Monday, September 11, 2017

Thoughts on Dreams & the Impact of Environmental Trauma

The impact of environmental trauma, such as hurricanes, flooding, fire, earthquakes, blizzards, and more is enormous and life altering. It touches the very heart of our existence ripping away our sanctuaries, families, precious items that connect us to ancestors and our identities. These events can literally wipe away one’s way of life in a moment. And if we reflect deeper into the human condition the psychological affects of hurricanes, fires, and earthquakes etc. can alter our perception of the earth and our ability to feel safe and connected. 

In September of 1967 while living on the coast of Texas a hurricane made landfall. My mother working at the local hospital had to drive home. The roads were flooding and at a certain point so was the car. At risk of drowning she left the car and began walking in the deluge searching for safety. After several attempts to ask for help from unwilling families she was offered assistance and call dad. Since then my mother has experienced an enduring fear of intense rainstorms. As a result her relationship to water has changed in ways I can’t even imagine.
How do we heal from this life altering experience and gain some faith back in our relationship to the land? How do we make sense of the losses both internally and externally? And the reality of our own vulnerability in the face of the earth’s response as she adapts to the changes occurring? How do we come to terms with it all? How do we heal and learn to adapt to these changes too? And importantly how to heal from the trauma that has so deeply altered our belief in the beauty and inspiration we encounter in the landscape around us? That for some feel betrayed by.
There is no blue print or solid answer to these questions. How could my mother heal her fear of rainstorms and water? How can these stories of trauma be healed now that they are embedded in the hearts, bodies, and minds of those affected by these disasters?
In the beginning the time is spend caring for the basic needs of safety, comfort, nourishment, medical attention, and support in rebuilding or relocating. Yet in time the psychological affects begin to be exposed affecting the day to day living and future planning. The grief, anger, and fear weave their way among the ways we interact and behave and dreams can become very active. Our dreams become the liminal place for the story to play itself out. And the story can be experienced as a constant nightmare and/or the depths that offer the needed healing.
Working with our dreams when one is ready can be a potent and a life changing experience especially around the effects of trauma. Even for those who may seem to be unaffected by the event dreams can offer a twist to the story that wasn’t seen before.
Dreams related to environmental trauma and its impact become a process of being tender with oneself, letting dreams guide and holding the dream story with a gentle understanding. Not interpreting but instead with the support of a professional exploring the dream’s landscape in discovering the internal supports to hold all the feelings of hurt and loss. And this work is not done lightly and should not be done in isolation.
We can work with the dream as a guide to remembering the wholeness forgotten. The dream teaches us about how trauma has impacted our lives and offers the remedy for the pain. It engages the immediacy of the event as well as the continued impact of the event’s experience in our lives. The dream reveals the delicate traces of wounds to the body, mind, and spirit through the story's characters, the landscape, elements and the story line. It is not about reliving the trauma but instead being with the feelings/associations of the story as expressed in the dream with internal and external support. The dream also presents such gifts as strength, resilience, hope, and love that were hidden within the dreamer that can now be sewed back into the fabric of one's life assisting in reshaping one's identity.  And it is through the wisdom unearth in the dream that a practice is created that can bring to life daily support for continued healing.
The dream also creates an opportunity to learn how to travel with the elements of fire, wind/air, water, and earth both as destroyer and creator is discovered as well as the potency of the elements within too. In the dream story, we can find our way back home both in relationship to our own vulnerability and resilience. Learning to hold all of it on a healing path

and this supports the process of rebuilding the structures of life that were taken away. As this process occurs so does the healing of the relationship with the earth. This process will take time because there is much healing to be done. 


But first the basics of life must be tended to.
I wonder what my mother is dreaming when it rains…I think next time I will ask.




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