A Time to Begin Anew: Applying Lessons of the East

Jane A. Simington, PHD.

© May, 2015

Help me celebrate as much as you help me mourn.

sunrise

Many training and practice models designed to guide therapists use as a framework the three phases for healing trauma described by Judith Herman.1 The three phases are: Safety First; Remember and Mourn; and Reconnecting with Life. Clients often report however, that while their trauma experiences tore them apart, and their healing processes reshaped them in ways they themselves often did not recognize, their therapists paid little attention to helping them through the processes of Reconnect with Life. For them, that would often have meant claiming a new identity and taking major risks as they tiptoed through doorways of the numerous new beginnings awaiting them. Clients also indicated they would have perhaps moved further and more quickly along their journey toward transformation had their therapists helped them acknowledge the forward movement they had already made, and helped them recognize the signs indicating their souls were urging them to celebrate the healing they had done and that they were ready to reconnect with life in new ways. A number of years ago, one woman stated this clearly. “Jane, you must help me celebrate as much as you help me mourn.” In this article I will describe symbolic indicators of readiness to reconnect with life in new and exciting ways and I will offer strategies for affirming in ourselves and others progress made along the healing journey.

1)    Pay attention to the rhythms and the cycles of nature and align with these rhythms.

Some years ago a client commented how strange she found it that on each of her daily walks she seemed drawn in an easterly direction. Listening to her awoke within me a similar memory of a time following my son’s death, when regardless of the path I had chosen for my morning walk, I would end up heading East. I still recall the excitement in her responses as I described my discoveries of the significance of the East and the symbolic reminders it holds. She positively connected with the teachings surrounding the Teutonic Goddess Ostara, after whom the East was named. Ostara was celebrated as a Goddess of new beginnings because of her associations with dawn and springtime and therefore the increase of sunlight. In helping this woman recognize the connections between her internal rhythms and the energy of the East, I recalled how affirmed and validated I had been when during my own time of healing someone reminded me; “It is often darkest just before sunrise.”

I also remembered the “awe” of another woman, who had similarly related being drawn to the East when she related her discovery of the Medicine Wheel teachings associating the East with new beginnings. One of these teachings emphasizes the value of making a morning journey into the East to allow the goodness of the new dawn to enter our being. According to this teaching, the golden rays of dawn energize the energies required to live in wholeness.

The Medicine Wheel and various other cultural and spiritual teachings also associate the element air with the East. Based upon this, I love to encourage people to pay attention to the direction from where the wind blows so as to absorb the related teachings. Winds from the South remind us to pay increased attention to the maintenance of our physical strength; winds from the West encourage healing; the North winds bring wisdom and remind us to be grateful; and winds that blow from the East encourage us to welcome newness into our lives.

2)    Pay attention to the birds and other symbols of transformation.

In most ancient societies, people studied the natural world to understand themselves. This knowledge lingers within many cultures. One common belief is that birds are messengers from the spirit world. The Eagle, one of the noblest of birds, is placed by some in the East of their Medicine Wheel.  A rooster is also a symbol of a new beginning. To have one appear in a dream or in art work forecasts that a new day is dawning. The crowing of a rooster reminds us that from the darkness comes the dawn.

3)    Pay attention to the colors worn and the colors used in art work.

As we awaken to the powerful symbolism surrounding us, we acknowledge the many forms in which we are being provided guidance. We begin to see that colors are significant; we pay attention to their mirrored reflections and ponder the meanings of those reflections. On most of the Medicine Wheels, yellow is placed in the East, and is therefore the color associated with new beginnings and with the gaining of clarity. The color yellow resonates with the third chakra, the energy centre associated with risk-taking. When I feel drawn to wearing yellow or notice myself or someone else using a lot of yellow in decorating or in art-making, I believe it is important to ponder the color and its message of encouragement to take the risks required to move life in a new direction.

As we pay more attention to the symbolic messages being continually given and as we align more closely with the rhythms surrounding us, we acknowledge our capacity to recreate ourselves anew and welcome our journey into the East for we can now accept that we can transform ourselves and our lives, regardless of what we have been through.

 

1). Herman, J. Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence–from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror . Basic Books.

PTSD and Suicide Prevention Week

September 9-15, 2012 is designated as suicide prevention week. Many are asking how we can prevent the horrific statistics, such as those recently reported about the thirty-eight American soldiers who killed themselves in July, the worst month for suicides since the Army began releasing figures in 2009. Statistics about escalating suicide rates, for all age groups in the general population, are also alarming.

Since focusing on the causes, should always be the first step in any discussion about prevention, the relationship between suicide and trauma must be recognized. In light of this relationship, prevention strategies for suicide must be aimed at preventing traumas (such as is caused by childhood abuse and domestic violence), and when trauma does happen, the focus of suicide prevention must be on healing the effects of trauma on the body, mind, emotions and soul.

While many traumatized people experience most or all of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), there is more to PTSD than is usually discussed. I have worked as a trauma specialists since 1999 and now recognize that trauma can wound the soul. Many of the more than 4000 people I have helped heal from the effects of trauma have described how excruciating their soul pain and spiritual disconnection is. Most indicate that the soul pain is the most acute aspect of their suffering.

Many who have experienced trauma intuitively know that the traumatic event had created an inner disconnection causing a deep longing to again feel whole. Indigenous cultures believe that when trauma happens, a part of the soul can remained trapped in the place where the trauma occurred and remain there frozen in time. Those who feel they have left a part of themselves at the trauma scene often voice that their lives feel incomplete and empty and that they are plagued by dreams of searching and longing. For these reasons I believe that Post Traumatic Soul Disorder is the more accurate term to describe the symptoms of unhealed and difficult to resolve trauma.

The accumulation of symptoms, including the feelings of inner emptiness, can cause relationships to fail and make the life of someone who has experienced trauma seem unbearable and not worth living. Many turn to alcohol and drugs in an effort to numb this intense suffering. Others slash themselves knowing that the instant release of endorphins will momentarily ease their suffering. When these attempts no longer work suicide can seem like the only way out of their constant misery.

Some ways to prevent suicide include:

1)    Assess how much unhealed and cumulative trauma the person is experiencing (pay special attention to the history of repetitive childhood trauma and trauma involving sexual abuse).

2)    Assess for soul pain and spiritual disconnection as well as for emotional and mental concerns.

3)    Offer interventions that are more holistic in nature as versus only cognitive based therapies and pharmaceuticals.

4)     Guide and teach grounding and other safety techniques.

5)    Teach strategies for the removal of flashbacks and how to stop night terrors.

6)    Use deep imagery with a spiritual focus to help the person heal and reclaim their power.

7)     Use therapeutic art to help the person heal and to believe in them self again.

8)    Assist the person to reintegrate all aspects of their soul/self.

9)    Teach therapeutic energy work and have the person obtain energy- transfer treatments such as Reiki and therapeutic touch as a way to cleanse their energy filed and release stored cellular memories.

10) Help the person work with the dream messages being received.

11)   Assist the person in rebuilding relationships

In conclusion, I believe in the need to heal the soul pain of the person who has experienced trauma. When I do so, I see the light return to the windows of their soul, and I see the person’s excitement about being able to once again walk among the living.