reality. Perhaps letting go of a crutch meant challenging myself to go beyond my depression, such as: “I won’t stay in bed all day today. Today I will go to the grocery store, or make a phone call, or take a walk.” Such simple things, you might say, but to a traumatized person these present major feats. Sometimes every day could be like that.
Perhaps a moment of free fall was instigated by an outside influence, such as someone requesting something of me, someone else needing me, or a job that needed to be done. To go outside our comfort zone when we have been badly wounded takes courage, fortitude, and strength, such ordinary characteristics of being human that for someone suffering from PTSD present mountains to cross, rivers to ford, the great unknown to encounter, and all without our usual crutches!
If we are to heal we have to change, and if we are to change we have to leave our crutches behind. The things that now keep us safe also keep us isolated, lonely, stuck in reliving our woundings and our ideas of ourselves as wounded, over and over again.
“I am wounded, poor me! I will never have a good life because someone did something bad to me! I have trauma in my background so I have permission to be sad and lonely. It’s my lot in life.” These are some of the things we tell ourselves to keep us aligned with our woundings, and each time we speak them our crutches are right there for us to grab onto, saying, “Yes, you need me. I told you that you would always need me. You don’t need anything else. I am here for you.” Are we really going to settle for that?
We are easily convinced by our crutches because the truth is that yes, they have been our salvation, they have stood by us through it all, and they have worked for us, to a certain extent. But they have also kept us stuck in our nightmares, and the truth is we would be better off without them. We’d be healthier without them.
I used to run every day. It was one of my crutches. I thought I needed running to survive. I have not run in 12 years now. I just stopped one day. At first I felt bad about not running, thinking I’d get out of shape, physically and mentally, and for a long time I’d whine, “Oh, I should be running.” But I never did again and once I really let go of it, in my mind too, I was just fine. I am physically and mentally healthier than ever. I don’t need to rely on running anymore. I have myself to rely on.
When it’s time to finally let go of the crutches, the crutches will try to stay attached. We suffer with them and we suffer without them. But if we can look at them closely, examine them, ask why we think we need them, we are well on our way to getting rid of them forever. We have to ask: “Are they part of some idea, some ideal that I latched onto a long time ago at a time when I needed something to support me? Do I really need that kind of support now?”
Times change. We change. As we choose to heal from our traumas, our dreams come back to haunt us, reminding us of what we have left behind that might really matter to us. In the long run, it’s our dreams that we should go running to. Is it time to throw away the crutches and go running toward your dreams?
In this time of #METOO, it is so important that we point fingers, that we expose the hypocrites, that we gather together, united against what has been going on in the shadows, but at the same time we can’t just stop there. It does no one any good if all we do is point fingers. If we are to heal our wounds we have to be willing to do the healing work, and that is an individual task. No one else can heal our wounds for us, for only we know what they truly are. Only we know what they have done to us and how we have survived with them and in spite of them. And only we know what all of our crutches are, many of which we have kept in the shadows of our own psyches.
Healing can only happen if we are each ready to take the personal journey within. If we are to heal we must put down our crutches, one at a time, and head off into free fall. In the end, I can attest, that we will land on our feet, and that our own two feet are indeed strong enough to bear the tension of taking back our health and our energy, as well as take us where we will go next. Time to take the dream back.
A blog by J. E. Ketchel, Author of The Recapitulation Diaries