Traumatized Trio

Blogpost #3

by Andrew Accornero, Lauren Alfieri, McKenzie Lentz, Jonnie Washburn

Surrender and Experience: The Ground Zero of Healing

Throughout our conversations and syntheses of our readings, two themes have consistently woven throughout our groups’ work and learning: surrender and experience. Throughout the term we have focused on modes of healing- mainly exploring the ability of art and MDMA to intersect, witness, and alleviate trauma. Additionally, we have discussed how Eastern Orthodoxy relates to the heart of these modes of healing and have found much overlap.

The themes of surrender and experience characterize what our group has found to be important aspects of entering into a creative flow state.¹ They are separate entities that must embrace each other in order for creative energy to show up. As one surrenders to experience, one enters into a psychic space which drops peripheral concerns. As these concerns become more and more secondary to the raw creative experience, those original concerns fade from view mysteriously. Though this sounds eerily similar to simple dissociation, it’s actually quite the opposite. Creative flow state arises from surrendering TO your raw experience and being with it, dissociation does it’s best to refuse it, avoid it, and look elsewhere. As a result of submitting to experience, disintegrated areas of the psyche become unconsciously transformed and integrated and a new relationship to the trauma is established.

This plays out in both the modes of healing we have investigated. Through art therapy, the person can interact with a healing form that allows them access to areas of the self and subconscious that would be otherwise inaccessible. Through interaction with art, one is able to access those realms, surrender to their power in a medium that is safe, experience the past trauma through the creative flow, and reconstruct a new self-state. Similarly, in the journey of MDMA, one is able to access subconscious areas and traumatic memory. Through an experience of MDMA, one is able to surrender to the trauma and embrace its power, thus changing one’s relationship with it moving forward. MDMA allows one to visit the site of trauma, or the moment of Holy Saturday,² by helping to release inhibitions and provide more access to traumatic memory. In conclusion, both the use of art to heal trauma and the use of MDMA to heal trauma necessitate that the person surrender to both the mode of healing and the experience of re-visiting the trauma with the goal of changing one’s relationship to trauma, with each visit placing it more in the past and allowing the healed to change their relationship with the present. Both the flow state of creativity and of MDMA allow the participant to witness their on trauma, and sit in the experience more than they could otherwise.

Finally, as we have discussed our findings and sought to integrate our learning, we have reached the realization that reflecting on our experiences holds power, but this reflection is impossible without first centralizing raw experience itself. We found it challenging to integrate learning with real experience, and reflected on our findings of the practice of Eastern Orthodoxy: a tradition rife with creativity and mystery. We found this to be true of the experience of healing modes of trauma: although they can be investigated, defined, and researched, the core of the power of creativity to heal is mysterious and, as sometimes is trauma itself, impossible to contain or define definitively.

Endnotes:

  1. In her work Mended by the Muse, Sophia Richman builds the idea of the creative flow state as a state where the creator loses a sense of self and time, allowing her to access a different level of consciousness and different parts of herself and her consciousness. This state can be the site of a loss of self-consciousness and a lack of concern toward failure. Sophia Richman, Mended by the Muse (New York, NY: Routledge, 2014), 76.
  2. By allowing the person to be in the in the trauma instead of immediately escaping it or trying to heal it, deeper and more meaningful healing is possible. This echoes Shelly Rambo’s theology of Holy Saturday and experiencing trauma in the liminal space between the event of and healing of trauma. Shelley Rambo, Spirit and Trauma (Louisville: Westminster Press, 2010).

Bibliography

Lossky, Vladimir. The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1957.

Other, Anne. Trust, Surrender, Receive. Lioncrest Publishing, 2017.

Rambo, Shelly. Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2010. ISBN: 0664235034.

Richman, Sophia. Mended by the Muse. New York, NY: Routledge, 2014.

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Chelle Stearns

Chelle Stearns

Associate Professor of Theology at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology