The Trauma Vortex

When the US Army veteran gave me a crystal filled pyramid inscribed with a spiral, I put it in my car. Months later I was using it as a paper weight. It held my appointment book open, so the wind wouldn’t change weeks on me. A young man, whom I met several months ago, has been sharing his life story with me. He’s been suffering from severe childhood trauma, which started as far back as he could remember. Waking the TigerRecently he shared some angry images from his inner landscape. These were violent masculine figures. The top of one man was raging mad, while the bottom half, from the abdomen down, was a red hot volcano, an excellent symbol for his repressed rage. The son of a prominent clergyman, he carries himself with calm assurance and is the epitome of rationality. Contrast that image of reasonableness with the blue fox monster with white eyes, letting out a mighty roar and a violent burst of energy. I asked him about this image. It puzzled me, since it wasn’t connected to any Native American legend. (The boy has Cherokee ancestors.) Then he explained that the blue fox was a Japanese anime character, a demon had been sealed inside of a child and this made the child grow into an incredibly adept and powerful warrior.

Since the color blue was one of the young man’s favorites, and it represents the throat chakra in the East Indian system, it seemed clear that the need to express his rage and the underlying hurt was what this symbol indicated. I could feel the repressed rage welling up from the first time I sat with this guy. I decided to call him tiger/bear, since these were his animal totems. But what was this blue fox creature doing in the picture? The unconscious was adding more information. It knew the tiger/bear better than I and it was making him look at explosive Japanese animated figures for more data. Then he offered a missing piece of information. The blue fox monster has a spiral on his abdomen, it is a “key” which opens and lets the demon out. “It looks like that spiral on the pyramid over there,” he said. I picked up the object and gave it to him. “Yes,” he mused, “it even rotates the same way as on the character’s abdomen.”

My young friend is incredibly intuitive, almost scary when it comes to psychic abilities. One finds this a lot in abused children. They find very subtle ways of “reading the environment” for warnings of beatings and verbal abuse. The tiger/bear is overly vigilant, always smelling the air for danger and eyes all around him. While in that state, his glance fell on a book in the bookshelf. It was Peter A. Levine’s Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma (1997). After our session I gave him the pyramid filled with white quartz, amethysts, gold, and a copper spiral on one side. “This is to remember your insights and the blue fox,” I said. “Now shake my hand and the pyramid is yours.” He did.

The next day I took the book he was eying off the shelf. It opened by itself, rather curiously, to page 200 which symbolizes duality and completion.Page 200, Levine There were two spirals. The one on the left was the “trauma” vortex and the one on the right was the “healing” vortex. If you get stuck in the trauma vortex, you unconsciously reenact the traumatic event. This is the body’s way of revealing the problem and crying for help. Freud called it repetition compulsion. It will continue to re-create the trauma until the energy is dissipated. I certainly have experienced that pattern throughout my life. I write about it all the time. But Levine talks here about “renegotiation” as a third alternative between the two vortices. I reread the book, as it had been several years since I first studied it. As with many books of a gnostic character (ones you have to have the experience in order to understand them), I stopped reading Levine at the beginning of my training and study of trauma. I just didn’t have enough experience to apply what he describes. I turned to other modalities in my search for understanding of post-traumatic stress and its effects.

But now, after several years of counseling trauma victims, the unconscious directed my attention to Levine’s work. I finally had sufficient experience to recognize a vortex when it presented itself. I didn’t have long to wait. The tiger/bear returned and was sharing his bodily sensations, a hot burning ball of energy in the center of his thoracic area, the space between the heart and the solar plexus areas. To me that area means that both his ability to feel love and his will power were affected by this ball of energy. It was pulsing and he was describing it, as he lay on my bed. Then he began to have flashes of imagery. They were all images with which he associated reassuring, nourishing, nurturing, holding and calm. This was the “healing vortex” of images which Levine described. The “trauma vortex” was the hot fear. His body was dissipating the energy bound up in the hot ball of energy by balancing it with positive, nurturing images which kept the fear from building up. We kept talking about each healing image as it appeared in his inner visual field. He would explain his associations with each healing/nurturing image. After a few minutes the hot energy ball was gone. He had stopped shaking and lay calmly on the bed. I had experienced the dynamics of the diagram on page 200. It made total sense to me.

When the tiger/bear returns, I will be able to see if more of his symptoms have dissipated. I suspect that his anxiousness about participating in his childhood friend’s wedding meant that several issues from his childhood had been constellated. His parents were married very young. His mom was fifteen when he was born. She wanted to be a professional singer, not a mother. But she fell in love with a very handsome guitarist and became pregnant. I suspect there might have been some hidden molestation in the family she came from. Why else would she run away from her millionaire father into the arms of a seductive man? Well anyway, she didn’t want a child. She took out her anger on the boy for most of his life. She divorced his father when he was six. She was the hurt and angry vixen who couldn’t hit her husband, so she took her abusive feelings out on the boy. She traumatized her son for being a man. The message was very clear “it would have been better if you had been a girl.” Fortunately his father got custody of him at age eleven, but not before the damage had been done. Now he’s beginning to unravel the layers of anger and is finding the layers of hurt. The trauma is healing and that is showing me that Levine knew what he was talking about back in 1997, the year when my marriage unraveled and I set out on my journey to find my self.

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About Michael J. Melville

People describe me as a Spiritual Catalyst because their spiritual evolution speeds up when they share their process with me. Discussing dreams, addictions, sacred medicines, family histories, or personal relationships moves one closer to the core, where the inner child dwells. Once contact with her/him is made, growth resumes.
This entry was posted in Gnostic tradition, Peter A. Levine, Philosophy and Psychology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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