Author Archives: Elva Redwood

Engaging the Inner Critic; Toward a Fluid Inner Ecology

by Rhea Shapiro

All of us with an abuse or trauma background, especially in early childhood, live with the remnants of these parts of our lives in different ways.  A common result is an inner voice that is anything but kind or supportive.  This voice echoes the tyrant or “ism” that we lived with and endured with no power to stop them.  If we have survived into adulthood we have that tyrannical and critical voice inside us.  It doesn’t stop.  We have to work it.  We have to work against it and with it.

This is a mythic challenge represented by the “wrathful deity” of Tibetan Buddhism.  We can learn to interact, wrestle, kill, re-educate, change and finally even love this inner part of ourselves.  I recall Pogo, the comic strip character’s famous quip: “ I have met the enemy and it is me!” which is completely applicable here.

Hayagriva is a fierce emanation of Amitabha (infinite light) Buddha, from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

How do we notice, work with, and transform these voices, including the habits and repeating loops we develop?  After all, these critics usually have all the secondary powers our primary identities are searching for.

The process of creating a more fluid inner ecology takes time; working back and forth, up and down, in and out, repeating, forgetting, re-repeating and slowly our inner atmospheres can shift.

Noticing Comes First

For many, this voice actually hides in its everyday form.  We are so used to an inner climate of negativity that we don’t question it.  We are hypnotized by the normality in our inner world; not expecting to do well or to be liked or loved; actually expecting to fail or be rejected; never doing well enough to satisfy this voice.

Where once this voice might have kept us safe from an abusive adult that frightened or negated us – we learned not to speak out, disagree or rock the boat – now it is just this old familiar loop that no longer serves us.  It keeps us from actualizing our full potentials and enjoying a life that a human being is meant to live.

Pulling back our projections is also noticing.  A good rule of thumb (because we internalize oppression); if it is happening outside, it is also happening inside.

Creating Relationship: Wrestling
The inner critic usually operates in the inner auditory channel, through our often unconscious ideas and thoughts about ourselves.  Creating a new relationship with this inner role means engaging this voice and practicing inner relationship work.  This includes standing up, fighting with that critic and recruiting allies, real and imagined.  We use our creativity and all perceptual channels here:  movement, sound, language, art and feelings – both body and emotion – as we create a more fluid relationship with this spirit.

These critical voices are not used to being challenged and can be quite rigid and mean.  Up to this point, it has been top dog in an open field with little resistance.  Keep going.

The critic is an inner role that can shift.  With time and work, you can create a new relationship with it, and a more fluid and sustainable atmosphere inside yourself.  Remember, as a 4 year old once announced to me:  “I am the boss of myself!”

Going Deeper

After challenging – and challenging and challenging – the inner critic, we can begin to dialogue with it.  We find out what exactly it is saying, thinking and feeling.  Critics are often too general, and when really challenged they get to the edge of their known world.

Working at that edge to create more specificity brings change, and power can shift.   To do this one must learn to really enter the critic’s role and walk in their shoes.  This is phase three of Arnold Mindell’s Four Phases of Conflict.

We are working to embody the energy of the critic, not the Consensus Reality figure from our past.  We explore the characteristics of the critic as a path to that energy.

Re-educating the Critic

As we begin to allow ourselves to embody the outer aspects of the critic, – masks and theater are helpful here – we may get to know the stories and feelings behind its meanness and small mindedness.

Critics hold our suffering in a different way than our primary identities, which usually identify as victims of the abuse.  Inner critics have internalized the power of the abuser.

Just as the victim can practice fluidity and begin to more consciously use the power of the abuser, so can the inner critic shift, develop and change.  This fluidity needs to be imagined as a possibility.  Then, in fits and starts, it can be introduced into the inner relationship between the victim and critic.  This is a good example of a “Path Made by Walking”, which is also the title of a great introductory book about Processwork, by Julie Diamond and Lee Spark Jones (now Caroline Jones).

As it says in the I-Ching; Perseverance Furthers!

You will be rewarded as this critical inner figure slowly develops into a critical awareness that works with you, supporting you to process your life experiences.

Practicing with the Essence Level

This is the inner elder who uses Big Mind and Great Compassion – phase four of conflict – to create more spaciousness and friendliness inside.  Working with the essence level tunnels underneath the polarity created by the critic.  There you find its essence, and you can use that to work with the critic itself.

There can be relief from the critic’s meanness when you dance the energies in the victim/critic polarity, and move into your nature spot and out into a universe dance.  (See Arnold Mindell’s The Universe Dance.)

The World Channel

Work in the world helps to integrate our newfound powers, as we use our critical awareness to process world problems and energies.

We all have the power to shift and grow this inner figure and develop a more fluid inner ecology.  May the force be with you!  And may you realize this great journey to yourself.


By Rhea Shapiro, Dipl. PW

Rhea is a longtime processworker living in Portland, Oregon.  Processing is her life’s continual joy and challenge.  Rhea’s favorite quotes from Arny Mindell are; “Oh boy, we’re in a mess now!”  and;  “Each of us is a full-time group-process.”  These quotes remind her to  remember process when working with clients and herself.  They bring an overall engagement, patience, compassion and even a sense of humor when working with so much life experience.

contact Rhea

Image credit:  Sergey Noskov, Fine Art America

Corona Virus Dreaming – We’re All In The Same Boat

by Barbora Sedlakova

I have never felt so alive and consciously connected to people and mother earth as over the last few weeks.  Since the novel coronavirus attacked the world and stopped our typical way of being, I have seen a multitude of changes in my personal life and throughout the world.

At this time, we are all in the same boat.  We cannot fully protect ourselves against this powerful wave and we do not know where it is taking us.  It confronts us with our deepest selves.  It forces us to question all aspects of our lives and our future.  We are in the unknown.  Our everyday routines; the world as we know it, are no longer the same.  From a Processwork perspective, we perceive the coronavirus as a secondary process that manifests in the world channel.

Primary and Secondary Processes

In Processwork we distinguish our primary process (who we identify ourselves with as individuals, couples, groups, organizations) from our secondary process (outside of or less known to our identity).  Our secondary processes usually include unintentional and disturbing things in our lives such as illness, inner or outer conflict, or the current pandemic.


Processwork, also focuses on the constantly changing flow of information through six channels.  Four of these are simple sensory channels: visual, auditory, proprioceptive, and movement.  The other two are composite: relationship and world.  The coronavirus affects the entire world through the world channel.  It also manifests in proprioception, as body symptoms, as well as our individual responses to danger, such as anxiety, paralysis, grief, action and humor.

For example, over the last few weeks I have woken up with anxiety almost every morning.  The world channel affects me and impacts me through proprioception, despite my consensus reality knowledge that I’m safe and healthy.

Levels of Reality

On the consensus reality level, things appear concrete and we more-or-less agree on them.  For example, the basic facts of the current pandemic.  Another level of reality is called dreamland.  It includes roles, polarities, symptom makers, and dream-figures (similar to Jungian archetypes) that we all share.  Yet dreamland emerges though unique experiences for each one of us.  Even deeper there is a third level of reality: the essence level.  This is the unity from where everything emerges.  It is the space-time where we don’t distinguish between me and you, where we feel connected to something bigger that goes beyond ourselves.

Facilitating Inner Relationships

In Processwork we facilitate the relationship between the more known and lesser known parts of ourselves.  With this in mind, I ask myself what I should do with my anxiety?  The feeling is so strong, it’s not easy to ignore.  Rather than trying to marginalize it, like we do with many secondary processes, I listen to it carefully.  It helps me to act, to protect myself and others, to take my responsibility in the world seriously.  The anxiety comes back later, but it feels different now.  I feel more fluid between what used to be my everyday-self and the anxious part of me.

Holding Contradictions

There are a variety of responses to this pandemic and each of us reacts differently.  Some of us have contradictory responses at the same time.  Recently, I have learned from Lane Arye about experiencing strong inner contradictions.  For example, feeling both fear and humor, life and death, working and not working, being in contact with others yet also isolated, paying attention to the news and being detached.  How can one be in between these polarities?  This is where a meta-position (an ability to perceive the situation objectively in its wholeness) is helpful.  When we experience such strong contradictions, taking a meta-position is akin to sailing in a boat while it is calm yet stormy.

Letting Go

Julie Diamond writes that what we are currently experiencing is also normal for the world.  Everything is always in a state of change.  For some, this comes in the form of wars, raging wildfires, and previous pandemic diseases.  For me personally, this is all new.  The current disruption is unprecedented in its impact on human lives, but many of our ancestors went through similar crises and worked hard to achieve something in their lives.  We must, however, also be prepared to let things go.

To let go… And let the earth move your body to allow something new to emerge, something we haven’t been in touch with yet.  This is something that I have been repeatedly learning from Arnold Mindell and other Processwork teachers.  To allow myself to go beyond my everyday-self and belief system and see what wants to emerge for me and for the world.

Innerwork Exercise

I would like to share a short exercise with you.  You might do it with a friend or by yourself.

(Inspired by Kate Jobe’s work on the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and Max Schupbach‘s Black Swans – Black Rabbits seminar.)

  1. What is your biggest fear about the current crisis?  What part of yourself is disturbed by this fear?  What does the threatened part of yourself need?  How can you care for this part of yourself?
  2. Let yourself become a bit foggy, relaxed, and playful.  If the virus were a dream figure, what would it be?  What qualities does this figure have?  What is the essence of it?  Imagine you have just landed on a new planet in a universe where everyone has this quality.  What message would the beings from this planet relay to you and the world you come from?
  3. How could you integrate the experience from steps one and two into your everyday life?
  4. What is your greatest hope for the world?

The Pandemic is Also an Opportunity

We are all in the same boat now.  Really, we have always been in the same boat, but the corona virus reminds us of this.  Processwork allows us to dive deeper into the dreamland and essence of the virus and other disturbances and find something positive and useful there.  My biggest hope for the world now is that we can take this crisis as an opportunity to learn and open ourselves up to something new as individuals, communities, and humanity.


By Barbora “Bara” Sedlakova, M.A., M.Ed

Bara holds MAs in both Psychology and Special Education.  She is a facilitator, dancer, researcher, and lover of nature and adventure.  She is a phase two Processwork diploma student at IPOP in Prague, Czech Republic, a PhD student of Clinical Psychology at Palacky University in Olomouc, and currently completing a long-term internship at the Process Work Institute in Portland.  She is constantly developing her skills in the fields of mental health, body symptoms, crisis intervention, and dance.  She appreciates a diversity of challenging life situations and is passionate about finding different ways to bring awareness on both individual and collective levels.

Pronouns: she/her

Image credit:

I would like to thank Elva Redwood, Cathy Bernatt, and Jolene Lloyd for their ideas and help with editing in the English language.

Why Manifestation Doesn’t Always Work: A Process Perspective

By Jeanell Innerarity

If you’ve engaged in personal growth work in the last fifteen years, you’ve probably dabbled in “manifestation.”  Manifestation hit the mainstream with the 2006 release of the documentary The Secret, which featured celebrities, philosophers, and even scientists talking about how they create their own reality by acting like it’s already real.  The movie claims that some of society’s biggest names have used this “secret” to get to ahead, and the rest of us can do the same.

Life is more Complex

If tuning in to the vibration of our goals is the only thing between us and our ideal reality, then why aren’t we there yet?  Did some of us stick the wrong images on our vision boards?  How come manifestation sometimes works, and sometimes doesn’t?  I believe the missing piece in this conversation is PROCESS!

Process, if you know how to track it, is no secret.  The word “process” can be a noun or a verb and applies in many contexts, but it always implies that something is emerging naturally from what came before it.  As a Processworker, I track process by noticing what is more obvious or consciously known (primary), and facilitating opportunities for the less known (secondary) aspects of awareness to emerge.

The Secondary Process

How do I apply this when a client comes to me and says they want to “manifest” something?  The term manifestation gives me a clue: there’s a primary aspect of their awareness which has a goal, and a secondary aspect which has another plan entirely!

A client once came to me with enormous career goals.  Already the leader of an international organization, they wanted to manifest more power, money, and status.  However, they were exhausted.  Their shoulders were tied up in knots.  Their relationship and libido suffered.  They had been betrayed in a business deal and felt unable to trust.  Their primary process was success, but their secondary process was rest. 

What they thought they wanted to manifest was one-sided and oversimplified; it did not honor the complexity of their life and character, and was impossible to maintain without serious consequence.  When you marginalize significant aspects of your experience in order to manifest something, the secondary aspects of your process will eventually sabotage your efforts!

All the Isms

But what if what you’re honoring your full experience, yet you keep running into roadblocks?  When clients describe this scenario, I often find that classism, racism, homophobia, or other institutionalized biases are at play.  A person tries to manifest their dreams, and the world pushes back against them.

Does this mean they can’t get there?  Absolutely not!  With these clients (and within myself) I bring to light the process of internalized oppression—the way in which we repeat to ourselves the same critical and dangerous stories the world has fed us.  In this case, we must first fight the inner oppressor and pick up its power for ourselves!  The outside world may not immediately change, but when we stop agreeing with its insidious and abusive voices we can act with more confidence and at least avoid self-sabotage.  After we’ve laid a foundation for a less hurtful inner dialogue, we can strategize about how to take action, build alliances, and even change systems in the wider world.

If you experience societal oppression and believe—as many do—that manifesting your dreams is based solely on your own ability to visualize, then you will feel like a personal failure every time your dreams don’t come true.  In this case, the culture of manifestation becomes abusive; it tells people that the big isms—sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, etc.—are easy to overcome, thus erasing the pain, challenge, and grief of someone’s experience.  Not fertile soil for manifestation!

You Can’t Go Against Your Needs

It’s also nearly impossible to manifest an intention which overrides a fundamental need.  A classic example shows up in the field of weight loss.  How many millions of people have spent billions of dollars trying to lose weight, only to fail at the outset or gain back more than they lost?  If you eat to “be big” or take up space, to feel safe in your body, to feel free of the sexual gaze, or to experience comfort, then no amount of focusing on thinness will manifest your vision until you can feel these things on your own terms.  Additionally, the cultural emphasis on weight loss is a type of social oppression all its own, so it’s important to explore why you might want to lose weight in the first place.

Your True Nature

And finally, there’s destiny.  Processwork proposes that we each have a unique path in life: a certain type of trajectory, tendency, and dreaming process which shows up in our earliest childhood dream (or memory) and cycles back throughout our lives.  A sort of personal myth.  To harness the power of that myth is to live out your destiny!

In my earliest childhood dream, I disturb the status quo and wake up terrified of my own power.  Predictably, when I try to conform to the mainstream in my waking life it comes back to bite me;  it’s against my nature, which is to use my power to wake people up!  I can’t manifest something lasting if it isn’t “me;” when I’m true to who I am, extraordinary things manifest themselves in my favor.

Because of the impact of the secondary process, societal oppression, unmet needs, and personal destiny, manifestation doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does!  Sometimes, with astonishing quickness and accuracy, you wish for something and get what you wanted.  Is that just dumb luck?  Maybe occasionally!  More often, I’d say it’s akin to “going with the flow.”  When you learn to track and unfold your own process, when you align your choices with your true nature, and when you notice and act on synchronicities, you get out of your own way.  When you honor your needs and take back the power of the internalized oppressor, you open up possibilities for the intelligent universe to shower you with blessings!  It’s just that those blessings might look nothing like what you intended to manifest….

By Jeanell Innerarity, MAPOF, LMT (#22490)

Jeanell Innerarity facilitates personal healing with global impact.  She specializes in integrative work to help clients better understand their personal power through the lenses of ancestry, Earth connection, and somatic awareness.  She is the Founder and CEO of The EcoSpiritual Education Center LLC, where she provides group workshops, one-on-one counseling, and online education focused on personal development interwoven with ecological and social sustainability.  She holds an MA in Process Oriented Facilitation, a BA in Environmental Studies, is certified in Permaculture and Ecovillage Design, and is a Licensed Massage Therapist.  She recently completed her first novel.

Learn more about Jeanell’s work at Ecospiritual Education

Image credit: Jeanell Innerarity

Sharing the Handprint: How Processwork Holds Me to My Dream

By Jon Biemer

August 21st, 2019 is a date I will remember.  This is when I received an offer from Rowman & Littlefield to publish From Footprints to Handprints: Creating Sustainability to Heal Our Planet.  How did I focus and stay the course long enough to reach this point of fruition?  I have Processwork to thank for that.

Competing Passions

I felt pulled in two seemingly incompatible directions. 

The idea of getting a PhD with a cross emphasis in sustainability and spirituality intrigued me, even though I had no inclination to use it for consulting or teaching. 

Also, for two decades, I had followed a Native American spiritual path.  I left my full-time job, partly with the intention of deepening my commitment to ceremony and carrying medicine. 

I brought my divergent callings to a Processwork class on altered states.  We would learn about the diversity of dreams within ourselves, and how they insist we pay attention.  The instructor used a basic Processwork technique of amplifying symptoms, in this case my yearnings.  He asked class members to form two groups, each advocating an aspect of my dreaming. 

The PhD group regaled me with congratulations for choosing their path and assured me that I would join a cadre of esteemed colleagues.  I would receive a badge of honor.

The spiritual folk literally pulled me away from the academic crowd.  They reminded me of my desire to help others.  They appealed to a calling higher than the practical plane.  They loved me. 

But I couldn’t stop looking over my shoulder.  I could not ignore the conventional crowd.  The exercise ended in chaos — but I had to treat the PhD seriously. 

My process toward the handprint

During the break I filled a whiteboard with my reservations.  I’m a slow reader.  I don’t enjoy studying, let alone following rules.  Spending four years – if all goes well – away from my environmental activism seems like a selfish distraction.  I’d be spending less time with my wife.  I wouldn’t be helping other people much either.  And the significant cost… I was at an edge, a Processwork term for fearing change.

Two bubbles on that web of thought (some call it a mind map) stood out for me – “contribute something unique,” and “need to be recognized.”  Ah… Those were the reasons the PhD was so compelling.  I realized there may be other paths to meeting those needs. 

Unfolding My Path

Upon hearing my story from the altered-states class, my wife Willow said, “You could get a PhD from the universe… rather than a university.” 

That resonated with me. 

I could intentionally treat my adventures in sustainability as coursework.  I had already managed energy conservation programs professionally.  I had supported ballot measures to curtail nuclear power.  We were in the middle of an eco-remodel of our new house, creating a “food forest” in place of a lawn, and partnering with the Johnson Creek Watershed Council to remove invasive English Ivy.

For my unique contribution, I was already nursing the idea of the Environmental Handprint, the good we do, the ways we can change the system.  Encouraged by my altered-states experience, I submitted and presented a professional paper about the Handprint, and… One morning the vision for a book crystalized. 

I loved writing, but it had always been a lower priority than getting things done.  But now a book would serve the role of my dissertation.  Besides, I might receive some recognition.

The Gift of a Headache

Four years into my book project, work proceeded slowly.  Some of my data was going out of date.

And another problem claimed my attention.  Headaches.  A fiercely intense pain over my right eye would claim my entire attention for about twenty minutes.  They came mostly during sweat lodge ceremonies.  The doctor had a nine-syllable name for these headaches and some medicine – which worked.  But, after ordering precautionary imaging, he offered no physiological reason why I was getting them. 

I brought that reality to another Processwork class.  In this instance, I walked with the seemingly incompatible energies of my ordinary plodding self and the pounding energy of my headache.  I moved first with one energy, then the other. Gradually, they fused into a lively dance. Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” came into my mind. 

I moved with the music, feeling its punctuated downbeats.  I admitted to myself that the heat of a sweat lodge was part of the headache problem.  Yes, but that thought didn’t feel helpful.  Processwork reminds us that physical symptoms can reveal wisdom that we are not already aware of, perhaps something needed for a breakthrough.  I kept dancing.

Eventually, these words came to me, “The dance is my spiritual practice.” And then, “The dance, slowed down, is my walk.” 

Suddenly I understood that my book – a walk of sorts – is a spiritual calling. 

My headache told me that life was out of balance.  It is okay to back off the sweat lodges.  I’m not abandoning my spiritual path.  I’m deepening it – as I hoped to do back when I took that altered-states class.

The labor and discernment I pour into my book is my commitment to serve.  Making money is not my goal.  However, it is important to find a mainstream publisher and partners willing to share this earth-healing message widely. 

Therefore, engaging a book coach became yet another course in my advanced study.


From Footprints to Handprints required six years of writing and rewriting. It represents the practicality, creativity and persistence of millions of people who are contributing to a better future.  It offers nearly two hundred Handprint Opportunities.  And it reflects the power of Processwork to help inner needs make a difference in the outer world.

The image with this article, a green handprint superimposed on the 1972 NASA photograph of the Earth, is a symbol for sustainability, much as three arrows in a triangle symbolize recycling.  

By Jon Biemer

Jon Biemer earned a Certificate in Process-oriented Psychology in 2014. He also is a registered Professional Engineer. He provides Organizational Development consulting to businesses and non-profits. Check out his website at Contact him at, especially if you’d like to receive publication announcements about From Handprints to Footprints: Creating Sustainability to Heal Our Planet

Image credits: Jon Biemer

Process-Oriented Dating

By Amy Palatnick

Although I don’t get paid for it, I like to call myself a “professional dater,” because my approach is more of a martial art or a research project than a quest for love.  I focus on dating for personal growth, using each date to challenge myself in the realm of communication.  In my practice, the manifestation of love is a cherry-on-top, not a primary goal.

A unique perk of dating is getting to interact with a variety of people.  Different parts of me get evoked by each connection.  At an early stage of interaction, I have little skin in the game and can freely experiment in my communications without feeling limited by stagnant roles that crystallize in longer-term connections. 

Dating also has a built-in bonus of introspection: when it’s over, there is plenty of time to reflect on my experience. 

If you are ready to flex your communication muscles, dating is a perfect practice arena to usher you into the bountiful land of elevated relating.  Dates are filled with opportunities to develop and practice our communication skills, from first contact to sayonara.  All we need to know is how we want to grow!

How Do We Grow?  The Mandate of Personal Evolution

I believe that each person is on a unique evolutionary path, encountering specific, personally-tailored obstacles that inevitably result in personal growth.  When we navigate our journeys with awareness, we may experience a gentler ride: we can consciously manifest and monitor our progress (including our failures!).  My belief is, even when we resist or ignore spiritual growth prompts (which can manifest in the form of accidents, body symptoms, dreams, disturbances in our home, relationship, or work lives…) we still evolve!  We can’t avoid the lessons life has in store for us. 

Yet growth is often difficult and uncomfortable!  We have to be willing to shift belief systems, to stretch in new directions, and to behave in ways that feel foreign and uncomfortable.  It takes work to build new muscles.

The Concept of the Edge

Foundational to the Processwork paradigm is acceptance of the whole of who we are, including the unknown parts of us that desire expression.  We can help the process along if we have a sense of what those parts are. 

The threshold of our growth is called the edge; an inner boundary between the known and unknown parts of ourselves.  It is the gate to our emerging future, the portal to our untapped potential.  Most of us try to avoid edges, feeling safer when we rest in what is known. 

But emerging qualities actually need an outlet.  When blocked, these marginalized (not fully integrated) parts often find troubling means of expression, such as through addiction (an unconscious strategy that gets us over the edge), nightmares (which confront us with our edges), body symptoms (where our edges surface physically), and other difficulties.  By consciously choosing to grow, we can express these characteristics in ways that are more supportive and less sabotaging. 

An easy way to identify the parts of us that are trying to grow is to look at people we admire.  Who do we wish we could be like?  What is it about them that speaks to us?  Can we act like they do?  Can we integrate their unique characteristics, even a little bit?  Can we sit like them, talk like them, grab that trait they have and play with it?  If not, why not? 

If we are willing to take risks to act in new and unfamiliar ways and to dance with our edges, to welcome our unknown parts, we can embrace our emerging traits by taking risks and manifesting our growth.

What is Your Relationship Edge?

We have all kinds of edges: some are personal, others are interpersonal (between people) or even transpersonal (beyond personal).  “Relationship edges” are interpersonal, showing up in connection with others. 

My biggest edge in relationships is radical honesty (speaking my truth even when I’m afraid to).  My primary style is to accommodate, to say what I think the other person wants to hear.  In dating, this comes up a lot: I often am conscious that I am not interested in my date but I continue to “make nice” instead of ending the encounter. 

I have a personal hero named Janet.  My relationship edge is radical honesty, and Janet always says it like it is, for better or worse.  When I am on a date and know that I have something to say but am afraid to say it, I think about Janet, and pretend that I’m Janet! I sit up taller, and I feel like Janet.  I look through her eyes and put my hands on the table.  When I remember, I use this line that helps me get where I want to go, “Can I be honest with you?”  From there, I always know what to do. 

If you know your central edge in relationships, you can identify opportunities for growth, learn to recognize those opportunities and have a strategy for how to overcome the edge.  Other relationship edges indclude: vulnerability, sobriety, intellect, receptivity, interrupting, bigness, masculinity, femininity, freedom, surrender, trust, playfulness, detachment, and power.

To hone in on yours, you can ask yourself:  “What do I wish I could do in my relationships?”

You can openly work on your edges during dates.  You can say, “I’m practicing [insert personal edge] and I’m planning on practicing that with you tonight!”  Your date might be impressed and could even help you develop your new skills.  This can make for a playful, deep and unexpected experience.

Dating with the intention to cross our edges can help us learn to communicate the way we really want to in our relationships.  And when love finally does show up, we will have used our time wisely, becoming more of the people we want to be.


by Amy Palatnick, Dipl.PW

Amy Palatnick is a professional potter, a black belt Nia instructor, and a Processwork diplomate, therapist and coach living and loving in Eugene, Oregon.

Amy is passionate about personal growth, especially through relationships, and is preparing to release a book about process-oriented dating in 2020.

To stay in touch, send her an email at and follow her on Facebook!

Image credit: Alexas_Fotos at Pixabay:

Climate Change Inaction and Relationship

By Irina Feygina

Climate Change is at Our Doorstep.  We have all the tools needed to ameliorate, and possibly reverse, the human impact on the climate.  Our economic and human resources, capacity for technological innovation, and ability to coordinate and learn are immense, and if harnessed toward tackling this issue we can turn things around.  But we don’t.  Why are we failing to meet this challenge with the wisdom, courage, and community spirit that it requires?  How can we shift toward action and support adaptive responses?

Relationships Underlie our Responses to the Climate Crisis

We tend to envision climate change as a multitude of measurable trends: increasing greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures, climate variability and extreme weather events, loss of nature and species extinction, sea level rise and desertification – all leading to destructive impacts on agriculture, infrastructure, cities, communities, lives.

Yet, our responses to climate change and barriers to action are driven by a different layer of experience, one Processwork calls “the Dreaming”.  It is comprised of individual subjective experiences, perceptions, and interpretations – our inner, unique, authentic world from which our behavior stems.  Understandably, many who want to engage politicians and the public with climate change offer facts and scientific knowledge to convey the severity of the risks and impacts.  Yet, this approach has not succeeded because it has not recognized and addressed the barriers at the dreaming level.

In many years of learning about and attempting to address climate change inaction, I have discovered that beneath the resistance is a longing and profound need for relationship.  I offer this insight as a tool to work with climate change differently, in a way that connects rather than alienates people.


Climate Inaction Stems from the Need to Belong

Our fundamental motive, which drives much of our behavior, is the need to belong: to be an accepted and valued member of a group, welcomed and desired, loved and included in something bigger.  Our relationships may be with institutions, communities, families, friends, God or spiritual entities, animals, nature, ourselves.  For most people, relationships form the heart of our lives, and offer meaning and purpose – and we are willing to go to great lengths to protect them.

This becomes a key impediment to accepting and addressing climate change, which threatens the very fabric of our society, and the well-being of those we love.  Climate change brings the most fundamental facets of our socioeconomic systems into question – the reliance on industry, technology, and the notion of progress, and reveals their unsustainability.  Those strongly identified with and psychologically invested in these systems will do anything to protect them, and are likely to engage in denial of climate change and resistance to solutions.  This dynamic is effectively exploited by an organized, extensively funded, shadow political effort to stymie action and sow doubt about the science of climate change.

On the other hand, those who are willing to acknowledge the reality of climate change often fail to see its relevance and proximity to their lives and the people they care about.  If they do, they may be unable to take action due to overwhelming feelings of fear, powerlessness, and inefficacy in the face of this enormous challenge.  The absence of a coordinated response spearheaded by political leadership and inclusive of the public leaves a void where a shared reality is needed.  People are left without a coherent vision nor a path toward engagement which is feasible and meaningful in their lives.

The Key to Overcoming Disengagement is Relationship

Climate skepticism and complacency are both about belonging.  The skeptics perceive a conflict between responding to climate change and protecting the economic and political institutions they identify with and depend on.  The complacent prioritize responsibilities to the relationships that comprise their lives, and are lost without a community foundation for engagement with climate change.  For both groups, responses driven by identity, relationship, and community (or lack thereof) prevail over risks and scientific fact.

Consequently, to work on climate change effectively is to work on these relational processes.  Help the skeptical undo the perceived conflict and harness their desire to protect the system by reframing solutions as a way to uphold what people love and feel attached to.  Help the complacent and disengaged connect climate change to the relationships they care about – their children, friends, neighborhoods, work. 

Make climate solutions consistent with people’s values and aspirations.  Build community and empower through shared engagement and successes.

Not only is relationship at the root of inaction, it is also at the root of action.  People align their behaviors to social norms, as a way of fitting in and being accepted.  Social norms are the most powerful driver of changing behaviors toward sustainability.  Adopting clean energy technologies (e.g. solar panels) is most strongly predicted by how many neighbors have done so, not price.  People are most effectively convinced to reduce water and electricity usage through learning that other people in their locality are doing so.  The burgeoning social resistance of the youth to governmental inaction is driven by connection to members and identity with the movement. 

The Paris Accords were successful after decades of failed international climate negotiations as a result of dedicated relationship building and dialogue among the world’s nations.

Processwork Facilitates Deeper Relationships across Diversity

There are many tools that Processwork can offer for supporting relationship dynamics in the context of climate change.  I am beginning to explore ways to bring these tools to climate organizations and groups, and trust these attempts will be my teacher in how to best draw on Processwork to support the Dreaming. But here are some thoughts.  As facilitators, we strive toward an inclusive attitude that honors and recognizes all perspectives – even ones we experience as disturbing, unknown, or frightening.  When conflicting sides encounter and recognize each other in this integrative way, a foundation is created for a deeper conversation, in which each side can recognize and acknowledge the other.  This can give rise to solutions that are informed by both facts and a deeper dreaming, and foster relationship across difference.

Processwork teaches us to embrace conflict, adversity, and wounds, and trust that listening deeply will reveal what we need to know and show the path forward.  By learning to follow and trust the process we discover our unique contributions and styles of working with complex situations, and can offer support to others for deepening personal growth, strengthening relationships, and building community.  It also offers approaches for supporting team dynamics and interpersonal difficulties within groups and addressing the insidious state of hopelessness and burnout that often arise when tackling entrenched challenges.

Exploring the Essence and Doorways into Growth

Processwork also invites us to discover the essence and explore the mystery of climate change – what is it teaching us and what doors is it opening?  How is it challenging us to create meaning in this unknown landscape?  What spiritual insights and growth is it demanding of us?  Going to the essence offers a detached viewpoint from which we can step out of the ever-widening polarization and perhaps discover a new sense of interconnectedness.  It can also help cultivate hope, resilience, and empowerment.

It is time we listen to the dreaming behind climate change inaction and recognize that our responses are driven by belonging, identity, and relationship.  We have much to offer in recognizing, holding, and healing these relational processes, and moving from polarization and alienation toward community and hope.


by Irina Feygina, PhD

Irina Feygina is a process-oriented facilitator and psychologist who supports individuals and groups to deepen self-awareness, strengthen relationships and communication, and embrace conflict as a doorway into discovery and transformation.  Her passion is working on the human dimensions of climate change – conflict and cooperation, skepticism and engagement, and holding space for complex personal and community processes around this vast challenge.  She has worked in government, nonprofits, and academia, and is currently developing approaches to climate conflict that combine insights from Processwork and behavioral sciences.  Irina holds a PhD in social psychology and is completing her Diploma in Process-oriented facilitation.

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Image credit: Ann Kopka; Entwined

The Spirit of Conflict

By Ger Halpin

“Conflict is a gateway to a deepening of relationship with myself, with others, and the world.”

I’m afraid (in fact I’m terrified) to speak about the spirit of war and conflict, especially at a time when there is so much suffering and fear in the world.  I have not lived through the horror of war.  I haven’t lost my loved ones or seen them suffer in ways that are unimaginable to me.  Attempting to speak about conflict is brazen and potentially dangerous, and a huge part of me questions my right to say anything about any of it.  But something wants me to share my very small experience with you. 

The Fighting Spirit Inside Me

Within me, a warlike spirit emerges from the essence level, from the root of my creativity.  It is often the source of essential changes which need to happen in my life.  My war-like nature has connected me to my personal power, when everything in my life conspired to take it from me.  I’m forged in the fires of my own personal conflict and this has been at the core of my life myth

I feel compelled to explore conflict and my confrontational nature.  I yearn to have a peaceful, Zen-like nature and to emanate peace and reconciliation, but it isn’t my path.  Instead I fight, wrestle, question and trample my way towards moments of peace, insight and enlightenment.  Processwork’s inner-work model, which believes every experience is potentially valuable and transformative, has enabled me to go deeply into this aspect of my nature.  So, despite the horror and desolation of conflict, I own that I’m not yet ready to engage in peace and reconciliation.  

Why is that?  Because I struggle to celebrate and embrace my warlike nature, or to grieve for the pain and desolation I have created for myself and others.  It frightens me to say it out loud, but I am still in awe of the generative power of conflict and I’m not ready to surrender my part in that process yet.  But, because of Processwork, how I engage in conflict is changing.

Processwork Transforms Conflict

The complex nature of conflict is revealing itself to me slowly and in different ways.  Processwork enables me to work on power, privilege and rank.  Now, conflict isn’t about shoring up my identity, establishing my boundaries and creating the world according to my version of reality.  I don’t need to use it to seduce, subdue or threaten others to accept my vision. Processwork is teaching me that I fail when I use conflict to create a world which reflects only my own narrow worldview.  

Engaging in conflict is not about honing my skills and establishing strength in relationship to the weakness of another person.  Scoring points is now an empty victory if it only seeks to exclude or denigrate someone else’s experience or beliefs.  If the result of my conflict with another is to only reflect my perceptions and my experiences, then my world becomes a poorer place.  I have misused the power of conflict.  I have rejected the inherent creativity of conflict and lost the chance to create a world enriched and sustained by diversity.  

Conflict isn’t about marginalising the perceptions of other people, their diverse experiences and denying our shared history as sentient human beings.

Deepening Relationship with Myself

After years of fighting, polarizing situations, and creating stalemate in my personal and professional life, I now realize that conflict is a gateway to a deepening of relationship with myself, with others and the world.  What began as a crusade to establish my identity and to experience my own power in the face of familial and societal oppression, has now become the challenge of experiencing myself as a person and a spirit connected infinitely to everyone and everything else, past, present and future.  This is both shocking, frightening and exhilarating.  This is a world in which I can live, love, fight and explore the experience of being a woman, a mother and a human being.  

Skills for Conflicting Creatively

Processwork motivates me to find new skills to engage in conflict.  The ability to fight and conflict is a great gift to me, changing my life, sometimes for the best and sometimes for the worst.  However, my intention in fighting with someone or for some cause is changing dramatically.  I want to use conflict to learn more about myself, about you and the universe we inhabit.  But I’m fearful that without inner-work, group work and rank awareness, the cost will be too high.  

It isn’t easy to stay connected to my deepest self when I feel frightened or threatened or excluded.  I fear my opponents and their intent when they challenge me or threaten the people or values that are precious to me.  I struggle to get beyond those feelings, and sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail.  Despite this, I know conflict is a powerful path to awakening and I want to become a warrior on this path. 

At its deepest level of expression, conflict is a path of heart.  Having fought for my physical, emotional and spiritual survival, at great cost, I value and appreciate the power of conflict.  I have learned so much about the roots of my own suffering and I have inflicted wounds and suffering on other people.  I’m learning about power, how it is used and misused and its impact on all of us.  I am learning about sensitivity and insensitivity, and how these both facilitate and inhibit our capacity to notice and respond to feedback, in ourselves and others.  

Taking the Other Side

I must always remind myself that conflict loses its transformative power when I fail to take the other side as well as my own.  I am still trying to find ways to creatively engage in conflict, a possibility and a pathway revealed to me by Processwork.  I’m hoping that you and I can follow the nature of conflict, so that it isn’t just about death, destruction and subjugation, but instead becomes a channel for deepening our humanity, and embracing all our creativity and diversity.

by Ger Halpin, MPP, Dipl. Processwork, PG Dip CDRS, Approved Mediator MII

I am an eternal student of change and conflict.  Change and adaption is the key to survival.  Moving through life, negotiating conflicts and flowing with change is my life myth and ongoing challenge.  This requires awareness, a certain attitude and a spiritual practice: a spiritual practice that honors your past, your present and your future.  For me, Processwork embodies all of this and forms the cornerstone of my existence.  It is at the heart of my daily practice as a Community Worker, Facilitator and Mediator.

Ger is on teaching faculty at Processwork Ireland

Healing History

By Gary Reiss

“I know there are old demons which are coming back to the surface.  They are ready to wreak chaos and death,” he said.  “History sometimes threatens to take its sinister course once again.”  French President Macron speaking at a ceremony honoring the breakout of peace of WWI, November 11, 2018.


The central principle behind psychology focuses on individuals and their personal lives.  It is about me or you and if we expand our lens, it is about our families also.  This important central focus, however, covers about half of what psychology needs to cover.  The missing half is not personal to me or you but what we carry psychologically due to our extended multi-generational family system, the groups we are part of, the history of these groups and the countries they come from.  Working in both of these realms together gives us the potential for more inner development and freedom.  Psychology has been built on the idea of personal change and taking responsibility for one’s life, with the exception of severe psychological problems which are seen as genetic or biochemical.


The central principle behind most peacemaking and facilitation is to work with the problems of the present moment, to make some kind of peace treaty and write it up.  We, those of us who are therapists, facilitators and peacemakers, don’t address the hidden presence history often plays.  As a result, the various sides don’t understand that their conflict isn’t just their conflict, but history repeating itself.  Many of us feel the way the Earth holds the trauma and ghosts of history.  If these Earth-spots are not processed or cleared, history repeats itself again and again.  Last year in Warsaw, a few weeks after I taught there, 60,000 white supremacists marched with slogans calling for a new holocaust.  The lessons and the energy of the last holocaust have not been processed fully, so now here it comes again.


Process-oriented Psychology has taken an approach that integrates the ghosts of history and says that we are neither just individuals suffering from our internal psychology, nor are we just groups of people or countries suffering from external present-centered problems.  We are both.  Often inner-work, psychological work, and spiritual development are split off from world change and social action.  However, in Processwork we put this all together.  From a Processwork standpoint, sustainable personal change doesn’t happen without changing the world, and sustainable world change doesn’t happen without the individual’s inner-work to change their feelings.

Processwork addresses individual issues, family issues and world issues as part of individual therapy.  However, it also addresses social and world and historical issues through group work methods.  The two main tools for this are open forums and group process.  We call these methods the Worldwork part of Processwork, this unity of personal work, inner work, and outer world change.

Social Issues, Fields and Ghost Roles

Social issues that exist within the field affect individual psychology.  We share a field; an atmosphere we can sense we are all part of.  The field is full of roles being played by individuals, couples, families, organizations, businesses, or cities.  In families, some common examples of roles might be the parent or the child, the healthy or the sick one, the good child, and the addict.  There are also hidden roles, those felt and gossiped about but not represented or identified with. For example, in a hardworking family there may be a lazy uncle to always gossip about.  This is a ghost role, something that exists in the family but is not identified with.  When he is mentioned the energy of that uncle is present in the family even if the uncle isn’t physically present.  Other common ghost roles are the addict, the killer, the child, the elder, or even abuse, death, and love.

History is a Ghost Role

One of the most impactful ghosts upon a family or group is history.  I am Jewish.  In many Jewish families, the Holocaust is never mentioned.  Yet history is present always in the field.  It is a ghost role but somehow still present.  The issue for me is also personal.  In my family, we knew part of our family had lots of people directly impacted by the Holocaust and the other side had almost no one.

As a child at the dinner table I once asked, “How come we have so many cousins and aunts on Mom’s side and almost no one on Dad’s side?”  I think it was my mother who told me that my father’s side had “disappeared” in Europe.  I learned in my late 50s that my family was from Poland and most of one side died in the camps, probably Auschwitz.  I still have more to learn.  These ghosts of our history permeated my family’s mood; they created an air of anxious negativity that seemed to not be about present life.  The ghosts of history create this atmosphere.  The first time I taught in Warsaw, before I knew I was from Poland, I could almost sense the ghosts.  When someone goes to regions affected by World War II they can feel the ghosts still in the air.  Many people have had this experience wandering the streets of Warsaw for example, as the participants told us at our seminars there.

Ghost Roles Need to be Processed

The ghosts left by unprocessed history are like uncooked energies in the field; they surface again and again and tend to recreate history.  Our work as facilitators and therapists is to facilitate the cooking of personal and historical trauma so that we can work with these forces, these polarities, these sources of trauma, so that we don’t have to face them again in the same traumatic ways.  We can instead learn from, integrate, process, detach from and transform our personal and historical trauma into being the next positive steps for ourselves and humanity.

by Gary Reiss, LCSW, PhD, Dipl.PW

Gary Reiss is a certified trainer in Process-oriented Psychology.  Gary has a private practice in Eugene and Portland, Oregon, and teaches Process-oriented Psychology worldwide.  His specialties include family therapy, sex therapy, working with coma patients, Worldwork in world hot-spots, organizational development, and integrating Processwork with different spiritual traditions.  Gary is the director of the nonprofit organization The International Peace Group.  He has published 11 books, including The Dance of Sex, Dreaming Money, Families that Dream Together, and Love, Power, and Wisdom.  This post is an excerpt from his new book Healing History; Breaking the Cycle of Personal and Historical Trauma, published in 2018.


My Childhood Dream is my Facilitator Superpower

These are my Life-Myth Superpowers… what are yours?

by Matt Stella

I am laying curled up on the back porch. Brown painted floor and railing. Crying. About five years old.  A little boy alone, upset, in the fetal position.  The porch is raised up from the yard like a stage, yet I must be outside of the house trying to hide and be alone.  The little backyard is nicely manicured: flowerbeds with a nice stone border, and a perfectly green lawn that extends to the back fence.  Closer to the fence it’s darker in the shade of a big maple tree.  The grass there is not as lush, with some bare spots and patches of dirt.  The back fence is a wooden wall about 6 feet high, like a stockade you would see in old forts.

Then, just like every time, an old woman in a dingy white dress comes out of the back door of the house across the fence.  She steps out onto her back porch, which is raised from her yard at the same level of my porch, so she can see across the fence to where I am.  Her house is white but in disrepair, with peeling paint, unkempt.  Her yard has no grass.  It’s wild and untended, the dirt packed down from a sad, mean dog that’s chained to a stake in the middle of the lot, pacing and digging wherever it can reach.

Crying harder now, I feel her looking over the border fence at me.  It’s uncomfortable to feel that she is watching me.  And suddenly it’s unbearable and terrifying.  The old woman in the white dress is not fully human.  Even though I’m trying not to look at her, I realize she has the terrible head of a chicken, with her haunting, piercing, yellow chicken eyes locked straight on me, no eyelids, a relentless steady gaze.  The longer she stares, the more unbearable it feels.  My sobbing and panic heightens by the second.  I know that if she keeps looking I will die.

Carl Jung and the Life Myth

I always wake up just before dying.  This is the dream I had in the night, many nights in a row, in different phases of childhood, starting about 5 or 6 years old. Over time I ‘outgrew it’, and I did not think much of it.  Then in my 30’s when first studying Processwork, I was asked to remember the first dream, nightmare, or recurring dream of childhood — what Carl Jung would call the Life Myth Dream.

My Processwork therapist, Randee Levine, was brilliant and wise.  She helped me approach this nightmare with curiosity, then compassion, then awe.  I could see that for much of my childhood, teens and early adulthood, my inner life was most like the child in that dream.  Everything looked quite fine on the outside, like the house, nice, privileged, put-together… but in the back, behind the scenes, I was depressed, afraid, insecure, small and hurting.

Over the Edge – the Chicken Head Lady

But what about CHL – the Chicken Head Lady?  She was definitely not me.  I was definitely not her.  The edge between my world and hers was a tall stockade barrier.  And the awareness in the dream, the looking, was coming from the wild, scary land across the edge.  Not from me.  In the dream, as in my life, I was most aware of trying to look manicured like the lawn and flowers, but secretly feeling hurt, weak or ashamed.

If you are familiar with Processwork, you may be anticipating the good part… How am I the Chicken Head Lady!?  It was a deeply healing and empowering process to shapeshift into her — to practice standing straight up, with the relaxed but fierce awakeness of pre-human eyes staring straight across the edge to the source of the suffering.  From her perspective, she was not trying to harm or kill the boy.  She was just witnessing, unflinchingly.  Over many years, my healing and growth have been a practice of living that dream.  It starts with noticing that in the ‘back porch’ hidden areas of my mind, I am feeling hurt and alone, desperate not to be seen.  Any attempt to look at it feels terrifying like it might be the end of the world.  But then to adjust my gaze, open eyes fierce and wide, and look dispassionately straight at it, opens me to an ancient power with no fear.  The ‘boy’ starts to disappear. He is ‘killed’ in the sense that the longer I look, the closer it is to being gone.  Even if I only remember to do this inner work once in a while, it’s a great relief and a return to power.

Central Polarity – Opposite Allies To Help My Clients

It has been 20 years since I was taught to view the unique, mythic themes of my life through the lens of this dream.  As a therapist and Processworker, there is no skill or metaskill I am more grateful for than this Life Myth Dream to guide me.  When I have a client exposing a hidden hurt, and the shame of it being seen, I can access true compassion.  The ‘boy’ is my ally, reminding me what it’s like to feel that desperate panic, suffering and shame.  And the Chicken Head Lady is my ally, showing me the impersonal paradox of detachment, awareness, and fierce connection.  When I remember to look through her eyes, I can see straight through a person to the seed of their suffering, and not turn away.

Giving Thanks

Over the years I’ve done more and more work with survivors of trauma and childhood sexual abuse.  Even with a facilitator-superpower like CHL it was very difficult at first to look straight at the heart of stories of violation and damage to children.  But the more I could believe in both sides of the edge of my dream, and slowly integrate the polarity as a whole, the more able I have been to work with greater and greater suffering.  Thank you Chicken Head Lady!  Thank you scared little boy!  Thank you cultivated land, wild land and the big edge between!

by Matt Stella, LICSW, Dipl.PW

Matt Stella is a process-worker in Salem, MA, north of Boston.  He has been a psychotherapist in private practice since 2001, with a love of Processwork since 1999.  His work with depression, anxiety, addictive behaviors and relationship challenges has focused on the dynamics of shame, inner authority, and transformation.  He leads men’s groups and specializes in men’s issues, including the effects of sexual abuse and trauma on men.  Meditation, Authentic Movement, Contact Improvisation, creative process and especially family life with his magnificent wife and daughters have all been vehicles for his personal growth and discovery.



Trauma Inspires Us Toward Wholeness

by Brianna Wunderlin

I had two main traumatic events as a child that affected my mind, body, and spirit, though I didn’t remember either until I was an adult.  This is quite common as the mind can protect itself until it is safer to start the process of uncovering and healing. The coping mechanisms and triggers are ways that the mind, body, and spirit are attempting in effective or ineffective ways to protect us from further harm.  The issue comes when these ineffective ways produce more harm than good, keeping us from living a life that is living resiliently in the present.

Trauma and Dissociation

Trauma affects everyone differently, but often has a physiological response, which is the nervous system’s coping mechanism; fight, flight, or freeze.  My main response was flight, which turned into dissociation.

Dissociation can be as mild as spacing out or as strong as part of your psyche split off from the rest.  Mine was severe enough that a younger part of myself had split off from the normal track of growth.

Whether we have experienced trauma or not, we are all made of many parts.  Processwork has some concepts that support healthy relationships between these parts.   

Deep Democracy

A key Processwork concept, Deep democracy, welcomes all diversity in its many forms and values, listening to all of them.  It is one of the most effective tools in my toolbox with clients and in life; deeply listening to all the parts.

Listening means not just hearing, but noticing messages in all their forms – emotions, imaginations, dreams, projections, animals, movements, energy, etc.  When we listen to the voices inside and outside ourselves, we commune with the aliveness of the world.

However, if you do not have a quiet place from which to ground yourself, and not get carried away into the information, people, places, or events, listening can be overwhelming.  

The Internal Metacommunicator

In Processwork, this place of awareness is called a metacommunicator; the part that communicates about what is going on inside ourselves.  This is the voice that can name or comment on what we are experiencing. It allows us to step outside of our experience and communicate with all our parts, instead of being swept away.  When we use this metacommunicator, we can take actions with awareness about our inner landscape, instead of pushing on, or ignoring what is occurring on the inside.

This is particularly important for those who feel they are at the whim of their triggers and internal experiences.  Many people who have had trauma have a nervous system that is easily overstimulated, and easily triggered. For this reason it is even more important to find a firm sense of stillness and grounding where you can learn to safely receive life.  


Tuning into the energy of the earth and its supportive role in your life can help with this.  Walking barefoot outside, immersing yourself in nature, or inviting the feeling of support from the earth through the soles of your feet, are all ways you can ground and tune into the energy of earth.  

Noticing Triggers and Working with Them

The trauma I experienced created a shattering effect in me.  Often when I was triggered, I would dissociate. The experience right before dissociation was a feeling of shattering apart.  Technically I was; pieces of my psyche were like, “we’re out of here.”

As I learned, through Processwork and deep yogic meditations, to track my physical sensations, I began to notice these different effects of trauma in me.  Common triggers were: anger directed towards me, a spotlight in a group or class, conflict, my internal voice wanting to say something in a group but feeling unsafe to do so, and being seen by others.  These usually only triggered me when I didn’t feel safe, which was a combination of me not feeling safe inside myself, and usually some sense of judgement from others who seemed similar to the abuser in my past.

One of the moments I realized this was at a work meeting when someone implicated me in something minor but negative.  I felt their words and energy go straight into me. My trained, sensation based awareness brought me to realize I was beginning to go numb and cold.  I quickly excused myself from the meeting.

I went to the bathroom, where I could let go into a ball of tears.  These tears came from a deep, hurt place that I knew needed to be felt, seen, and heard.  I allowed the tears to flow, hitting the sink basin; letting water meet water. As I finally felt the emotions ebb away I went back to the meeting, able to be semi-present.  When it was over, I went to the parking lot and I noticed the shattering feeling inside of me, like I had been pulled in different directions.

Using My Facilitator Skills

I called to the parts that had split off; the little girl, who was scared and alone and the me who was conscious and could inhabit my body.  I began to facilitate the different voices and bring in the ones that were missing.

In Processwork, these parts, often externalized to allow them expression, are called roles.  I stepped into the different roles: the abuser, the one who felt hurt, the protector, the caring and nurturing mother.  

At first, the protector and nurturing mother were missing, but I invited them into the scene.  I physically made a place on the pavement of the parking lot for these different roles, and I let them speak through me as I moved from place to place.  

Parts in Dialogue

Allowing parts to dialogue gives them expression in the world, and grounds them into the present time to be heard, making me more whole.  As I have learned to be with these different parts, they are no longer pieces, but make up the whole of me.

On an energy level, these parts once contained parts of my energy.  As I re-inhabit them, that energy becomes accessible for me to use with more conscious awareness.  

The Dreaming

Similarly in therapy or in a group, people can play these inner roles, and the energy landscape, or dreaming, of the individual or group can be seen.  The dreaming is the underlying, fluidly-moving river of meanings, roles, and emotions which manifest the surface level reality we all sense and agree on.  

Toward Wholeness

Being aware of the dreaming is how you become a creator of your world; owning and learning to access the wholeness of your own energy – the wholeness of you.  


Brianna is teaching an upcoming course – Sacred Resilience: Sexual Abuse Healing.  Please check out her website for information and updates.


By Brianna Wunderlin, Dipl. PW

Brianna Wunderlin is a transformational coach aiding women who experience emotional overwhelm and stress to find resilience and inner strength.  

She has worked most often with grief and loss, spiritual emergencies, trauma, mother/daughter relationships, leadership, and empowering women to embody their gifts and claim their power.  She is a Processwork Diplomate.

Brianna has worked with trauma through yoga, meditation, energy work, and Processwork.  Her favorite place is nature, and she lives surrounded by sage brush in the high desert outside Reno, NV.  

You can contact her online at & on Facebook at Becoming the Whole


Photo credit: Bekah Russom


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