Childhood Trauma and Spirituality
During the last decade of my spiritual search I have been with many different masters and teachers. I tried many practices and visited spiritual centers, various seminars and events.
What I saw was that many of those people going to spiritual masters or teachers had very traumatic experiences in their childhood. They were heavily injured on the emotional level. This has been my own situation too.
They want to end their suffering and hope that a spiritual path or a master could help and heal them. The western psychology doesn’t seem to have an answer. So you look for other possibilities to get help. This situation is different from someone who has totally lived his life and is now naturally looking for the next dimension of life, beyond the material world.
The problem is that if you think that spirituality, meditation, yoga etc. can heal your childhood traumas you may be looking at the wrong place. My experience is that spirituality cannot be of much help to dissolve dramatic childhood experiences. With meditation it is a bit like trying to skip the actual healing because meditation aims for transcending the world of objects and experiences. It aims for the absolute. Yes, it is possible to get some more peace with it, to even have deep ecstatic experiences. But you have to come back from meditation and have to deal with every day life issues. It is not possible to transfer your meditation experiences into every day life. What I have tried and believed was that I could heal myself with meditation. I believed that if there were states of vastness and eternity that this would dissolve my emotional suffering. But it didn’t work. It can’t work because these are two different levels. It is like if you would try to repair the heating in the cellar by sunbathing on the roof. It gives you a short relief but doesn’t solve the problem.
What I have learned throughout the last years is that I have to heal problems on the same layer where they are. This means traumatic childhood experiences must be solved by making new good experiences with relationships, with closeness. These new experiences will after a while form your new reality. With unresolved traumas you still live in the reality of your childhood which causes the suffering. With yoga and meditation alone you will not make new experiences with relations with other people. You need another scenario for that. For example what I tried was to heal myself with meditation alone and at the same time retired from all relationships, from any interaction and communication with others. Of cause it didn’t work. It was an unconscious attempt to escape from the real cause of my suffering. Because in meditation you don’t have to deal with other people, you don’t have to interact. You can even use meditation to avoid feelings! All can be used to escape.
What really helps is to find a way to make new experiences in relationships. And for that you need at least at the beginning a person or an environment who is familiar with childhood traumas. In my case I have also visited many psychologists. But even those where usually not able fully understand my situation. Finally I found a traumatherapist who was able to understand what was going on inside me. And slowly slowly I realized how different my perception of the world was compared to “normal” people. That I unconsciously still lived in my childhood.
A spiritual master can help you on the way to the absolute. He or she may also be able to help you in the relative world of your current perception. But my experience is that most of them are not able to do this, because it is not their business. Imagine someone who has been abused in early childhood. Years later the person has forgotten all about it but has flashbacks when entering a room with other people. The person is scared to death but does not know why. The whole life is a torture because the person does not understand what is going on and what can be done against it. He or she lives mostly in dissociation. Finally meeting a satsang teacher the person gets an advice like this: “Well, that’s just a story in your mind. Don’t think about it, just be present and aware and feel it”. It trivialises the experiences of this person. Such a teacher is not aware of the actual situation the person is in. He comes with the absolute reality but this will not be of much help. You cannot save someone from drowning by throwing a zen book at him.
Another example: someone is a workaholic not aware that he is trying to recieve the recognition he never got from his parents. At a time when his body and soul refuse to continue with this lifestyle he meets a yoga teacher. This teacher tells him to return home to god by serving and loving others. The man is happy because he thinks he is on the right way and tries to work even harder. The yoga teacher does all to motivate him to work harder and harder to increase the flow of love. Some years later he breaks down. But what happens is that he is being aggressivly told that this is just his ego being destroyed and he should not whine so much. Finally the man finds himself at a psychotherapist.
These are just two (real) examples how spiritual teachers totally ignore the personal situation of a disciple. Instead, they force their view and their way onto everybody no matter in which situation they are and what type of personality they have.
If you belong to the group of people with heavy childhood traumas lost on the spiritual path you may have to look first for a traumatherapy or similar. Note that a common therapy will also not help, what is needed is someone specialized in psychotraumatology.
Without a stable life, inside and outside it will be unneccessarily difficult to go into the vast inner worlds of meditation. First the emotional homework and healing of relationships, than you are free to go beyond.
Finally you may realize that all you have been searching in meditation and spirituality is revealed to you in loving personal relationships and communication. Love and meditation have become one.