Trauma, Chaos, and the Psycho-spiritual task of our Time

Is it possible our psycho-spiritual task of this time is to develop the fortitude to tolerate chaos long enough that we are able to birth something entirely new? Are we in a spiritual pregnancy, of sorts, and birth is imminent?

This process is in the collective. Like a supersaturated solution, suddenly crystals form in so many disciplines!  A new consciousness is developing, one that is more heart-centered, that humanizes what we analysts call primitive affects, and particularly rage and shame.

On Saturday I attended a seminar that was jointly put on by the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco and the Psychotherapy Institute of Berkeley. Jungian analyst Donald Kalsched discussed trauma and development (his latest book:Trauma and the Soul: A Psycho-spiritual Approach to Human Development and Its Interruption). This topic is critically important for each of us to understand within ourselves, as what we are experiencing and will experience in the period we are entering of climate collapse is traumatic. Our defenses of denial and narcissistic entitlement render us useless to do anything.

Kalsched asserted that trauma occurs when we are given more to experience in this life than we are able to experience consciously. Then a self-care system clicks in which disconnects us from the unbearable pain. This system includes a childish entitlement and a kind of stubborn innocence, as if remaining innocent of what is happening protects us. “Only interactions with the outside world transform these archetypal energies,” Kalsched stated. In analysis, this includes  the relationship with the analyst. In the collective issues of climate collapse and related social economic issues, it includes our connections to each other, and community.

This child self, kept innocent, never grows up. Instead, it remains incapsulated in a kind of traumatic bubble of illusion. “The important thing is not to idealize this child,” Kalsched said. “This child needs to be disillusioned. And the patient caught in a mystic world [of illusion] needs a compassionate eye to meet him or her as he/she comes out [of this bubble of illusion].”

His book is more than worth the read, but this message is the one I want to address here. We want to remain ignorant to the facts of how destructive to the planet our western way of life is. The problems are so big that it is easy to use the defense that there is nothing we can do about it, so why do anything at all? Besides, we wouldn’t want to hurt our economy or deprive ourselves of the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed. 

This is the encapsulating attitude! Our only hope is in suffering a loss of innocence, whether that be in personal arenas or the collective. In many ways, they are one: as above, so below. This is the first step in becoming mature citizens of our planet who realize our interconnectedness with everything else and that what we do or do not do affects this web of life, of which we are only a small part. Yes, it will bring the chaos of not knowing, but that chaos, consciously born, may deliver an unexpected and evolving consciousness.