Tag Archives: trauma

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’s Place: Face, Feel, Absorb

Face the self and find the light... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Face the self and find the light…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

After the death of Alyce, his wife of fifty-some years, Elmer Green set about a recapitulation journey, revisiting many of the actual places they had journeyed to in their life together. He called this journey “encountering his Nostalgias,” a process of reliving previous experiences that he now fully faced, fully felt, and fully absorbed in energetic essence. As he neutralized each nostalgia in the process, putting it to rest, restoring the various landscapes of prior experience to their objective, present reality, he reclaimed the fullness of his energy in the process.

In fact, when invited to give a lecture in Philadelphia at Temple University, he refused the offer of a plane ticket and instead insisted on driving the distance from his home in Kansas in order to experience the nostalgias connected with a trip he and Alyce had taken along the same route in 1971.

“I don’t want to short-change those memories by…flying overhead,” he wrote in The Ozawkie Book of the Dead. As he explained further: “…I searched for and interrogated, and absorbed, nostalgias. Thus freeing Alyce from personality bonds and weight from me, and freeing me to live in the present rather than in the past.”

The shamanic practice of recapitulation does not require that one revisit the actual landscapes of one’s life experiences, as they are all deeply impressed in the subconscious landscape and body self anyway and can be accessed through shifting one’s focus to the details of those prior life experiences within, accompanied by the side-to-side sweeping breath of recapitulation. Nonetheless, as Elmer discovered, there is great value in returning to actual settings. The triggers of nostalgias brought on by travel provide an immediate opportunity to shift into a recapitulation, to relive and retrieve the golden energy entwined and ensnared in places and experiences of the past.

The emphasis on a willingness to FACE—to allow the self to open to the fullness of emotionally charged experience—is the first challenge. The adult self must take charge, exercise its volition and willingness to be fully present to what it might encounter as it takes the journey with its younger self.

Feeling: energy seeking release... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Feeling: energy seeking release…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

The journey into memory requires the fullness of FEELING—this is what distinguishes recapitulation from mere memory recall. Reliving means fully feeling the emotional energy stored in and attached to a nostalgia or memory, pleasant or traumatic.

Interestingly, nostalgic and traumatic memory can be equally potent in emotional charge, and equally split off and protected from conscious realization as well. It’s the intensity of the energies contained in the nostalgias and memories that we are protected from, until the adult self achieves the grounding and willingness to face and feel those emotional intensities. They are transmuted in recapitulation, disentangled from the persons and places of the past as they are relived.

In shamanic terms, this disentangled energy is freed to come home to the self, as Elmer points out, while also freeing others from being entangled with it as well. And in Kundalini terms, it is freed to rise to the higher chakras. It is cleansed, smoothed over, through the taming of the energies in the recapitulation process.

As the adult self withstands the impact of reliving past experiences, a light is shown upon the objective truth of those experiences. This includes a fuller view of who the players truly were in the experience, as the archetypal energies and dramas fall away, and only the truth remains.

The confusions, beliefs, and incomplete processing of a prior experience is finally allowed to be fully digested as the defensive casings fall away. What emerges is a factual knowing of the full experience, now devoid of emotional/energetic charge.

ABSORPTION is the next phase of the journey. Perhaps a child self, a child’s innocence, is finally freed to join the personality and enjoy its rightful place in the life of the personality.

Perhaps a nostalgic experience with a loved one, long held at bay because of withheld emotions of sadness connected with loss, will finally be allowed to be absorbed as ethereal love, which sends one deeper into a Cosmic journey. Fully absorbing the intimacy of a prior love frees one to go deeper into love, in this life and beyond.

Absorb: soak up, soak in, be absolved of... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Absorb: soak up, soak in, be absolved of…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

In either case, the energy once trapped in an experience is returned to the self in a living, unified way, as an outer experience becomes a neutral fact laid to rest, no longer an attachment that binds one’s energy to this world or to another being.

To Face, Feel, and Absorb all our nostalgias and traumas is to find the wholeness that will allow us to take our next journey in infinity, beyond our prolonged reincarnation journeys on this magnificent planet Earth. We are then ready to launch into new experiences and adventures in infinity, fully imbued with and capable of giving the deepest love.


Chuck’s Place: Journey To The Light

Are we ready to emerge from the bardos into the light? - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Are we ready to emerge from the bardos into the light?
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

This past weekend, as Jan and I immersed ourselves in Dr. Elmer Green’s The Ozawkie Book of the Dead, I wrote: “If we intend to live with abandon we must first fully relive with abandon.” This was in reaction to Elmer’s exposition of the depths of the subconscious that completely encloses us in the bardos* of our unrealized selves, unable to find our way to the light.

I was reminded of the many traumatized individuals I have known, through the years, who were unable to be helped by lamas in their Buddhist retreats to release attachment to the impact of their traumatic pasts through mindfulness training.

Though mindfulness can still the mind and the central nervous system, it cannot absolve one of the necessary energetic encounters with unprocessed traumatic experience dissociated in the body and the psyche.

I picked up A Path with Heart, by Jack Kornfield, off the bathroom library shelf and opened to the chapter entitled “Psychotherapy and Meditation” where Jack, the Buddhist monk, eloquently confirms my above observations.

The next morning, from the same shelf, I picked an obscure book that Jan had purchased some time ago, entitled Activation of Energy by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and opened to “The Place of Technology.” In this chapter de Chardin wrote, in 1947:

“…From the psychic point of view the earth would seem to be becoming progressively hotter, continually even more incandescent. If we consider not its harmony but its general intensity, the earth has never been through a phase to equal the present.” (p. 161)

At the crossroads, where we've been, where we're going, and what's next? - Photo by Jan Ketchel
At the crossroads,
where we’ve been, where we’re going,
and what’s next?
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Contrary to the Sunshine State’s recent ban on DEP officials using the term “climate change,” the truth is, global warming has us heated to a phase unequal to the past. And we find ourselves at an evolutionary crossroads as a result; the heat is boiling over everywhere. The challenge, as de Chardin describes, is for the light of consciousness to fully take charge of evolution now. But how will we bring light to the earth?

Last week, Netanyahu delivered an unprecedented speech to Congress, breaking ranks with all diplomacy as he anxiously expressed his unwavering position: Iran can never be trusted, ever. Don’t make a deal.

Obama responded to Netanyahu’s speech, saying that he heard no new ideas or solutions with this stay-the-course approach. In fact, the rise of terrorism throughout the world appears to be fueled in large measure by the powerlessness of this stalemate.

The other day, 47 Republican Senators wrote a letter to Iran warning that regardless of Obama’s negotiations regarding a nuclear arms agreement, Congress would undo any agreement when he left office. Some view this unprecedented behavior by the Senate as treason.

The heating up of politics and international tensions is part and parcel of the growing charge to humankind to shed truthful light on its problems and find solutions based on right action. There is no great God gonna come from the sky and make everything all right.

We are charged, just as we are in recapitulation, to find our way through the hazy bardos of our largely subconscious planet. In de Chardin’s first essay in Activation of Energy, “The Moment of Choice,” written at Christmas 1939 on the eve of World War II, he states:

“This will be the second time, then, in the span of one human life that we shall have known War. The second time, did I say? Is it not, rather, worse than that? Is it not the same Great War [WWI] that is still raging, the same single process: a world being re-cast — or disintegrating? (p. 13)

Well, here we are again. It’s not a new war; it’s a continuation of the same disintegrating process, heating up evermore powerfully, begging us to recapitulate, to face all the horrors and all the truths of our choices and behaviors since we took over the wheel, since we ate the apple in the garden from the tree of knowledge. We’ve been driving ever since and look where it has gotten us!

Are we going to wait until it's too late? - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Are we going to wait until it’s too late?
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Unless we face ourselves and act in the light of truth and consciousness the globe will continue to heat up under the stewardship of the dark side: greed and self-interest.

Yes, there are guides, angels, bodhisattvas, masters, all dedicated to helping us find our way to union with that light, but none of those entities can lift us out of the bardos into the light. We must boil in our bardos and free ourselves before we can benefit from such guidance. Channels broadcast messages everywhere, but do we listen? Can we listen? On what are we satiated?

When I posed these issues to the I Ching yesterday, I received hexagram #27 The Corners of the Mouth (Providing Nourishment). This hexagram is a picture of an open mouth. The real crux of the issue is, what will we put into our mouths and what words will come out of our mouths?

The bottom three lines of the hexagram refer to actions that seek nourishment for oneself alone: actions of greed. The top three refer to nourishment for others: compassion.

I received the six in the fourth place. Here the I Ching states: “…this line refers to one occupying a high position and striving to let his light shine forth. To do this he needs helpers, because he cannot attain his lofty aim alone. With the greed of a hungry tiger he is on the lookout for the right people. Since he is not working for himself but for the good of all, there is no wrong in such zeal.” (p. 110 Wilhelm translation.) The guidance here: turn the hunger of greed toward the light; bite through to the truth.

I also got the nine at the top. Here the I Ching states: “This describes a sage of the highest order, from whom emanate all influences that provide nourishment for others. Such a position brings with it heavy responsibility. If he remains conscious of this fact, he has good fortune and may confidently undertake even great and difficult labors, such as crossing the great water. These undertakings bring general happiness for him and for all others.” (pp. 110-11)

The guidance here makes it pretty clear that it’s time to do the right thing, to take full responsibility and cross the waters of our personal recapitulations just as the world, as a collective unit, must face the truths of the choices of its human nature and compassionately right the course.

Eventually we come into the light... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Eventually we come into the light…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

There are no saviors. We are the saviors. We’ve been charged with using our heated up planet, to use its light to make things right, deepening its journey into the light.

Journeying into the light,

* Bardos refers to the Tibetan after-death bardo states, but is intentionally used in a broader context to suggest that we are in the bardos all the time, in a confusing state of disorientation that we must come to terms with (e.g. in recapitulation) so we can proceed into new life and higher realms of consciousness.

Chuck’s Place: Acceptance

The seeds of who we might become... - Art by Jan Ketchel
The seeds of who we might become…
– Art by Jan Ketchel

Individuation requires the full realization of the seed of who we are. As the seed cracks open and begins its arduous journey upward, through the darkness of the earth, it encounters many obstacles on its voyage to the light of day.

Each seed will have a different journey, be it to stressfully twist around subterranean boulders or to find a quick ascent through loose sandy soil. The journey of each seed will uniquely shape its unfolding individuation. The journey of the seed cannot be separated from its flowering; every step of the journey must be accepted and included for the full realization of the individual. To reject any part of the journey is to literally cut off a limb of the truth of who we are and the truth of our complete journey.

Trauma is a crushing blow to a growing seed. Trauma will impact the journey to the light. However, trauma is a legitimate part of who we are and must be honored and welcomed into the fold of our wholeness if we are to achieve individuation and fully flower. Ultimately, acceptance means welcoming every part of our experience into our wholeness with open arms.

The challenge of acceptance is to allow all of our experiences to be fully known to ourselves physically, emotionally, and cognitively. The journey of trauma frequently requires us to shut down the knowing of our experiences so that we may continue to grow our infrastructure according to the dictates of the seed. At a certain point, however, the unfolding of the seed will require that we use our developed infrastructure, or adult self, to recapitulate the experiences of our lost self in order to gather our fuller self to take the next turn in the journey deeper into life, toward our fuller flowering.

Carlos Castaneda, of the shamanic world, suggested that we begin this part of the journey by suspending all judgments and allowing ourselves to gain pure access to our tucked-away, unfamiliar experiences as we recapitulate. Full access will require that we allow our instinctive self to come on line and reset our central nervous system. Peter Levine and Francine Shapiro, of the world of psychology, have made great modern strides in methodologies that value and access the body’s innate ability to both a) reset itself once consciousness is gained and strengthened enough to assume responsibility for lifting its old defenses and to b) fully join the deeper process of reconciliation.

Recapitulation means facing our fears and resolving them... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Recapitulation means facing our fears and resolving them…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

During recapitulation, the body will take us on a journey of physical sensation as it relives and releases from its frozen moments of trauma. The heart will release its sadness in tears and rages, in silent or violent gestures and screams. Our minds will clarify ancient frozen negative beliefs as we reset with the truth, aided by the fuller perspective afforded by the joining of the adult self with its younger frozen counterpart.

Popular concepts like “Letting go” and “Forgiveness” attempt to capture this process but actually miss the mark. Simply letting go and moving on offers no deeper compensation or healing value, as our deepest core issues, if not resolved, will lie festering, inhibiting fuller flowering and enjoyment of life.

During recapitulation nothing is rejected or reframed for more compatible digestion; all life experiences are equally valued and accepted as truths of our personal history, as valid parts of our individuation process—no regrets. Regrets alert us to issues of non-acceptance, signaling the need for deeper recapitulation.

Forgiveness presumes we hold some power over another’s journey that should be released for our own healing. All beings must reconcile with their own truths. No one can release another from the full burden and encounter with their own actions. The true mechanism of healing is to release the self of the burden of another person’s journey while fully reconciling and owning one’s own.

While fully accepting the impact of another upon the self, the energy of the other is released back to the other to reconcile for themselves. There is no obligation to that other. However, full completed release requires that there be total transparency and no emotional attachment to the events experienced with that other person; the truth simply is what it is. Full acceptance leads to emotional neutrality and the freedom to really move on.

Our full flowering potential awaits! - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Our full flowering potential awaits!
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Just as the shell of the seed is shed on its upward journey to the light, so are all emotional attachments to the events of our lives that have shaped and delivered us to now shed during recapitulation so that we may be fully alive and fully energetically available for the next adventure. The past—fully known, fully accepted, fully resolved, energetically and otherwise—recedes as we are freed to flower and experience the joys of new life.

On the ever-unfolding journey,

Chuck’s Place: Shamanic Tools Of Freedom

Freedom is the unmasking of the petty tyrant and seeing it for what it really is… - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Freedom is the unmasking of the petty tyrant and seeing it for what it really is…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

As a seeker and a therapist, I search for tools of freedom. Freedom is the ability to flow with life as it is. Life is flux—change—and with change always comes a wounding to that which once was. Woundings create fixations, protective shells of holding on, to that which was. Such fixations interrupt our ability to flow with life as it has become.

The shaman’s world accepts the inevitability of woundings and tracks the human tendency to fixate on judgment of the self for its woundings. These judgments take the form of self-blame or self-rage. Either judgment further infects the wound and alienates the self from the flow of life energy. The shamans are empathic to woundings but ruthless in their goal of freedom. Hence, they go to extraordinary lengths to uncouple from attachment to their woundings.

To break the fixation with wounds to self-worth, self-importance, or self-esteem, the Shamans of Ancient Mexico encouraged their apprentices to saturate themselves with the doings of tyrants who made their lives miserable. In order to free themselves from the effects of these tyrants, these shaman initiates needed to astutely study the tactics and behaviors of these petty tyrants to precisely plan and execute their defeat. If they allowed themselves to indulge in blame, shame, rage, pity, or self-defeat, they would lose focus, often to fatal outcome. Those shaman initiates learned to waste no energy on taking anything personally, but focused instead on staying present in objective reality. This was the path of freedom from their woundings.

Traumatic encounters are uninvited encounters with life’s harshest petty tyrants. Shaman initiates seek out the encounter with the tyrant, but innocent recipients aren’t given that choice. Whereas the shaman initiate is in an active playing field with the tyrant, in real time, the trauma recipient’s playing field is the field of recapitulation, the reliving of the trauma once lived.

The means of achieving freedom from traumatic fixation, however, is identical to the means of achieving freedom from all woundings. To complete the process, we must arrive at what the shamans call the “place of no pity,” for self and other. From this position, there is total clarity and total release, as the ability to be present for the full truth of what happened, and the full release of energies previously fixated by life interrupted, is achieved. This is the ultimate defeat of the tyrant: complete release from its grip and complete release from the protective shell of fixation. From this place of no pity we retrieve the journeying self. We shift and reengage in life, as it is. Freedom achieved!