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Trauma Energetics

by William Redpath(more info)

listed in bodywork, originally published in issue 60 - January 2001

About Trauma Energetics

In the healing arts, professional and personal paths intertwine. I began my journeys studying intellectual history. After a period as psychoanalysand, I became a Reichian therapist, special education teacher, and finally a certified advanced Rolfer. Because of my background, as a Rolfer I have worked primarily with clients with histories of abuse.

At the age of eight, while chasing my sister, I crashed my left midfoot arch down on a glass milk bottle shard imbedded in the ground. Forty-three years later, with trauma resolution therapist Peter Levine, I examined this trauma. Essentially, Levine's approach leads clients to complete momenta that get stuck in the original moment of trauma where we are caught in the classical animal sense between fight and flight.

During that session with Peter, rehearsing the situation for the third time, I recalled an image of tomatoes on the back porch of my family home in New Jersey, a few feet from where the accident occurred. Levine invited me again to describe the image, and I could see the red tomatoes on the porch wall shelf, and the mosquito screening behind them.

"What is the colour of the screen?" he asked.
"The screen mesh is black," I noted.
"That's where the energy is traumatically held," he advised me.

Black as Held Energy

I focused upon that black, not as a net weave, but as held energy, nothing more or less. I realized that the site I was scanning in the porch screen image located where the trauma was fixed, contained and memorialized. In physics, where there is black, there is no movement. And an unresolved trauma process contains an impasse with no movement.

Ordinarily, intention or will propels 'guided imagery' sessions. Now, through a radical shift in perspective of the foot trauma memory, something beyond ego control was resolving into an embodied awareness more vivid, more compassionate and more real than before. And inwardly, I witnessed the held neurochemistry and experienced it resolve within a matter of minutes.

Soon, I applied these new insights about black and non-intention with clients. I discovered that, unprompted, the black showed up often immediately, so that, without intention, clients and I could focus quickly and directly upon the place in their neurochemistry where the brain described itself as having no movement. If we asked the system to describe its inner experience in the form of sensations, pressures and colour, a whole set of landscape phenomena, increasingly familiar, even predictable from client to client, began to appear.

We used the 'cursor of consciousness' and focused specifically on the black in the client's inner portraits. Neither I nor the client predetermined these scans. A series of experiential problems emerged at these preverbal levels; and these could be examined in particulate, graphic form.

Clients Perceive Forms, Vibratory States

Traditional analytic or narrative content was put aside or 'archived'. Clients perceived interior architecture: right angles, horizons, arcs, walls, whirlpools, black holes, spheres glossy and matte, pyramids, tunnels, caves, cloud banks, and stones. And we learned to focus upon specific sites in these images, like the corner of a black cube, or the interior of sphere. We thus watched specific vibratory and vector states of brain's chemistry.

When we did this in brain-proper sequence, the black dissolved. The images transformed and the held chemistry began to move: a radiance was restored. When the black remained, we merely tried alternate positioning sequences until it resolved. We could check our progress at each point, for the prior graphics declared how much traumatic holding remained.

As clients observed some portion of brain-identified black and watched it self-dissolve into radiance, they reported all sorts of immediate kinaesthetic sensations, including, often apparently miraculously, the resolution of chronic stress, pains, alignments, obsessions, addictions and immunity weaknesses.

I came to understand more completely how most of us are in moderate to extreme forms of dissociation, where our energy is not clear and 'flowing'; or that these portions of our system, perhaps very small, remain dominant until they can be 'solved'. These dissociative chemistries are thrusting forward for resolution at every possible point, particularly when inspired by a higher internal vibration or the experience of an outside stimulus.

The trauma patterns of perpetrating parents, who themselves have been victims of abuse, are set off by the higher vibratory states of their child, whom they then abuse, though the abuse has nothing to do with the child who sets it off. Here was a tragic vision commensurate with the dramatic tragedies of Aeschylus and Sophocles I studied in graduate school.

We Witness Chemistry

When clients and I witnessed the brain's energetic self-mapping, we viewed not a symbolic representation of the chemistry, but the chemistry itself, at energetic levels. On the hierarchical ladder of incarnation, we were at a crucial transition, watching spirit densify into matter. This process of central intelligence, this densification of spirit into energy, energy into molecule, into neurochemistry into tissue, muscle, organ and body – I began to call brain.
I could see that most of us refer to inner experience as mind; to use the term brain restored to awareness the physical and neurochemical ground within which these states of consciousness are occurring. As a result, a truly different, and sometimes 'weird' perspective is gained, one that is so different that it evokes the resolution of a preverbal pattern within which clients have been suffering, in some cases, for a lifetime. Increasingly, the moment of shock is characterized as a densified black, often as hard as obsidian.

We can escort brain to the deepest levels of magnification of these forms by discovering brain's portraits of the particulate, in Aristotle's term, atomic, structures of the black. Black is the absence of vibration, yet it also contains a radiance at its core which in the trauma moment has been lost through compression. Examining the densified black forms at atomic, particulate levels allows brain to solve the now bite-size problem, which in the densification of trauma is considered too dangerous, too overwhelming to enter.

Black Shows No Oxygen

Some years later, I discovered that where there is black, functionally there is no oxygen. Brain sets up its own police cordon around the 'memory/chemistry', and no brain in its right mind will go where there is decreased oxygen potential. Yet, disturbed by trauma's energy-draining detours, brain offers them up to itself for resolution at least ten times a second.

In the compression registered within its shock phase, trauma response to crisis appears to blacken our energetic cell intelligence often to its core. I encourage the client to set aside the labelling which brain uses to describe these states, as a dream does narrating the energetic vectors with recognizable images and story ("I am fighting this dragon…") Rather, we focus on the portion of the image which has black (a point in the dragon's eye, or a space between its teeth), and then escort brain to the particular magnified level at which brain, not I nor client in the ego sense of personality or identity, resolves the heretofore insoluble problem.

"There is a black sphere."
"Take brain down to another level of magnification, and how does brain describe a particle form in the sphere's surface?"
"It's a porous black cube."

Thus we can pointilistically consider its particulate structure. Brain then re-establishes its connection to the radiance at the core of each part of its system. To effect the deepest change, we merely have to follow the directions which brain gives, to the particulate level of its deepest impaction. There is no special need for diagnosis; the entire presenting problem can be framed as following the rubric of trauma, even perhaps to the genetic level.


No Intention

Using this technique, there is no intention such as sending blue light or channelling Christ/Buddha energy, or guiding oneself to meet one's higher self. Rather, there is merely a selective witnessing until brain solves the problem. And the solution, though perhaps anticipated, is always a surprise in its sequencing: some alternate portion of brain activates a solution which client and I would not have expected. We witness the fireworks animation at a graphics level: "The black triangle is now bending and fractionating, and oxygen is coming in from some new direction, and my neck is involuntarily rotating to the left, out of its spasm."

We often view aspects of the neurochemistry that are presented in molecular, atomic, organ, anatomical forms, but, at each point, we return to the energetic portrait by means of the shapes and colours and the breath; traditional therapeutic devil take the hindmost. We do not know necessarily the history of the trauma we are working on, nor what densified kinaesthetic experience will be transformed, nor can we. One client said after a session, "Guess what happened after the session. I mowed my own lawn. I have never done that before."

We laugh at our attempts to diagnose and prematurely affix the results of the work. Yet often the self-healing capacities of brain are directly activated so that a person resolves exactly what they bring as symptoms into the session.

Non-Intentional Re-Edening

The interaction between practitioner and client can be filled with humour, irrelevant asides, taking a pause, making historical commentary, even venturing interpretively as to where we are in the psychodynamic or developmental sequence; or we can guess about whether brain is suggestible and that what is being sensed is the result of suggestion. But it is with the understanding that all these commentaries do not matter. What matters is the re-establishment of movement within the held-energy systems protectively set down in the moments of the trauma. And the means to that re-Edening is non-intentional, particulate focusing upon the black and its correlate, the loss of oxygen.

Over intervening years, I have come to consider colour values and shapes; they do not stand for something, for that implies a symbolic distancing, and dissociation. Rather, the colours are vibrational statements of energy, true in themselves, and can be witnessed as such. I am not particularly concerned with the chakra colour systems, for traditionally they do not place at their centre the critical colour for the shock phase of trauma, namely the black.

Many theoreticians now see that if you do not help brain to take out the shock phase, as it were, further levels of resolution will not occur. In Trauma EnergeticsSM, the name I gave to the modality built around these insights, and for brain, there are only two colour/vibrational states: black (no movement), and all other colours (where there is movement). And the first that must be attended to is the black.

Vibratory Colour States

I have developed an understanding of the hierarchy of these vibratory colour states, with black being at one end, then the usual colours occurring, and the second highest colour vibration being gold (of halo, Christ/Buddha, and personality in balance fame). The highest vibratory state cusps from gold into an ascendant, ethereal white and finally into radiant clear.

There are interesting variations on colours such as the sometimes appearance of black with orange as the held-energy system is about to resolve out of shock, the appearance of faecal or swamp brown, and purple and pink, and pastels. And there are recognizable forms and colourations for the energy of substances brain experiences as foreign. In this latter area, clients have reported the resolution of prenatal trauma in the forms of maternally transmitted alcohol, nicotinic acid, caffeine, anaesthetic, and 'psychodynamic' toxicities.

In addition to my private practice, I teach at a special education school for severely disturbed adolescents, where I practise these techniques in the context of little red schoolhouse classroom settings teaching language arts. My students and I examine traditional literary texts within the framework of trauma recognition and resolution, that being, I propose, the primary (hidden?) task of adolescence, as the soul rebirths into the adult mind/body. Most of the craziness of that time of life can be creatively set within that perspective, one not often offered to young people.

Handshaking with Abused Adolescents

I cannot touch the students, as I do clients in private practice, to support them as they traverse these non-verbal, energetic slopes. Many have been abused, so I developed handshaking as a way of establishing primitive brain connection, particularly when we appear to be connecting to levels of difficult prenatal traumata, which is perhaps the territory we are traversing all of the time. The students begin by drawing the images on a primitive map of the physical brain and then focusing within on some part of the landscape.

They are active and appreciative in the process, often claiming, "This really works", in contradistinction to the usual verbal and medication interventions in which, even as fifteen-year-olds, they are already very, often jadedly, experienced.

One hallmark of the technique means following the pattern which brain offers, not one that is superimposed by the outside. Brain shows the way, and the patterns resolve or they don't; when they don't, brain is reporting that we haven't followed the directions on the package.

With the 'assistance' of my meditation and therapy teachers, I often felt I radically abandoned my process in a kind of bait and switch manoeuvre: I was encouraged to breathe in the universe and breathe it out, but I was never allowed to follow the actual sequencing 'I' had, including compromised breath. Thus to be stuck is the right place from which to get unstuck, and for brain, it is the only place which matters.

Once getting the hang of the process, clients similarly trained then can work over the telephone, prorating the fee time spent, depending upon the need. Experienced clients have taken three minutes to resolve a classic five-day migraine, at the time of the migraine, not waiting until they can make an hour's appointment they don't fully need at a time when they don't need it.

When, with Levine's help, I first came upon these insights about the black, they consolidated over three decades of studying trauma theory, beginning with work on tragic theory at Cambridge University. In the subsequent torrent of integration, I wrote Trauma Energetics, A Study of Held-Energy Systems, describing my process and discoveries. I could find only scattered information about vibrational black, most of it incomplete and peripheral. I felt I had discovered, or connected to, something in a new way, which in some sense I still think I have.

But five years ago, while working intensively using Trauma Energetics with one of my sixteen-year-old students, the young man said, "Mr Redpath, you are an alchemist."

"What is that?" I asked, sort of, but not really knowing.

"Look," he commanded, showing me a history of alchemy. "You work with the black, and the stone-like forms, and so did the medieval alchemists. They called the black the nigredo." Sure enough, the text quoted the concerns and focus on colours and the black of these early scientist/healers. And they wrote, "When the nigredo appears, the angels sing", by which I took it to mean, when you could witness the black, self-healing brain was positioned to resolve the problem. And the stone, whose dissolution could restore inward (third eye) perspective from an impacted traumatized chemistry, they called the philosopher's stone.

A Significant Case
I continued with those Rolfees who wanted to experiment, sometimes in alternation with Rolfing sessions. With Rolfing, I had helped bring some relief to Andrew, a forty year-old migraine-plagued man who was at his wits’ end. He had headaches stacked upon debilitating headaches and had been taking serious anti-headache medications for years with no conclusive success until, in one of our sessions, he located the point of origin of his pattern.
Scanning through his current mindbody experience while lying on the table, Andrew at one point noted, “This is where I start to have a five-day migraine.” In spite of this risk, we agreed to venture forth. I asked him to identify the site of held energy by witnessing the colours, focusing particularly on black. I found myself encouraging him to divide the larger, impenetrable massing he saw into sub-particles.
Our sense was that brain was stymied at the size of the problem, so we chose to divide it into bite-sized portions, on the theory that the traumatized brain could extrapolate holographically and solve the entire system if it could neurochemically understand a representative part of it. At this new level, Andrew witnessed an energetic ‘particle’ and noted his energy, something like his attention, going toward and away from the particle. After he delineated the shape he was watching, I asked, “What’s its color?”
“Black,” was his reply. With whatever faculty, through color and shape we sensed he could witness the eros of the life force moving toward and away from the held-energy problem, which was somehow familiar to him. Our fight-or-flight mechanism was in its essence relational and playful, not hostile and combative.
“How old is this pattern?” I asked.
“It’s been there forever,” he spoke with some despair.
“If it is forever, and not from a former life, could this pattern be prenatal?” I asked.
“I think so,” he noted. “It feels terrible. It is driving me crazy.”
Still focusing somewhat upon emotional and narrative strategies, I inquired, “If you are in the uterus, are you alone?”
“She’s not there; my mother,” he noted with some wonder.
“Can you sense where the mother is?” I asked. He became still and vigilant for a couple of moments.
“Oh,” Andrew spoke quietly.
“My mother,” he slowly commented. “She’s drinking. Not a lot. But it’s too much.” Then he added with some excitement, “It’s shifting.” After some more silences he reported witnessing the headache pattern leave from that configuration for the first time in his life. He was elated.
“Have we got some kind of foetal… alcohol something?” I asked playfully, fishing for categories I do not ordinarily use.
“I think maybe. I can’t do anything with this particle, and it’s toxic.” After witnessing the mechanism, his mindbody became, for lack of a better term, preoccupied, slack, turning away.
“Are you discouraged?” I questioned. He nodded. “Why?” I asked.
“It’s coming back,” he noted. “The headache. I thought it was gone forever.”
“Is it the same now as before?” I returned.
“No, it isn’t; it isn’t as intense,” he admitted. Pausing, with greater spirit, he then added, “And I know how to get it out.” We discussed various strategies, including flushing it out by drinking water, exhaling it, and the like. Now brain was engaged in the problem.
“How long will that take?” I asked.
“Six months,” he intuited. He immediately felt a neurochemical shift toward optimism, and about six months later he reported he was off all medication with no significant headaches of the sort he had been experiencing all his life. “We broke the pattern’s back,” he reported three years later.
After this session and others like it with other clients, I began to sense the possibility of profound, immediate self-healing connections with this technique. Andrew underwent significant alteration of personality emphasis after these three sessions, and I reevaluated my expectations about the speed of the learning curve as brain takes out the trauma pattern. While the integration could take months, it was possible to witness and evaluate neurochemical change directly within a matter of moments.


Reinventing the Alchemical Wheel

So, there is nothing new. On my own, I had taken certain premises and reinvented the alchemical wheel, but in the process had set it within modern understanding and vocabulary. Yet I appropriated alchemical insight from within, as it were, because I had followed my own insight sequence, not that from historical record or tradition.

The alchemists in Europe were ultimately concerned with the relationship between spirit and matter, as they still are in advanced physics and biochemistry. And they could escort 'clients' spiritually from the black vibratory state, as in lead, and bring them to gold, or Christ/Buddha energy states. But in the Judeo-Christian West, it was mortal heresy to claim that each person contained this Christ energy and could access it themselves within themselves, at their core, even perhaps, God forbid, without the sacerdotal controls of the political and religious establishment or the intercession of Jesus, though the latter was often a narrative means to that end.

And that the story of the ascending Christ energy into the clear was a description of trauma resolution, available to all; and that the turning of lead into gold, in the literal worldly material sense, would ultimately lead to plastics and Prozac, where the particulate nature of both object and subject, of spirit incarnating into matter, could be witnessed and made manifest.


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About William Redpath

In Trauma Energetics: A Study of Held-Energy Systems,3 William Redpath, MEd, MFA, Certified Advanced Rolfer, and developer and teacher of Trauma Energetics(tm), describes his and his clients' encounters with held energy occurring within our neurochemistries as a result of the shock of trauma sequencing. This article is part of a new book now in preparation. He conducts current therapeutic and educational practices in Boston, MA, Boulder, CO, San Diego, CA, and London. For over 40 years, he has been a teacher, including a continuing long tenure as Lecturer in Humanities working with severely emotionally disturbed adolescents at the Arlington School, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA, USA. He can be contacted through the Trauma Energetics website at In addition to the USA, he conducts training seminars in Trauma Energetics(tm) periodically in Dorking, England, with therapist/teacher Anthony Deavin (Tel: 01 737 842 749).


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