Great article by Paul Levy (a pioneer in the field of spiritual emergence, and a healer in private practice) regarding psychiatric abuse (psychiatry’s invalidation of trauma and protection of the abuser). Psychiatry makes the sane ones.. the sick ones, the invalids (the in-valids).
I am a survivor of severe psychiatric abuse. There was a year or so in the early 1980’s when I was in and out of psychiatric hospitals at least four times. During my visits to the hospital I was in the midst of a spiritual awakening that I was struggling to contain that was triggered and complicated by extreme psychological abuse at the hands of my father, who was a very sick man. I was suffering so deeply from the psychic violence perpetrated upon my mother and me by my father that it was making me “sick.” One of the most difficult parts of my ordeal in the hospitals was not being listened to by the psychiatrists, either about the abuse by my father or the spiritual awakening. Spiritual emergences/emergencies oftentimes become activated because of a deep experience of wounding, abuse, or trauma. In its initial stage, a spiritual awakening can look like and mimic a nervous breakdown, as our habitual structures of holding ourselves together fall apart and break down so that a deeper and more coherent expression of our intrinsic wholeness can emerge. The spiritual awakening aspect of my experience was so off psychiatry’s map that it wasn’t even remotely recognized. Instead of hearing me, about either the abuse or the awakening, I was immediately pathologized and labeled as the sick one. Being cast in the role of the “identified patient,” I was assured that I was going to be mentally ill for the rest of my days, as if I was being given a life sentence with no possibility for parole, with no time off for good behavior. The fact that I wanted to dialogue about this and question their diagnosis was proof, to the psychiatrists in charge of me, of my illness. The whole thing was totally nuts. Fully licensed and certified by the state, the psychiatric system’s abuse of its position of power was truly unconscionable. What the profession of psychiatry was unconsciously en-acting was truly crazy-making for those under their dominion. I was lucky to escape the psychiatric world with my sanity intact. Many others are not so fortunate.
Psychological abuse is debilitating and it’s harder for people to understand. If he punches her it’s very easy for her to say, ‘That’s violence and it’s not okay.’ It’s easier for her to seek help.
But psychological abuse is sick and twisted, manipulative and subtle.
“It’s a beginning of understanding why traumatized people have such a hard time with mindfulness and why mindfulness in principle doesn’t work for traumatized people” Van der Kolk had sent many of his highly traumatized patients to do mindfulness exercises with Jon Kabat-Zinn and found that many of them were returning in a state of upset and agitation”
.“As they became silent and started to pay attention to themselves, they get overwhelmed with the physical sensations and they would flee, because being mindful means that you get confronted with your internal world.” In other words, the sensations of the internal world can be so intense that, lacking the tools to work through those sensations, people dissociate during mindfulness exercises. This is not limited to mindfulness exercises but happens in other types of movement, meditative, or healing practices, such as qigong, yoga or massage”.
“Now, many people who don’t know a lot about trauma think that trauma has something to do with something that happened to you a long time ago. In fact,the past is the past and the only thing that matters is what happens right now. And what is trauma is the residue that a past event leaves in your own sensory experiences in your body and it’s not that event out there that becomes intolerable but the physical sensations with which you live that become intolerable and you will do anything to make them go away.” (Bessel van der Kolk)
Last week, during a two-day deep cleaning/paint prep binge (see the kitchen ceiling to the right!), I listened to a recorded talk by Bessel van der Kolk given at the May 2011 22nd Annual International Trauma Conference. The title of van der Kolk’s title is a mouthful: “Putting neuroplasticity into clinical…
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Looking at our capacity for expansion after overcoming adversity
Post Traumatic Growth refers to positive psychological change experienced as a result of adversity and other challenges in order to rise to a higher level of functioning. (Wikipedia)
Many scientific studies have shown the negative impact that stress and trauma have on our physical, mental and emotional health. Experiencing suffering or trauma does not necessarily mean that what comes after the event is a damaged or dysfunctional life. While coping with traumatic events, some people discover their ability to grow in ways they hadn’t before.
Psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun at the University of North Carolina pioneered the concept and they were the first to coin the term post-traumatic growth in 1996. The Posttraumatic growth (PTG) theory’s research shows that significant development occurs within the context of loss and pain.
The most consistent benefits shown are increased personal strength, self-confidence and determination. Closer relationships and compassion towards others is another positive change that signals PTG, as well as a greater appreciation of life in general. An individual’s priorities and philosophies can change for the better, and they can experience a deeper spiritual connection. Another PTG benefit is that people perceive new opportunities that are available to them after trauma.
This does not imply that an expectation should be placed on an individual to live a radically “improved” life after trauma. The opportunity for expansion is possible, but there are many factors that can influence how a person manages through crises.
The Importance of Engaging with the Trauma
According to Tedeschi and Calhoun, “certain kinds of personal qualities – extraversion, openness to experience, and perhaps optimism – may make growth a bit more likely. The degree to which the person is engaged cognitively by the crisis appears to be a central element in the process of posttraumatic growth.
The individual’s social system may also play an important role in the general process of growth, particularly through the provision of new schemas related to growth, and the empathetic acceptance of disclosures about the traumatic event and about growth-related themes. Posttraumatic growth seems closely connected to the development of general wisdom about life, and the development and modification of the individual’s life narrative.”
Spiritual teacher and author of the seminal book Be Here Now, Ram Dass, suffered a massive stroke at age 65. The grace and wisdom he gained from this experience is a poignant example of posttraumatic growth. Author Sarah Davidson recounts listening to the first time Ram Dass spoke publicly about his loss of faith after his stroke: “Everyone saw me as a victim of a terrible illness. But what happened to my body was far less frightening than what happened to my soul. The stroke wiped out my faith.
In the following months he began to look at the effects of the stroke in a different way. He had been deeply humbled by the compassion of others, and he had learned what it was to be dependent instead of being the one who helps.
The stroke was giving me lessons, advanced lessons. It brought me into my soul, and that’s grace. Fierce grace. – Ram Dass