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Trauma-Worlds and their Transformation: Moving beyond a life built around fear, dissociation and shame

When we suffer emotional wounds, survival systems are activated in our minds and bodies. Built around fear, dissociation, and shame, these systems change how we feel, think and behave. In the short term the changes are protective, but in the long term they distort our internal reality and create terrible suffering. I call the distorted inner reality a ‘trauma-world’.  

In this presentation I describe trauma-worlds, the protection they offer and the suffering they create. I then explore how we can transform trauma-worlds, and move into a more conscious, vibrant and self-compassionate life.

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Persephone’s Tor (in Women on Nature)

This personal, biographic essay tells of of an archetypal experience on Dartmoor, inspired by a Marion Woodman/BodySoul Rhythms retreat I was attending at the time.

It is one of over 100 essays in a wonderful collection of women’s writing on nature.

Available at all bookshops.

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Meeting ‘The Death Mother Archetype’

I’m delighted to have been a guest on Sara Avant Stover’s podcast. We had a rich conversation about the Death Mother.

The archetypal Death Mother symbolises not a women per se, but rather the energy of ambivalence, negativity or hostility which can, at times, become alive in a mother.

In this wide-ranging conversation Sara & I explore Death Mother both from the perspectives of both human evolution & Jungian or depth psychology. This was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to move between these two layers of my work & if felt very rich to me. I hope it will be of value to listeners.

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The World of Trauma – on Circle of Insight Podcast

I was delighted to have been a guest on The Circle of Insight podcast..

I had a wonderful conversation about trauma, its creation and the worlds that form around it.

Dr. Carlos, the host, is a really interesting and interested man. It was a rich and vibrant exchange about psychological trauma.

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Being Human Podcast

An exploration of trauma and its healing. The conversation – which felt rich and alive – addressed questions such as how to define trauma, the trade-offs that come into play in the wake of traumatising events (and their roots in evolution), the difference between healing and curing trauma, the magnitude of childhood wounding.

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‘What makes emotional trauma? Fear, disconnect and shame.’

When we experience overwhelming pain and fear, we develop an unconscious conviction that our life is at risk. As a result, survival systems are activated in our minds and bodies and we move onto a different developmental path to the one we would have followed had we not been traumatised. We begin to live our lives from within a ‘trauma-world’.

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How to Understand and Heal Emotional Trauma (Royal Society of arts)

We are becoming increasingly aware of how widespread trauma is, and of the huge costs it imposes not only on individuals and their immediate communities, but also on society more generally. But there is a great deal of misunderstanding about trauma, and we need to develop far greater clarity if we are to work with it more effectively.

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Understanding and Healing Emotional Trauma

When we are emotionally traumatised, our inner world is built on the unconscious conviction that aspects of our physical, emotional or mental survival are at risk. That leaves us no choice but to experience ourselves and others in ways that create new layers of suffering. Healing requires we enter into this trauma-world and change it form the inside.

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Trauma-worlds and the wisdom of Marion Woodman

Growing up traumatised our lives become rooted in a different reality – one I’ve called a ‘trauma-world’. Marion Woodman’s work can help us to bring trauma-worlds into consciousness. Additionally, the BodySoul Rhythms® approach that she developed together with dance educator Mary Hamilton, and voice coach Ann Skinner, can help us to move beyond trauma-worlds into a healthier reality.

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The Death Mother as Nature’s Shadow: Fostering compassion and healing through an evolutionary consciousness

Why might a woman feel ambivalent or hostile to her child? After all, isn’t it natural for mothers to love their children unconditionally? An evolutionary perspective challenges these assumptions. The situations faced by ancestral mothers sometimes made abandoning a child inevitable. Recognising this fosters compassion for struggling mothers today, as well as greater understanding of the trauma carried by their children.

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The Death Mother as Nature’s Shadow: Infanticide, Abandonment and the Collective Unconscious

Why might a woman feel ambivalent or hostile to her child? Isn’t it natural for mothers to love their children unconditionally? An evolutionary perspective show that the challenges faced by ancestral mothers sometimes made abandoning a child inevitable. Recognising this reality fosters compassion for struggling mothers today, and greater understanding of the trauma carried by their children.

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Confronting Death Mother – An interview with Marion Woodman

I Interview Jungian analyst Marion Woodman about the archetypal Death Mother. Death Mother’s gaze, when directed at us, penetrates both psyche and body, killing hope and turning us into stone. Eventually this state permeates our cells, causing our body to turn against itself. We may become physically ill.

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Being Animal

I knew that I was an animal. I had studied ecology and understood that I was part of the web of life. I had studied evolution and understood the processes that had forged humankind. But my understanding came from books, and it was not until I lived in Tanzania that it became real to my own body and mind.

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My animal body

How my understanding of the world and my place in it, was forever changed by moonlight and mosquitoes.

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‘Authenticity – are you being real?’

When [healing] experiences unfold organically and we live them through our body, the memory of that experience is written into our being in a way that can change us. It is one thing to think or imagine ‘X’ or ‘Y’, and quite another to know it in our nervous system, muscles and bones because we have lived it.

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Attachment: A modern evolutionary perspective and its relevance to psychotherapy

Bowlby rooted attachment theory in studies which explored how evolutionary forces influence behaviour. In the fifty years since Bowlby’s paradigm changing insights, research in this field has blossomed. Introducing this more recent evolutionary thinking into attachment theory, not only enriches Bowlby’s work, but also expands understanding of childhood relational trauma and its enduring impact.

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How evolution can help us understand child development and behaviour

The ‘nature-nurture’ debate has been laid to rest. We know that genes and environment are inextricably linked. Yet few are asking why these links exist, and why they can sometimes lead to developmental patterns that end up creating suffering. These questions can be fruitfully addressed if we introduce an evolutionary perspective.

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To move and be moved

It was a gift to feel that acceptance of my body. I was grateful for the work I have done with my shame. My body had a target for shame and although I have felt my relationship with my body slowly changing, on Saturday I discovered how deep that change has been.

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Trauma-Worlds and their Transformation

When we suffer experiences that are emotionally damaging, survival systems are activated inside of us. These systems are built around fear, dissociation, and shame. They change how we feel and think about both ourselves and others. They also change how we behave. In the short term these changes are protective, but in the long term they create terrible suffering. Indeed, as the changes are incorporated into both our minds and bodies, we start to live from within a reality that is distorted, self-critical and dulled. I call this reality a ‘trauma-world’. In this presentation I’ll describe trauma-worlds, the protection that they offer and the suffering that they create. I’ll then explore how we can transform our trauma-worlds, and move away from their distortions towards a more compassionate and vibrant life.

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