I wrote about how my old traumatized identities of Fragile, Isolated Victim-Body and Urgent Hypervigilance were shifted by the catalysts of my animal companion and chronic exhaustion.
I have one final traumatized identity shift to describe, and then I will take the discussion beyond trauma identities.
I will try to describe the spiritual possibilities that opened up once my body knew how to find its way back to safety.
Old Identity: I am a damaged victim.
Identity-Shift Catalyst: Long term trauma healing work.
This identity was so immersive that it took decades for me to acknowledge it.
Since childhood I had a default sense of myself as damaged and subject to endless suffering.
Frequent experiences of physical pain and discomfort have even led me to feel oppressed by my own body.
Identities co-arise with worldviews (“I am like this; the world is like that.”). My co-arising worldview was that life is merciless.
While many things have conspired to shift this identity, decades of trauma healing work have been key.
My trauma healing journey has involved establishing healing relationships with animals, somatic practitioners, therapists, spiritual teachers, herbalists, bodyworkers and acupuncturists, engaging with learning communities.
Discovering which healing practices work for me.
Grace—Life as trickster–has also been integral to this identity shift.
Upsets such as car accidents, deaths, loss, illness and unexpected difficulties of all kinds unearthed my hidden traumatized identities.
Grace has given me ample material to apply my practices to!
A Paradox of Trauma Healing Work
While every part of my journey has been valuable, identifying as a trauma survivor is limiting.
The paradox is that years of intensive focus on trauma healing subtly reinforced my victim identity, the sense that I am someone who needs rescuing or fixing.
A significant layer of victim identity dissolved when I declared that I would no longer victimize myself with self-criticism.
This declaration cleared some shame, and revealed inner spaces of energy and opportunity.
New worlds beckoned.
Identities co-arise with world views.
When worldviews appear, new identities arise:
I can now see myself as resilient and adventurous, more curious and contented. I am quick to notice the safety and goodness in my life, to feel joy and gratitude.
It’s possible to simply enjoy breathing, moving, playing with zee, taking a shower or reading a novel. I find myself letting go of effort and struggle.
What Lies Beyond Traumatized Identities?
Once we are confident that we can soothe our reptilian brain when it gets triggered*, the journey is not over. Our adventure has just begun.
What lies beyond traumatized identities? More identities, of course! We humans perpetually reconstruct our sense of self.
One post-trauma identity which emerged for me was “I am attracted to silence and contemplation; meditation comes naturally to me.”
This new identity thrills me.
Yet the spiritual journey is all about releasing all identities, even this one.
To go from a victim identity to a healthier/happier identity certainly builds positive momentum.
But even the “best” identity must eventually yield to either (depending on your philosophical perspective), identification with the Divine or no identity at all.
Infinite Inner Adventures
We never arrive. We never stop. Identities are shed as we go.
The relaxation that comes with trauma healing yields to even deeper relaxation: a relaxing of the sense of self, a relaxing of worries and fears.
We rest more, ground more, expand more. No arrival. A deeper relaxation awaits; there is always more ease to embody.
The “enlightenment” that many seek could be described as bottomless, infinite relaxation.
What else lies beyond our traumatized identities? New possibilities.
For me, recent identity shifts have been accompanied by capacity shifts that support deeper dreams and inner adventures.
When I lie down to rest, when I sleep, inner vistas appear:
I am tiny enough to slip into a rough rose quartz crystal. Welcomed into its coarse softness, I enter its molecular structure. Further in I find an exquisite rose-pink cloud.
Within that lies an even finer essence. Then, how lovely! this innermost essence dissolves.
Emerging from an instructive dream about the translucent eye/gaze that has been “under construction” in my forehead for decades (but that is another story).
“Look,” whispers the dream, “whatever this gaze rests on—be it a thought, negative or positive, an object–wherever this gaze rests, within or without– it penetrates. Merely gazing at something dissolves it.”
I wake with a sense of simple, direct liberation.
Lately, a waking phenomena. If I am quiet enough to pay attention, I inhabit a gaze that is kaleidoscopic, penetrative.
A hushed, inquisitive energy peers into the particulate structure of the objects of my gaze.
A soft tumble into these objects; they delightedly display their inner qualities, and…melt.
This relational gazing-dissolving is wonderfully quiet and quietly wonderful.
This tumbling in, falling in (love) also happens in the presence of other beings.
When I spend unhurried time with my parrot companion Zee, a peripheral awareness beckons, inviting me into Zee’s senses and her experience.
When I relax and answer this invitation, time slows, matter diffuses. I am a sensitive being, intimately relating with a subtler world.
Zee’s perception is rich, substantial. Sequential time unfolds within expanding moments.
As I join Zee in her space/time, her shoulders relax; she rests against me.
Often now, my eyelids close as I sit with clients. Ease. Restful gaze, seeing wholeness.
Mary Oliver’s poem, Wild Geese, says, “The world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–”
Inner worlds— wilder worlds than I ever imagined, call me in and in…
Catalysts for Trauma Identity Shifts
I suspect that none of this would have flowered without the–unasked for, unwanted (!)–free time and extreme fatigue that seized my attention.
Exhaustion forced me to give up my entrenched survival habits of external focus, struggle, hypervigilance, hyped up adrenaline-cortisol as a way of life.
There has been a development process, midwived by fatigue, Grace, etc., further nourished by sufficient space, time and stillness for me to *notice* opportunities for new capacities to fledge.
I look back on my life and see the enormous pain and difficulty I have carried, and my narrow, miserly worldview. Somehow this worldview has morphed into a surprisingly generous perception. How did this happen?
Wonder asks, “What is good? What is bad, what is misfortune when all that has come to pass has led to this sweet gaze?”
This multiply betrayed, heartbroke, freefall-of-a-woman has landed on clouds of trust.
Trust in the innate goodness of what is.
Trust in what unfolds, what I am drawn to, what my soft animal body loves.
Trusting vastness to hold me.
*The goal of Phase One of the trauma healing process is to become confident that we can soothe our reptilian brain when it gets triggered.
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