As many of you already know, I’ve recently returned from a month-long journey to Peru and Costa Rica. My travels have already brought many blessings, including greater clarity to and amplified enthusiasm for my work here.
The Discipline of Pleasure is an integral approach to transforming trauma into creative power. My fascination with trauma and healing began with my own experience, with my stubborn, passionate desire to experience a wholeness I had never known and yet somehow sensed was my birthright. But decades of working intimately with others of diverse ages and histories has shown me that the wounds that once seemed so personal are quite common. As I continue to expand my understanding of trauma from the individual personal through the familial to the collective, I recognize that there is a very real sense in which almost all of us in the U.S. are survivors of trauma.
Since the culture of the global West/North has spread like a virulent virus for the past several hundred years, and especially as its transmission has been accelerated by technologies of mass communication, the trauma long so pervasive here has become increasingly prevalent in other cultures as well. We know that trauma passes down—and indeed tends to intensify—from generation to generation, so transforming our trauma into creative potency is critical to the regeneration of life on this planet. Human life, certainly, but not only human life: because our species has amassed such power to affect the life of all other species here, transforming our trauma may be the greatest gift we can offer to all our relations.
Trauma affects every dimension of our being—physical, emotional, spiritual—so radical transformation calls for an array of tools. Thus, the Discipline of Pleasure tool box is a large and diverse one. It contains tools from the fields I have studied in academic contexts over the past twenty five years: chiropractic, massage, Feldenkrais, nutrition, herbs. It also contains tools from the fields I explore in the course of my own healing: somatic and “talk” psychotherapies, meditation, yoga asana, sound healing, dance, and spiritual technologies rooted in Ifa and other indigenous traditions. There are as-yet-unnamed tools that, as far as I know, I’ve invented or synthesized. The creative spirit of necessity calls forth new tools all the time.
Western science increasingly contributes to the Discipline of Pleasure toolkit, as there has been an explosion of scientific attention to trauma in the U.S. and other parts of the “developed” world in the past couple of decades. Many factors are combining to bring this sustained attention to trauma from the scientific, medical and public health communities. Some of these include the increasing visibility of veterans’ suffering from the traumatic effects of war and adults who were sexually and physically abused as children, the growing prevalence and devastating social and economic impacts of “dis-seases” like Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), which bear some striking resemblances to post-traumatic syndromes, and the growing recognition that traumatic stress is implicated in the development of many, if not most, of the chronic diseases which are not only our most common killers but also sap us, individually and collectively, of much joy in living.
The view of the human being emerging from the interdisciplinary scientific exploration of trauma dovetails nicely with what I have already learned through study and personal and clinical experience. For example, contemporary trauma literature comes to much the same conclusion that Feldenkrais came to sixty five years ago: the peculiarities of human neurological development make us fantastic learners, for “better” and for “worse.” We are vulnerable to trauma as no other species is, especially during infancy and early childhood. Recent scientific explorations affirm what grandmother wisdom has always known: the degree to which parents have digested their own trauma is a powerful predictor of their children’s ability to self-regulate and form stable, nurturing attachments. Even when parents are not maltreating or abusive, their children faithfully pick up and mirror their unresolved trauma. At the same time, we are profoundly resilient. No matter how badly we have been wounded, we retain both the desire and the capacity for positive change as long as we are alive.
Learning is innately and deeply pleasurable for humans, and we are strongly motivated by pleasure. Individually and as a species, we are possessed by a passion for deepening complexity, greater integration, and finer self-regulation that is almost impossible to eradicate. Even when it seems that passion has long since burned to ashes, it can and does rekindle unexpectedly.
The scientific exploration of trauma is birthing a plethora of exciting new psychotherapeutic and neurobehavioral approaches to healing. Unfortunately, the scientific literature on trauma embodies a typical Western myopia: it utterly fails to reflect the reality that other traditions have wisdom to contribute. From indigenous practices to Chinese medicine to modern disciplines such as the Feldenkrais Method, skillful healers around the world already possess powerful and time-tested tools for transforming trauma. Our collective ability to transform trauma into creative power could be radically enhanced by greater integration between the knowledge emerging from the scientific paradigm and the wisdom long developed within other healing traditions. To facilitate this integration is one of the key aims of this next chapter of my life..
To this end, I will be writing a book on the Discipline of Pleasure’s integral approach to transforming trauma. I aim to finish a first draft of the book by this time next year. Meeting this ambitious goal is the next step on my personal path of transforming trauma into creative power. Stay tuned here, for much of the book will likely debut as blog posts. I look forward to continuing to share this journey with you.
 I will elaborate on this seemingly bold statement at length in later writings.
 See, for example Hesse, Main, Abrams and Rifkin, “Unresolved States Regarding Loss or Abuse Can Have ‘Second-Generation’ Effects: Disorganization, Role Inversion, and Frightening ideation in the Offspring of Traumatized, Non-Maltreating Parents,” pp.57-105 in Solomon, Marion F., and Siegel, Daniel J., eds. (2003) Healing Trauma: Attachment, Mind, Body and Brain. New York, NY, W.W. Norton & Company.