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The Journey of Deep Healing

Updated: 4 days ago


The journey of deep healing can be very challenging, especially if you are doing therapy that regresses you to early childhood states in order to work through your attachment trauma. Early childhood attachment trauma gets wired deeply into the nervous system and thus is not easy to process. If your attachment trauma was severe enough to be considered Complex PTSD, then your journey is all the more challenging. It takes courage, humility, and persistence to build the trust and capacity needed to go to the extremely vulnerable places that are buried so deeply in our nervous systems. The implicit protective beliefs and behaviours that were wired in to help you survive can require very careful ongoing navigation and negotiation before your deepest traumas can be processed. 


Many of these subconscious protective beliefs are about trust and safety: I can’t trust anyone to be there for me or care about me or understand me. I can’t trust that it’s safe to let anyone in. Many of us on a deep healing journey (including yours truly) are wrestling mightily with these beliefs, holding onto them for dear life while simultaneously attempting to pull them apart. We wrestle for a very good reason: the pain from the loss of trust and safety is too vulnerable to bear, at least on our own. And therein lies one of the great thresholds of the deep healing journey, the threshold in which the belief that no one can be trusted meets the pain that we can not feel on our own.


For many of us, maybe most of us, there are deeper and deeper layers of this threshold to cross. And, each crossing gives us a fuller experience and understanding of what it means to need someone. It can be excruciating to feel so powerless and to need someone so much. And, it can be exquisite, almost sacred, to have someone there to hold onto and help you through your most vulnerable places. Safe, attuned, resonant support to feel all the way through deeply buried pain (whether that pain shows up as awful aloneness, burning rage, an ocean of grief, a vortex of shame, confusing sexual feelings, terror, panic, shock or dissociation) gives you the opportunity to truly repair the foundation of your nervous system and your psyche.  Whether or not we can repair all of it, is unknown to me. But every piece of repair makes a difference.


A deep healing journey is so difficult in part because the healing happens slowly, no matter how badly we want to break through, feel better, and get to the other side. Due to the various factors involved - the nature and severity of the trauma, the current circumstances of life (time, resources, lifestyle), the amount of internalized Solution* - it’s not possible to predict how long deep healing will take. The timing and approach can vary greatly from person to person. Sometimes, significant healing happens after 8 to 12 months of steady work. Sometimes, more time is needed.


If you implicitly learned early on and over many years of childhood that you need to be strong and tough and keep your vulnerable feelings to yourself, how could you possibly transform over a few months into someone who easily asks for help and lets others in and easily shares vulnerable things. If you grew up with years of criticism and judgment in a household in which the only acceptable thing to be was a “good boy” or “good girl,” a few months of therapy, no matter how deep it is, won’t turn you into someone who can easily make mistakes, give and receive constructive feedback, have a healthy relationship with your emotions, and easily be kind to yourself. If you grew up with corporeal punishment, unpredictable anger or explosive rage, sexual abuse, or alcoholism, it necessarily takes time to become someone who trusts and feels safe with others, maintains good boundaries, and knows how to stay present and attuned to what is happening in the body. If, as a young child, you were left alone or neglected; if you weren’t held much; if there was a lot of fighting between your parents; if you were adopted; if you experienced a great deal of loss; if one or both of your parents had mental health challenges; if your family constantly moved around; all of these experiences had profound impacts on the foundation of your nervous system and psyche.


Just as major repairs to the foundations of a house come with formidable challenges, so do the repairs to the foundation of your nervous system and psyche. Therapists who work with deep attachment trauma need to build a strong connection with their clients so that they can navigate together the destabilization that occurs while digging into and repairing the depths of the nervous system and psyche. You can imagine the level of trust that is required between therapist and client for this type of foundational healing. And, you can imagine the difference it makes if there is a trusted community also supporting the journey (more on that below).


Thanks to the necessary destabilization that occurs, it often gets worse before it gets better and remains an up-and-down path for a good length of time. That is how it’s been for me. It truly does take humility, courage, trust, and persistence to stay the course. But the rewards are more ongoing as well. Instead of big breakthroughs that give you a temporary boost and then fizzle out, there are small, significant, steady shifts that show up in your day-to-day life (sometimes after quite a bit of healing work, sometimes earlier on). Maybe you notice an increased capacity to be vulnerable with loved ones. Maybe your mistakes don’t throw you into shame like they used to. Maybe you are setting better boundaries and speaking up for yourself more often. Perhaps you are starting to realize how much your friends and loved ones mean to you and how much you mean to them. Maybe there is less need and desire for unhealthy habits. It could be that you discover more compassion for yourself and others. Gradually, you might become less reactive and more thoughtful and relational in your response to challenging events or interpersonal dynamics. Possibly, you find yourself caring more and more about what is happening in the world.


Because of the slow, incremental change with the deep healing journey, it’s important to notice and appreciate the small but significant shifts. At some point, the noticing, itself, becomes part of the enjoyment of the deep healing journey. Recently, I was discussing the up and down nature and incremental shifts of a deep healing journey with a friend of mine. She took in what I was saying, gave it some thought, and then said, “I guess I need to let go of the big bump theory.” Indeed. Hoping for a big bump of healing that takes you into a state of constant happiness and ease with life isn’t that helpful on a journey of deep healing. Moreover, so much learning, meaning, compassion, and depth would be lost with such a bump.


The journey of deep healing is centered around attachment, and attachment was never meant to be just a two-person game, or even simply a family affair. As I’m learning from Linda Thai and others, attachment is also about your community and culture, the land you live on and all the forms of life you share it with, and, for some, the cosmology that calls to you. I’m fairly certain that, for most if not all of us, the deeper the healing journey goes, the stronger and wider the net of attachment needs to be. Thus, if you’re choosing the journey of deep healing, take the steps you can take to connect more deeply with your friends, with your community, with the land you live on and the beings you share it with, with your culture, your ancestors, and, perhaps, with the spirit that flows through all of it. 


Just a few nights ago at three in the morning, after receiving a grueling PSIP session the evening prior, I called an early-riser friend on the East Coast (I’m on the West Coast) for help with the pain and vulnerability that were still working themselves out in my body and keeping me from falling asleep. A few years ago, I would have toughed it out on my own and likely not slept at all. As my friend offered me resonant and attuned emotional support, I was able to move through more of the physical and emotional pain and get to sleep shortly after the call ended. The next day, two other friends who knew I’d had a PSIP session the night before checked in to see how I was doing. The deeper I go into my healing, the more comfortable I'm getting with interdependence.


If you're reading this and thinking to yourself, "My childhood wasn't that bad; my parents loved me," consider how humans lived for eons. For most of human history, we were breastfed for years, we were strapped to our parents' backs, we slept together as a family, and we lived closely and interdependently with our tribe. Logistically and for the sake of survival, I can't imagine how babies could have been left alone to cry themselves to sleep. Without all of the distractions of modernity and, again, for survival, we would have had an intimate connection to the land we lived on and all of the life around us. Thanks to tribal rituals and customs, we would have had a deep sense of belonging and identity. Of course, there would have been family and tribal conflict, but I doubt there was any significant attachment trauma, and certainly none to the degree we have today.


After a scant ten thousand years, many people find it challenging to spend time with family members, develop deep friendships, or befriend neighbours. Many have no relationship with the land they live on, or to to their ancestors and the culture of their lineage. And all of this disconnection from others and from life limits greatly how much we feel connected to ourselves. Screens, substances, shopping, work, and the many other addictive options we have are failing miserably to make up for all of this lost connection while also keeping us from truly feeling the impact of our attachment trauma and from finding our way back home.


An extra note about PSIP


If you’re interested in PSIP, it’s important to know that one of the reasons that PSIP is such deep healing work is because it works comprehensively with dissociation, and it is under the dissociation that our deepest traumas are found. The very reason for dissociation is to cut off from unbearable experiences. Dissociation saves us from the overwhelming intensity of sensations and emotions, but it does so at the cost of our capacity to stay attuned to our bodies, to feel all of our emotions, to truly calm our nervous systems, and to be fully and authentically alive. Working through dissociation takes time and often leaves you at first more aware of your day-to-day dissociative states and then more aware of the emotions buried underneath. It can take many sessions to work through unresolved dissociation. The trust in the therapist (Solution*) needs to be well established to go all the way through dissociation. This is why and how things can get worse before they get better. And this is why it is so important to have resources and a wider net of attachment to turn to on a deep healing journey.


Read this article for more on dissociation.


Learn more about PSIP at https://www.psychedelicsomatic.org/


*Solution is a fundamental part of PSIP. To learn more about Solution, watch this PSIP case

study. If you are a PSIP therapist or student in the PSI Apprentice Training and would like to read my article on Solution, please contact me at eric@roadtocompassion.com.





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Cath Ellis
Cath Ellis
21. Juni

You mention "humility courage trust and persistence" to stay the course but no mention of finances. You could spend considerable $'s building this trust with a therapist and then find that the therapist does not have the skill, knowledge or experience to deal with the dissociative type trauma. Well that is what happened to me 2 and a half years in when the trauma became intense and difficult to express the therapist was floundering. I had humility courage trust and persistence but I didn't know at that point in my journey that I have the dissociative type trauma. They all say they treat trauma though. I know now what type of trauma I have but its taken a lifetime …

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