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Our early life experiences lay the groundwork for how we experience the rest of our lives.
The relational dynamics of our childhood nest establish the foundations of our emotional lives as adults. They set the stage on which the rest of our lives play out. The direct impact of those dynamics on our adult lives is palpable, but their roots are buried so deep in our minds, whatever it is that gets stuck in there, ends up stuck in there real, real good.
This is simply the way things are, it’s how we, as mammalian organisms, learn to survive reality. However, that doesn’t mean that how we have adapted serves our wellbeing.
If we were subject to profound suffering without the context of loving support needed to make sense of that suffering, the impressions left in us during those times will linger with us long after the events have ended. Furthermore, the manner in which adapted to survive that suffering gets logged into those foundations of identity and sense of reality itself.
We end up carrying those impressions with us, and all the adaptations we developed that time, as though they were who we are; like those the profound suffering we experienced as a child is the way the whole world is. As a consequence, we end up hypervigilant to protecting ourselves from those events repeating, or those impressions buried in us from coming to the surface, for the rest of our lives. This, paradoxically, means we end up living in that suffering as if it were always as real now as it was then, preventing us from living in a reality where our deepest pain isn’t the author of our lives.
Imagine we are in the artic and it’s 40 below, celsius. If we don’t adapt and put on a parka, we aren’t going to survive. So a part of us does, it puts that parka on it, exactly as we needed. But then, we fly to Mexico, and even though it’s 30 plus, our parka is still on. The cold was so intense that the inside of it is stuck to our skin. There doesn’t appear to be any parka there, just ‘me’ and all the heat that is slowly killing us is just the way things are. Even if we manage to see it’s a parka, and that we can take it off, it’s still seized to our skin and it’s not only hard to remove now, it hurts like hell, hurts just like the freezing cold did, and so the same part of us that put that parka on will make sure it doesn’t come off. (Thanks to Dr. Gabor Mate for this metaphor)
That parka is childhood trauma and if we have it (and most of us do) it’s stuck in us real good, and kills us slowly over time. Healing that childhood trauma, despite how much we want to or how hard we try, is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an easy process.
But, apparently, the psychedelic Amazonian plant medicine, Ayahuasca, held in the right context, can help us heal that trauma in a way that nothing else can. But, that healing is not a guarantee, neither is whatever arises within the experience being something that will immediately change our lives.
healing childhood trauma with ayahuasca
So how does ayahuasca heal our childhood trauma? And what does it take for ayahuasca to do so?
Those are questions, along with several more, that Carlos Tanner is on Adventures Through The Mind to answer for us.
Carlos Tanner is the director of the Ayahuasca Foundation, where he organizes healing retreats, educational courses, and plant medicine research led by Shipibo curanderos in the rainforest of Peru. His journey with ayahuasca began in 2003 with his own profound healing experience, leading him to move to Iquitos, Peru in 2004 to live and apprentice with a curandero named don Juan. Four years later he came up with the idea for the Ayahuasca Foundation, which has helped over a thousand retreat participants as well as over five hundred students of the Shipibo healing tradition.
Along the way, he got married, had a child, and built a research center that hosts ayahuasca medical research. He supports the decriminalization of plant medicines on a global scale and looks forward to a new era of medicine that centers around a consciousness-based understanding of health.
Carlos is on the show to talk about what childhood trauma is, how it’s developed, and not only how ayahuasca can help heal it, but how we can set ourselves up for, and understand, that healing in a way that truly betters our lives.
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- Carlos’ journey of recovering from addiction with ayahuasca and into ayahuasca apprenticeship
- What is childhood trauma and how is it made
- The role of ayahuasca in healing childhood trauma
- Why ayahuasca helps heal trauma better than psychoanalysis
- The importance of having a safe context to release stuck traumatic emotions
- The role of accessing hypersensitivity states during ayahuasca to remap traumatic memories
- The essential role of ceremony in guiding our ayahuasca experiences into a healing experience
- Inner environment metaphor to understand the science of healing with ayahuasca
- “whatever it takes”
- The role of stating your intention
- The connection between inner environment and relational context
- Are there certain traumas that ayahuasca can heal better than others?
- How do spirits fit into this childhood trauma healing process?
- How our beliefs inform our sense of what’s real, and how our sense of reality isn’t necessarily what’s real
- What about dark sorcery, demons, psychic warfare, and magic darts?
- What about trauma that causes psychiatric conditions, like psychosis or bipolar?
- Ayahuasca’s influence on epigenetics and inherited family trauma
- Integration specific to returning back to your life after doing ayahuasca in South America
- The results of the ayahuasca foundation’s research on ayahuasca impact on mental health
- The second phase of their research
This is the organization that Carlos is the director of. They run healing retreats, as well as a plant medicine school for”students to study ayahuasca and Shipibo curanderismo, constructed and owned by don Enrique, who teaches the courses.” They also have an associated research center. You can access their research here.