Conclusion: From Trauma to Health
Highly sensitive people are our future healers, “king counselors”, explorers, teachers and artists (Aron, 2002). Highly sensitive children represent our future in that their abilities are necessary for creativity and innovation to continue and for exploration of the unknown. But they can only fulfill these roles if their sensory abilities are preserved, not poisoned.
This is possible if mainstream society culture begins to accept multiple forms of intelligence as gifts not pathologies. This would make the connection between genius and extra sensory abilities much more noticeable. As Nicholas Humphrey explained, quoted by Horsley:
‘We believe that artistic savants have direct access to “lower” levels of neural information prior to it being integrated into the holistic picture, the ultimate label. All of us possess this same lower-level information, but we cannot normally access it’ (Snyder 1999,588). ”[i].
“Also this from “The shaman’s initiation,” by Joan Halifax. The subject is schizophrenia, but autism was a subset of the diagnosis of schizophrenia until 1971, and there remains a significant overlap between the perceptual modes: “[Silverman] characterized schizophrenia as a disorder where the individual withdraws from society and the outer world and becomes preoccupied by internal processes with a resulting disintegration of the personality.”[i]
This phenomenon echoes Dabrowski’s notion of positive disintegration as a normal part of an individual’s journey towards self-realization. This notion of the need to delve deep into the self is present in other cultures as well. Dabrowski saw positive disintegration as part of a larger process of positive integration to explain some of the psychological differences he observed in gifted individuals that lead towards achieving self-actualized integration, a way of being in the world that is characterized by psychological integration, harmony, and little inner conflict.
This seems also true of children with sensory processing sensitivities. Obviously they are different and as a consequence experience life differently. But their gifts make them perceive themselves within the world differently. What if there also exist a sensory positive disintegration. Where the senses lead to a redefinition of the self. The more in-tuned a person becomes, the stronger the levels of sensory disintegration become. Possibly in this process, individuals are overwhelmed by their sensory to the point of having to change their reactions. As Siverman quoted by Jasun Horsley explains as being part of the disintegration:
“ This is followed by a narrowing of attention, a withdrawal from the external world, and an increasing absorption in internal experiences, accompanied by an increasing difficulty in differentiating between reality and fantasy. (…). Silverman (ibid.) noted that those who have made it through the experience can manifest great mental acuity in which sensitivity, awareness, and creativity are definitely increased. He noted that when a crisis occurs in the life of a person from certain tribal cultures, it is socially as well as psychologically appropriate that the vocation of shamanism is considered as modus operandi for the resolution of the problem.”[ii]
In these traditional cultures, these activities are not understood as pathologies:
“Western society views such psychological experiences from a pathological perspective, whereas primal peoples often find them acceptable within the context of the shamanic world view. Both schizophrenics in Western society and neophyte shamans can learn to use their altered perception to a good advantage in the process of cognitive reorganization. It is what anthropologist Victor Turner (1967) has called ‘transforming the obligatory into the desirable.’”[iii]
This cognitive reorganization seems to often be triggered by trauma. In the article “Navigating Trauma in the Face of Contemporary Culture, Displacement, and Ecological Destruction”, Bonnie Bright argues that modern humans live in an era of trauma:
“Robert Stolorow, in “Empathic Civilization in an Age of Trauma” goes as far as to designate the contemporary era an “Age of Trauma” because, according to him, the “tranquilizing illusions of our everyday world seem in our time to be severely threatened from all sides” (para. 2). He refers to ongoing and increasing global issues like global warming, terrorism, and economic collapse, all of which raise issues of existential vulnerability and threaten to annihilate the core framework by which we make sense of our existence.” (Bright, 2011)[iv]
There is such a parallel between how diversity as exemplified by women, aboriginal cultures and people with multi-sensory intelligence has been displaced in western societies. Our civilization will be remembered as one of the darkest, so many display of force, anger, violence and oppression recorded all over the world. Raping of women and children, cultures, the earth and its treasures. A civilization marked by groups imposing themselves on others and usually traumatizing the other groups.
According to Bonnie Bright:
“ In his book The Inner World of Trauma, Donald Kalsched uses the word trauma to mean any experience that causes unbearable psychic pain or anxiety. For an experience to be “unbearable” means that it overwhelms the usual defensive measures which protect us from perceiving horror and pain. The distinguishing feature of trauma of this magnitude is what Heinz Kohut called disintegration anxiety, an “unnameable dread associated with the threatened dissolution of a coherent self” (as cited in Kalsched, 1996, p. 1). This kind of anxiety portends the complete annihilation of the human personality”[v]
This loss of identity does not limit itself to cultural groups but can, and often does, happen to gifted and/or sensitive individuals who experience normal life experiences as trauma, as is explained in the book “The drama of the gifted child”, by Alice Miller[vi]. There tends to be a loss of identity experienced by gifted or highly sensitive children who try to become what their parents project upon them and in the process loose their own sense of self. Miller explains how depression is often the result of suppressing emotions and how as adults we must learn to see through our own mechanisms of self-deception. Only then can we become self-aware, once the unconscious and conscious mind coexist and inform each other, the alternative for the gifted child is the lived drama of never really being, knowing, loving and caring for oneself.
Trauma in itself is an important part of life as it can leads to a phase of disintegration that is essential for us to evolve. According to Bonnie Bright, it is often the trigger for a phase of positive disintegration that can lead to a new phase of psychological integration:
“ Ultimately, trauma is a transition that moves us to a threshold, what Casey (Getting Back into Place) refers to as spatial areas of transition. This threshold places us at the portal to a new way of being, a new home, even if for the time being. It locates us in a place of potentiality. In some indigenous rites of passage, as the initiate goes by, the villagers open their doors to witness the initiate and to symbolize the opening of the way. We are all in this together. We all belong to the earth. Whether it be the U’wa who locate their authentic selves and the very soul of their tribe in the face of the ultimate impossible choice to enter a great wide chasm that hosts death, or the Borderlanders who hold space with their pain while the rest of the world begins to wake up, memory–and narrative of that memory– can create a sense of sacred space, a place where everything belongs and has meaning. The memory, the narrative, the witnessing all carry us to the open door, the edge of the very precipice where something new awaits, a homecoming to the place where the new skin made tender by trauma can be touched by the first rays of gentle sun that rise beyond the horizon of pure potentiality.”[vii]
Solving these issues cannot be addressed without an intense redefining of our values as people and as a society. Can we decolonize space, time, our culture and our notions of selves to rebuild an environment where our children can thrive? This seems key to finding solutions to help highly sensitive children heal and learn to be healthy. Our children need their broad attention to be acknowledged, accepted as valid forms of understanding and accommodated. This has led me to search for a health model that values sensory life, topic of the next chapter.
 Aron, Elaine, N. (2002). The highly sensitive child. Harmony.
[i] Horsley, Jason. Transforming the Obligatory into the Desirable: Autism & Shamanism (Perceptual Warfare 18). Auticulture. Jan 2013. https://auticulture.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/transforming-the-obligatory-into-the-desirable-autism-shamanism-perceptual-warfare-18/
[ii] Horsley, Jason. Transforming the Obligatory into the Desirable: Autism & Shamanism (Perceptual Warfare 18). Auticulture. Jan 2013. https://auticulture.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/transforming-the-obligatory-into-the-desirable-autism-shamanism-perceptual-warfare-18/
[iii] Horsley, Jason. Transforming the Obligatory into the Desirable: Autism & Shamanism (Perceptual Warfare 18). Auticulture. Jan 2013. https://auticulture.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/transforming-the-obligatory-into-the-desirable-autism-shamanism-perceptual-warfare-18/
[iv] Bright, Bonnie (2011). “Navigating Trauma in The Face of Comtemporary Culture, displacement, and ecological Destruction”. depthinsights.com. Feb 27, 2011. http://www.depthinsights.com/pages/blogs/blog-Navigating_Trauma_Eco.html
[v] Bright, Bonnie (2011). “Navigating Trauma in The Face of Comtemporary Culture, displacement, and ecological Destruction”. depthinsights.com. Feb 27, 2011. http://www.depthinsights.com/pages/blogs/blog-Navigating_Trauma_Eco.html
[vi] Miller, Alice (1995). The Drama of The Gifted Child. Basic Books.
[vii] Bright, Bonnie (2011). “Navigating Trauma in The Face of Contemporary Culture, displacement, and ecological Destruction”. depthinsights.com. Feb 27, 2011. http://www.depthinsights.com/pages/blogs/blog-Navigating_Trauma_Eco.html