For many human beings the big and little challenges of life often begin to build a certain level of internal pressure over time. It’s as if tectonic plates deep under the surface of our consciousness begin to shift and grate creating seismic tremors.
Often we can manage these little tremors one way or another until one day a simple or profound event pushes the imbalance just far enough to allow the pressure to release. Like an earthquake, the result is often destabilizing and in times past was labeled with dubious disorders such as having “a nervous breakdown”.
But what if the deeper purpose of this process was to cause the calcified layers of our acquired personality to begin to crumble and reveal a radiant core that reflected our authentic Self? What if it was really a nervous breakthrough rather than a breakdown that was trying to occur?
Ironically, it is often the big and little traumas of life that fuel our transformation because they create this inner tension, which initiates the process of seeking growth and resolution. Those whose early lives were more harmonious often lack the drive and inner tension necessary to catalyze this transformational process.
Yet sometimes simply being sensitive and misaligned with our culture and environment can become a form of subtle, chronic trauma without any grand instances of abuse to point one’s finger at. As El Collie points out on her website, “A unicorn in a herd of horses is apt to be regarded as a defective horse…”
So if indeed this is the natural process of our souls seeking to free themselves from the confines of our past experiences and conditioning, then how do we help it along? Many of the signs of what I now call “radical transformation” appear to be common ailments like, anxiety, depression, heart palpitations, asthma, digestive problems and chronic pain to name a few.
Unfortunately the mainstream healthcare system has often treated these baffling and unresponsive conditions by repressing their symptoms, which can be a hindrance if they are indeed part of a larger transformational process.
This does not mean that these symptoms cannot indicate conditions that need to be diagnosed and treated by a doctor, but it does mean that if the tests come up inconclusive, it is worth taking a broader look.
Much valuable research has been carried out in the last decade that sheds incredible light on the ways our nervous systems hold and store old experiences and traumas.
Particularly valuable is the work of Peter Levine and in his book Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma he states, “Traumatic symptoms…stem from the frozen residue of energy that has not been resolved and discharged; this residue remains trapped in the nervous system where it can wreak havoc on our bodies and spirits… While trauma can be hell on earth, trauma resolved is a gift of the gods – a heroic journey that belongs to each of us”.
Conditions like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can often result from the nervous system not discharging the stored energy of a critical experience and therefore not allowing the system to reset itself. Wild animals go through this process of discharge quite naturally and continuously.
Yet many of us have been taught to repress the natural symptoms of trauma discharge like shaking, crying or eliminating our bowels and thus the energy remains trapped in our nervous systems.
Fortunately there has been tremendous progress in treating these conditions in the last decade and many effective modalities focus on somatic and neurological processes.
Some of these trauma resolution therapies utilize various forms of stimulation of alternate hemispheres of the brain, while simultaneously tracking the somatic, sensory, responses one witnesses in their body.
Often times this allows the nervous system to discharge the held energy and re-set itself to a more flexible and functional level. Many traditional practices like yoga and dance can also trigger these natural discharge processes, which may seem surprising and unexpected if one does not understand where they’re coming from.
Over the years of my study and personal, transformative journey I have begun to view the nervous system as the conduit between the soma (sensing body), the psyche (mind and emotions) and the soul.
Ultimately, to honor the wisdom of the soulma (soul+soma) as it seeks its own health and integration is the best perspective we can adopt. Therapy, nutrition, creative expression and exercise can all greatly support and ease the process of transformation.
In the end, I believe it is the support, understanding and love of our family, friends and community that offers the most powerful way to transform a nervous breakdown into a breakthrough.