Trauma (20)

More than ever, many of us are looking for meaning in a culture where we are moving faster and connecting with each other less and less. The more things feel out of our control, the more we tend to tamp down emotions and not allow ourselves to witness or feel the devastating effects of our environments and the things going on around us.

After all, feeling the impact of the horrors of genocide, war, disaster, famine, or senseless acts of violence such as the mass shootings in Newtown, Connecticut and Clackamas, Oregon this week would be virtually impossible for us to humanly bear if we really allowed the reality to sink in. (In fact, the shooting in Connecticut was the eighth mass shooting in the U.S. in 2012 alone as outlined on ThinkProgress, which posted a timeline of shootings that have occurred since the infamous incident at Columbine, stating: “The rate of people killed by guns in the US is 19.5 times higher than similar high-income countries in the world. In the last 30 years since 1982, America has mourned at least 61 mass murders.”)

In his book Constructing the Self, Constructing America: A Cultural History of Psychotherapyhistorian and psychologist Philip Cushman (1995) perceives that the individual in modern culture is an “empty self” that is driven by its felt sense of hollowness to fill itself up through increasing consumption of goods, services, technology, peak experiences, entertainment, celebrity and even psychotherapy. To alleviate the anxiety, depression, isolation, and suffering, psychosomatic disorders, or addiction, as a general rule, we turn to consumerism. We distract ourselves, stuffing ourselves into individual silos no longer linked to a larger web of creation, and we connect less and less authentically with the world around us in order to mitigate the devastating consequences of truly seeing and feeling the pain.

In western capitalist/consumer-based cultures, we have trained ourselves to disregard people, nature, and events as a mechanism to protect ourselves. We may stop to exclaim in horror, to empathize with the victims, or even to shed a tear--but for most of us, in the end, all we can really do is go back to our own isolation with an added layer of defense against the anxiety and despair that is so natural to feel in the face of such horror.

In their groundbreaking work, Toward Psychologies of Liberation, Mary Watkins and Helene Shulman (2008) suggest it is impossible to be connected to a world we continually fail to see. This separation or loss of connection manifests in dissociation, the distancing or splitting off of affect, a sort of psychic numbing, and in objectification, establishing ourselves at the top of a hierarchical structure where we become the “doers” and all else around us, the objects of our manipulations and our doing. Both dissociation and objectification serve to effectively turn us to stone, either by self-inflicted paralysis or by the immobilizing of others.

Dissociating enables us to feel safe by becoming numb. It cuts off emotion so we can tolerate certain behaviors, acts, or mandates without being overly affected, and it makes us capable of inflicting judgment or pain without suffering evident consequences. Watkins and Shulman that this kind of psychological disenfranchisement extorts a heavy toll as passive bystandingwatching without seeing, and observing without engagement, is a sort of self-mutilation, an amputation of our own sense of sight, a “severing of the self” (p. 66). This tendency has been called percepticideby trauma scholar Diana Taylor an act of self-blinding because to see and acknowledge the atrocities that exist would endanger ourselves.

The late archetypal psychologist James Hillman (Re-Visioning Pychology, 1975) might agree, suggesting, “The eye and wound are the same” (p. 107): in other words, the thing we refuse to see and the denial of that thing by the eye that does not see are both violent acts which result in trauma to the psyche--ours and others. It is almost as if, through dissociation, we turn ourselves to stone (as Medusa of myth did to others) in order not to see. Watkins and Shulman suggest that when the practice of percepticide pervades a culture, “watching-without-seeing becomes ‘the most dehumanizing of acts’" (p. 5).

Like many others, I’ve been more or less glued to media coverage of the shooting in Connecticut these past days, unable to imagine how horrible it is for those living through it. I have to remind myself...(Continue reading here)

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In the aftermath of the terrible tragedy of the Sandy Hook Newtown Connecticut mass school shooting, many of us are experiencing some degree of trauma–whether we knew the victims firsth or not. In fact, there are many reasons we may feel increasingly traumatized in a culture where chaos seems to be the norm, rather than the unusual.

Psychologist  trauma expert, Robert Stolorow (2010) designates 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  increasing global issues like global warming, terrorism,  economic collapse–all of which raise issues of existential vulnerability  threaten to annihilate the core framework by which we make sense of our existence. To this list by Stolorow, I would add the pace  intensity by which we are fed information by mass media which assaults us with information like a firehose, inundating us at every moment with horrific news about violence (like the recurring mass shootings), crime, disease, loss, death,  destruction–allowing no time for us to integrate or “hold” the news in a lifestyle which provides no container in which we can witness it. In addition, many of us begin to feel what I call “trauma fatigue.” No matter how awake, sensitive, compassionate we may be, there comes a point when we simply begin to shut down  wish to go back to “normal” life. It’s all we can do to survive our own depth of emotions.

Activist  author, Joanna Macy (1979) points to a general apathy in our culture which she defines as a state that derives from dread. She claims that we live in fear of confronting the despair we all carry that lives just under the surface. For Macy, despair is  ”the loss of the assumption that our species will inevitably pull through” (p. 1, column 3). More  more, we are bombarded by data that questions, perhaps for the first time, whether or not our culture, our species, or even our planet will survive from an ecological, economic, or even cultural stpoint. Growing numbers of people are tuning in to this horror across a broad spectrum of the global population. Worse, Macy points out, feeling despair in  about a cultural context can be isolating, further amplifying the dilemma. She believes there is a psychic dissonance between our felt sense of impending apocalypse  the increasingly desperate mechanisms to maintain “normalcy” as our society requires us to become adept at sweeping our fear  pain under the rug in order to avoid the taboo around directly addressing despair. “Our dread of what is happening to our future is banished to the fringes of awareness, too deep for most of us to (continue reading...)

SPECIAL EVENT ALERT: Join me for ”Beyond Horror  Hope: The Archetypal Intersection of Innocence Evil”–an exploratory conversation about the archetypal underpinnings of the Sy Hook Connecticut school shooting by ian Analyst Michael Conforti, Ph.D., moderated by me, Bonnie Bright, M.A.

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I just watched a 3-minute video that made me very uncomfortable. It discusses how neuroscience doctors are working to develop drug treatments that could erase traumatic memories form people's minds. In a country where 1 in 5 veterens come home suffering PTSD or depression--or perhaps in the wake of a massive natural disaster like the Japan quake and tsunami (not to mention Chile, Haiti, Hurricane Katrina and so many others)--revolutionary drug treatment like this could ease pain and suffering on a huge scale.

Part of the problem with trauma, as Robert Stolorow suggests in Trauma and Human Existence, is that trauma initiates a sense of loss of security and of anxiety about the unpredictability of our world after the initial event occurs. The anxiety involves the impression of uncanniness, or the feeling “not-being-at-home” in the world. Everyday meaning in life collapses as the world takes on a strange and alien tone, and the one who experiences trauma feels incongruent, isolated, and bizarre because he simply cannot see how anyone else could possibly experience the rupture and ensuing chaos in the same way. And we all know the potential side effects: inability to sleep, nightmares, flashbacks, emotional numbing, hyperviligence, being easily startled, heart palpitations, panic attacks, depression, despair, thoughts of suicide...the list goes on. Trauma literally turns a person's life upside down. What would it be to simply take a pill and make it all go away a trauma victim can feel at home again?

Donald Kalsched, in The Inner World of Trauma, 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. Perhaps, with a simple pill, we could prevent that overwhelm. But, do painful memories serve a purpose? And if we simply repress them, where do they go? If memories are completely repressed, the theory of the unconscious insists they will only pop up somewhere else with even greater force---demanding to be engaged.

Here's the link to the video (hint: click the "x" to close the other video ads running during playback). What do you think?
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In the heart of the jungle in Columbia, the U’wa people live a simple existence mostly beyond the reaches of modern society, having had little contact at all with the outside world until a few decades ago. Their indigenous relationship to the earth sustains them in a collective role as caretakers of the earth and an equal facet of nature. Thus, when the prospect of international firms making plans to drill into their ancestral lands for oil in the late 1990s arose, they perceived the concept to be intolerable, apocalyptic even.

The tribe of 5,000 people made it known that even the act of searching for oil on their homelands would destroy their way of life, initiating the same kind of colonization, exploitation, destruction, and violence that has happened elsewhere. In fact, one hundred and sixty kilometers east of the village, the Caño Limon oilfield run by Shell and Oxy, earns Colombia hundreds of millions of dollars a year. The pollution, loss of wildlife, and changes to society as a result from drilling in the area are devastating—and that is only half the story. The increase in guerilla terrorism, gun-running, and drug trafficking by those attempting to sabotage or commandeer the oil operations has taken a severe toll, spilling over into U’wa lands as violent machine gun battles waged between opposing bands and stray gunfire invaded the U’wa village.

On receiving the news that exploration, and ultimately drilling, would imminently occur on their lands, the leaders promptly announced that the entire tribe of some 5,000 men, women, and children would willingly step off a 1400-foot cliff rather than suffer the horrors sure to follow the drilling. In fact, this impossible decision to commit mass ritual suicide has happened before. The nearby cliff is on sacred ground where everything is alive, land protected by ritual and dance, land which tribespeople refuse to enter for fear of violating their covenants with ancestors, spirits, and the earth. In another event centuries ago, faced with moving onto forbidden sacred grounds in retreat from the invading Spaniards, the greater part of the adults of the tribe threw the children over the cliff in clay pots, then stepped off into nothingness themselves. For the U’wa, oil is the blood of Mother Earth, and to invade it—above or below ground—causes imbalance and ultimately, death. “I sing the traditional songs to my children,” a tribeswoman says. “I teach them that everything is sacred and linked. How can I tell Shell and Oxy that to take the petrol is for us worse than killing your own mother? If you kill the earth, then no one will live. I do not want to die. Nobody does.”

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. For the U’wa, the trauma created by the very concept of violating their living sacred land, the mother of them all for whom they are responsible, was “unbearable,” threatening to completely dissolve the way of life, the values, the worldview—indeed the very tribe itself.

Bernstein, in Living in the Borderland, points out that when the Navajos were displaced, many of them simply disappeared. The disorientation initiated by loss of ancestors and memory, of being located in a larger web of meaning, is profound and irreversible. Estrangement from land results in uncanniness, the feeling of not being at home. Thus, to be without place translates to not existing at all. When viewed from this perspective then, perhaps the decision of the U’wa to consciously and intentionally end their existence rather than waiting out the trauma until life as they knew it ended for them is really not so strange.

Glendinning (My Name is Chellis and I'm in Recovery from the Western World) corroborates the notion that our collective culture exhibits all the symptoms of one that has been traumatized, and that we, as humans, live pathological patterns of abuse and addiction due to the fact that we live in an “extreme and untenable situation” (p. 122) related to a sense of profound homelessness. She agrees that humans have lost that vital connection to nature which is our birthright and have suffered a violation that, in her words, ”forms the basis of original trauma” (p.64) resulting in exile and psychic displacement. Thus modern humans exhibit pathological behaviors typical of trauma because we are aware at some level that “something unnatural has happened to us” (p. 63).

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. To this list by Stolorow, I would add the pace and intensity by which we are fed information by mass media which assaults us with information like a firehose, inundating us at every moment with horrific news about violence, crime, disease, loss, death, and destruction, allowing no time for us to integrate or “hold” the news in a lifestyle which provides no container in which we can witness it.

Activist and author, Joanna Macy points to a general apathy in our culture which she defines as a state that derives from dread. She claims that we live in fear of confronting the despair we all carry that lives just under the surface. For Macy, despair is  "the loss of the assumption that our species will inevitably pull through" (p. 1, column 3). More and more, we are bombarded by data that questions, perhaps for the first time, whether or not our culture, our species, or even our planet will survive. Growing numbers of people are tuning in to this horror across a broad spectrum of the global population. Worse, Macy points out, feeling despair in and about a cultural context can be isolating, further amplifying the dilemma. She believes there is a psychic dissonance between our felt sense of impending apocalypse and the increasingly desperate mechanisms to maintain “normalcy” as our society requires us to become adept at sweeping our fear and pain under the rug in order to avoid the taboo around directly addressing despair. "Our dread of what is happening to our future is banished to the fringes of awareness, too deep for most of us to name, too fearsome to face". As well, individuals who tap into the unnamed dread often conclude it is them and not society that is insane.

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.

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9142472485?profile=originalJungian analyst, Ann Belford Ulanov’s most recent book, The Psychoid, Soul and Psyche: Piercing Space-Time Barriers, explores Carl Gustav Jung’s concept of the “psychoid.”

“Psychoid refers to unconscious processes that are unrepresentable in word or image,” Ulanov says. “We live them, but we don’t know about them. And they can make us feel mad, not angry, but crazy, and I believe they can also be a third source of healing.”

Jung described the unus mundus, or “one world,” as more than psychological. It also has social, international, environmental, chemical, and cosmological properties.

Ulanov is interested in the effects of experiencing the unus mundus, or one world, in a clinical setting, especially when it deals with grave matters like the suffering of trauma.   

We all develop coping mechanisms that help us survive trauma, but over time those mechanisms can also cause us to suffer, as they no longer serve us. The psychoid, with its ability to bring forth an experience of unus mundus, or one world, can help release us from those defenses…

Listen to my audio interview with Ann Ulanov at

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9142472055?profile=originalIs schizophrenia a “severe mental disorder,” as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO)? How might changing the perspective of the traditional western medical model, which labels certain symptoms as strictly pathological, ultimately transform those who are suffering? The Hearing Voices Movement (HVM) which originated in Europe teaches people with schizophrenia to respect their voices and to treat their voices as persons, says Dr. Tanya Marie Luhrmann, whose research seeks to understand the phenomenology of unusual sensory experiences often linked with schizophrenia. C.G. Jung used the imagination to work at the borderlines between dissociation and psychosis…

Sharing some ideas that came out of my new audio interview with Tanya Luhrmann below.
Listen to the interview with Dr. Tanya Luhrmann. (Summary article written by Melissa Nazario).


"Spiritual Implications of Psychosis: How a Spiritual Perspective Can Provide Health Benefits to Mind and Body: an Interview with Tanya Marie Luhrmann, by Bonnie Bright"

Dr. Tanya Marie Luhrmann, Watkins University Professor in the Stanford Anthropology Department, uses a combination of ethnographic and experimental methods to understand the phenomenology of unusual sensory experiences, including those often linked with schizophrenia.

How people interpret unusual sensory experiences has differed significantly over time and in different cultures, Luhrmann says. Those who are very sick are often universally recognized as sick or schizophrenic regardless of culture or region, but people who are more on the healthy side of that continuum might have their experience interpreted in many different ways. 

The way such experiences are shaped by ideas about the mind and person, and what we can learn from this social shaping that can help us to help those whose voices are distressing, notes Luhrmann, who has done ethnography on the streets of Chicago with homeless and psychotic women and worked with people who hear voices in Chennai, India; Karaga, Ghana; and in the San Francisco Bay area.

While there is a strong correlation between reporting childhood trauma and a higher risk of schizophrenia, it’s important to know there are paths for transcending the experience of a traumatic event. C.G. Jung used the imagination to work at the borderlines between dissociation and psychosis. Only recently have mental health researchers and professionals looked at the content of unusual voices as something that should be studied and listened to, instead of as insignificant side effects of the disorder, Luhrmann observes.

Listen to my audio interview with Dr. Tanya Luhrmann at

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Trauma is an injury to our capacity to feel. When our capacity to feel is injured, we cease to be able to imagine, because imagination depends on emotional literacy, says Dr. Donald Kalsched, who for 20 years has been crafting a model of the dissociating psyche.

This model describes various unconscious archetypal powers arranged in a dynamic system of defense that attempts to protect a sacred, innocent psyche from further violation. In order to leave this enclave, we need to become emotionally literate, Kalsched suggests, one of the major goals of the work depth psychologists take on. This includes working through grief and despair.

This self-care system and all its constituents is invisible, Kalsched points out. The only way we can engage is by looking for the “tracks” they leave in dreams, in the imagination, or in the practice of active imagination advocated by Jung. The constituents may show up in opposing forms: as a “devil” related to violence, adversary, accuser, critic, or tyrant which can lead to innate distress such as hatred, loathing, or shame; or as a “bright angel,” which suggests essential goodness, safety, bliss, hope, and love…

READ the summary article or LISTEN to the full recording of Kalsched’s keynote address at the June 2017 “Response at the Radical Edge” conference, courtesy of Pacifica Graduate Institute:

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Education Institution


NEW! *Read a written transcript of this interview here

9142462896?profile=originalIn this interview, Sandra Easter, Ph.D., author of Jung and the Ancestors: Beyond Biography, Mending the Ancestral Web, speaks movingly about how developing a relationship with our ancestors and ancestral past can help us heal, both individually and collectively.

Sandra offers workshops in ancestral soul work and transformational visioning for individuals and organizations, and she will be presenting about ancestral soul work at the C.G. Jung Psychology and Spirituality Conference in Santa Fe, NM, which takes place June 9-16, 2017.


The 2017 conference, “Nature and Soul: Cultivating a Relationship with the Wholeness of All,” seeks to provide an opportunity to explore the integration of Jungian Psychology and spirituality by means of in-depth lectures by Jungian Analysts, creative expression, rituals, and excursions to sites that enhance the experience of the world of C.G. Jung.

The vision is that the conference will go beyond a traditional format to serve as a retreat. Participants will be eating meals together, attending daily dream circles and talking circles, spending time socializing and networking, and also going on excursions into nature, history and the artistic communities of Santa Fe.

Conference presenters include Jerome Bernstein, Jeffrey Kiehl, Thomas Elsner, Monika Wikman, John Todd, Puddi Kullberg, and Frank Morgan, along with Sandra Easter

Get details or register for the Conference at


WATCH the video interview

LISTEN to the audio version here

READ a written transcript of this interview here

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9142462900?profile=originalWe are all more or less traumatized, affirms Donald Kalsched, Jungian analyst and trauma specialist who wrote Trauma and the Soul. Kalsched avows that reality confronts us with things that break our hearts, noting that there’s also a huge amount of unacknowledged terror in all of us.

Nightmares stemming from neurotic psychology might be terrifying at the beginning of the analytic process, because they are an effort to help us integrate some of the disowned material which can come back in angry forms.

C.G. Jung once again adds so much to our understanding, because Jung believed there is a spiritual dimension to life, that we all have a religious instinct that senses and hungers for that connection to spirit….

Read the detailed summary article or listen to the full audio interview with Donald Kalsched here


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9142462477?profile=originalWe are all more or less traumatized, affirms Donald Kalsched, a Jungian analyst and trauma specialist who wrote Trauma and the Soul. Kalsched avows that reality confronts us with “things that break our hearts,” noting that there’s also a huge amount of unacknowledged terror in all of us.

Nightmares can be an effort by the psyche to help us integrate some of disowned material from our childhood. In what Kalsched has termed the “self-care system,” a system of defense which is made up of both protective and persecutory inner objects, individuals who have been abused or neglected may be tyrannized by archetypal figures in their dreams.


The work of C.G. Jung adds so much to our understanding in this arena, Kalsched asserts, because Jung believed there is a spiritual dimension to life, that we all have a religious instinct that senses and hungers for that connection to spirit….

Read the detailed summary article or listen to the full audio interview with Donald Kalsched here

Dr. Kalsched is presenting at the upcoming "Response at the Radical Edge" conference at Pacifica in June, 2017, and will be teaching a certificate program for clinicians starting in November. 

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There is a certain kind of transformational process that demands the most and the best of us so that we can respond to traumatic situations, just as military, veterans, and first responders do on a daily basis. From a depth psychological perspective, this kind of transformation can be initiated through a psycho-mythic journey to warriorhood, believe Ed Tick and John Becknell, who offer archetypal and depth psychological frameworks for military, veterans, and first responders, including police officers, sheriff departments, border patrol, firefighters, paramedics, EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians), and dispatchers and other individuals who take emergency calls.

gladiator.jpg?t=1492037991014&name=gladiator.jpg&width=320Tick and Becknell consciously engage the term “warrior” to distinguish the archetypal role of those who dedicate themselves to the preservation and protection of society, often in the face of great danger. The Warrior archetype has appeared in mythology and sacred writings for thousands of years, notes Tick, and it has been a dominant archetype and psychological and social role in modern society as well.

While the U.S. military has also turned to the word “warrior” over the past several years as a term meant to bestow honor on anyone who has served in the military or in a war zone, Tick and Becknell contend that warriorhood is a sacred idea that goes beyond the parameters of physical service. Instead, it is a form of initiation going back thousands of years. It requires undertaking a lifelong “warrior’s journey”—a psycho-spiritual passage that allows a warrior to carry the pain and suffering they have observed while in service without falling victim to devastating impact on the psychological self as a result.

Read the full post and listen to the audio interview at Pacifica Post

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     “Will you catch me when I fall?”  Those are the words of a refrain from a Danish song by the group Danser med Drenge (Dancing with Boys).  The image helped me recall the old trust games used in group-building back in the day.  Someone stood in the center of a group, crossed their arms across their chests and closed their eyes.   They were to fall backwards, trusting that they would get caught before they hit the ground by their co-workers.  That exercise was used to ‘teach’ trust among people who were supposed to be a team.  Reading between the lines, of course, it speaks to the trust that wasn’t there, otherwise, why build it in such a concrete and forced way?  I shudder to think of it today.

     Now, I see the set up, for both the outer group and the inner person.  In an environment where you have to work together, are you really going to show that you don’t have the bully’s back?  Are you really going to fall backwards knowing that the others will be forced to catch you or be outed as the missing link in the team?  That’s one memory of a throw back to a cultural phenomenon that sought to create safety in unsafe terrain.

     I don’t know if that is still used in team building, I have to think it is. What emerges more powerfully for me now, after completing the Trauma and Healing Cerificate from the Assisi Institute, is how essential trust is in our ability to navigate the world and how elusive its provenance.   For those whose life experience was that no one was there to hold them, or even worse, that whoever was there was out to destroy the very essence of their being through violence, incest, or neglect, falling is not an option.  On the contrary, falling is the worst possible outcome, because you either fall into nothingness and perish in existential dread, or you fall into the unspeakable.  And no one comes to help, save or protect, no one to say “don’t go down that street”, no one to say, “don’t you dare touch that child.”

     These are the experiences of those who have suffered harm at the hands of those entrusted to their care.  We read about it every day, stories of mothers or boyfriends or fathers or nannies or day care workers who harm the very lives they are mandated to protect.  The survivors experience the world as unsafe and others as untrustworthy, they walk over and over again into the maw of the beast, because that they can trust.  What they cannot trust is that there will be somewhere, someone who will be there to catch them.  Those of us in the clinical field, know this and we try to orient them to navigate the world, not asking for trust, but hopefully, over time, earning it.

     That’s the clinical aspect of working with survivors of trauma, but there is a far larger field not tied to the personal experience of trauma.  We live in a world that is truly unsafe, we cannot trust our leaders to catch us, or that the justice, legal or cultural system will protect us from violence if we are women, or children, or transgender, or black, or Muslim or any other ism that is currently seen as the enemy. 

     At a dinner party the other night, I mentioned Michael Moore’s “I am a Muslim” challenge to protest Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric.  He asked people to take a selfie of themselves holding that sign and to post it.  I was surprised by some of the responses, that’s cultural appropriation, you can’t say you are a Muslim because you are not, we have to be allies, we need to say, I am not a Muslim but I stand by you.  That argument, while politically correct, missed the most important aspect of what is needed if you are truly going to catch someone falling:  the symbolic life.  It is not enough to say the words, I am your ally.  It is not enough to say, I am a man and stand by my sisters, cause man, when I walk out the door as a white woman and even though I stand with my black brothers and sisters, I am still a woman and not a man.  I am a target, a magnet with two x chromosomes.    And I am still not a black woman or a woman of any color or race, nor am I a Muslim woman, I am still not those who face even more dangers than I in this world.

     I appreciate the symbolic life to gain access to mastery over evil, like King Christian X of Denmark, who wore the yellow star on his arm to stop the genocide of Danish Jews. The whole town of Billings, Montana placed menorahs on their windows to combat the incursion of white supremacists and ran them out of town.    There is a way to enter into the reality and change the course.  But first it must be named.

     We cannot afford to be fragmented by being caught in verbal hyperbole while lives are destroyed and demolished. I believe there is something begging to be born, a new awareness and consciousness of what is afoot, like the beast slouching toward Bethelem, that needs to be named.  The new year brings the possibility of seeing more deeply into what is driving such violence.  May we be part of the catching.


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When the Waves Crest



When the waves crest

In Australia

Sometimes you can see dolphins

Or other fish

Backlit by the sun

Suspended in the clarity of water.


That moment of perfect balance

Before the wave crashes

And dissipates

Leaves scant traces of shells

Which will be brought back into the ocean

Soon enough.


            This image appeared in a recent session as a client was describing the sense of despair after a wonderful vacation with family.  Why, after such a good time, were the memories of beach, tides, and laughter tinged with the dark blue of depression, sadness and melancholy?  The feeling was palpable in the room, drawing me into that world where destruction follows any experience that has the potential to be good and stay good.

            You have to wonder what can consistently crash our hopes, dreams and desires for a full and good life, especially when we are living it. Those of us working in the field of trauma and healing know the power of the past to shape the experience of the present. And indeed, the stories poured out:  every time something good happened in my client’s life, there was a family drama, betrayal of trust, betrayal of safety and security.  Life was predictable:  don’t believe you can have anything, and if you do, make sure it doesn’t last or better yet, destroy it before it is taken away. 

It’s difficult to talk about trauma when the stories don’t involve marks on the body, when there are no police reports of violence or sexual abuse, no neglect of basic needs, but the traces are there nonetheless.   We are, after all, always looking for direct casual links, to understand what happened and lay out the consequences.  So if there is no ‘evidence’ it can’t have been that bad. I hear this all the time: “other people have it much worse, all you have to do is read the paper and see the real horrors perpetrated on the innocent.  Nothing that bad happened to me.”

Without minimizing other people’s suffering, comparisons like this are after one thing only, defending against the assaults to the soul.  Covert destruction of one’s sense of worth, security and safety are insidiously damaging exactly because they are not easily named.  So much harm is done under the rubric of love, care and protection, so much confusion about what it means to be loved when what you have is taken from you for the good of the family, or the mother or the father or the sibling who has so little.  The soul gives itself up, steals the good or gives it away.    

So don’t enjoy the dolphins suspended in water like air because the crash will come.  And in some ways, that is right.  The crash does come, it is inevitable, life is both joy and suffering.   What matters, however, is to fully and deeply drink in the beauty of the good moments, the miracle of a good life knowing that disappointment and hurt may follow. Healing is possible when we embrace both possibilities without destroying the one for the sake of the other. 









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In the predawn I am sitting in the cushioned wicker chair next to the window in the dining room, my new spot to watch the light rise in the sky. I look over at the doorway that opens to the front hall with the wall sconce by the stairs, at the patterns of pearly light and steely shadows against the white stucco walls, and I am captivated by the space. The wide angles of the doorframe open to the dark living room, a slice of stairway ascending to the right. I draw it, photograph it and describe it in my journal.

9142448855?profile=originalI move into it. Not physically. But the way one moves into a timeless moment that is numinous. And those moments, I believe, surround us.

I am reading Donald Kalsched’s book Trauma and the Soul; A psycho-spiritual approach to human development and its interpretation. Kalsched, a Jungian analyst, describes an “intermediate space between the worlds in which we are all most alive.” The “worlds” that he writes of are the worlds of consciousness and the unconscious. He refers to them in many contexts—as the inner world of imagination and the outer material world of facts, as the sacred and the profane. Kalsched acknowledges that there are many doorways that can lead us into mysterious interior spiritual realms and posits that we can evolve into both worlds, concluding “If we are going to ‘individuate’ in the true meaning Jung gave to that term, then we must let ourselves grow from these two roots.” 

In many respects this book offers a theoretical amplification of my memoir. It mirrors my final dream of a mother/child, Demeter/Persephone dream figure who “embodies the mysteries of abundance and poverty, of attachment and separation, of the reds, and the blues,” and who “carries my soul.”

Kalsched’s focus is on trauma, and on dissociation as a soul-saving defense which keeps “an innocent core of the self out of further suffering in reality by keeping it safe in another world.” In my first chapter I write about an experience that I remembered from the age of four.

 “My guess is, it was soon after we moved into the house when I began to disappear in the windowless hall between my bedroom, my parents’ bedroom, the bathroom, and the entrance into our living room; since I still needed to stand on my stool to see into the medicine cabinet mirror.

…All I can say is, in that hallway I left my body.

 …What I am trying to describe is what I believe to be my earliest reportable experiences of dissociation, a splitting off of consciousness. A vacant self.”

I go on to describe other altered states that I experienced as a child, transcendent states as well as the dark terrors of the night.

The tracks of the unseen (In the Tracks of the Unseen) are the tracks of my soul. My memoirs are stories of trauma and the healing that comes from holding the tension of the opposites, part human, part divine, in a third space, a liminal space from where looking into the front hall with the wall sconce by the stairs in the predawn can be transcendent.
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Buddha's birthday


The other day I found these words in my heart, wanting to be written:
Barcelona, May 1, 2014

In a few days it will be Buddha Sok Ga Mo Ni’s birthday. As this joyous occasion is drawing near, this year, Queen Maya keeps coming to mind. 

In my work as a DFA practitioner of Somatic Pattern Recognition and Archetypal Pattern Analysis, I have the chance to observe the patterns that evolve out of the early conditions of my clients’ lives. Since humans are born before gestation is complete, it continues in the womb of the family, as biologist Adolph Portman put it. During the first year of life, primarily the right hemisphere of the brain evolves. It organizes sensory perception and combines huge amounts of bits of sensory information into images that become the material we use to weave our life stories, even before we have words to associate meaning with the experience reflected in those images. During that time the infant’s nervous system continues entangled with that of his or her mother. The child depends on the mother’s ability to manage the flow of her sensations that help her to adequately take care of her son’s or daughter’s needs.

When there is a premature separation from the mother due to sickness, death or any other circumstance, the nervous system protects the infant against the full impact of the trauma to assure his or her survival, isolating the unbearable aspects of the loss of connection and keeping them underneath the threshold of conscious experience. In a manner of speaking, the parts of the organism occupied by these unbearable sensations do not participate in the development of the rest of the organism and, thus, these sensations remain forever underlying the experience and decisions for the rest of the person’s life. Sooner or later, they will surface in one way or another, giving the person a chance to integrate them later in life and recover those parts of the organism from the isolation they had been in. Invariably this is experienced as disruptive and human beings usually try to avoid it.

Supreme Matriarch of the Yun Hwa Denomination of World Social Buddhism, Ji Kwang Dae Poep Sa Nim, once said that Buddha Sok Ga Mo Ni had been quiet, very studious, and somewhat sad as a child. It seems undeniable that Queen Maya’s death shortly after giving birth to Prince Siddharta must have had a bearing on his decision to leave his life as heir to the throne and seek a solution to human suffering.
My father was separated from his mother for the first three years of his life, because she had to be hospitalized due to complications of a difficult birth. My father’s greatest wish had been to study to become a gynecologist or a forestry engineer, because he wanted to help make sure that women would not have to undergo the troubles his own mother had had in giving birth to him and he wanted to take care of nature. But he did not have the strength to resist his father’s command to take over the family business, as Prince Siddharta had had. He did bring up his daughter with the awareness of being one with nature, though. And his wish lives on in her. Not because he actively instilled it in any way; the only thing he ever told me he wanted me to do is to get clear on what I wanted to do in life and then go ahead and find a way to do it. It is a great joy for me that my work as a DFA practitioner of somatic pattern recognition and as an archetypal pattern analyst fulfills my father’s wish, including the one great wish he had not been able to carry out. Especially grateful I am for Sok Ga Mo Ni Buddha's example and teachings as well as my master Ji Kwang Dae Poep Sa Nim's and the great guidance they offer me in my personal and professional life.

We are told that on the morning when Sok Ga Mo Ni Buddha saw the morning star and became enlightened, he withstood the assaults of Mara who tried to distract him from his clear purpose. I am sure that the desire for fusion with the all-embracing feminine, born out of the premature disruption of the natural state of entanglement with the mother during the first year of life, and the terror resulting from this disruption were Mara’s main arms. But the Buddha did not let himself be carried away with desire nor did he recoil from the terror, but he remained quietly seated, watching the parts of his sensory experience that had up to then remained in the darkness of the unconscious unfold, so he could gain an understanding of his own nature and human nature in general. Like this he recovered the access to the experience of being a part of the whole he had lost when his mother died, but with a nervous system that was now developed enough to be able to integrate the parts that had been cut off. And he discovered how to relate to the whole in such a way that, instead of suffering, he would enrich it in every way he could.

That is what my father would have wanted.  In his life, the trauma of premature separation from his mother in 1928-30 in Germany was followed by others resulting from abuse of power, both on a personal and a collective level.

I feel truly fortunate to be able to follow the footsteps of Sok Ga Mon Ni Buddha and on the occasion of his 2558th birthday I would like to express my deepest gratitude for the guidance of Supreme Matriarch Ji Kwang Da Poep Sa Nim on this path. From the bottom of my heart, I would also like to thank Annie B. Duggan and Janie French for developing and teaching me their approach to DFA Somatic Pattern Recognition, and to Michael Conforti for developing and teaching me his approach to Archetypal Pattern Analysis. From all of them I am learning to relate to the whole in such a way that, instead of suffering, I can endeavor to enrich it in any way I can.

Many thanks to all my teachers, those named here and those whose names and faces remain silent in my heart.
Gak Hwa - Brigitte Hansmann

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When we are not grounded, not connected to our roots, terrible psychic issues occur, which lead to feelings of intense fear and anxiety suggests Jungian analyst Judith Harris, in her book Jung and Yoga: The Psyche Body Connection. She quotes C. G. Jung, who, in his complex work, Mysterium Coniunctionus, establishes that the element of earth holds the exact central point between the tensions of two opposites.

Grounding oneself in the earth results in feeling held by the Great Mother, rendering one nourished, nurtured, and whole. The center is the eternal, Harris states, and all that is contained within it is represented by the archetype of the Self, which contains the totality of the psyche. The center implies stillness, and in the stillness there is space for something new to emerge. When we connect to the sacred center, the earth, “the deep-seated origins that existed thousands of years before us brings healing at a profound mystical level” (Harris, p. 76).

“He who is rooted in the soil endures,” wrote Jung (1927). “Alienation from the unconscious and from its historical conditions spells rootlessness. That is the danger that lies in wait for the conqueror of foreign lands, and for every individual who, through one-sided allegiance to any kind of -ism, loses touch with the dark, maternal, earthy ground of his being. (Jung, 1927, p. 103).

According to Jung, when we go “down” (the direction of earth), we connect with the collective unconscious which includes the past: we go back in time, and in so doing, we touch all the unfulfilled lives that have been lived before us, allowing them to be lived out... (click here to read full post)

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Carl Jung & Jungian Topics: Dreams,Archetypes, Symbols 

Individuation: The Process of a Lifetime: Jung defined it as "the process by which a person becomes an "in-dividual…”

Book review: What Story Are You Living? By Carol Pearson and Hugh Marr> Are all stories are derived from archetypes?

Depth Psychology and Myths Today: The mystery that surrounds us feeds the myths we make…

The Differences Between the Wounded Healer Archetype and the Healer Archetype: 

Archetypes of the Feminine from Robert Johnson: Which one is at play in your life or

Inner Imaginal Conversations: Indigenous peoples for thousands of years have considered dreams to be guides to their lives helping them in decision-making…

That little psychological menace called projection: “As a rule, a beautiful woman is a terrible disappointment.”~Carl Jung. One response:

Depth Psychology and Myths Today: The mystery that surrounds us feeds the myths we make…

Listen online: “In Touch with Carl Jung”> The archetype of Regret with Bradie Hansen: class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 6pt; text-indent: 0in; line-height: normal;">Listen online: Deena Chappell &"The Voices of Archetypes" on "InTouch with Carl Jung":


Psychology, Therapy, Disorders, & Trauma 

Children born to mothers living within 309 meters of a freeway appeared to be twice as likely to have autism:

Recovering from Trauma: The enduring effect of war & terrorism in PTSD in soldiers and civilians of combat zones:

Writing heals: Brain research confirms relationship between words & neurological underpinnings of emotional trauma:

Sleep plays a crucial role in the development of memories, so could sleep deprivation eliminate fear & aid those suffering from PTSD?


Technology, Culture, & Entertainment

An astute archetypal assessment: “WikiLeaks and the Death of the Event”: An
Essay by John David Ebert 

Contagious Emotion: How social media can create big change:

Symptoms as signals of things unlearned: A depth-psychological look at 8 Lessons We
Can Learn from the Transnationals:

Sacred Brands: Consumerism as Modern Religion: As far back as 2001, ad firm Young & Rubicam declared "Brands are the new religion. People turn to them for meaning…"

Your call, but calls for contemplation: Cultural Symptoms: Cable News and the Moment to Moment Mindset:

What do these contemporary films say about the mind today?

The film “Inception” from the perspective of a Shaman:

For the first time in history it is possible to bump into an electric image of oneself on a fairly regular basis… "One Thousand Malkoviches: Reflections On the Cultural Phenomenology of Celebrity, An Essay by John David Ebert"

Visionary movies privilege the archetypal point of view (also a great site for a multitude of reviews):


Mind, Brain, & Neuroscience

Forget IQ: The Emerging Science of Collective Intelligence:

New lab study: Stress can enhance ordinary, unrelated memories:

Jung’s “2000-year-old-man” still lives in our primal brain: Fear is a fundamental part of making good decisions

Neural Feedback: Brain Influences Itself with Its Own Electric Field> The brain generates an electric field that influences its own activity:

The famous 'aha' effect is a peculiar phenomenal experience that people have when they solve a problem, yields pleasure:

Naps boost memory, but only if you dream:

Wholeness Regained - Revisiting David Bohm's Dialogue:

How does science fit in America’s growing interest in psychic and paranormal events? (Carl Jung also tried to explain it)


Nature, Ecology, & Ecopsychology

Climate change could kill up to 5 million people in the next 10 years—and most of them
are children under the age of 5:|+The+Blue+Marble%29&utm_content=Twitter

We need an energy sixth sense to fight global warming: ROUGHLY 30 to 40 per cent of global energy use occurs in buildings

Earlier this year: Scientists say Dolphins Should be Treated as Non-Human Persons: Dolphins have distinct personalities and self-awareness & can think about the future

Ecopsychology: Solving Climate Change Is a Psychological Challenge -- Some Solutions -

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Carl Jung & Jungian Topics: Dreams, Archetypes, and Symbols

Dreamwork as a rewarding spiritual practice by Jean Raffa:

Before the Meyers-Brigg (MBTI) Jung developed personality typologies. What’s yours? Free online test:

Vampires embody all aspects of the darker side of human nature. It’s what Freud called the Id and Carl Jung called the Shadow:

Carl Jung’s ideas on the form & definition of archetypes took 27 yrs to evolve. What is this powerful concept, anyway?

Psychological Types > Carl Jung describes 4 basic psychic functions: intuition, sensation, feeling, & thinking:

On Alchemy, C.G. Jung, and Ecological Intelligence: Alchemy describes a pattern of transformation…


Psychology, Therapy, Disorders, & Trauma

Creating a Narrative for Trauma Seems to Help Victims of PTSD: How children in Haiti are creating a narrative through special workbooks…

How to Live an "Inside-Out Life": Find pathways for maintaining psychological health & resilience during the rising "social psychosis" in our culture

Excellent read: "Conscious Femininity" by Marion Woodman

Getting to Know Me: What's Behind Psychoanalysis? Psychodynamic therapy has been caricatured as navel-gazing, but studies show powerful benefits:

Healing the Somatizations of Trauma: “The body remembers…Memory is lodged in pictures and feelings in the cells themselves.”


Technology, Culture, & Religion

Virtual reality to help returning war vets and kids to re-imagine new futures? What happens at the intersection of technology and transformation? Inner Space: Technology’s New Frontier

When ideas have sex: throughout history, the engine of human progress has been the meeting and mating of ideas to make new ideas. It's not important how clever individuals are, he says; what really matters is how smart the collective brain is. TED video:

Powerful perspective: Waking Up: Terrorism and Depth Psychology by Dr. Mary Watkins, coauthor of Psychologies of Liberation:

Compulsive Buying: An Impulse-Control Disorder> There's some uncertainty among the mental health profession about whether to see overshopping as a genuine disorder or merely a bad habit

Americans Turning Over Electronics 400 Million Times per Year: Our consumption of high-tech electronics has far outstripped our ability to handle all the waste we're leaving behind with each new upgrade

"Sacred" Abuses in the Name of God, Self, & Other: A Call for Clarity in Addressing Archetypal Truths:


Mind, Brain, & Neuroscience

Scientists Prove Astrology, Call it "Seasonal Biology": Functional changes in brain based on birth month

Bees help to explain the link between intelligence and long life:

Sudden Understanding: Aha! insights favor the prepared mind:

Thought Leaders Now Being Replaced By Feeling Leaders


Indigenous, Nature, Ecology, & Ecopsychology

Thought-provoking and more than a little alarming! Is Wi-Fi killing trees?

Regarding climate change: How obliged are we to consider the situation of the “other: other species, the poor, or unborn generations NYT:

The environmental and climate justice movement isn't just about saving polar bears from melting ice, argues Bill McKibben. It's about rebuilding connection and community, changing the way human beings live

The Medicine Wheel as a Symbol of Native American Psychology: The wheel represents the cycle of life…

Free audio from Jungian events, includes “Don't Mess with Mother Nature: The Ecopsychology of Energy”

There won't be a bailout for the earth: Global warming is yesterday’s apocalypse….


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Depth Psychology is the study of the Unconscious, an inquiry into what we don’t know by looking at how psyche emerges in symbols, mythology, art, & dreams and how we live out the repressed, the silenced, & the marginalized in our personal lives and in the culture at hand. It explores our relationship to soul, and includes ideas from anthropology, cross-cultural studies, ecology, philosophy, theology, indigenous cultures, the arts, and more. Early pioneers of the field are Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung. Contemporary Depth Psychologists include James Hillman, James Hollis, Marion Woodman, Christine Downing, Micheael Meade, along with many others. One particular emerging aspect is how technology, neuroscience, and innovations in modern culture affect the psyche of humanity and individuals alike.

Here is a look back at some of the week’s top Tweeted “soul bytes” (along with the intrepid @Tweeters who are responsible if you’re looking for great minds to “follow”)

Carl Jung & Jungian Topics: Dreams, Archetypes

Forging meaning: In Memories, Dreams, Reflections, #Jung relayed his encounter with Native Americans in Taos in 1925...

Enter the World of Soul and You are Like a Madman: Learnings from Carl Jung's Red Book: #depthpsychology

Living Mythically: Many people live their entire lives w/o any awareness of the #archetypes living through them.

Compelling: Ariadne and the Minotaur: Love, Trauma & Abandonment - A Jungian Perspective: via @heidiko44 @AshevilleJungCt

Jung's Underworld journey: Not for the timid. Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence, and Imagination by Robert Moss:

Carl #Jung believed the goal of life is not happiness, but meaning: Swamplands of the Soul by James Hollis:

Why we should record our dreams:

Psychology, Therapy, Disorders, & Trauma

The Myth Of Therapy: An Interview With James Hillman (1991)- A brilliant & provocative thinker, reading Hillman is like stepping off a bus into the clamorous, exotic, slightly menacing streets of a foreign city:

Personality Disorders Shakeup in DSM-5: What are the replacements and what does it mean to you?

Ethical? Worth considering? Mind-altering substances may induce profound psychological realignments that take decades in therapy:

What will it really do? Method to erase traumatic memories may be on the horizon -

Recovering from #Trauma: The enduring effect of #war & terrorism in #PTSD in soldiers and civilians of #combat zones:

Technology & Culture

It was bound to happen sooner or later: NYU Professor Gets Camera Implanted In Head For “Art “(Video available):

Amazon Conservation Team: Preserving Indigenous Cultures and Lands With GPS and Google Maps. via @WiserEarth @AmazonCT

UFOs, psychic phenomena, ghosts, Bigfoot? Increased interest in the paranormal has gone hand in hand with greater media attention and the rapid diffusion of the Internet:

American Psychosis: What happens to a society that cannot distinguish between reality and illusion?… via @PeterBrownPsy

AS A CULTURE, WE FEEL DEEPLY ambiguous about genius. Are we failing our gifted children?,9171,1653653,00.html

Mind, Brain, & Neuroscience

Your #brain lights up when #giving: The science behind creating a chain reaction of goodness:

Synaesthesia: Asperger’s man sees emotions as #auras of color around other people:

Naps boost memory, but only if you dream: RT @sunfellow

Why do You Turn Down the Radio When You’re Lost? (2006) The ability to multitask & pay #attention to two things at once…

Does Insomnia Shrink Your Brain? Bad sleep is not just a nuisance; it’s bad for the brain at a neurological level.

Neuroscience and dreaming: Some biologically minded researchers would argue that both Freud and Jung are wrong about dreams' real purpose:

How to be a brilliant thinker: Developing Our Skills at Divergent and Convergent Thinking

Nature, Ecology, & Ecopsychology

The much anticipated Terrapsych anthology, Rebearths: Conversations with a World Ensouled just released on Amazon!

Perfect Symmetry Between Humans and Nature: Is not everything in #nature a reflection of a feeling etched deep within the #consciousness of all human beings?

Tips for giving Mother Earth a greener Christmas” via @catalogchoice

Climate change could kill up to 5 million people in the next 10 years—and most of them are children under the age of 5:|+The+Blue+Marble%29&utm_content=Twitter via @heidiko44 @MotherJones

Peru’s long-term survival depends on water from the glaciers of the high Andes. The problem is that all that ice will soon be gone.

Save trees! US consumers get 19 billion catalogs yearly: app 3.6 M tons paper, 8.3 M tons wood, 53 M trees. Opt out at

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