Tantra, Trauma, Therapy, Transformation and Transfiguration
My definition of trauma is an external influence that causes a disruption in the healthy evolution and unfoldment of the soul - individual and collective. This can be an event such as a rape or accident. It can be developmental both in the sense of a missed stage of evolution - for example emotional bonding with parents; and in the sense of environmental factors - for example growing up in a sexually repressed religion. It can also be systemic which is why I mention the evolution of the soul and not the personal body mind which is simply part of the soul.
For the soul, growing up in a post-modern materialistic world where the soul itself is repressed and actively attacked is itself a fundamental trauma. Most developmental psychology deals with the evolution of a healthy body/mind personal identity and has as its goal a healthy well adapted ( to an often toxic culture ) individual who may then undergo transpersonal levels of awakening having a safe developmental container to hold the awakening. A more transpersonal approach sees the soul first and makes its evolution primary and then seeks to develop a healthy body/mind that is free of outer environmental or cultural conditioning to express it through.
When a traumatic incident occurs it tends to affect identity in one of two ways. It either draws in a piece of self so there can be an over identification with the wounding - i.e. ‘I am an incest survivor’. Or it results in a disassociation of the identity by repressing the event or projecting it out and identifying with the opposite pole - wounded healers do this alot.
Many therapeutic psychological approaches tend to work with the identity by either hearing the underlying wounding and helping them disidentify from it ( in the case of the first example ) or helping the identity feel safe enough to face what has been repressed or rejected ( in the second ).
Transformational approaches like Tantra ( on a good day and in the hands of an awake guide ) also include practices that attempt to get underneath the identity or reach deeper into it. Shamanic practices like breath work, ayahuasca, erotic activation etc understand that the matter which makes up body, emotions, mind etc is itself sentient and wants to heal if it is given energy and opportunity.
These practices activate kundalini as one of its many layers and can bring up repressed material to the light of awareness. Other practices attempt to activate higher or deeper levels of the consciousness self - soul and spirit. These can give a greater level of perspective to help lift the wounded or constrained identity into a more unified whole. Spiritual work without shamanic embodiment practices can result in more disassociation and spiritual bypass. Shamanic work without psychological integration and a sensitivity to the soul can result in activation of trauma ( whose repression is often psychologically intelligent and supported by the soul ) without healing.
The debates between the Therapeutic approach and the Transformational I have heard both sides of for thirty years. They tend to go like this: The therapists accuse the transformational types of being cowboys or something similar - showing a lack of care for the consequences of their approach which can result in powerful experiences but also result in contraction and trauma. The therapists often see themselves picking up the pieces as a result of the transformational approach and providing the safe container for integration or putting back together of the psyche.
The transformationists counter that they are doing more good than harm - 'better to burn than sleep’ and they are suspicious that therapists are often embedded in the materialistic minded culture that they are seeking to liberate people from and may have an unconscious invested interest in long term therapy because it feeds their belief systems and bank accounts. One side demands accountability, codes of ethics, oversight groups and peer reviews. The other side advocates freedom from containers that are often embedded in shadow control, turf and money issues.
When the system comes they often seek new frontiers.
While these debates can no doubt be healthy and gradually bring issues in the shadow of both sides into the light - they can also be as unproductive as the gender wars and just increase polarity and separation. It makes much more sense to me to find the deeper ground. That ground for me is the love which is shared by those who have done both their transformational and therapeutic work. They have woken up and cleaned up. They are anchored in the soul and care abut the soul evolution of others. Some may tend to the transformational approach but they then support and recommend good therapists so that integration work of the transformational experiences can occur. Some tend to the therapeutic and practitioner approach but they support and recommend transformational experiences when the time is ripe for the individual. Both have freed themselves from the underlying systemic trauma of a culture that demands sacrifice of the souls inherent love and freedom in the name of fitting it, getting a job, serving the system, and so called psychological health that is actually antagonistic to the soul development.
For myself I prefer an approach which is transfigurational. This does not start with the presenting identity of the body mind self or the transpersonal self of the soul. It arises out of emptiness and the seeing of each individual as essentially that at the core of an invincible and eternal spiritual essence that has clothed itself in a transpersonal soul and then an individual body mind. We draw out of people what we see and what we are. Where we look from affects what we see and the effect of our gaze. By calling forth the spirit aspect of a human being we do not see them as wounded or needing support in their essential nature. Their ever present eternal innocence and power is evoked. This then flows into the soul and results in strengthening their emergence.
As the soul emerges through the personal body mind it pushes out whatever has been wounded or dysfunctional from within. This is the opposite approach to therapeutic models that try to work from the outside in, peeling away the layers of the onion around the trauma. By reaching into the parts of the human being that are unaffected by whatever has happened in their environment a transfigurational approach calls on the original blueprint that can reset the system at the same level of intensity as was present when the trauma was created. This approach uses shamanic and spiritual presence together like a defibrillater that can kick start the system and charge the heart. This approach is not right for everyone being more effective when the soul is ripe for it. It also does not deny or negate the very real experiences in the body mind and soul of suffering and vulnerability. Indeed the paradox is that only the invincibility of the spirit can meet and merge with the intense vulnerability of what it is to be human. We also live in a western world that has made self indulgence, narcissism and victim mentality a corner stone of resistance to the emergence of the planetary soul. Materialism including spiritual materialism is a prevailing ever-present mummification of the human spirit. Tantra is not much more than a new business model for many.
It seems important to remember that our very understandings of what it means to be whole and healthy are embedded in our own level of identity and experience as well as in the culture and conditioning of the society we live in. We don’t know what we don’t know. Sometimes one person’s trauma is another person’s freedom and the approach we ourselves need is perhaps not fitting for someone else either because of their inherent nature or the stage that they are on in their journey. Rules for interaction with other human beings when there is a heightened potential for harm are important. And there will always be those who operate outside these rules, listening to their own instincts for better or worse. These are the dangerous people who can leave tragedy in their wake. They are also the people who can change the world. When we get together in synergistic ways that birth a culture anchored in the human spirit we are an unstoppable wave and a transmission of the evolutionary life force.