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How I Finally Welcomed My Traumas on the Spiritual Path…

I didn’t know I was not in my body–dissociated, disconnected from myself, living in my head and in spiritual realms or that early traumas had caused my nervous system to feel unsafe to inhabit my body. I mistook profound mystical experiences as a sign of spiritual advancement, convinced that if only I were fully awakened, all would be well in my life. It wasn’t until much later that I came across the term “spiritual bypass” which resonated deeply.

Why did I feel anxious following periods of bliss? After one ecstatic experience at a retreat, my unbounded Self witnessed the mind going crazy. My identity of who I thought I was completely dissolved. I was laughing, watching how absurd my mind was. The experience left me unsettled, and for six months after, I was in angst, gut tied in knots leading to severe digestive issues and scary weight loss.

It never dawned on me that spiritual experiences like this could kick up early traumas, including issues of abandonment and neglect. I felt ashamed and frustrated that I couldn't maintain the blissful, elevated high states.

I hadn't heard of "spiritual bypass", a term coined by pioneering author and clinical psychologist John Welwood, who said, "If there's a large gap between our practice and our human side, we remain unripe. Our practice may ripen, but our life doesn't. And there's a certain point when that gap becomes very painful."

When I felt bad, I would attempt to escape such feelings by increasing my meditations, hoping to transcend or pop into esoteric realms. I didn't know how to stay in my body to process difficult feelings and sensations to integrate the split-off parts of myself so I can feel whole.

I attended many healing classes and courses but I don't think I was able to incorporate the full benefits because I wasn’t in my body. Healing energies were often too intense for my nervous system pushing up old wounds too fast, leaving me feeling frayed and out of sorts. I have since learned that my body needs titration (small amounts of activation at a time) to avoid overwhelm and re-traumatization.

I had also confused devotion/surrender with unhealthy attachment. I projected my unmet infant/childhood needs onto teachers and gurus, thinking that if I never miss a meditation or could just get that special look, that mirroring (seen/attuned to which children need to know they have value)-- I would be okay.

After more than 2 decades on the path, I began to meet my traumas. I was guided to a more embodied approach to awakening with a wonderful non-dual teacher.  I trained as a spiritual counselor at One Spirit Interfaith NYC.  Around the same time, I  walked into my therapist’s office for the first time with Dr. Laurence Heller’s book Healing Developmental Trauma which had just come out.  My therapist exclaimed, “Where did you get this?”

A year later, she vouched for me and I was accepted into Dr. Heller's Neuro-Affective Relational Model™ (NARM) training, (at therapist level) for healing developmental trauma with only an undergrad in psychology. I advanced to the NARM Master Practitioner training as well as training in various trauma modalities.

So much of developmental trauma is about what we didn't get -- not just things like stability and safety but also needs such as being welcomed and attuned to, accepted for who we are, autonomy, etc. -- often from parents who suffered early traumas themselves. These lacks can show up as self-hatred, difficulties in relationships and fulfilling life work, anxiety, depression, even physical symptoms like migraines, IBS, and chronic fatigue.

I've come to see that connecting with my aliveness allows me to be more of my true self. Feeling safer in my body enables me to expand my window of tolerance for what's challenging and joyful and has allowed me to be more present in my life. I also see how important separation-individuation is, to receive teachings and transmissions from teachers, and be self-reliant in my capacities, relating to teachers from my adult consciousness.  

The field of trauma healing is vast. I'm constantly learning. It's so fulfilling to see my clients shifting to greater capacities to free themselves from pain and suffering.  They are better able to reconnect with their real selves, to shift out of frustrating patterns in their work and relationships.

I honor your path whatever that may be. Maybe some of my experiences and insights can be helpful. May you find what's most real and alive for you!

Brianna Ho Delott, MBA, BBA-PSYC is a Master NARM Practitioner & Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, also certified in Integral Somatic Psychology as well as in spiritual counseling with the American Institute of Health Care Professionals. She’s also a Co-regulation Touch Practitioner trained in Transforming the Experienced-Based Brain & Somatic Resilience Regulation. She sees clients internationally on Zoom.


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