|Art by Arna Baartz|
Understanding Trauma – I want to thank some amazing therapists – and a detailed nervous system education (via Irene Lyon) – for providing the most empowering and sacred steps I have taken on my wellness path.
For the first 42 years of my life, I pinballed from one traumatic experience to another. It is understandable that I was initially relieved that there was a ‘label’ – Complex Trauma or C-PTSD – to explain my chaotic existence. In addition, it was liberating to learn that the plethora of symptoms I had previously or continued to experience – a long list which included shame, guilt and dissociation, chronic pain, fatigue and migraine, attachment issues, co-dependency, and self-destructive thoughts and behaviours – were not a personal fault, weaknesses, or indeed a punishment from ‘God’ for not being ‘holy’ or ‘spiritual’ or ‘good enough,’ but were instead by-products of nervous system dysregulation. Further understanding that the nervous system dysregulation in my own system was the result of the combination of generational dysfunction and patterns, in-utero and developmental trauma, adverse childhood experiences (known as ACE) and a catalogue of traumatic events and abusive relationships in adolescence and adulthood – was the catalyst for my journey out of victimhood.
I have experienced most categories of trauma and abuse, including familial suicide and alcoholism, parental emotional abuse and neglect, severe bullying and physical assault at school, grooming and sexual assault, boundary violation and inappropriate conduct from a priest, financial and psychological abuse following divorce, and gaslighting and stonewalling by close family members. Now having the awareness that the scene was set generations ago, that I was born into a landscape of trauma landscape and that the ‘unstable wiring’ of my vagus nerve in many ways set me on a predestined path of trauma, has enabled me to forgive and be compassionate with myself. As I have progressed through stages of healing, layers of acceptance and the forgiveness of others have begun to surface.
The deeper I commit to recovery and journey ever further down the trauma rabbit hole, the more I discern the role of patriarchy, religion and spirituality – ‘those ungrounded and inhumane ‘spiritual’ models that have been fostered by emotionally armoured, self-avoidant men’ (Jeff Brown) – play in perpetuating the initial experience of trauma and the subsequent recurrence of it.
A hierarchical, vertical structure of ‘power over’ – the ‘perfect,’ ascended, all powerful and all knowing, enlightened God-Deity-Guru to whom we silently pray-worship-venerate, putting our bodies into a controlled, paralysed genuflection or lotus position pose, hanging our heads in shame or awe, atoning for our ‘humanness’ and bodily based imperfections, begging to have our illusionary, sinful ‘feelings’ and emotions erased, undertaking practices to trigger ‘transcendent’ and ‘blissful’ i.e., dissociated states – are all the exact opposite of what needs to be cultivated to move on from trauma. Spiritual bypassing – ‘avoidance in holy drag’ (Robert Augustus Masters) – is an addictive behaviour, and one I still must keep in check myself. It can keep us netted in the search to be ‘saved’ by a means, power, or person external to ourselves and it was a compulsion which perpetuated my disempowerment, victimhood, and avoidance of self-responsibility, blocking the resolution of the trauma in my nervous system for so long.
The traumatic experience of societal decencies and cultural conditioning (Irene Lyon) which we have little collective awareness of, manifests as ‘good, quiet and proper’ behaviour. Twinned with patriarchal abuse, women are traumatised and then blamed both for it – and the symptoms they exhibit as a consequence of the unresolved trauma responses in their system. This is the ultimate toxic double bind and here are just some examples from my own life:
‘Be good’ My soul-led, creative, and intuitive little girl was tamed into a good, compliant, high-achieving academic, who ‘controlled’ the urges and desire to ‘break free’ with an eating disorder. Consequence: blamed and labelled mentally ill.
‘Be quiet’ As a separated woman I was told by my soon-to-be ex-husband not to ‘rock the boat’ or dispute his request for shared care of our children, which he made for his own financial benefit. My instinct was that if I did not agree to his demand, he would take me to court, and put our children through a custody battle. I agreed to his wishes even though my intuition (later proven to be correct), was that this was not in the best interests of our children. The event triggered the symptoms of chronic migraine and pain. Consequence: blamed and told symptoms were psychosomatic, ‘all in the mind’ and ‘of the ego.’
‘Be proper’ As a young woman, recently graduated from university, I was ‘punished’ (my mother’s words) by my mother, who took a deliberate overdose and self-harmed herself because I spent time caring for my suicidal father when he was on weekend leave from a mental health unit. My mother told me in the hospital emergency department she had done it because I had chosen ‘him over her’ that afternoon. This incident fanned the flames of social phobia and chronic anxiety, and further obliterated my already fragile self-confidence. The event elicited terror of my own voice, boundaries, and choices but also further amplified the lack of safety I felt in my family of origin, and with other women. Consequence: blamed and told I needed to toughen up, that my mother was suffering, and that my recollection of events was false.
As I write this and reflect, I now acknowledge that the final scenario is the ‘worst’ traumatic injury and attachment rupture I have sustained. This narrative demonstrates the ongoing frequent occurrence amongst individuals and groups of women – mothers and daughters included – who are both ensnared within and perpetuating the toxic historical patterns of patriarchy – traumatising and abusing each other. I doubt I am alone in experiencing and recognising this and I wonder that if all women right now were to commit fully to breaking down these toxic inter-generational feminine energetics and dynamics – i.e., ‘manipulative tactics: cold withdrawal, overt hostility or bullying, unpredictable, competition, jealousy, triangulating’ (Bethany Webster) – if the patriarchy would finally crumble.
When I became conscious to the internal misogyny and patriarchy within myself, I set the intention to do inner work and restore the healthy feminine within myself. This has been painful, but for me was an essential part of resolving trauma and, thankfully, has facilitated some beautiful connections in my life with many wise women, along with strengthening my link to the sacredness of the feminine. The nudge that this was a vital part of trauma healing came early. During one of my initial EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) sessions I announced to the clinical psychologist during an eye movement sequence – that ‘Divine Mother is here.’ The creativity and ingenuity of the psychologist to accept and ‘work’ with this archetypical celestial intervention, was so enabling that the rewiring of my wounded ‘mother attachment’ was extraordinary and a great blessing. I was 43 years old, and it was the first time I had experienced and felt a sense of safe and sacred feminine energy, despite having been immersed in theology, religion, and spirituality my entire life. The cloaked figure of light arrived to take my traumatised inner child away from the event she was perpetually reexperiencing, placing her under her ‘wing’ and into safety. This ‘being’ is an archetypical aspect of light Goddess in the form that I now identify as Mother Mary or Kuan Yin. She was my psyche’s lifeline out of trauma, patriarchy and the fear, disgust, and mistrust of, woman, the feminine and the divine.
The imprinting of the frequency of the sacred feminine within my mind and body in that session has grown stronger through commitment and nurturance. I tune in over and over again, to receive the guidance of where to go next – whom to speak to, what to read, what to study, what to eat, how to be, when to rest.
A complete overhaul of my life and my family’s life was initiated that day, as the blueprint and innocence of my inner child was restored. When you heal trauma, you do so for past, present, and future generations. It is not work for the faint-hearted. Relationship dynamics, behaviours, thoughts, identity and life purpose are all detoxed, recalibrated, realigned. Boundaries are negotiated and set, then renegotiated and set again. In committing to resolving trauma I have had to finally and fully incarnate, embody my complete and messy humanness, get up close and personal with my shadow and body sensations, and FEEL and contain everything at its strongest amplification – pain, anger, fear, hatred, despair. It was in this ‘underworld’ that my psyche met and was mentored by the archetypical aspects of of dark Goddess in her many forms – Black Madonna, Kali, Morrigan, and Jaguar, to name a few. These dark and formidable energies and role models have walked me back along ancestral lines (deep into the collective wounding) and journeyed me to past lives, reminding me of the current ‘mission’ many of my contemporaries have – to clear out and exorcise the violence, cruelty, harm, denigration, rape, and violation of the feminine, the body and of the earth. Through the personal healing of any one of us there is a restoration of life, a voice, embodiment.
I am, you are, we are the sacred feminine – one in the same – and I own this fully. By continually re-claiming, re-membering and re-connecting myself as Goddess, answerable only to my own inner gnosis, I heal and resolve trauma. What I evoke, pray to, petition, is all inside of me. I trust my own wisdom. I move. I nurture my body. I commune through pleasure. I see my bodily sensations and emotions as messengers carrying wisdom. I feel and express a full range of emotions. I root my energy system into the earthly womb of Gaia and the cosmic womb of Sophia and receive eros, inspiration and lifeforce. I embrace all the aspects, energies and archetypes of Goddess that I am and expand. I am beginning to trust and lean into my newly found circles of sisters for reflection, companionship, and love.
And this is my journey is in its infancy. I have a lot more processing to do around shame and vulnerability, being seen and heard, fawning and fitting in. Nevertheless, as I advocate for the unification of the sacred and mundane, I have set the intention and called upon the activation of the energetics of self-leadership and self-sovereignty of the sacredness and feminine wisdom of my own and my family’s DNA and energy field, whilst knowing and trusting fully, it is already done.
Kay Turner is a teacher, facilitator, researcher and writer who visions collective evolution. She catalyses individual, collective and institutional evolution through education, embodiment and creativity, and the amalgamation of metacognition, intuition and instinct.
Kay has contributed to the Girl God Anthologies Warrior Queen: Answering the Call of the Morrigan and In Defiance of Oppression - The Legacy of Boudicca. Kay will also feature in other upcoming Girl God Anthologies Just as I am - Hymns Affirming the Divine Feminine and Songs of Solstice - Goddess Carols. Currently she is co-editing the upcoming Girl God Anthologies: Re-Membering with Goddess: Healing the Patriarchal Perpetuation of Trauma, The Crone Initiation and Invitation: Women speak on the Menopause Journey, Rainbow Goddess - Celebrating Neurodiversity and Pain Perspectives: Finding Meaning in the Fire. In addition, Kay is writing her own books: Mentorship of Goddess: Growing Sacred Womanhood and Making Love with the Divine: Sacred, Ecstatic, Erotic Experiences.