Does the key to healing from a traumatic event lie within your unconscious? According to the work in the 1895 publication, “Studies on Hysteria,” the answer is yes! What the authors of this work, doctors Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer discovered was that when they were able to take their patients through hypnoid states to recall traumatic events, the physical symptoms caused by the suppressed memories completely healed. It was a 100% success rate on symptoms that ranged anywhere from coughing, eating disorders, to paralysis.
Why is this relevant today? It’s actually more relevant today now that we have a much greater understanding and appreciation for the mind-body connection. A quick google search will pull up pages of clinical research explaining the effects that trauma has on brain and body development and chemistry. More importantly, it’s relevant to all of us because we all have things in our past that we try not to think about. Traumas, fears, anxieties, and stories we hold about ourself that we would rather not think about. It’s these very memories that are part of what many in metaphysical circles call Shadow Work. It’s taught that it’s not only important to bring these memories back to conscious awareness but to express and embrace the feelings that these memories stir up. For example, it’s one thing to feel the shame or pain caused by traumatic event, but it’s another thing to actually embrace the feeling. To be able to feel it and not label it as bad or negative.
This is something I had to do for myself recently when, “out of the blue,” I started experiencing a strange recurrence of old anxieties. It was about 8 years ago when I had my first dramatic bout with anxiety attacks. Through meditation and reconditioning, I was able to not only move through them but use my new mental skills to create some awesome successes and experiences for myself. However, what I would discover years later was that while I was constantly pursuing these new experiences, I never really took the time to fully express and embrace the shadow parts that still lurked underneath.
When the anxiety symptoms came back to me, I realized it was time to lean into what Buddhist meditation master, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche describes as the "sharp points" of myself. Instead of trying to create a new feeling within myself, I allowed myself to sit with the anxieties that had crept back into my life. I let myself feel the old fears of being alone, of being abandoned, of feeling like I wasn't worthy of love and good things. Fears that weren't exactly hidden but were definitely not embraced. Instead of turning to meditation to say, "no I don't feel you fears, I will just focus on the opposite of you," I allowed myself to actually embrace the fears. I let myself sit in loneliness and not feel like I needed to change anything at all. I felt afraid and I knew that it was OK. I had to now say, "alright Madeline, you've got these fears, let's fully embrace them."
“People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.” Carl Jung
It is true that the only fear is fear itself. If we are to heal from the very experiences that torture us, we have to face them. We have to be strong enough to go into our unconscious realm and bring to light the very things we are trying to avoid. Just as the only way to move through a fear of flying is to get on a plane, in order to heal from a trauma, you have to face the experience and allow the emotions associated with it to be expressed through you.
As Jung states, we all have unconscious energies that move through us and if any are repressed or resisted, they will continue to manifest in strange ways throughout our life. My encouragement for the rest of 2017 is to make sure you take time in silence. Allow whatever that wants to be expressed within you to be expressed. Sit with yourself, let your mind wander, and have a conversation with old memories. Lean into those sharp points and truly embrace these parts of you. As we now know, that is the only way you ever heal from them.