Tag Archives: PTSD

A Day in a Life: Stalking A New Self

In that dissociative fugue state... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
In that dissociative fugue state…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

It’s been in the news, a man wakes up from a coma speaking only Swedish. He doesn’t recognize his wife or family. A diagnosis called Transient Global Amnesia has been applied to his condition. Medical personnel assigned to his case have also decided that he’s most likely in a dissociative fugue state, wherein a person forgets their past and can sometimes take on a new personality. When I first read the headline I was intrigued, having had my own experiences with the Swedish language and inventing a new personality, wondering if the man had woken up in a past life.

The man, it turns out, had lived in Sweden as a child and for much of his adult life, so the fact that he spoke the language was no mystery. The mystery in his case was, how could he forget his current life so easily? The Shamans of Ancient Mexico would diagnose him as having suffered a jolt to the assemblage point, a shift in awareness into a totally new world.

My own first encounters with speaking Swedish came in a dream when I was in my early twenties. In the dream I was traveling across the United States by wagon train. I leaned against the back of the wagon, in which I was traveling with my husband and children, and wept. Great sadness had occurred, the death of our child, whom we had just buried along the trail. My husband came up to console me. We spoke a language I had never heard before. I spoke fluently and without hesitation.

My dreaming self observed the entire dream episode, saw what I looked like and heard myself speaking this strange language. I even understood what I was saying, even though I didn’t understand the specific words. I saw that I was a tall and strapping woman, with thick blond hair tied back in a long braid. I was dressed in neat, clean, but poor cotton clothing, a long dress and apron. My husband was taller and wore a hat. His pants were tucked into high boots. My dreaming self watched as he came over and embraced me.

We wept together and then he told me that we’d have to move on, keep going, that everything would be okay. The rest of the people traveling with the wagon train were preparing to leave. We had to stay with the group. Moving on was essential. It was a strenuous journey, but I knew we’d make it to our destination. I just needed time to gather myself together, I told him. I’d be alright. Then I felt myself pull inward, into deep inner silence. I felt a core of strength shoot through me, like a fire rising out of the depths of me, energy like I had never felt in real life. Then I shook off my sorrow. There was life still to care for, life still to live. Times were tough, but the tough keep going. I woke up as I shrugged off my sorrow, that core of strength burning brightly inside me.

Upon awakening, I was immediately puzzled by the strange language I’d spoken and the sense of connection I felt with the woman in the dream. I knew it really was me, had been me, and that I too had that fiery core of inner strength inside me. I suspected, at the time, that the dream was related to a past life, though I had little knowledge of how that could be possible.

Within a year of the dream, I met my Swedish husband-to-be and six months after meeting him I was living in Sweden. It didn’t take long for me to recognize the Swedish language as the same language I’d spoken in my dream. I took language classes and within no time I was speaking Swedish fluently, like a native I was told, like a native from the southern part of Sweden called Smaland that had been so devastated by drought that the vast majority of farmers left and moved to America during the 1800s. I spent considerable time exploring the country and always found this southern region extremely warm and inviting, the forests and thick-walled cottages so familiar. At the time, all of this reinforced the real possibility that I had indeed lived a past life in Sweden.

Who am I really? - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Who am I really?
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

At the time, however, I was dealing with my own deep issues, undiagnosed at the time. Indeed, I was living out my own dissociative fugue state. Many years later, as I write about in my books, I started working with Chuck. The first thing he did was give me a diagnosis of PTSD. The diagnosis gave me a sort of anchor, an anchor from which I could dive into the dark pool of the unconscious and do deep inner work, but it was not the answer. However, it was during that time that my past, including my decision to move to Sweden in the blink of an eye, all began to make sense. Unlike Michael Boatwright, however, the guy who woke up speaking Swedish recently, I had never lived in Sweden before, though I felt so at home there. I assimilated very quickly, learning not only the language but all the nuances of the culture as if I were, indeed, a native Swede.

Sweden offered me many opportunities. First, I got away from my past and, much like Michael Boatwright, I forgot what had happened to me during a certain part of my life, most of my childhood, in fact, as I write about in my books. I was also offered the opportunity to become a new me, and I did. I changed a lot while I was there. I stalked, as the Shamans of Ancient Mexico call it, a new personality. My introverted, shy self soon felt comfortable to become a new being. The distance really helped. I was so far from everyone and everything that had influenced me up until then that I felt really free for the first time in my life. And so I lived a new life for several years, until it was done, until it was time to return to what I had run away from, for I knew, instinctively, that I had run from something.

It would still be some time before I was ready to face my own mysteries. And, as I was to learn, a diagnosis, whether it be Transient Global Amnesia or PTSD, is not the real answer if one is to evolve. As Chuck likes to say, “Now let’s do the work!” The only thing that was going to help, was the work of recapitulation: facing the past, finding out why I was the way I was, and why I had to move so far away to begin with before I felt safe.

Upon return to the States, I had to reinvent myself once again, for the Swedish woman I had become was not appropriate for the life I embarked upon in New York City. Once again, I stalked a new personality, and I kept stalking different versions of who I thought I really was until I ran out of energy, until I finally collapsed and gave up. It was then that I met Chuck and began to learn about my own inner mysteries, the Shamans of Ancient Mexico, and the process of recapitulation. It was then that real change began and everything made sense.

It was then, as I embarked on a new journey of self-discovery, that I found I really did have within me that fiery core of inner strength that I’d experienced in my dream of the Swedish woman on the wagon train journey. For the most part, it had been deeply buried and inaccessible, as most of my life had been spent in a state of numbness, that dissociative fugue state. It was during my recapitulation that I saw my decision to move to Sweden in a different light. It became clear that it was a move on the part of my psyche to jolt my assemblage point.

With deep inner work, peace will come... - Art & Photo by Jan Ketchel
With deep inner work, peace will come…
– Art & Photo by Jan Ketchel

That journey to a foreign land had been pivotal in rediscovering some important things about myself, to not only awaken a past life experience in this life—and live it again in a sense—but more importantly to give me a hint of the possible self to one day look forward to in the future. For I now know that the free woman I became in Sweden was an immature model of my more mature, true self. I didn’t know any of this at the time, of course, but all of this and much more has been revealed as I’ve stayed on the trail of a life of change, the same kind of trail that my dreaming self was on.

The other thing that my time in Sweden hinted at, I understand in retrospect, was the first hint that I would have to go back in order to go forward. If I was to birth myself into a new woman and allow that fiery core strength to become a part of this life in a real way, I would have to go back into the darkness of my past and retrieve it. I would have to, singlehandedly, move it forward, out of my past life, into this life.

This is the real energy that moves through all of us, through our many lifetimes and many life experiences, but we must discover our own path to retrieving it. We don’t really have to go anywhere to do it, either, unless we have to. We can stay right where we are and do our deep inner work. But if we are to evolve we must take the journey of deep self-exploration so we can harness our energy, hone it, and utilize it as we travel along our life’s journeys.

Stalking new life, always,
Jan

Chuck’s Place: PTSD—The Doorway To Expanded Reality

Ordinary reality is perceived this way...
Ordinary reality is perceived this way…

Ordinary reality is our world of solid objects constructed by the building blocks of time and space as organized by the mind through its faculty of reason. Ordinary reality is a discreet world that increasingly sees itself as the only world, the one true reality. This is an old world view not dissimilar to the view once held that the earth was the center of the universe, that even the sun had to revolve around it. We now know that this egocentric, earth-centric view of the universe is false. The truth is that Earth is actually a minor player in a vast, endless universe.

Many people today also know that ordinary reality is but a subset of a far greater reality, that of infinity and the many worlds that coexist within it. Just as in Galileo’s time, today we encounter the fierce guardians who protect and uphold the notion of the one and only true world of ordinary reality. These guardians fear the collapse of the world as we know it—if the doors were to open to the experience of life beyond ordinary reality.

These same types of guardians operate within the psyches of all of us. There are veils that protect our version of who we are, what’s happened to us, and what really exists in this world. In trauma we are jolted beyond the confines of ordinary reality into a state of heightened awareness. In the world of heightened awareness, time and space as we experience it in ordinary reality are suspended. Many people report that time slows considerably during a trauma, that very slow motion and a sense of clarity to each unfolding detail are experienced.

Heightened awareness changes the way we perceive reality...
Heightened awareness changes the way we perceive reality…

The laws of space and reason are suspended as well in the heightened awareness of trauma. People report being partially out of or completely separate from their physical bodies, witnessing the entire traumatic event from a great distance, often with a remarkable sense of detachment.

Once a trauma has completed, consciousness immediately shifts back into ordinary reality. Similar to emerging from a dream world state back into waking reality, the experience of trauma disappears like a quickly evaporating dream. The guardians of the psyche of ordinary reality return and go to work to fit the residue of the experience that won’t disappear into some reasonable story that fits the guidelines of ordinary reality, once again ensuring the sanctity and supremacy of ordinary reality—known as sanity.

Jan relates that in her experiences as a sexually abused child, as soon as she left her abuser’s world—walked back out through the veils and into ordinary reality—she left the traumatic event behind, but there were still physical and emotional residues to deal with. As a six year old, pain in the pelvic region or crotch was given a reasonable explanation, coming from too much bike riding, or later as a teenager from horseback riding. Sometimes, even before crossing back into ordinary reality, the pain had already settled in some other area of the body, such as in the arm or neck, also related to the trauma but much easier to bear, more acceptable than a pain in a most private part of the body that no one ever spoke about or was supposed to touch. Emotional pain turned to acting out and anger, as she blamed others for the turmoil inside that she could not fully encapsulate.

Ordinary reality does not permit a world where time and space are suspended and reason falters. So the guardians of ordinary reality employ forgetting, doubting, and revisionism to secure the borders from the irrational intruders of experiences of trauma, that is, heightened awareness and non-ordinary reality.

A Guardian of Reality...
A Guardian of Reality…

PTSD is the result of the collision between that world of ordinary reality and non-ordinary reality. In PTSD the psyche is forced into a state of hypervigilance as it attempts to keep at bay the intrusions of the experiences of non-ordinary reality into its perfectly reasonable state of ordinary reality. Society-at-large fears and denies PTSD because of the threat it poses to the supremacy of ordinary reality over all reality. Certain experiences just don’t fit into the perfectly reasonable world that the guardians uphold: “How could someone forget something like that?” “Repression doesn’t exist!” “It’s impossible to have sex with an infant!”

The current incidences of mass trauma played out on our world stage are rapidly pulling down the veils that the guardians of reason uphold, revealing the existence of powerful worlds beyond that of ordinary reality. In recapitulation we voluntarily undertake exploratory journeys into our personal experiences in non-ordianry reality: traumatic or otherwise. The challenge for all recapitulations of traumatic states of heightened awareness is allowing the truths experienced in those states of non-ordinary reality to be permitted into the knowing of ordinary reality, to accept the validity of other worlds within the self. It’s both a humbling and a terrifying process.

Doubt so often appears to undermine the knowing of the truths so overwhelmingly presented during recapitulation. Frequently the body replays, in excruciating sensory detail, the experience that occurred in the heightened awareness state of trauma. The nightmare of this trauma is relived in all its intensity to prove to the consciousness of ordinary reality that indeed it happened! Amazingly, doubt can disavow even such powerful experiences for a long time. Ultimately, however, as a supportive process of recapitulation unfolds, ordinary reality expands to include the truths stored in the timeless world of non-ordinary reality.

Eventually these two worlds merge into greater wholeness and we become beings less attached to a narrow view of the universe. Like Galileo, we become proponents of and explorers of a new universe, beings far better equipped to navigate and discover the deeper dimensions of infinity, the infinity of ourselves.

In many worlds,
Chuck

A Day in a Life: Always Change & Change Is Good

Seasonal change is inevitable…ice on the deck this morning…

Change is good. This is one of my favorite mottos. Change is good. Back in the days before I had done a shamanic recapitulation I had another, similar, motto that went like this: Always change. Back then I was suffering from PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), though I didn’t know this. But even so I knew that change was good, I just didn’t really know why, not on a deeper level anyway. Now I know that it was something at a deeper level that was stirring me to always change, PTSD acting as a catalyst that eventually led to self-discovery and real change. The form that change takes under the auspices of PTSD, however, is very different from change that takes place once freed of PTSD.

Back in the PTSD days, change came knocking in uncomfortable stirrings to move, to always change, to change my environment in some way, whether it be changing the furniture in every room of the house every few weeks or uprooting and moving to another apartment, another house, another city, another state, another country, another relationship. I did all of these things, under the auspices of always change, restlessness my constant companion. But something at a deeper level was always asking me: Why do I do this? Why do I have to keep moving and changing? Why can’t I just settle down?

I felt like I was running from something, that if I stopped in one place long enough whatever it was would catch up with me and that would be the death of me. For at some deeper level, I knew that death was what was chasing me—death in one form or another.

Now, on one level, this is true, for death is pursuing us all the time, reminding us that in the end it will get us. In my case, I sensed death differently, the stench of it deep inside me already. Although I didn’t know it, that smell of death—that I could never run far enough away from—was trying to alert me to what I carried inside me: a dying spirit, a dying innocence, a dying sense of hope, for these are some of the things that PTSD robs us of. Until we stop and face what the stench of death is trying to alert us to, we will constantly seek change in our outer world, to find just the right place where we will feel comfortable, safe, and at ease. I went into my late forties always changing before I stopped and faced what was pursuing me, the past that was embodied in that diagnosis of PTSD, a past I had no memory of.

Fires of change like kundalini energy burning through us…

When I first met Chuck, he presented me with those four little letters—PTSD. Oh, so that’s what’s wrong with me! At last I had a name for all that had driven me in so many unsettling ways, a name that felt right. “Yes, I get it, I suffer from PTSD,” I said to myself, “I just never knew it.” Now I had a home, a slot to fit into in the world, I had PTSD. But I would not stay there. I could not settle for long. I refused to be categorized, tagged and diagnosed, for always change was still my motto after all. And so I told myself to change, that change was good, that it was what I needed in order to heal. And so I began a changing, healing journey out of PTSD and into new life. Long and painful though that journey was I would not, in a million years, wish to live the way I used to live.

Now when I say that change is good, I’m talking about the deepest kind of change, change of the self at the deepest level, from the inside out. This involves letting go of everything that has upheld the world we’ve lived in—everything we’ve been taught and taught ourselves, everything we’ve believed and couldn’t bear to believe, everything we’ve created and controlled in order to be safe. This involves learning to let go of our judgments, resentments, fears, and regrets, opening instead to the truth of our infallibilities, our frailties, our imperfections, and our inflations. It involves discovering what it really means to be humble, to live simply, in balance with all of nature, taking only what is necessary. It involves learning to love ourselves so we can one day be available to love another, so we can understand what it means to be loved, and how to give and receive love on a far more expansive, interconnected level of consciousness, far beyond the needs of the self. It involves letting go of our ego selves, detaching from that which has held us in our defended states for so long, making way in the process for a new self. It involves allowing this new self to emerge out of the stench and fear of death that has encapsulated us in all of its forms and fully acknowledge that yes, death is the ultimate catalyst to evolutionary change. It involves discovering for the self what it means to be an evolving being, here in this lifetime to discover and resolve an evolutionary challenge, given another opportunity to get it right.

Opportunities abound, coming at many times throughout our lives. Our challenge is, indeed, to always change, to go with the flow of our lives, accepting full responsibility for where we are at all times, accepting that we are not perfect, that we are human beings, but also that we are evolutionary beings as well, spiritual beings seeking something higher, something far beyond our PTSD, our boredom, our fear, our self-pity and our hopelessness.

Seeking always a higher evolved self…

The deepest kind of change means facing who we’ve become and daring ourselves to become someone far more evolved, far more connected to life on this planet while striving always to become far more aware of the spiritual possibilities of all things, and far more aware of all life as sacred.

The creative, urging us on one level to do something about ourselves or our environment, stirs in us at all times. Perhaps we project it outwardly as I did, as an artist constantly creating something new, some new picture, sculpture, dance, play, music. But after a while a deeper creativity comes knocking, asking us to channel the ultimate creation: a new self. And you know what, it’s really okay to do that, to totally change and become someone new, for after all, in the end, it’s the evolution of the self that we’re all here to spur on to a new level. This is why, I believe, we’re all here—to always change—and such change is always good.

I am a changing being and so are you,
Jan