Thursday, July 5, 2012

Trauma Victims and The Work

Samsara addresses Trauma Victims and The WorkI have been wanting to talk about this for a while but was only recently made re-aware when I wrote the article, "Engaging in Risky Sexual Behavior" at my website only to later address the ego and its functions here in "Attaching to Thoughts."

Both were in the context of a Byron Katie video that had a mother holding stressful thoughts about her daughter and her sexual behaviors. In the context of that video, mom makes the statement, "I had to live through her getting raped." And right on cue I went right to compassion for the daughter that superseded my already strong compassion for her life in the face of her mom's judgment on her sex life. I tended to agree with Katie in that her 'sexual behavior' could have been 'therapy.'

Trauma and The Work

So I think we can all agree that "Judging our Neighbors" for how they behave, when we dislike how they behave, is a stressful way to live. So that is a stressful thought and we use the 4 questions to enable that stressful thought to release its hold on us.

But what about when we are real live walking and talking examples of what a Trauma Victim looks like? What about, not just imaginary thoughts of what's going on in the life of another person and how that 'makes us mad', but those feelings and thoughts we re-experience from our memories of violation, abuse, or exploitation?
How in the world does The Work make it okay for us to have...
  1. ...been raped?
  2. ...been beaten by our parents?
  3. ...been locked up in an abusive facility?
  4. ...been systematically tortured in a P.O.W. camp?
  5. ...been sexually abused for 15 years by a family member?
  6. ...suffered through any other experience of human depravity?
Well, here we go. I just threw that gauntlet down didn't I?

Getting Over Trauma or "Just get over it."

I really loathe this phrase that seems to have turned catch-all. You have fear? Get over it. You're 3 yrs old and want a toy you see? Get over it. You are in distress cause things you need to go a certain way, do not? Get over it. Raped 2 years ago? Well it's been long enough. Get over it. Beaten senseless 5 ways til Sunday by your parents for 15 years? They were troubled people. Get over it. Locked up in a concentration camp decades ago? Get over it. Hand was cut off during your torture as a prisoner of war? I do not think many people would say 'get over it' to that because our collective human experience still very much values the body's importance over the mind. And I'm not getting into the ridiculousness of that here. But let your pain be psychological, emotional scars, or mental suffering or anguish? Yeah. "Get over it."
True Story. A friend of mine was sad and heartbroken and expressed honesty with where she was. A friend of hers - absolutely not familiar with The Work or clearly even how non-magical her phrase was - said, "Get over it." So my friend shares this with me. I said, "Did you ask her how?" Maybe they know how to get over it and so they assume you do too. But nah. Most people just say it cause they have no real help to offer. But I do, so let's get to it. [PS. My friend DID 'get over it' and it wasn't because I told her to.]

How The Work Can Help with Trauma

Part of my Story is that when I first bought Loving What Is in 2003, I hurled it across the room. And that is true. I got mad at it and I did hurl it. What particularly got me mad, though, was reading the book jacket and then - in the way I do a thing - testing it. Trauma and the WorkMy Ego said to me, "I bet she's going to avoid the really tricky subjects like sexual abuse. Watch." Well. When I found it in there, and read a little of it, although my Spirit was impressed, my Ego was not - and a hurling it went.

Thoughts like, "How dare she (Byron Katie) try to make this woman okay with her abuse!" And I loved this one, "Oh my God! She is advocating for Stockholm Syndrome!" Or this one, "She is one sick and twisted individuated personality!"

What's so cute that I would not be recognizing at the time is that a woman - a mentor I had - close to Katie's age who was a psychiatric nurse who 'everyone' just thought was some sort of guru due to what? Her silver hair or her secret addiction to narcotics that had people thinking she was naturally calm? I didn't allow her mentor-ship because I thought she was well-adjusted. I allowed it because she reminded me of my grandma. It hadn't been 2 months earlier when I'd taken a 4th step to her cause my A.A. sponsor was out of town. There had been one particularly traumatic situation in it that I'd not been able to successfully 'get over' and I knew it would be just a matter of time before I'd drink or cut myself...SO, I brought it to her. 

"What part did you play in your abuse?" W.h.a.t. t.h.e. f.u.c.k. was exactly how my brain responded. I answered her as honestly as I could though, "I was breathing?" in thinking there had to be an explanation or that I misunderstood. She wanted me to acknowledge my responsibility in 'this abuse.' It's kind of a haze after that. But the point is, I left feeling re-traumatized so that when I picked up Katie's book, I was still in THAT trauma of thinking someone was going to wax bullshit especially in this "Turn it Around" part.

So at least with "The Work" there is a simple 4 question plus turn it around process in which your friend or facilitator (or yourself) cannot deviate too far from. I envision it as basic reflection in which there is no opportunity for the ego to wrangle out of it. Of course, doing it with yourself - as in my case - can be more challenging this way until you are de-traumatized or have gained some clarity with which to 'see' your ego mind and its tricks.

For the traumatized or abused personality or for similar questions brought to Inquiry, it is more important than ever for your friend or facilitator to know what is going on. Or skip over this part and watch some Byron Katie videos in which she deals with trauma or abuse to get a sense of how gentle this process really is, despite what your mind may be saying.


Humility, Compassion, Clarity

Particularly with stressful thoughts arising from trauma or abuse, is why I advocate for you to always make sure - even if not doing 'The Work' per se - you are being met by a personality that possesses Humility, Compassion, and Clarity. But especially in doing the Work because your entire paradigm of victimization and trauma is at stake and you may well have a hard enough time with the Battle Royale between your sanity and your Ego. You absolutely do not need a personality - under the guise of helping you -  regress you.  

Read Facilitating the Work for an expounding on these qualities.

Honesty, Open-Mindedness, and Willingness

I did nothing wrong by bringing my honesty, open-mindedness and willingness to my grandmother figure friend. In fact, by being exactly honest, open-minded, and willing to really look to try to find where I was responsible for the abuse (in which I wasn't) gave me the growing room I needed in order to expand my way of looking at my thoughts about it. In this way, even the 're-traumatizing' was transmuted for my greatest good. And this is how The Work finally worked for me.

I am not responsible for any abuse I may have received in the past. But if I want to not have that pain in my brain in those moments I revisit whatever memory normally provokes me, I have to be honest with where I am.Being open-minded is of primary importance, too, because if I insist on defending my anger or fear or self-loathing, I will lose. I will lose peace and joy. Just be open to the process. Willingness is the ability to keep going in the 4 questions. If I stop, the process stops.

Read How to Approach the 4 Questions for an expounding on these qualities. 

Final Thoughts on Trauma & Abuse in The Work

Just because I get okay with 'something that happened to me' does not mean it's a condonable violation or offense. It is very important I understand that lest I turn 'my okayness of the incident' into the concept that 'I am okay with an incident continuing' or 'abuse is good.' This process is about getting free. This process is about allowing the stressful thoughts of an incident that we would have preferred - at the time - to NOT happen release their stronghold on us in the present. It's about not re-traumatizing myself over and over. It's about becoming free and that's why I love The Work.


  1. The Work is a great way to overcome the last dregs of abuse.

  2. Well, its good to know we have choice to go over it. If we still decided to hold up a bit more of the anger, pain and destructive emotions, it is our choice, we can replay the horror over and over. Until we get tired and decide we had enough.

  3. It is beautiful how this work proves again and again the philosophy that your thoughts determine your reality. How you see, so is the world you create. Thank you Katie for demonstrating this truth so clearly. So thrilled to be thinking in a new and empowered reality. Loving exactly what is right now. It's PERFECT!!


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