Friday, September 30, 2016

The Incredibly Messy Reality of Healing from Trauma

I've stated here before that I was severely traumatized as a kid. That is true. I won't go into the details. Doing so serves no purpose, and, bluntly put, it's no one's business but my own. But it is important to note the fact itself. Why?

Because the human race is drowning in trauma and the spiritual disease that results from it, and we will perish if we don't heal.

Think about what we've been through as a species. What we've put ourselves through. Just one aspect of it, maybe. Like war. Think about what it means that organized, state-sanctioned mass murder is accepted by human beings everywhere as normal. A really amazing author wrote a really amazing book on what killing does to a human being (a normal one, not a psychopath). It's a completely unnatural act, and it's a devastating one - for the perpetrator, the victim, the survivors, everybody. Then multiply that out the many millions of times that it occurs in our world. It stuns the heart and boggles the mind. Our world is drowning in it.

My experience mirrors that of the whole. So perhaps by relating this experience I can offer some benefit to those in need. Lord knows I could have used such a reconnaissance, but I never got that. As far as I knew I was an absolute trailblazer in terms of recovering from this level of trauma. In high school I knew other guys like me, guys who'd been hurt as bad as I had. But they didn't go to college like I did, they went to the military or jail or insane asylums.

In comparison to those guys I was lucky. Pay it forward.

I first got into therapy when I was 20. A bad breakup got me into it (funny how that can crack us like nothing else when we're young). However, it very quickly became apparent to me that I needed to deal with much deeper issues that underlay the profound sense of anger and sadness and fear and unease that had always been with me. I needed to address the abuse and neglect that I had suffered as a child. The appalling and total lack of love and connection that characterized my spectacularly dysfunctional family.

I jumped in. I didn't try and sweep it under the rug, pretend it wasn't as bad as it was. I just started doing the work.

And what work it was. Crying and shaking and shouting and hitting inanimate objects in rage. Feeling utterly consumed by rage, grief, and terror - all of the things I could not feel as I was actually undergoing the trauma. Letting it out. All of it, or as much as I could get to in a single session. Individual therapy. Group therapy. EMDR. Holotropic breathing. Meditation. Chi gong. Then, eventually, when the process had dragged on waaaayyy too long and my organism couldn't take the strain anymore, anti-depressants. Then 12-step programs, which, at their core, never even recognize the reality of trauma.

Fuck, what an ordeal. For over two decades I suffered like this. The means were insufficient to the end - healing a severely, fundamentally wounded human being. A statistical write-off, an outlier like me had the temerity to demand peace and happiness and fulfillment in this life, and neither the medicine nor the spirituality available in my culture could deliver the goods. Full. Stop.

I've talked about this before, my preparation and final journey to ayahuasca. What I've found in her fills me with a gratitude I can't begin to express. I wish I'd been ready for her 20 years ago. But, as they say, everything is always perfect, and I can't help but believe that my own life's trajectory also embodies this truth.

Ayahuasca is healing me of trauma. Completely. Not as quickly as I would have liked, certainly not as quickly as some of the absurd, irresponsible, marketing-driven nonsense on the Internet would suggest, but nonetheless effectively. And as I leave this phase of my life, the phase in which almost every day has been largely defined by PTSD and my attempts to cope with it and/or recover from it, I can't help but muse on my entire experience with it.

It has involved a huge amount of emotional release. Sobbing, yelling, smacking things, shaking in fear - a whole lot of very messy stuff. Here I am explicitly indebted to one man who showed me the effectiveness of emotional release therapy. And here I run up against one of society's most basic taboos - the honest, open expression of male emotion. When I was 6 years old I broke my arm. Fell off of a fence. The neighbor, a helpful sort who drove a truck and abused the shit out of his kids, came over to make sure I received the proper coaching - "Don't cry! Be a man!" But as marginal as this character was, he was enforcing one our culture's central tenets - men don't cry.

What a load of bullshit. And make no mistake - this is some costly bullshit. And some engineered bullshit. Refusing men their natural emotions turns them into caricatures - perhaps the thug, perhaps the eunuch, perhaps the poseur, perhaps the technocrat, perhaps the bum. Often the addict. But never, ever the whole man. And let us not imagine that our appointed overseers desire to have a race of men running around this planet, claiming their rightful sovereign authority over themselves and their families. Saying "No" to the vast loads of insane, totalitarian nonsense we are expected to swallow in this perverted society.

How I touched the third rail of our culture when I dared to undertake true healing! I left the reservation! And there were never any shortage of people to let me know how wrong I was for doing it. How fucked up I was for feeling my feelings. Sometimes they did it blatantly, literally telling me that it was  pathological for me to feel such intense sadness or anger. As if it were my fault. Sometimes they'd couch it in a feigned concern for my well-being - "Do you really think it's healthy to feel this sad? Have you thought about medication?" As if I had a choice in feeling these things or not. As if they deserved nothing better than being obscured by pharmaceuticals. One spectacular sort of dirtbag, one of the perpetrators/con men you occasionally find in an AA meeting, suggested that I was just talking about trauma as a way of manipulating people into feeling sympathy for me. As if I were like him.

That's the core of their reaction, always. Projection. There's nothing like honest emotional expression, especially "negative" emotions like sadness and anger, to set off buried trauma in others. And especially if it's a man doing the expressing. So it works like this:

1. One person expresses a "negative" emotion such as anger, fear, or grief.
2. The other person resonates on the same frequency because of some unresolved trauma in their own life, manifesting as an uncomfortable feeling.
3. To minimize their own discomfort, the second person makes the first bad and wrong.

It really is that simple. Once you see through it, you can't be tricked by it anymore. It has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them.

And it's a crime. It is keeping our species and our planet in bondage to dark forces. That vast pool of rage and despair that exists in humanity - that's what our overseers draw on to fuel their wars and their race hate and their social apartheid. That's what fuels their consumption machine that is consuming the planet - "I feel horrible. Maybe this new product will help."

There's only one way out - we have to let it all out. How perfect that ayahuasca is so effective at purgation. Don't be confused by the spaceships and the dolphins and the patterns and all the other stuff, if you happen to experience such things. What it's really about is expelling things - out of every orifice you have, out of your very organs and pores. Out of your heart and mind, out of your soul.

OK, that's not really true. Once you get enough of the garbage out of the way, you truly can receive divine instruction and power. But don't get it twisted. There's no way to avoid that first stage, the unpleasant one. Not if you're going to receive everything these master teachers have to give you.

Embrace it. Revel in the agony. Give the Devil his due.

Then move beyond it. That's important. It's possible to get stuck in the darkness, and that doesn't serve anyone. Please believe me when I tell you I have intimate knowledge of this danger. For me, navigating between the Scylla and Charybdis of squelching productive emotional release and becoming lost in a morbid version of it has been a tricky balancing act, indeed.

And the medicine helps me see this, helps me make the incredibly subtle and difficult decisions I must make during this process. God how I love it! I feel so in love with ayahuasca today - Mother Ayahuasca, Hoasca, Yage, Vegetal, Santo Daime - all of the many forms she takes. In every one of them she is cleansing and purifying and strengthening the soul of humanity.

I truly wish this experience for you, too.

God bless you, whoever you are.


  1. Hey great work and interesting articles. Do you have an email address I can send an email to? I had a couple of questions about the retreat center you went to and about daime and stuff. Thanks!