Transforming Trauma with Ayahuasca
Posted by: Carlos Tanner
Like nearly everyone I have ever met, I have dealt with childhood trauma in my life. What does that mean? For me, it meant that during particular incidents in my life as I was growing up, I had inaccurately interpreted my experience in a way that created a detrimental perception of myself. In my case, I had decided that I was a burden on my parents, and that they would not have gotten divorced if I was never born. It was my fault. This decision was definitely wrong, but because I had made the decision during a heightened state of being, it became deeply embedded in my personal reality. It became a fundamental truth in my life. It wasn’t that I merely thought or believed I was a burden. I WAS a burden. From that point on in my life, every relationship I had with friends, family, and peers, became infected by this truth, this trauma. This is what it meant for me to deal with childhood trauma in my life.
I was only somewhat aware of this trauma, only somewhat able to describe it. I didn’t remember the incidents that were at the root of the misinterpretation. I just recognized the detrimental self-perceptions as they continued to be expressed in my life. In my childhood, my relationship with my parents became distant. As I got older, I suffered with depression. I found solace from my depression by taking drugs. By my twenties, I had become an addict. I was unable to cope with sobriety, and therefore I was never sober. My addiction became another infection in my life. I knew there was a better me inside the mess of my life, but I just couldn’t figure out how to be him. I couldn’t figure out how to heal my trauma. Then, at the age of twenty-eight, I went to the Amazon rainforest and drank ayahuasca.
Finding the Roots of My Trauma
It was in an ayahuasca ceremony that I remembered the incident that had caused my trauma. In a vision I found myself back in the room I had shared with my brother when we were growing up. I was around eight years old. My brother was crying on the bed. I was holding my ear to a glass against the wall, listening to my parents argue in the room next door. My brother couldn’t make out what my parents were yelling about, only that they were yelling, and the energy alone was enough to make him cry. I wasn’t crying though, because I was listening to what they were saying, because they were arguing about me. I was the youngest of four children, and my parents were having financial difficulties, which was causing a serious strain on their marriage, and our family.
My father was blaming my mother for wanting a fourth child (we were four boys, and she had hoped a fourth attempt would finally produce a girl) when they could hardly afford to raise three children. As I relived this memory, which I immediately remembered very clearly, I realized that in that moment I had decided that it was because of me that my parents were arguing. I had created a personal truth so that every argument they had after that I perceived it to be my fault. Finally, they divorced, and I blamed myself. They had an ugly, drawn-out divorce, and I was caught in a custody battle, during which my depression got much worse. But it had all started with this one moment, this one scene from my life that I had forgotten. As I relived that scene that night, in the ayahuasca ceremony, in the house of a Peruvian curandero in the Amazon rainforest, I realized that this was the root of my suffering. I had found the roots of my trauma.
Replacing a Wrong Truth with a Right One
During the ayahuasca ceremony, I was in a heightened state. My mind was in a heightened mental state. My emotions were heightened. My bodily sensations were heightened. That is what ayahuasca does. It creates a heightened state by amplifying our sensory perceptive abilities. This heightened state was very similar to the state I was in during the formation of the trauma, which may be why I relived that scene, but there were two big differences between my heightened state in the ceremony and the heightened state of my childhood trauma.
1. The heightened state during the trauma was caused by extreme negative emotion. I was very scared, confused, and sad. The heightened state during the ceremony was not caused by negative emotion, but rather by an act of healing, a medicine taken with the intention of returning to my true self.
2. The heightened state during the trauma was an experience I was not prepared to interpret as a child. I simply did not have the intellectual ability to understand or properly analyze what was happening. During the ceremony, I was not a child, but rather an adult with enough maturity and analytical ability to more accurately interpret my experiences.
As I came into a deeper realization of the implications of this childhood scene playing out in my vision, I changed my interpretation. It was obvious that I had been wrong. It was not my fault. I saw clearly how I had created a truth at the age of eight, listening to my parents argue, that was not accurate. And after twenty years of living with that wrong truth, I did something amazing in the ayahuasca ceremony that night. I replaced that wrong truth with the right one. In so doing, I repaired a crack in my heart, a leak in my soul that had always prevented me from feeling fulfilled. That night, in a dirt floor shack in the Amazon rainforest, I was healed.
States of Being: Mental, Emotional, and Physical
We are all familiar with the three states of matter: gas, liquid, and solid. These are most easily exemplified as vapor, water, and ice. We can also view ourselves as the combination of three states of being: mental, emotional, and physical. By making comparisons between the states of matter and our own states of being, we can see another trinity of states of consciousness: ideas, beliefs, and truths. Through this model, I believe we can more clearly understand the nature of trauma, and how medicines like ayahuasca can provide an important component to transforming trauma.
GAS – MIND – IDEAS: Our mind relates directly to the gas state because it cannot be seen. It exists as thoughts which seem to float without weight. It is in this state where ideas come in and out of the mind without much attachment to them. It is easy to let go of an idea, because it’s ‘just an idea.’
LIQUID – EMOTION – BELIEFS: Our emotions relate directly to the liquid state because they flow. They are certainly denser than the mind yet still change and adapt to the space they enter. In this state ideas condense into feelings that have attachments. It is not as easy to let go of beliefs because they are ‘what we believe.’
SOLID – BODY – TRUTHS: Our bodies relate directly to the solid state because they are literally the solid part of us. The body has the greatest density and the least flexibility. When a belief freezes into a truth, it becomes rigid and incapable of change. Letting go of a truth is nearly impossible because ‘it’s the truth.’
I have found that this model enables us to more easily imagine a way for us to heal. Just as it takes a heightened state of matter to transform a gas to a liquid or a liquid to a gas, it takes a heightened state of being to transform states of consciousness from ideas to beliefs to truths. Usually, these heightened states are not extreme. Perhaps we resonate with an idea because it makes us feel something when we think about it. Our mental, emotional, and physical states become amplified slightly, which act as a form of confirmation. It takes a greater level of amplification to solidify a belief into a truth, thus we have many more beliefs than truths. While we think our ideas and feel our beliefs, our truths become part of our bodies.
Here’s an important part: It requires an equal or greater amplification or heightened state to transform a truth back into a belief or to change a belief into an idea again. In other words, if a truth was formed in an extremely heightened state, which is often the case with traumas, it will require an equally or more extreme state to return that truth to the state of beliefs or ideas. Attending ayahuasca ceremonies has such profound healing potential for so many people dealing with childhood trauma because the experience produces very heightened states of being through the amplification of sensory perceptive abilities. In these extremely heightened states, ceremony participants can access their traumas and replace their wrong truths. Once a truth has been vaporized back into the realm of ideas, it is easy to release attachment and let it go.
Now For the Best Part
Here’s where it gets even more interesting. What you have just read is an idea, or at least it started as an idea. Perhaps as you have been reading you have resonated with the model I’ve presented, engaging the condensation process of believing. I hope that is the case, and you believe what I have presented. If you can further solidify your belief in this model, it will become a truth for you, which will increase your ability to transform your traumas and replace your wrong truths with right ones. If you bring this model of transformation into an ayahuasca ceremony, or a psychedelic experience, you may find that it empowers you to find the roots of your traumas and release them. You know that you deserve to be loved. It is not your fault. The real you is still inside you and you can build a new foundation of truths in your identity. You can change your interpretations. You can liberate yourself from suffering.
Just reading this is getting you closer to that freedom. The future of medicine is consciousness enhancement. The future of treating trauma and depression is psychedelic therapy. The future is already happening, because the future of medicine is actually a return to our past. Ancestral traditions and natural plant medicines have been healing humankind for thousands of years, and they are still here, still available, still healing more and more people each year. The time has come for us to reconnect with our ancestry, to revive our true identity, to remember that we are a part of nature. We are made of plants. We are made of plant medicine.