[09/18/23] Mind-Body Monday: Doorways to Trauma and The Minefields Of Our Minds
Hello my loves, my name is Casandra MacAlan, I am the creator of Thought Pain Therapy and I am excited to have you here today!
I am going to be introducing two concepts that I have personally developed based on Spiritual Psychology. These tools have helped me tremendously, dealing with not only my pain and trauma but also the toxic stress and mind-body suffering of those I work with.
Many years ago I developed a way of looking at my trauma that helped me understand how so much of it (based on my reactions) could actually be hidden from me. How, I could have unknown, motivations for behavior and responses that showed up on a scale of anywhere from: well, that didn’t serve me, that’s not what I meant to say.. to the far worse of I can’t believe I did that..said that..got so angry…etc.” that I felt terribly ashamed of myself afterwards. So regretful that I was then in danger of falling down a rabbit hole of depression.
I would either respond to that shame with self-flagellation and withdrawal or blame someone else for my feelings and responses. Has anyone else ever felt this way?
I would get so confused by myself! Why did I get so angry? Why was I responding out of fear? Why was I crying? I didn’t understand myself. I didn’t know myself. It was terribly frightening feeling like a stranger in your own mind. There is nowhere to run from yourself.
This was actually a few years before I decided to go back to school and study psychology, which in many ways was prompted by my desperate need to no longer be ashamed of myself. I had already been studying spirituality long before then, and that study really helped me devise this premise that I am going to share with you, that I call “or Doorways to Trauma and the Minefields of the Mind.
What I imagined for myself was that my mind was like a long hallway with many doors on either side. That led as far as my minds-eye could see. Behind every door was a room, and residing In each of these rooms was an experience that I had lived through that had played a role in creating the “house” that was me.
Some of these doorways were open, and as I walked past I noticed that some rooms were brightly lit. These rooms were swept of any dust or decay, and in many cases even had windows on the opposite side, fully opened with what I imagined was a view to the outside. Curtains blowing gently in the breeze and fully visible, not just to myself but also to anyone passing by.
These rooms represented the things I knew about myself. In some cases, they were the spaces where I stored those things I was proud of. Things I had accomplished that were hard. Things I had worked through, acknowledged and healed from. For instance, in one room might be the birth of my child, in another my marriage that was healthy at the time, in another my spiritual work, in another a relationship that I had healed, and so on.
The farther I walked down the hall I found that there were other rooms. Doors still open, but perhaps the lights were off. Rooms I didn’t enter often. Perhaps things I had cleaned up, but didn’t often enter because of lingering regret, sadness, or memories that I didn’t love spending time in.
These rooms needed me to occasionally freshen them up. Turn on the light, sweep them clean of lingering “should-haves” or “wish I would haves” and open the window to let fresh air inside, full of fresh ideas, and maybe even a new feeling of acceptance that time had brought me.
Further down the hallways of my mind, I journeyed still. As I moved I noticed that the doorways were not always open now. Sometimes they were slightly cracked and shadowy, and others were closed but not locked. These rooms held pain that I still had not integrated or reframed or released. These were traumas either still new, or ones that I didn’t have the tools -yet- to fully clean out. Usually, these rooms would have a chair sitting in the middle and a light switch set to dim. When I could I would go inside and dream about how I could heal from this pain. As an example one held the loss of a loved one, that I still struggled with. That kind of loss that makes you think that you might never be the same person again. That the loss of them took a part of you with it when they crossed or even just left your life. That you might not yet know how to clean out so when you look inside it only makes you smile.
These rooms represented the hard work I was doing in my life to heal from mental, emotional, physical, sexual and spiritual trauma. They each held something I couldn’t yet figure out how to heal. They represented the deep work I knew still awaited me. They were the rooms where I read self-help books, prayed, meditated, napped, cried, raged, and desperately tried to brighten, with my need to be free of the pain and shame that I had struggled with.
If I had the energy at this point, I would travel even further to what I imagined was the deepest recesses of my mind. The hallway itself was dim at this point. Dark and shadowy and the doors were locked. At some doors, I could hear a small child crying inside. At another, a man’s voice screaming in rage. At others a women’s pleading voice. I knew within these doors where memories I could only vaguely imagine based on the sounds from within.
Memories I had hoped that if I never opened, would somehow seal themselves away and disappear. Memories I had prayed were either unreal or able to be shoved down so deeply into my subconscious that they wouldn’t affect me. Like a child desperately afraid of what is happening around it, all it can do is shut its eyes and think that if it couldn’t see the monster (whatever the monster was) it would simply go away. But the rooms remained. They didn’t disappear. They didn’t simply fade because my memory had. They stayed there waiting for the right trigger to be unleashed into my present experience. Maybe a smell would set them off. Or an innocent act. A certain word or phrase. The sight of a stranger reminded me of something. The sound of an angry voice, or a drunken one. The sound of a woman screaming in fear or a child in despair. From the simple to the overwhelming. I remember I once had a memory show up and take me down while I was washing a plastic basket full of fresh blueberries.
Do any of you know what I mean? Have you ever been triggered by a simple, seemingly innocent experience, into a memory of toxic stress or trauma? These rooms, while dangerous to my peace of mind, and certainly scary, were at least recognizable when the trigger hit. Even if I reacted out of a trauma response rather than a reasonable one, usually I was able to figure out why.
This led me to another analogy of brains being like a field of landmines. We may not know exactly how they were all placed, but it was our job to find them, dig them up, and/or de-trigger them. This way no one we loved would unknowingly step upon them and get their ears blown off, lol. And if we couldn’t yet completely de-trigger them, well then it was our job to at least label them, so no one was unsuspecting of our reaction. Like being triggered by a word or phrase? Ever realized that you could handle being called anything but a certain word? That’s a landmine in your psyche.
Has anyone ever done that? Gotten so angry at someone over something that in retrospect didn’t seem to warrant, in and of itself, such a reaction? Yelled at a child based on a fear from your childhood? Gotten angry at a partner based on a trigger from a past relationship? I think we all have done this. This is why the walk through your mind is so important. To find what is lurking there unhealed. Which leads me to the doors at the farthest end.
These doors were not just locked closed. They were sealed shut. Some even had chains across the doors like you might imagine in a dungeon with a rusty padlock outside, and I knew I didn't have the key. These doors were silent within. I knew not what lived behind them, but I knew that I was so terrified or unable to deal with them, that I had never even tried to open them. These were the doors where my secrets were kept. Kept so tightly that they were even kept from me.
These places are where we all need help. We need someone to guide us, lovingly and with skill and grace to rest our palms and foreheads against them and prepare to seek out whatever we have hidden from ourselves. I myself have studied with many teachers, healers, therapists, shamans and coaches throughout my years of training in order to find my way into feeling and healing. As we say, the only way out is through.
Now if you are thinking this doesn’t sound like fun, I agree! It is not by any means something anyone would consider a pain-free journey. So why you might ask? Why can’t I just continue to be unconscious of them. Surely nothing good lies behind them. Well, because as I explained at the very beginning of this talk, this is where your subconscious hides from you. This is where the reactions and responses that make you feel ashamed stem from.
We begin this work not just to elevate ourselves, or seek enlightenment. Not just to be better people or have better coping skills for daily stressors. This happens certainly, and skills for manifestation of what you want over what you fear, also become operable. But the true reason for the work of thought pain therapy is to understand yourself so well, you finally love yourself. Not just in words but in truth. You love who you have become not in spite of everything, but because of it. You love your transformation, your brilliance, your strength, resilience and your efforts help you become your own hero, instead of just a victim of circumstances.