Many of you may recognise Catherine G Lucas, Founder of the UK Spiritual Crisis Network, but do you know what led Catherine to become so passionate about this field and her own work? Like most who end up feeling like they have a mission to re-conceptualise mental ‘illness’, Catherine experienced personal trauma which led to her breakdown. Catherine now views her breakdowns as pivotal catalysers of her awakening process; both necessary and bringing impetus for change that wouldn’t have occured without the crisis. Here Catherine gives a snippet into her trauma history, and what inspiring work it’s led her to do today…
Transforming Trauma by Catherine G. Lucas
‘Why do I have an underlying mistrust, even fear of people I perceive to be in positions of power?’ I’m exploring this question with my wonderful Zen life coach when suddenly I have an ‘aha’ moment. I realise, to my horror, that it goes back 35 whole years. It goes back to when a person in a position of power had total control over me – the psychiatrist when I was admitted to an acute psychiatric ward.
In my session with my coach, I was intrigued to discover that, despite having processed much of the trauma of that experience, remnants remained tucked away in the side-pockets of my psyche. Ending up in hospital is one of the most, if not the most, traumatic, terrifying experiences I’ve ever had. Psychiatric wards are not fun places to be and I was a naïve 20 year-old.
It was trauma of another kind that landed me there. We tend to think of trauma as being one-off, a single traumatic event or incident. The trauma that resulted in my breakdown was of a different, more silent kind, the kind that creeps up on you stealthily: years of emotional and psychological abuse growing up with an alcoholic father.
My sense of self was damaged and distorted, worn down by the years of abuse like the stone steps of a church worn down by years of being trodden on over and over again. I use that church analogy on purpose as I feel my childhood and teenage years were an integral part of my spiritual journey. They were the launchpad for my awakening.
Today, I have a wonderful relationship with my father. He passed over nearly 30 years ago at the age of 49 – yes, alcoholics die young. I feel no bitterness or resentment, only love and understanding for his own suffering that led him to drink. One of my published books is Alcohol Recovery: the Mindful Way. It played a central part in healing my relationship with him.
That period in hospital was the beginning of my journey to healing and growth, the beginning of my awakening, even though that only became obvious years later. John Weir Perry writes about the natural process of renewal that the psyche can go through when it breaks up. That process was completely interrupted for me by the hospitalization and medication.
Years later, when I finally engaged consciously on my spiritual path after my first marriage fell apart, I had some fairly major, deep healing work to do. The intensity of that healing process, along with a spiritual teacher of dubious ethics, tipped me into crisis again, in 2003 and then in 2006.
On these occasions though, I had the right support and understanding to be able to reconnect with the process of spiritual emergence that had been so traumatically interrupted before. I was able to move through to a more whole and healed place, the place of renewal my psyche had been trying to get to all along. I didn’t end up in hospital and I didn’t end up spending a year weaning off medication. Instead of losing a year of my life, as I had done previously, I was able to completely rebuild my life from a totally new, far more solid foundation.
Over a period of a few years I completely recreated my outer life to reflect the inner transformation. My healing and awakening directly resulted in my organising a series of residential conferences on spiritual emergency and setting up the UK Spiritual Crisis Network. I also wrote In Case of Spiritual Emergency: Moving Successfully Through Your Awakening (Findhorn Press/Inner Traditions) and qualified as a mindfulness meditation teacher. This is what Jung calls the process of individuation, where we align ourselves ever more with our true nature and what we incarnated to do. In retrospect, it feels more like being a channel for whatever wanted to come through from the Universe.
Having been through trauma both growing up and in adulthood, I’ve been blessed to be able to use my experience to help others. Through my writing, speaking and teaching, I give people the tools and understanding to heal and grow from it, using it as an opportunity, even catalyst for awakening.
The journey continues. In the last six months I’ve been aligning myself more and more with my life’s purpose. I’ve been able to ground, so to speak, the vision I had when going through spiritual emergency all those years ago. I’m now ready to bring that work into form, to follow through on my commitment to that in this lifetime.
As a result, I’ve been broadening the scope of my work out from personal to planetary crisis and awakening. The work involves holding the vision of the extraordinary potential this moment in history represents. It involves helping humanity move through the trauma of our global climate emergency to a new level of consciousness. My particular contribution to that right now is raising awareness and understanding of the parallels between the personal and planetary levels of spiritual emergence. I have a sense there is more to come.
Nobody would choose to go through trauma or crisis but when we do, with the right support and understanding, it can be such an opportunity for healing and awakening. That’s true both for each of us individually and for the world as a whole.
In one way or another the willow strands of trauma and crisis have woven their way through my life to create a beautiful sacred dome. As I sit on the grass inside it, appreciating the beauty and blessings of my life today, I can look up at the clear blue sky and give thanks.
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