The Seven Types of Trauma: Insights from the Ancient Chakra System
When we mention “trauma,” we’re not strictly talking about horrendously disastrous events such as warfare, assault, or lethal illness. Instead, we could think of “trauma” as deeply entrenched adverse memories that have formed potent and possibly indelible marks on our being. It represents any instance where your established life pattern is thrown off course by an event that stuns your mind and body. The world slips out of control, transforming into something unexpected and undesired, and you find yourself helpless, unable to react appropriately.
This piece will delve into understanding what I term the seven categories of trauma, structured according to the ancient chakra system. The exceptional benefit of the seven chakra framework is its ability to provide us with an exhaustive map of our psychological landscape and life experiences. This equips us with the capability to unveil the full range of traumatic experiences.
As I elucidate the seven categories of trauma, let the depictions call to mind any adverse experiences you’ve encountered. Feel free to document these pertinent recollections, and you may choose to delve deeper into a few of them. It could be quite enlightening to discover which of your chakras carry the majority or your most impactful traumas.
Root Chakra Traumas: The Shaky Ground of Existence
Broadly speaking, trauma initially manifests in our root chakra, implying that all traumas can be considered root chakra traumas. In essence, trauma is fundamentally a root chakra event. The sheer shock, the unstable foundation, the loss of safety, the feeling that existence has become a perilous place, all stem from the root chakra. It epitomizes the unsettling realization that there is no secure foothold anymore. The root chakra collects these impressions and transmutes them into imprints, which are then projected onto our mental canvas as thoughts and emotions. Our most primal thoughts comprise warnings of danger and often superfluous readiness for physical, emotional, or mental threats.
However, there are distinct root chakra traumas, and they primarily revolve around physical survival and life-threatening circumstances. These include serious illnesses or chronic physical ailments that create a sense of sudden vulnerability, the endangerment of loved ones, witnessing death—be it of people we know or strangers, our personal near-death experiences, violent attacks, or physical abuse. Essentially, any real threat to life or any experience related to the notion that it isn’t safe to inhabit a body.
Such experiences can also include natural disasters, wars, terror attacks, or even intimidating experiences in wild natural settings. Surprisingly, even physical shocks experienced in the womb or during birth are included!
Economic traumas, too, play a part, where we face the impending threat of destitution or hunger, or traumas involving loss of home or relocation to another country, or assuming responsibility for a family’s survival. It’s crucial to acknowledge that our collective consciousness significantly impacts us, particularly when our root chakra is imbalanced, causing us to be affected by our nation, religion, or ethnic group’s physical traumas.
Experiencing these traumas often leads us to perceive life as perilous, possibly even leading us to regret our very existence. We might sometimes feel so powerless against life’s hurdles that we assume a victim’s mindset, believing that life is intent on harming us. This can lead to anxiety and a desire for a highly predictable and monotonous life. We might go to great lengths to steer clear of life’s diverse experiences and adventures, possibly developing hypochondria. Anxiety could manifest through fear of specific ways of dying, like fear of heights, animals, cars, elevators, deep water. Our anxiety might amplify to such an extent that we perceive any form of change, such as a failing marriage or job loss, as a threat to our existence.
Sacral Chakra traumas: Intensity Turned Painful
The sacral chakra revolves around our capacity to engage fully in life’s powerful experiences and to relish life’s intensely delightful and joyous “forbidden fruits.” However, it’s also the repository for traumas incurred by venturing to experience and experiment. It stores our traumatic memories from incidents and moments where we indulged in intense experiences that ended disastrously. Potentialities that stirred immense excitement in us, opportunities to satiate our desires and impulses, but which resulted in profound hurt, disappointment, or even physical harm. Perhaps an adventurous journey or a thrilling experience escalated into a life-threatening scenario. Imagine, for instance, having a distressing experience after taking a psychoactive drug, or being mocked or embarrassed when following your passion, or a sexual encounter turning physically or emotionally agonizing. It’s the direct transition from pleasure to extreme pain.
This also encompasses traumatic sexual experiences, instances where we lowered our guard, possibly to be exploited or demeaned. In situations of sexual abuse, which aren’t associated with our personal experimentation, our sexual organs become traumatized, leading to an illogical correlation between sexuality, pain, and punishment. Additionally, traumas that involved being forced into risky adventures are included.
Some of us may have lost control and sexually abused others aggressively. Recognizing our transgressions, we’ve drawn the conclusion that sexual impulses are inherently perilous, inevitably leading to aggression and exploitation.
This category also includes innocent explorations which resulted in severe punishment, often without a clear understanding of the reason. A classic instance would be a child attempting to masturbate, getting caught, and then punished. Such traumas engrain in us moral deductions about sin and punishment, guilt and shame.
An imbalanced sacral chakra, informed by these experiences, discourages us from fully engaging in life, as the negative outcomes are perceived to stem from our attempts to live completely. If expressing love only results in rejection, why risk expressing love at all? The overarching illogical conclusion tends to be that ‘experiencing is dangerous,’ and the inevitable response is a fear of taking risks, engaging in exhilarating adventures, experiencing powerful emotions, and embracing unrestrained sexuality. This effort to avoid life’s most potent experiences could lead to depression, diminished creativity, inability to derive sexual pleasure (frigidity), sexual dysfunction, addictions, obsessive desire thoughts, and a hesitance to experience overwhelming joy and ecstasy.
Solar Plexus chakra traumas: Powerlessness and Tyranny
Traumas stored in the third chakra are societal in nature, arising when we’ve confronted social pressures that pushed us to our breaking point. These include instances of encountering abusive or degrading authorities; exposure to an environment that suppressed or was antagonistic to our individuality; environments so harsh that we couldn’t bear or process the external pressure or negativity, and any other stifling encounters with tyranny, dominance, and societal control.
Therefore, these traumas pertain to confrontations with forces that overshadowed us, leaving us feeling profoundly powerless and unable to influence events or our own destiny.
We may have countless examples of this trauma type, especially from our adolescence—a time when our individuality was most eager to evolve. During this phase, we strived to establish our unique identity, often feeling thwarted by parents, teachers, and other authority figures. We frequently faced abusive peers, who, like us, attempted to define their individuality by demeaning others. If we were too ‘different’ or exceptional, we likely confronted immense pressure to conform. In some instances, we were ostracized. Occasionally, we were penalized for being defiant individuals and for standing our ground.
Inevitably, interactions with abusive individuals led us to believe that people, particularly those in positions of power, are dangerous. This could instill in us a profound sense of insignificance and powerlessness, and a fear of assuming responsibility or utilizing power, even when necessary for self-control. We may have even developed a peculiar form of rebellion, wherein we evade any responsibility and remain childlike just to demonstrate our defiance.
Such trauma can result in two primary behavioral tendencies. The first response may involve increased conformity and a longing for approval from an authoritative figure, potentially becoming dependent on the sense of security provided by confident authority, which can lead to a masochistic desire. The second potential response is increased individuality, deliberately isolating ourselves from any group or society, insisting on constant ‘independence’, even if it means resisting healthy influences and connections with others. This could foster a strong suspicion towards any form of social inclusion, particularly idealistic close-knit groups.
In rare cases, such trauma might drive us to seek out individuals we can dominate and abuse, as a perverse way to compensate for our perceived loss of power.
In a completely different vein, we might have been the aggressors ourselves, employing force to exploit others. Reflecting on the aftermath of our actions, we may have concluded that power equates to danger, thus curbing our assertiveness and dampening the fire element of our self-expression.
Heart chakra Traumas: Love and Loss
The fourth layer of trauma, akin to the preceding three, harbors some of our most critical emotional wounds.
Emotional traumas occur when a deeply affecting relationship leads to severe disappointment. This encompasses parental abandonment or abandonment by loved ones; the physical loss of cherished individuals, which reflects a combination of root and heart chakra disturbances; sudden or perceived betrayal by a trusted individual, someone to whom we may have dedicated our life – this could even include a spiritual authority or divinity. It encapsulates any experience where our deep-seated trust was shattered by the unexpected actions of someone we emotionally relied upon. This also includes instances where we sought validation of love but were instead rejected by significant individuals in our lives. With fourth chakra traumas, we often find it difficult to let go of the heartache brought on by memories of love and its subsequent loss.
The primary conclusion drawn from heart traumas is: ‘Attachment to someone or something poses a risk.’ This conclusion is paired with a sense of solitude in the world and a belief that genuine love is absent from the entire indifferent cosmos. Henceforth, exposing ourselves in intimacy and vulnerability prompts the brain to alert the entire body and psyche – after all, excessive attachment could lead to significant repercussions due to this vulnerable state.
Various emotions are tied to these traumas. We might become vindictive, harboring resentment and hatred, which can result in aggressive behavior in relationships. We may also become suspicious, jealous, possessive, and dominating, fearful that ‘our’ love might be snatched away at any moment. It becomes difficult to believe that someone can genuinely love us, and yet we may vehemently demand it from them. It’s possible we shut down our emotional system, cease to feel, and only connect with others at an intellectual level.
Throat chakra Traumas: The Silenced Voice
The fifth chakra traumas relate to communication and invariably originate from instances where self-expression had negative consequences. This might involve moments when we bravely exposed our deepest, authentic needs, only to face harsh rejection (such as an artist humiliated on stage), or instances when our opinion was belittled or ridiculed. It also includes circumstances when expressing our inner truth was not only scorned, but also led to a severe penalty like punishment or a substantial loss. Other times may include instances where we were subjected to gross injustice, wrongfully judged, and unable to articulate our own perspective. This could have occurred in the presence of a judge, a journalist, a crowd, a gossip-fueled environment, or even our parents, during our childhood or adolescence.
So, it reflects a stark disconnect between our inner truth and the external reality. Our version of the truth, or our stance, remains unspoken and undefended. Often, there’s a chakra map of 3+5, which includes social humiliation, powerlessness, pressure, and confrontation with a crowd. We strive to express our individuality, knowledge, or truth, but in the process, the message becomes distorted or even absurd.
The inevitable inference from such traumas is: ‘Expressing myself and revealing my inner world and opinions pose a risk.’ Naturally, this conclusion can lead to various behavioral patterns, such as adapting our speech to align with what others want to hear, significant suppression of our needs, stuttering, stage fright, and reticence.
Third Eye Chakra Traumas: Shattered Realities
A mental trauma occurs when our grasp of reality is so fundamentally shaken that we no longer can discern what is true from what is false; whenever we slip into a state of disconcerting confusion. This could arise from an incident where what we perceived as real abruptly transmutes into an illusion. Consider the childhood belief in Santa Claus – the revelation that Santa isn’t real can be deeply shocking! Or, as an adult, learning that the people you’ve known as your parents are not biologically related to you can also have a similar effect.
Such traumas can occur when a deeply entrenched belief or worldview crumbles in the face of a new reality (or an unveiling of the actual reality). Our staunch religious beliefs can be challenged when confronted with real-world experiences; a potent psychedelic drug trip can disturb our perception of reality, opening us up to previously unseen dimensions; intensive meditation can uncover alarming depths, leaving us feeling as though everything we thought was real was merely an illusion. Sometimes, our firm convictions about life or people around us – our assumptions about how things should be – can be proven incorrect by events. There are also times when we can be engulfed in confusion, not knowing our path or our next course of action, which can be perceived as perilous and destabilizing periods.
We may even traverse periods of mania or even megalomania, where we seem to teeter on the brink of actual insanity – a total disintegration of our mental interpretation of reality. These experiences demonstrate that we cannot control our minds, thus challenging our rationality and self-control, even slightly, becomes hazardous. This could be applicable in cases of any mental or brain disorder.
This type of mental trauma can result in a polarized conclusion: ‘Knowledge is perilous, and so is ignorance’ – which implies that when you think you know something, it can be brutally stripped away, and when you know nothing, you are completely lost and exposed. If we decide that knowing is dangerous, it can drive us towards nihilism, cynicism, and the irrational rejection of all ideas, leading us to engage in automatic thinking devoid of any higher values. This could sometimes result in extreme indecisiveness and procrastination in decision-making or whenever a clear stance on an issue is required. Conversely, when we conclude that not knowing is dangerous, it can lead us to over-theorize to the point of reality denial; we might rigidly adhere to our belief system even when everything around us has changed.
Crown chakra traumas: Disconnect from the Divine
Spiritual trauma is an uncommon form of trauma. It occurs when we experience a premature dissolution of self-boundaries; when we directly encounter spiritual truth or energy that we can’t assimilate, leading to the crumbling of our established worldview or an overwhelming sense of being ungrounded. This can happen during meditation or other spiritual revelation moments, where we unexpectedly come face to face with the void or limitless space (this can prompt a religious crisis for believers), without adequate preparation. It might also occur while experimenting with psychedelic substances and psychoactive plants, leaving our brain and subtle anatomy susceptible to either illusory or real other dimensions.
Occasionally, an untimely meeting with a spiritual master can unbalance us (this can also occur with a deceptive spiritual teacher, who brings us to the brink of a breakdown).
A spiritual trauma can also occur during an unexpected spiritual awakening or a Kundalini crisis, in which the spiritual energy flows erratically throughout the subtle nervous system due to certain psychological or physical blockages. Sometimes, the collision between spiritual revelation and an unprepared brain and psyche can send an individual into a form of ‘madness,’ such as mania or megalomania. Trauma can occur in those who overly aspire to quick enlightenment and start experimenting with practices that lead to imbalances in prana; they end up thoroughly confused and ungrounded, consequently avoiding spiritual practices from then on. Another possible setting for spiritual trauma is a negative near-death experience.
The overarching conclusion of this kind of trauma is: ‘Complete openness is perilous.’ We grow highly skeptical of the spiritual aspect of life and its ‘ambassadors’ – spiritual masters and esoteric traditions. We develop a profound fear of meditative experiences and strive to constantly ground ourselves. Sometimes, we dismiss spirituality and revert to the other extreme of ‘simple living.’ We resist our spiritual and more ethereal tendencies and fear the feeling of detachment. We establish a rigid definition of sanity and become fervently attached to logical thinking. For some, it may take years to understand that spirituality doesn’t have to be a destabilizing process and that balanced teachings and teachers do exist in the world.
Identify the Location of Your Memory in Your Body
It’s important to understand that traumas always involve certain chakra interactions, or what we refer to as chakra maps. While all traumas encompass the root chakra, common interactions involve combinations such as 2+4, 3+5, and 1+2. There’s always a principal chakra interacting with at least one other chakra. Collectively, they depict the comprehensive narrative of the trauma.
When you revisit a traumatic event, observe where in your body you feel it the most. This signifies the epicenter or origin of the trauma. Remember, your body and chakras possess wisdom surpassing your conscious understanding and presumptions, so never presume that you’ve already pinpointed the source of the trauma!
School of Human Potential – Dr. Shai Tubali – Start in November: https://go.shaitubali.com/en/all contributions by the author
Shai Tubali, PhD, is a leading authority in the field of self-development and self-empowerment. In his writings and teachings, he skillfully combines psychology, philosophy, Yogic traditions, and Eastern thought and practices into powerful processes of inner transformation. His newest book, “Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Meditation,” published in January 2023,…
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