Some people thought I had a drug induced Psychosis ten years ago. Would you believe it was actually the following quote that tipped me over the edge!? Because my PhD was on hemispheric asymmetry of emotion, I began to see my PhD in literally everything: #HealingTrauma
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
This quote is incorrectly attributed to Albert Einstein. He did not write this. However, he did write of this.
For every quote I read, I could see half of it belonged to the left hemisphere (i.e. the rational mind is a faithful servant) and the other half belonged to the right (i.e. the intuitive mind is a sacred gift). Even Aboriginal proverbs: “Those who lose dreaming are lost.”
Some people say be careful what you wish for. In 2011, I made a new years resolution to be “The year of potentiality”. Because I was not very bright at school and later ended up getting a scholarship to do a PhD in Psychology, I was genuinely curious what are humans capable of.
I was 27, so the “save the world” ambitions were already drummed out of me. My focus was more on learning some musical instruments and pushing my body to do the Great Pyramid Race (a horrible 12km mountain race from a pub in Gordonvale to the top of a mountain and back).
I forgot about my new years resolution almost immediately, although I did learn to play the guitar and the piano, and I did complete the Pyramid Race. Towards the end of that year I was pretty depressed and lost. I was living in an apartment in the city across Munro Martin Park.
This park use to be a meeting place for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians who traveled down from Cape York. However, most of the First Nations Australians were “shooed” out of Cairns city with various approaches like sprinklers so they would get wet.
Munro Martin Park eventually turned into a Concert Park and so this meant more walls and more locked gates. One night I had a few drinks in town and was walking back to my apartment. I bumped into a friendly Aboriginal man who asked for a spare cigarette.
We sat together on the steps out the front of my apartment and exchanged stories of loss and grief of this new world and neither of us identifying as a material boy or girl. He was sad about the park and also that his job rounding up cattle had been replaced by choppers.
I was sad for him too and we both felt somewhat alienated staring at the green artificial plastic grass that was out the front of the apartment and had just been added to several places in the Cairns city centre. We had a wonderful laugh and cry together.
My friend Rachel who I was living with at the time wanted to go to the Woodford Folk Festival for New Years. I had never been to a huge festival like Woodford so agreed and we both signed up to volunteer. On the bus on the way to the festival one guy was reading a book.
We started chatting and exchanged some quotes. One of the quotes that he loved and shared was:
“Truth disappears with the telling of it.”
So I was always taught that festivals are “bad”. I was taught they are just a big piss up or drug fest, a waste of space and full of people with no direction or purpose in life. People of no value or the classic: People who don’t have a “real job.”
I was blown away, what I found. This festival was like a mini Utopia. The sheer amount of hard work, devotion and love that went into Woodford was seriously impressive. There was delicious vegan foods, artists way cooler than me, meditation areas with sacred music of goose bumps.
The festival also had a conference with leading scientists on cutting edge issues like climate justice. I did not take drugs at Woodford. If I drank, it was barely anything. I did not experience people irresponsibly drunk or crazy high. I saw a community of extreme talent.
At the festival there was a wishing well. I have only ever had one fascination in life and therefore one wish. My whole life I saw science and religions fighting. I saw beliefs destroy relationships and people even kill each other. I would often defend my Persian Bahai friend
when Australians teased her about her faith. For every criticism towards her faith I would throw the same back at science even though I was not religious myself. I was not for religion but I was also not proud of much of the arrogance I personally experienced within science.
So I made one wish and I put it into the wishing well: “I wish for the marriage of science and mysticism.” That night there was a New Years Eve festival and it was truly spectacular. There was a sign made in the shape of the letters “ME” that was set on fire.
At the end of the performance the sign was turned upside down and the word flipped to “WE”. Something happened to me at this festival. Everything just clicked and connected from the moment I arrived. Things that made no sense or only intellectually became an embodied reality.
My perception was enhanced. There were bricks on the ground with sentences carved in them like: “Love is the answer.” Normally I would just see something like this and not think too much of it. However, I read these words and felt the statement penetrate every fibre of my being.
The next day – New Years Day 2012 – there was a Tibetan dawn service. It was the most surreal experience. Nearly everyone was crying, it seemed for the world. The 2011 New Years resolution – that I had completely forgotten! – returned to my mind: “The year of potentiality.”
That’s when my PhD, the state of the planet and injustice and trauma all around the world made complete sense to me:
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift. The rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
My wish for the marriage of science and mysticism became my living reality. I wanted my PhD to explain the hemispheres’ involvement in this marriage. I could see it played out from the beginning of history to where Psychology and Psychiatry are now and the destruction of other cultures and their systems as a consequence of the intellect.
Why the intellect? As the Dalai Lama says: “Love is the absence of judgment.” I listened to a climate scientist at the festival Dr Graeme Taylor share his book Evolution’s Edge: The Coming Collapse and Transformation Of Our World. Even climate change was my PhD.
I remember thinking no one will connect with climate change until they feel deeply connected to the natural world and you cannot deeply connect to the natural world unless you are deeply connected to yourself. I remember thinking my PhD could be the necessary link.
I remember thinking we need to deconstruct Psychology and help people drop the Psychological Mind to reconnect to themselves. I had already directly experienced this so I knew it was possible. I had no idea my year of potentiality would – exactly one year later – be this.
I had no idea my wish for the marriage of science and mysticism would come true at least in my experience. I felt the bricks on the ground. Love really was the answer. So I went back to Cairns and unsurprisingly this idea was not embraced. I was kindly advised to write a book.
I did not want to write a book outside of my PhD because that was my whole point. The exclusion of reality was the very reason so much of life and therefore ourselves has been rejected, destroyed, lost. That was the entire point: Where is the love in institutions and business?
Love was freedom. It does not require qualifications, complex theories, diagnostic categories, standardised testing, training, endorsements, and actually these things often get in the way of our innate capacity to be deeply human, genuinely kind, caring and compassionate.
Despite this, I seemed like a naive person, a free spirited hippie. My options were to soldier on with my original topic or to leave. But something within me had fundamentally changed. I no longer saw the relevance to my topic. We all knew that nearly no one would ever read it.
I found a genius locked away inside every single one of us and that was all I could now see and all I cared to talk about. How much Western education has discriminated against the majority of its willing participants because they did not colour inside the lines, or fit in a box.
There are some sections of this time of my life that I cannot remember or I do recall but I cannot place events into the correct order. Trauma will do that. For example, I have previously written about a woman who came into the lab one day wearing swimmers
with cuts and scratches on her legs after a night spent in the rainforest. The woman who said to me: “I have been connected to the Universe.” Shortly after the ambulance arrived and she was taken away to the mental hospital. I discussed how this deeply affected me.
While I remember both stories vividly, I cannot recall which one was before or after. All I remember is my PhD connected me to the Universe and the one other person who had a similar experience I witnessed being locked away in a mental hospital.
The only way I can describe the six months of my life that followed these events is that it was like taking an acid trip that went horrifically wrong. My reality melted not just as some poetic description. My entire reality became a living and waking nightmare.
I will not go into my symptoms of Psychosis other than to say that they were truly debilitating and terrifying. I can relate to Russell Crow, the movie A Beautiful Mind. I was in and out of hospital for 6 months. Although even once I was finally stabilised a part of me was gone.
My spirit died.
I barely held a conversation for the year after I left hospital. I seemed to be a lost cause. Some called me crazy behind my back. Some assumed it was a drug induced Psychosis. I took no drugs at Woodford. I simply made a new years resolution and I got exactly what I asked for.
I also wished for the marriage of science and mysticism and that dream was also realised although I could not materialise it in my PhD. Which ten years later I now understand why. What I never imagined in my wildest dreams is that ten years later my dream would flower.
I actually cried several times this week because whether other people can see it or not, Trauma Informed World is that wish coming true at least for me. Trauma Informed World is everything I wanted my PhD to be. It is the marriage of science and mysticism, unknowingly.
What is truly remarkable is that even if my beautiful supervisors had said yes – you can do that – it would never have worked anyway. Ten years ago I had not found Martial Arts, Yoga, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and India’s cultures, my partner from the Philippines,
or the trauma informed tools for survival and wellbeing that collectively were fundamental to both of my recoveries. It is almost as if I had to fall and completely breakdown to find these treasures over the next ten years. I had the vision but I had zero life experience to make it reality.
Trauma Informed World was not even planned. That vision died with my spirit ten years ago. It was only because people like you kept asking for a blog and a website that when I finally did add all the pieces I wrote to it, the process itself put all my pieces back together.
This is why I emphasise the power of Trauma Informed Care as a mindset for personal, social and political change. It is this framework on the website that holds a safe space to address systematic issues such as racism, sexism, homophobia, climate change, all connected.
So my tears are gratitude. My tears are also loss and grief for those who were punished or even killed for sharing their truth. Tears of admiration that many people have woken up enough that stories like this can be shared and are less shunned.
Tears of a lotus flower. The greater the mud the more beautiful the flower. I lost three years of my life to my first Psychosis. I lost eight months to my second Psychosis. I would happily go through both again to be able to share these words with you, alive and well.
I am living proof that your entire world can be smashed into a trillion pieces and you can recover and turn the broken pieces of glass into a kaleidoscope. I am living proof you can be absolutely terrified of something and find yourself in the heart of your once greatest fear.
I would to like state here that in no way is my way necessarily an advised path or the right way. All I know is that I followed my heart against most advice that came from a genuinely loving place. Yes, it was dangerous, but it was necessary to become the person I was born to be.
If you do tell your truth and it is denied, rejected, misrepresented or twisted and turned against you, please know that I understand as do the many others that this has also happened to. There are plenty of them out there. Also keep in mind the young man on the bus: “Truth disappears with the telling of it.”
I can see my errors looking back. I thought my truth was everyones. I saw a world where world peace is possible and free and I wanted all of us to be there. But that was never going happen immediately. Just because I see it, does not mean others do, no matter how clearly I see it.
What I do know is I am unbelievably curious what lies inside each one of us. Imagine if we lived in safe environments where we were all given the opportunity to explore how to flower. I am seriously no one special. I had a massive stroke of luck and the privilege to study Psychology.
This is why my vision is for a trauma informed world. There are as many paths to truth as there are people. We know the ingredients required and they are within reach. I want that sense of freedom to be a living reality for every person before we die. #YouBelong
Yesterday I sent this piece to Dr Graeme Taylor – the author of Evolutions Edge: The Coming Collapse and Transformation of Our Planet. We spoke on the phone for two hours. It just so happens that he and his wife will be in Cairns next week, so we can meet again after ten years. #HealingTrauma
Now you know the power of Trauma Informed Care. Let’s turn this framework into a mindset for personal, social and political change. If you are unable to, you might need help first, to get safe or become ‘unstuck’ from trauma. Reach out for trauma informed care. #YouBelong
Dr Louise Hansen
PhD in Psychology
Human Rights Activist
#HealingTrauma #Justice4Australia #YouBelong
Trauma Informed World was inspired by Kopika and Tharnicaa; two faces that remind us everyday of Australia’s cruel refugee system. One of many systems in Australia that remind us of the negative operation of power. #HomeToBilo
You can listen my talk with Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, the President of Blue Knot Foundation on my own healing journey, training and study and how it has informed my work and advocacy for a trauma informed world here:
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