The Chakras and Sexual Trauma
I have just returned from presenting at the National Sexual Assault Conference, attended by over a thousand social workers, counselors, rape crises center workers, and more, all devoted to ending sexual assault and abuse, and to helping survivors through their legal and healing process. I was part of the Wellness track sponsored by The Breathe Network, founded by Molly Boeder Harris (whom I interviewed here) to support embodied approaches to healing from sexual assault and abuse. I was truly inspired and encouraged by the interest in the workshops sponsored by The Breathe Network – my own workshop on mindfulness and energy healing for sexual trauma and assault, Molly’s on embodied healing, and workshops on both yoga and biofeedback for healing sexual trauma. As in other healing fields, there is a groundswell of interest in incorporating alternative and complementary healing methods into programs for survivors. Molly will be blogging more about the conference and our workshops herself soon, so keep an eye out for that on Breathe Blog.
For myself, the conference inspired me to drop my plans to make my first blog post this Fall about my summer trip to Yellowstone National Park, and the powerful natural elements and energies I found there (I will do that another time.) Instead, I decided to present some more detailed information about how the chakras are impacted by sexual trauma. As you probably know, I have a free ebook on this site with 10 guided exercises designed to aid the healing of the subtle body from sexual trauma and abuse, but by necessity that book really just covers a small part of what I usually do in teleseminars or when working with private clients. Since I believe in the power of information, I wanted to share a little more, for use by anyone who can benefit, or who works with individuals who might.
First, a few trauma-sensitive principles that are especially important to remember when working to heal from sexual trauma and abuse, or when helping someone to do so:
– Everyone’s healing process is different, and incorporating chakra work into a trauma healing process will be right for some, and not for others. Honor how you – or your client – feels.
– Always work with your chakras in a place that feels safe and healing to yourself and/ or your client. Our energy bodies are very sensitive, especially when we do this kind of work, and you want to feel as nurtured and supported as possible.
– Consider what triggers feelings of vulnerability or fear in you or your client, and adapt how you work accordingly. For example, much of the chakra work that I do utilizes guided imagery, and this is normally done with the eyes closed, which can be a trigger for some. If this is the case, you can try drawing images instead, or try visualizing with the eyes slightly open but relaxed in a soft gaze – this is easier than you might think.
– It is easy to get ‘spacey’ when doing chakra work, since our mind is initially not used to connecting with our subtle body in this way. Since trauma survivors can be prone to disassociating from their physical bodies, it’s important to begin with grounding visuals and exercises, and to check in with yourself or your client periodically to make sure there is still a body connection.
Below are the main ways that our chakras are impacted by sexual trauma and abuse, particularly women (whom I mostly work with). If you are entirely new to the chakras, check out the Chakra Page for resources. This is also a good place to find ways to work with each of the chakras, from guided meditations to books that might help (and check the Women’s Energetics page too.) Please also check out the resources at the end of the e-book for other organizations and books that approach sexual trauma healing in a holistic way.
First – Root Chakra:
This chakra is linked to our ability to feel grounded, safe, secure in our bodies, and connected to people around us. Our ability to access any of these is compromised when our root chakra is not strong. Physically this chakra is linked to our genitalia, and so it is very directly impacted by sexual trauma and abuse. Many survivors develop patterns of disassociation or disconnection from their physical bodies – a necessary survival mechanism to make it through abusive episodes or an attack. On an energetic level, this causes a ‘break’ from the root chakra, and so energy is not flowing upward from the earth in the way it ideally should. Working to gradually re-establish a healthy grounded connection to the earth and physical body are essential.
Our root chakra is also a crucial part of our ‘energetic inheritance’ from our family – physically we are rooted in the earth and our DNA, and so energetically we are rooted in earth energy and the energetic inheritance from our family. In situations where abuse has occurred within a family, and/or a family has been unsupportive, the root chakra may be very weak, and leave survivors with no sense of safety or security, regardless of circumstance. Working to help them disconnect from the dysfunctional energies and patterns they may have inherited, and to ‘re-root’ in alternative energies (nature, spiritual forces- both masculine and feminine) of their own choosing can help establish a new foundation from which to begin building a sense of safety and security.
Second – Sacral Chakra:
Disassociation often also manifests in the subtle body as a tendency to disconnect from the second chakra, which is linked to our emotions, creativity, sensuality, sexuality and fluidity/adaptability. This often means survivors have problems feeling their emotions in their bodies, but ironically this doesn’t mean they don’t feel others’ emotions. In fact, because the sacral energies aren’t fully integrated, and there isn’t a strong foundation in the root chakra, the sacral chakra is often unprotected, resulting in survivors feeling everyone’s emotions but their own. Focusing on boundary work, and on helping to sort out self-emotions and other-emotions is really key to ‘rewiring’ this tendency.
Shame and self-blame are also often held in this chakra, blocking its ability to flow and let go. Since a ‘blame the victim’ mentality is so prevalent in our culture, and often adopted by both abusers and family members, this is often one of the biggest challenges survivors face on an emotional and energetic level, and can play out in many different ways (including in self-destructive hyper-sexual behavior which may seem at first like an active expression of the sacral chakra, but may actually be rooted in feelings of unworthiness rooted in shame.) Focus on self-compassion and self-care is so important to help combat this, although sometimes the first step is helping a survivor own and express their anger – something shame or self-blame may have kept them from expressing.
Third – Navel Chakra:
Our navel chakra is linked to our personal power, boundaries, sense of identity, and ability to act effectively in the world, so it makes sense that some survivors have great difficult getting by in the world, often caught in cycles of abuse and/or addiction. However, there is another counter-intuitive way that abuse often impacts the navel chakra, one that I find quite prevalent, and that is a hyper-reliance on the active aspects of the navel chakra, as a survival mechanism. These survivors often develop exceptional intellectual and organization skills, and attempt to power through life in order to never be vulnerable again. In both cases – whether someone seems lost in the world or is hyper-independent – there is usually a lot of mental activity and/or habits of escaping into mental worlds.
The issue with the power-through approach is that it is exhausting and unsustainable. From an energetic perspective, there is no or little flow upward from the root and sacral chakra – no sense of foundation or flow – so individuals are just left feeling like they are entirely on their own, always struggling and pushing through barriers. The most important thing in this case is actually to learn to let go, and to re-establish a healthy link between the first, second and third chakras. Then a focus on healthy boundaries emanating from the first and third chakra (root and navel) can help establish a sense of safety and filtering.
Fourth – Hearth Chakra:
In our daily lives, our heart chakra is most directly engaged in our relationships with others, and so this is where heart chakra damage from abuse and assault usually manifests itself. There are a lot of different variations however, including a tendency towards codependent relationships that deflect feelings of unworthiness or play out abuse dynamics in some fashion, difficulty entering into equality-based relationships, difficulty trusting or being vulnerable, or a disconnection from any sense of a spiritual support system. The work here then is mostly about looking at relationships honestly, and the dynamics that have developed. Self-compassion and self-care are again essential, as is facing any lingering feelings of unworthiness.
Fifth – Throat Chakra:
Our throat chakra is linked to our ability to communicate clearly, and especially to speak our truth, and feel our authentic self. Childhood abuse survivors often develop a survival strategy of filtering or ‘checking’ what they say, attempting to feel out what someone wants them to say, out of a fear of triggering a negative response. This prevents any real communication – any true expression of their inner lives through outer means, which is really what the throat chakra is about. There may also be patterns of swinging between over- and under- expressing. The healing focus here is on breaking these patterns by strengthening someone’s sense of connection between inner and outer. Sometimes doing this through non-verbal means – writing, art, etc. – is the most helpful at first.
Sixth – Third Eye Chakra and Seventh – Crown Chakra:
The third eye and crown are usually not directly impacted by sexual trauma and abuse, but they can become linked to disassociative patterns, if a survivor seeks to escape into dream worlds, astral dimensions, or pure imagination in such a way that it becomes dysfunctional (or the basis for addiction.) On the other hand, for those survivors who develop a hyper-reliance on their navel chakra (see above), there can be a fear of surrendering into the non-intellectual aspects of the upper chakras – a fear of the unknown. This can inhibit their ability to open to their spiritual nature, and to spiritual experience. So working with these chakras is really about attuning to the individual, and seeking to discover in what ways these chakras are open, in what ways they may have become an escape hatch, and in what ways they are closed down. Developing a balanced third eye and crown, that are grounded and connected to the lower chakras, is the most important goal. Usually, I would not work on either the third eye or crown with a survivor until the other chakras feel fairly solid and strong.
I hope you find this little summary helpful, although it’s just a smattering of what to consider. If you yourself are working to heal from sexual trauma and abuse, please know that you can, and be kind to yourself. You are brave! I welcome comments and additional suggestions on this topic. Namaste-
P.S. I offer a 4-week teleseminar on energy work for healing from sexual abuse and trauma twice a year, more information here.