This is the conclusion of Dennis Moorman's three-part series on spirituality and SE®. Previously, Dennis discussed trauma and the loss of our lives' key connections plus how clients' spiritual perspectives can aid in their own healing process.
Jump to: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Imagination is another excellent spiritual resource for healing trauma, especially when working with the materially impoverished. Oftentimes in Haiti, people would talk about the trauma of living in abject poverty, sometimes not even knowing where they might find their next meal. For these people it was very difficult to get beyond the stark reality of their suffering. When I would ask them to imagine the kind of life they would like to have, they usually responded: “What's the use of imagining something that isn't real?”
This is where some gentle challenge was often helpful. I would try to help them discover that as long as we continue to dream, we keep hope alive. And when we can imagine the good that we wish to have for ourselves, this in turn attracts goodness to our life. Imagination is a gift that allows us to transcend our present reality, providing the power to open us up so that we may create new possibilities for ourselves. This resource— available within all of our own minds— approximates divine power in that its possibilities are unlimited.
The use of imagination was most helpful in renegotiating trauma in Haiti. It seems that it came most naturally for children. Some adults have become so overwhelmed, riding out trauma after trauma, that they have nearly forgotten how to dream. When they are able to reconnect with the power of their imagination, however, they are enabled to see different options and new possibilities for their lives. This, in turn, restores hope that things can get better.
The hope that things can get better prepares the way for new possibilities to emerge. For example, one young adult woman presented herself living in a very disagreeable situation with her mother and stepfather: she felt trapped and abused. When she was able to imagine a more agreeable living situation for herself, actually feeling it in her body, she experienced a discharge of energy from her nervous system that allowed her to begin to rise out of her depression. She started to feel her own power of choice. This power would ultimately allow her to make a change in her lifestyle, opening her up to the very real possibility of more freedom, joy, and happiness.
Above All: Openness and Tolerance
Finally, as a Somatic Experiencing® Practitioner, I find it essential to allow each client to identify their own spiritual resources. I strive to be open to diversity in spirituality and religious background (or none). I take care not to impose my own spiritual beliefs and practices, even if unwittingly, on the client. Each person is a singular being with a unique spirituality that merits respect and awe.
Spirituality proved to be a vital resource that led to successful renegotiation of trauma when no other physical resources could be found. The successful renegotiation of trauma helped people to reconnect with their body and become more fully present to self, others, and the surrounding world. What I witnessed in Haiti was a mutually beneficial relationship between SE and a client's spirituality. Spirituality not only served as an important resource for renegotiating trauma, but at the same time, each client's own spiritual perspective was strengthened and deepened by the healing experience.
Reverend Dennis Moorman, MM, SEP – Dennis is a Maryknoll priest and a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, currently working in Brazil with trauma renegotiation and assisting with SE trainings.
Photos by Dennis Moorman