Savannah Hanson: The wisdom of trauma |

Savannah Hanson: The wisdom of trauma

Many of us are waking up to the fact that we are a traumatized species. So much of our conditioning, religion, education, beliefs and media have kept us locked in fear and a distorted view of our inherent worth. We have forgotten our true nature which is joyful and interdependent. We respect each other and no one is or has more. Resources are shared, children are raised with kindness and respect. This is the New Earth now emerging from the rubble of the past.

To get to this remembrance of our true identity, we must pass through the gateway of trauma. Perhaps all of us have been traumatized in big or small ways. Many may think of trauma as big events like accidents, war, crime and so on. Yet being neglected, unseen, misunderstood, yelled at can have long term effects.

June 8-14 a wonderful film called “The Wisdom of Trauma” premiered. It was widely viewed and my sense is it woke up many to how insidiously trauma shapes both our own lives and the world around us. The series featured expert Gabor Mate’s lifelong work on trauma and how it impacts addiction and other conditions.

Here are just some of my notes from the various talks. In a talk with Stephen Porges whose work on how the polyvagal nerve is related to trauma, they explored the knowledge that safety is not just the absence of threat, it is also about the presence of connection. They talked about how surgery does not always improve back pain and how it can be more important to listen to people and support them in being aware of their emotional state which relates to the pain. They explored ways to support the polyvagal nerve and thus mitigate trauma with long exhalation, dance, singing, playing a wind instrument, face to face contact and socializing. Clearly the lockdown has further induced trauma into society. Policies related to the lockdown such as lack of social contact and not seeing faces is extremely traumatizing, particularly for children, adding further to the crisis. Mass media aggravates trauma by emphasizing all the horrors of the world without much attention on the loving actions of so many.

Later Mate spoke of how important it is to support children in being authentic and how all of us need to rediscover our own authentic expression. Too often children are forced to choose between being authentic and being attached. This is an impossible choice that creates great harm. Children who are more bold tend to be deviants from the family system which creates its own suffering. Porges urges people to “treat people like they are human beings.”

In one of the talks, it was said that for 90% of people who go to doctors, no cause for the ailment is found. In a talk with Dr. Levine, Dr. Levine spoke of being hit by a car yet not being traumatized since a stranger offered to hold his hand! Gabor’s vision is that we make the world safe enough for each other to be ourselves. He explored how trauma is not just what happens to us but whether or not someone is there to help us be with our feelings and emotions to process what happened. In other words, connection is vital.

The Wisdom of Trauma website offers this hope. “Dr. Mate gives us a new vision: a trauma-informed society in which parents, teachers, physicians, policy-makers and legal personnel are not concerned with fixing behaviors, making diagnoses, suppressing symptoms, and judging, but see instead to understand the sources from which troubling behaviors and diseases spring in the wounded human soul.”

When I was in graduate school for spiritual and counseling psychology, trauma was not part of the curriculum. Since that time, many more practices and organizations are becoming trauma informed. As best as I remember from the series, over 60% of inmates had extreme trauma as children. The opportunity is that rather than punishing people for their deep wounds that create unskillful behaviors, we educate and extend loving kindness to each other.

Moving through trauma is no small task, rather it takes dedication and tenacity. I have spent decades transmuting my own trauma. It can sometimes feel like it can be endless. Mate paradoxically spoke about how wise trauma is initially finding ways to disassociate, numb out, do whatever is necessary to survive the experience.

The vision I hold is for all of us to be aware of how much trauma informs not only our own subconscious wounds but impacts the behavior of basically everyone we meet. Will we be kind and compassionate toward ourselves and others as these wounds surface to be embraced with loving attention?

The level to which trauma impacts all levels of society is immeasurable. The challenge then is to move beyond those initially helpful but now maladaptive behaviors. Yet the trauma itself can almost force us into a journey of awakening to our own inherent goodness.

What I have discovered is when one puts their attention on who they are, the true self, then anything dissimilar than that will organically arise to be held in a loving space of welcome. It is not in trying to fix ourselves that we become whole. Rather by holding all that arises within and without, in time organically things begin to shift. This is psychologist Fritz Perls Paradoxical Theory of Change in action. Through societal action by placing our attention on loving kindness and connection, I am certain ultimately the world will transform into heaven on earth.

For information on private sessions or classes or to schedule a free 30-minute consultation, contact Savannah Hanson, M.A., MFT #40422 at 530-575-5052 or

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