If Traditional Talk Therapy Isn't Working For You Anymore, Try Transpersonal Therapy

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What Is Transpersonal Psychology & Why It May Be Better Than Talk Therapy For Trauma

I was sexually, physically, and emotionally abused by multiple people as a child.

For many years, I didn’t remember the sexual abuse. That happened when I was sexually assaulted by a security guard at the department store where I worked at the age of sixteen. After I fled from him in the stock room, I began to have vivid flashbacks, panic attacks, nightmares, and lifelong sleep disturbances of sleepwalking, sleep talking, and night terrors.

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I reported the assault to a trusted teacher who was also a parole officer. She checked this guy out for me. He had a squeaky-clean record and I was encouraged not to pursue pressing charges. It was the mid-eighties, and this advice was standard at the time.

So, I went silent and continued the painful toll that silence takes upon survivors of sexual assault. I would live in my own private hell for the next few years from a new assault opening the pain of one that happened at the tender age of four.

In college, I chose to study psychology. I was hooked after taking my first class as a high school sophomore. I was fascinated with what motivates people to do deviant things and how to clean up the results of past traumas.

I was looking for something to make sense of the fallout of abuse I had been through and I wanted to try to understand why people did such awful things, too.

In November of 1986, I was in my second year of college and I was living in an apartment with roommates. They were off to class while I watched a brand-new talk show called The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Oprah shared her own story on national television of rape by a family member when she was a child. She said she was sharing her story so that maybe others would find the courage to break the silence and get help.

She brought on experts to discuss how to heal from the horrific symptoms that a history of trauma and abuse leave behind.

As I watched the show, I cried. I mean, I bawled uncontrollably as I did my best to hear the expert's advice.

During this, I had the strangest though: “One day you will be an expert talking on shows like this.”

Huh? Really?! I was a psych major, so I guessed it was possible, but I had barely scratched the surface of my own traumas. I quickly forgot about that moment and moved on.

Immediately after the show, I called the campus counseling center and I told them I needed therapy. They signed me up with a graduate student who was working on her therapy hours to get certified.

She heard my symptoms and told me they were consistent with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It was then that I began fifteen years of talk therapy with psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, licensed professional counselors, and psychiatrists.

Talk therapy helped. It helped me so much. I learned new ways to think about things. I was educated on what the professionals knew about the fallout of trauma and how it affected survivors.

For many years, I refused the use of pharmaceutical drugs as a part of therapeutic treatment. I didn’t want to take them. I didn’t want anything flat-lining my mood. Going "numb" was too much a part of my own defense mechanisms from the abuse.

With a diagnosis of chronic depression and bouts of debilitating depressive states, I finally conceded to take Wellbutrin for almost two years until I weaned myself off.

Between talk therapy and the drugs, I was getting better, but I was going to my therapist’s week after week for so many years. I finally felt like I had gotten all I could out of the therapy.

When I saw my last traditional psychotherapist, I found transpersonal psychology and moved into that.

Transpersonal psychology gave me a way to work with the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and beliefs that my body was holding onto as a result of multiple traumas. Because transpersonal psychology looks at the whole system of the client: Mental, emotional, energetic, and physical, it engages the energy system of the client to provide the healing the client needs.

This holistic method looks deep into the unconscious mind with an understanding that thoughts and feelings contain energy. These energies are stored in the body within the human energy system as emotional energy. This energy animates the physical body and affects us on down to the biological level.

The basic tenet is that you affect the world through the energy that you carry within you — not the other way around.

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The computer or smartphone screen you’re reading this article on was first conceived in the mind of the people who invented and designed the technologies that make up the device you’re using. It started as a thought. The form followed the thought. Not the other way around.

This is what transpersonal methods do: They go back to the beginning by looking at the thoughts first. It’s an investigation of the emotional "root cause" because there always is one.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study shows what happens to you in childhood can profoundly affect your physical body years later in the development of diseases. It also means when a child is in constant fight, flight, or freeze mode, that the body secretes the hormones adrenaline and cortisol at alarming rates.

Many high functioning abuse survivors have many of the same thoughts in common. Among the most common is a profound sense of feeling unworthy. “I’m not good enough or I am broken.”

Each person stores these thoughts in different ways, and unworthiness is felt in several places throughout the body. Because emotions and their ensuing thoughts have energy, they need to be released or they continue to wreak havoc on the body. Releasing means letting them go. This is where some sort of process is required to have that happen, and why talk therapy alone often isn't enough.

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When you're engaged through a visualization process and feel ready to let go of the emotional energy held in your body, you can actively release the energy. It’s like deleting an old program on your computer and installing a new one.

The old one was outdated and had multiple glitches that may be causing a system error. Delete. Refresh. Renew.

The new program contains an opposite emotion with new thoughts attached. Sadness and the thought that I can never do anything right leaves the body and the new emotion of joy can replace it with the thought that everything is exactly as it should be.

When abuse happens in childhood and it happens young and often, your emotional patterns are formed from that string of events. You act and react from this place inside of yourself. You may end up having uncontrollable emotional outbursts, people-pleasing tendencies, addictive behaviors, extreme jealousy, paranoia, panic disorders, chronic depression, suicidal thinking, and persistent fears.

Traditional psychology will look at your symptoms and work towards categorizing you into a diagnosis. They’re looking for pathology and offering treatment of your disorder through talk therapy and pharmaceutical drugs. While extremely useful, this method has its limits.

Transpersonal psychology looks at you differently. It looks at what’s wonderful about you in order to find what's blocking the pathway to you embracing your unique contribution to life.

It helps you with the larger questions that come with a history of abuse:

  • Who am I, and why am I here?
  • What is the purpose of my life?
  • How can I turn around what happened in the past to create a better future?

Traditional psychological talk therapy focuses on the mental and emotional aspects, and while this is critical to the treatment of a history of abuse, many traditional therapists today are spiritually inclined and will also talk with clients about their connection to something larger than themselves.

They may discuss intuition or inner wisdom and how that can assist the client in getting better. This is all very helpful and useful in recovery.

So while talk therapy might help you, seeking another less traditional form of therapy, like transpersonal therapy may help you crack the code of what’s beneath the surface of your own conscious thinking.

Therapeutic methods that will help you access and heal the unconscious beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and emotions are the ones that will bring you to the next level of healing the fallout from the abuses of your past.

This kind of healing is priceless, and you are worth more than all that.

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Dr. Meg Haworth is a therapist who helps women who've survived abuse heal their histories and their health through holistic solutions. For more information on how she can help you and to get a free copy of her ebook 10 Steps to Overcoming the Effects of Victimization, visit her website.