Tag Archives: PTSD

Taking The Dream Back

Time to get rid of those old crutches?
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

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

Demons!

When it’s time to make a change, to move forward in life, to take a leap, to start something new, or finish up something that has been dragged out for a long time, there is usually a backlash from the psyche.

First light struggling to emerge from the darkness…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Reluctance arises, doubt arises, fear arises, worry rears its ugly head and for a moment, or longer, there is hesitation. Just as dawn struggles to pierce the dark of night, so does new life struggle to emerge from the dark of the self. Often our old demons, so familiar, reliable, and comforting, come to our aid, begging us to stay with them, to stay as we are.

“Why change?” they say. “You’re fine as you are!”

I became well acquainted with my personal demons during my recapitulation. I realized how long they had been in my life and how stuck I had become because of them, afraid of everything. Worry and fear were always nearby to step in and rescue me from doing something new, from changing anything about myself.

Even if we really do want to change, it is often very challenging to take that first tentative step toward what we know will bring us closer to the transformation we so desire. During times of change we get to experience how our demons work to entrap us, enticing us to remain in the safety and comfort of their arms as we face what scares us the most, new life looming on the horizon!

Just as we are about to take a leap, trusting that life really can be different, our demons can step in and drag us back into our habitual comforts, freeing us of the anxiety that surrounds any great leap into new life. Instead we are coveted and protected by our demons, as they bring us back to the familiar, to that which we may hate about ourselves but which comforts us too.

I often had to deal with my worry demon. It would bring me a perseverating worry-rant of financial ruin, an incessant tale of an inability to make enough money, worry over all the bills piling up, worry over the mortgage to be paid, the studio rent, things the kids needed. The lists were endless, even when there was no reason for such worry, even when I was financially doing well, with plenty of money in the bank, these worries would and did rise up like the old demons they were, intent upon ensnaring me.

I started to see how they came just as I was about to do something new, to take control of my own life and my own destiny, to start a new venture, or to leave someone or something. Those worry, fear, blame or shame demons could pop up so fast, speaking with such rationality that I would easily fall back into believing what they told me.

Much like an addict I’d let them take me spinning off into oblivion. Later I’d realize how hypnotic they were, how they had taken me from awareness of the present moment and lulled and dulled me for a long time with their old tales. Numbed by them I could lose hours, days, weeks, while I struggled to do what I knew I needed to do in order to move on in my life.

In the final throes of breaking away from those demons I learned to appreciate them, but also to recognize them a lot quicker so I could avoid them. I faced life more squarely, became less afraid and less frightened by change as I continually pushed myself forward, as I dared myself to keep embracing new life, no matter what happened.

Gradually, as I finished the recapitulation of my childhood sexual abuse and shed the symptoms of PTSD that had also been a big factor in my life, I learned that life really did like it when I dared myself to do something new, that life was eager for me to live more fully. Eventually those old demons left me alone, for I had no energy left for them, it was all going elsewhere.

As long as we entertain our demons, as long as we open to them, they are eager to entertain us. But as soon as we see what they really do to us we can begin to reject them. Instead, we can begin to take responsibility for creating our own life, the way we want it, even though each step forward may be full of anxiety. And then our demons, as they realize we are no longer interested in them, go away.

Life, I realized one day, was not going to meet me if I did not go out and meet it. Rather than blame others for what had transpired in my life I became more daring and life became more exciting. Sometimes just going to the grocery store was the most daring thing I did in a day, but with persistent work on myself I started to go other places, to do other things, and after a while life was no longer so frightening.

When I met life, it met me too.

Still doing it. Still meeting life, and it still meets me. As I said to Chuck last week, “Let’s not waste a moment. Let’s go have fun!”


A blog by J. E. Ketchel, Author of The Recapitulation Diaries

Chuck’s Place: Total Transparency

Transparency calling…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Jeanne, our bodhisattva guide from infinity, has shared that there is no hiding in life beyond the shadow of this dimension. Encounters in infinity are fully transparent; when you encounter another you are both fully revealed to each other.

Life in this dimension is clearly evolving along that principle now as we experience a greater preponderance of public outings, exposing all the secrets.

From an astrological perspective this is reflective of the transition from the Piscean age of the past 2000 years into the dawning of the age of Aquarius where we are currently squarely situated. The Piscean was largely the age of Christianity that swept the world with its emphasis on raising the spirit and, while acknowledging the shadow, sequestering it to the private black box of the confessional booth.

The spirit is rising to new heights in the Aquarian age, shining an even brighter light upon the shadow. Trump has ushered in an unabashed expression of the life of the shadow, long operative but hidden beneath the persona of high ideals and perfection.

The current energetic wave of “me too” is instantly bringing down career politicians, actors, and pillars of the establishment with a force equivalent to nature’s hurricanes and earthquakes. Confession has burst fully into the public eye and instead of private penance we have crime and punishment.

How refreshing to have the truth revealed on such a massive scale. Perhaps at last this wave can finally overturn the stifling denial and “false memory” shutdowns of prior eras. Transparency, though it runs the risk of inquisition excess, is the necessary technology for needed evolutionary shift.

The consequence of sexual abuse upon the individual is generally PTSD, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, a syndrome that guards the wounded personal spirit by freezing it out of life.

I have spent my entire professional career cracking the nut of PTSD, largely resultant from sexual abuse. I know that this interest issues from my personal journey with the violent abuse inflicted upon my mother while she and I were as one, when I was contained within her womb.

Curiously, the cure for PTSD is total transparency. This includes the total revelation to the self of the fullness of stored abusive experiences, as well as the ability to be transparent beyond the self, freed of shame and blame. A momentous undertaking, but totally doable, a totally healable journey.

Jan has offered her well-documented journey of total healing from Complex PTSD in her Recapitulation Diaries series of books as an example to all journeyers that complete healing is possible. Jan has no emotional attachment to judgmental reactions to her revelations; it is her gift to those intent upon healing. Her energy is concentrated on the fullness of life now, her energy freed from all the old frozen places.

Having discovered recapitulation as one road to healing from PTSD, I am now concentrated on the deeper dilemma of the human animal/spirit that generates the atrocities of sexual abuse. My current hypothesis: human consciousness (spirit) is largely dissociated from its animal self.

Truly, who really thinks of themselves as an animal. Who really knows what it means to be an animal? Thinking and reflecting are actions of spirit. To know thyself is a spirit function. The animal that we are has its own form of knowing that expresses itself through instinct and powerful emotion. Consciousness, as aware spirit energy, completely underestimates the power and wisdom of this archetypal substrate of animal being.

The rapid pace of technological, spirit-driven, advance has so seduced the Aquarian into the belief of the possibility of a totally rationally mastered world that it scoffs at the power of its animal core. Furthermore, it is deluded into the notion that body can be remastered and manipulated into spirit ideas of perfection and correction without dire reaction from its animal self.

These are the challenges the millennials of the Aquarian dawn face as they press for total transparency for our evolving species. A  reconciliation of spirit and animal human requires an attitude of respect for the wisdom and needs for both of these sides of the self. An attitude that treats the body as a circuit board for manipulation certainly devalues the wisdom and knowledge of eons of evolutionary experience.

As well, as we  move toward total transparency we must adopt the shaman’s central dictum: suspend judgment. We must become unbiased witnesses to the self and accept the parts of our spirit and animal selves that are generally riddled in shame and relegated to the shadows. This does not condone acting out, but it does reckon with the truth of the powerful forces that rage and hunger from within and must find a home in the wholeness of life.

Total transparency is total knowing, total acceptance, and total integration of wholeness of being. To eliminate the shadow we must transparently accept and live all that we are. Tall order indeed, but this is the calling of our time. Begin with self, see what you find!

Transparently,

Chuck

Chuck’s Place: Psychic Hygiene

The body works feverishly to protect us from outside invaders such as bacteria and viruses. The psyche, the mental self, is similarly challenged to protect us from disturbing thoughts, feelings, and anxieties that originate within the mind, as well as those that stream into us from the outside world.

Experience the calmness of nature within and without…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

We humans are extremely suggestible beings, quick to be influenced or rattled by inner thoughts and outer events. Behind it all we are well protected by our ancient natural defenses that unconsciously take over to defend and preserve our sanity in the face of real danger. Evidence of this ancient archetypal defense system is staggering, as the powerful psychic mechanisms that take control during trauma reveal.

In countless examples, trauma victims have been served by ancient inner programs that encapsulate their trauma, keeping it unknown to the fledgling ego that strives, while under attack, to maintain its tentative hold on reality and its cohesive identity while being overwhelmed by shattering assault. The decision to “forget” in trauma is not a conscious one; it is a function of a far more instinctive self that knows what is needed for survival. Sometimes we need to forget for a while, sometimes for a long while.

Human beings are additionally equipped with ego consciousness, which can supplement nature’s deeper defenses and greatly improve psychic hygiene. As we live now in a world in the very early stages of major transformation, with instability in governance and terror daily breaking through its unstable seams, we must take conscious responsibility to stabilize our own psychic balance, that is, we must do our conscious best to supplement the defenses of our ancient self.

With respect to potential psychic infection from the outside world, the ego really does have vast control over the influx of outside energy. In a nutshell, where we put our attention largely decides what comes into us.

In our time, social media is a huge raging river of collective energy that greatly excites and equally exhausts our psychic energy but also can vastly impact moods—highs and lows—as well as our ability to process objectively all that barrages us. The decision to limit exposure to social media promotes psychic balance; it offers as well the opportunity to step back and begin to think for oneself. Collective energy can usurp one’s identity. We can be swept into a tribal identity, losing the boundaries of our “individual” self, losing also the ability to think for ourselves.

The partisan divide currently infecting the whole world can, as well, seduce us into one polarized corner or another. We are in an either/or state right now that does not see resolution in a reconciliation with the opposites but calls for unity through divisiveness. Divisiveness in the psyche sets the stage for psychic disunity, as the disenfranchised parts of the psyche will rebel, usually through disturbing symptoms of anxiety, dread, panic, fear or rage.

Suspending judgment toward all groups in the world, regardless of their political persuasion, with an eye toward understanding the why of differences, can create greater empathy and inclusiveness for all points of view and all peoples. This in turn promotes inner calmness within the self and reflects greater inner acceptance of even the most recalcitrant aspects of the self!

Inwardly, the attitude of ego consciousness toward the vaster unconscious self is a critical determinant of psychic health. For instance, if the ego rules daily life through a narcissistic self-centered lens, it is likely to alienate itself from the rest of  the self, with the result again being far-reaching symptoms, even perhaps the manifestation of bodily disease in an attempt to physically communicate the reactions of the deeper self toward the ego’s non-inclusive leadership in the affairs of daily life.

If the ego can see its role as ascertaining and caring for the true needs of the overall self versus its narrow special interests, then the unconscious will be grateful and better poised to support its ego partner. This can be established through remembering, recording and contemplating the dreams dreamed each night. Dreams remain the royal road to the unconscious, they are a latent golden portal to the deeper self, awaiting just a little attention.

As well, a willingness to calm frantic energy through meditation and a practice such as pranayama breathing can allow for a still heart that communicates objective truths, perhaps even suggesting actions for the ego to follow. This inner relationship with different parts of the self can lead to an inner harmony, greatly promoting psychic hygiene.

An overall willingness to introvert daily—that is, to pull attention away from outside energy, to be calm in nature for instance, or simply content within the confines of the self—is perhaps the most important ego practice to counter the overpowering extroverted draw of our time and restore psychic balance.

There are still rocky seas before us, but good psychic hygiene can provide the necessary ark of awareness to safely maintain our balance through the troubled waters of our times.

Sailing versus assailing,

Chuck

Chuck’s Place: Reconciliation Of Retrograde

Trickster energy… - Photo by Chuck Ketchel
Trickster energy…
– Photo by Chuck Ketchel

It’s 6:21 AM. I’m driving slowly along the windy hilly roads to work. My mind is preoccupied with the experience Jan and I had last Friday at the VA Hospital in Albany. We’d been invited to present on PTSD. We decided to give an experiential presentation for which I’d brought my EMDR light bar. There was a delay getting into the conference room, as a prior meeting was spilling over into our time. Our presentation time was compromised, as another presenter was to follow immediately after us.

Once we finally entered the room, I quickly attempted to set up the equipment. Suddenly we entered a cartoon-like dream. Everything we touched, although meticulously packed, fell apart. The tripod literally fell into pieces, impossible to reassemble.

“Okay,” I resolve, “I’ll hold the light bar without the stand.” As I go to clip the control switch into the bar I discover that the clip is broken. There is no salvaging the equipment now! That’s it, I decide, the trickster shaman’s world trumps. The Magical Breathing Pass of Recapitulation will have to be the main experiential feature. And so, about 25 people learned and experienced this ancient Magical Pass and it’s application to PTSD.

As I continue to drive to work, I recall that the time crunch of the presentation also precluded a brief group hypnosis that Jan was to give at the close of the talk. Suddenly, my awareness is abruptly drawn back to the present moment: a young deer is staring at me, frozen in the road. I slam on the brakes—a near miss!

The symbol for Mercury...
The symbol for Mercury…

What does it all mean? For the past several days, I’ve been experiencing and observing opposition and retrograde. We exist and are composed of fields of competing energies. Mercury, the trickster energy, is indeed in retrograde. At the VA we experienced the ancient shamanic energy opposing and trumping the modern mechanical/technological world. At the moment I recalled the opposition of time and trance—no time for a group hypnosis—I was awoken from my own highway hypnosis to not kill a deer. Here was the opposition of time and timelessness: being present in this moment to not kill a deer vs being lost in the timeless world of the mind’s meanderings.

We all struggle with oppositions within the self. Carlos Castaneda relates in Magical Passes how don Juan Matus explained this in a metaphorical sense: “…that we are composed of a number of single nations: the nation of the lungs, the nation of the heart, the nation of the kidneys, and so on. Each of these nations sometimes works independently of the others, but at the moment of death, all of them are unified into one single entity.” (pp. 103-4)

Our challenge in this life is to reconcile those oppositions within us, the trickster included, into an integrated whole, in a process that Jung termed individuation.

Sometimes the nation of the stomach craves that which the other nations of the body reject. Sometimes the neocortex—our rational brain—rejects the impulses and needs of our limbic system—our animal brain.

When my neocortex confronted the frozen limbic response of the deer in my headlights, it managed to direct my body to hit the brakes. My own limbic system worked in concert with my neocortex to supply the rapid response to react physically to the crises at hand. This is an optimal response—nations of the self unified, acting in concert.

In times of retrograde, Mercury, the trickster, can confound all attempts at collaboration. Mercury laughed as I fumbled with the equipment at the VA. Rather than fight, I read the signs and immediately shifted. Acquiescing, I flowed with the energy of the moment and instead taught deep bodily knowledge.

Opposition is within us all...
Opposition is within us all…

When I asked the I Ching for guidance regarding this period of retrograde, it once again, not surprisingly, produced the hexagram of Opposition, #38. The moving lines—in the third and fourth places—depicted a wagon with oxen being dragged backwards. Now there’s a retrograde image! The guidance reads: though humiliation might occur, sit tight, wait, align with a likeminded person who can be trusted. In the case of the faulty light bar, I turned to my neocortex, which acted in concert with spirit: Go with the flow, trust the Magical Pass.

In shaman’s terms, the guidance is to suspend judgment, to look beyond the impasse. Reconciliation lies in the deeper meaning of the trickster’s intent—to reveal a deeper truth: The ancient Magical Pass of Recapitulation is all you need to be freed of PTSD.

We can reconcile with all our retrograde energies if we accept their opposition with patience and perseverance, not falling for the trap of self-blame. The deeper meaning of Mercury’s retrograde lies in the wings of Mercury—our freedom to fly—achievable if we don’t get caught in the heaviness of opposition.

Flowing on the wings of Mercury,
Chuck