Have you ever had trust of a "shaman"/facilitator/healer broken? How did you respond? (Internally or externally)
This was a question I asked a few weeks ago in the Integration Facebook Community. (Link HERE).
Trust is one of the most important aspects of a healing container. Without it, we don't feel safe to open to our deepest wounds where we can be vulnerable enough to heal.
The range of experience of broken trust varies widely. I will share here about the healing container of plant medicines, some common things to watch out for, and how you can approach it when it happens. There is no one right way to navigate through.
The point is that YOU are in the driver's seat of your healing journey, not anyone else.
This topic stirs up a lot in the plant medicine (and spiritual/healing) world. Many of us have had our trust broken, which is heart-breaking and can be devastating or even traumatizing. These situations can take years to heal and recover from.
This is a tricky space to navigate through - but it is deep work that is rich with learning and healing.
I'd say in many cases, when working with a "shaman" or any other spiritual teacher or healer over a long period of time, it *may* be unavoidable. Each person and situation is different. Personally, it has happened several times, where eventually there has been a break in trust.
The reason for this is we are deep in a shamanic and healing space. Our realities, perceptions, personalities, protections, are wide open. We are at our most vulnerable state. We often look to the "shaman" as protector of that space, as we are healing parts of ourselves, and until we learn to hold our own and take responsibility for our own experience.
Placing Trust and Power Outside of Ourselves
Most of our emotional healing is working through traumas, wounds and other experiences we may have had in childhood (and also patterns from generations and lifetimes that we are still carrying in the present). So it's entirely natural to unconsciously project the role of caretaker (mom, dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, foster parents, etc) onto a "shaman." As we do this unconsciously, we also project unconscious expectations onto them. Many of us give them power of "healing", and we trust them unequivocally. We expect them to behave in ways that either our caretakers did, or in the opposite ways to what our caretakers did. Our unconscious is intelligently bringing these expectations up to be resolved, so we can move on and repair the wounding. We can also make people in these roles into the "perpetrators" from past traumatic events. Again, our unconscious is trying to resolve and heal.
They may dismiss your experience or tell you how to interpret what you've experienced. Gaslighting is something that can happen when an incident of trust has been broken in plant medicine and spiritual circles. Often, focus is diverted to the themes of "it's all love and light" or "it's just your projection." Some "shamans"/healers/facilitators are not able, or willing to talk about and address deeper issues and traumas that arise in the space.
The unequal power dynamics can allow for "shamans" to get away with things that we wouldn't normally allow. Some have not done enough of their own shadow work. Some haven't been adequately trained or know what to do when trauma arises in the space. Some do not know how to work with energies and keep the space clean and clear. And many have not been studying or working with plant medicines for long enough to develop all the skills required to handle the infinite situations that can arise. It's not something you simply learn in 1 or 2 years. It's a long path to grow and learn through many initiations with teachers, plants and decades of experience.
And Listening to the Plants
Plant medicines can be incredible teachers and healers - as they can be there for us on very deep intimate levels. (Again, not to give all our power to the plants themselves, and put them on pedestals - but explore what are they pointing to in ourselves?) They can reach and attune to us in ways that most people cannot - they can teach and show us all the ways we aren't being with ourselves - maybe we are fighting ourselves internally, resisting, not accepting ourselves or something that happened, or not taking responsibility for our lives. Maybe we are placing too much of our power and expectations outside, not empowering ourselves from the inside out. It's not comfortable work, but the plants can guide us to see exactly what is arising in our consciousness that is ready to be learned and resolved.
In many instances, there are cultural differences that lead to a break in trust. It's easy and common for Westerners to place indigenous or other cultures on pedestals - projecting onto something that they don't understand. The Western psyche and worldview is very different than that of indigenous or Amazonian traditions. Behaviors in ceremony that are culturally accepted in other places in the world may not match your own ethical standards. You have to get clear on your expectations and needs for a healing ceremony and learn how other cultures may or may not match those. I don't work in certain traditions/lineages for this reason. I have found some commonly accepted behaviors of some traditions do not align with my own standards of integrity in a healing space.
Always, like falling in love in the everyday world, we have to get to know the REAL person over time - how they communicate, behave, what they desire in relationship, etc. Because what can happen in shamanic space, has to be integrated into the 3D reality as well. This is a powerful time to look at the heart - YOUR HEART - and what love actually is, what it means to you and how it is healing. Projecting love outward serves it's purpose, but remember to return to yourself to learn the power of your own heart's healing.
Like falling in love, sexual energy arises in ceremonial space. The human tendency is to project the sexual energy out there onto someone else. The someone else could be in the room, or could be someone in life, or even an unseen being. Again, it's not that the plants are "telling" you to have a sexual relationship with this person/being. They are bringing your sexual energy to your awareness, including your own conditioning, patterns, and projection outwards. Many of our patterns with sexual energy are unconscious, so they arrive to the surface so that we can see them and learn. Instead of having someone else be the focus, return attention inwards into your learning about how to work with your own sexual energy. This is probably one of the most common places that trust can be broken, as shamans/facilitators and participants can cross boundaries energetically or physically. Choosing a facilitator/shaman who knows how to work with sexual energy, can manage their own, and not get involved is extremely important. Any facilitator that crosses boundaries energetically or physically is NOT in the role of a healer. They are most often acting in their own self interest, taking advantage of the situation and power dynamic. Both energetic and physical crossing of boundaries can be traumatizing or re-traumatizing. In my world, any sexual behavior is 100% inappropriate and severely damaging in medicine spaces. In some cultures, this is more common and accepted, though it seems to me that even in other cultures it's something that "shamans" get away with, rather than an integral practice in their culture (though there may be exceptions to this).
Role as Healer
The truth is people in these roles aren't our caretakers, our perpetrators, or our lovers. These are the boundaries that most of us expect when working with a "shaman" or healer. When something happens, and the roles get mixed up, and/or they don't meet our expectations of the roles we've assigned to them, our trust is broken. It's extremely sensitive, vulnerable and can be re-traumatizing.
While friends can be helpful, be careful, as friends are often not trained to guide you through the healing. I suggest a trusted and trained therapist, healer, integration support, trauma specialist, somatic experiencing, etc.
Not only can they help you process the emotions, and deeper wounding, they can help you look more objectively at the situation that happened. If you removed the projections, what actually happened? It's hard to see what happened sometimes when we are triggered and wrapped up in the experiences. From here, you may better see if what happened was out of alignment with your expectations, or maybe there were cultural differences that played a role. Maybe the actions and behavior did not meet your standards or expectations of behavior for being in the role of "shaman." Maybe boundaries were crossed. Looking at how the interplay happened from many angles gives you a more grounded view, so that you can see what your next steps are.
2 - Do Your Shadow Work
Sometimes we humans have a tendency to blame or want to punish others that seem to have done us wrong. While something may have happened that is inappropriate, or goes against our standards, it is also very important to do your own shadow work here. This requires us to look at our expectations and projections that that we may have been placing on these people in these roles. Were you expecting them to meet you, love you, and care for you exactly in the ways that you didn't receive in childhood? Or perhaps you were unconsciously expecting them to dismiss, demean, or mistreat you, like your childhood experience, so that you could again turn the blame on them. Get beyond the initial reactions, and look deeper into how this situation has mirrored something from your past. This may also require further development of your own energetic awareness, as understanding the subtle energies at play can be extremely important in shamanic spaces. The actual trigger may not have been outwardly seen, but an inwardly felt and experienced.
3 - Advocate for Yourself
You get to determine how you want to handle the situation. I encourage exploration on your own time, and with support. When it comes to how you move forward, it's entirely in your hands. Every case is unique. There is no one right way to handle these situations. The severely damaging cases of sexual or physical assault require a different response, than an interplay of energies. Please get immediate professional help if you have experienced sexual or physical assault in these spaces.
Protectress of Mother Earth, Intuitive, Shamanic Energy Medicine, Sacred Plant Medicine Integration, Soul Adventurer