Linda I Bearup    

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Accelerated Trauma Recovery Mandala Therapy is based on developments in brain research together with clinical observations over many years and can be used individually.

Some important notions are:

  • Trauma recovery treatment necessarily involves working with inter and intra psyche  dynamics together with recognition of the impact of trauma on the developmental trajectory of brain development.
  • Trauma material is stored differently from non traumatic material.
  • The psyche of the very traumatized individual can concurrently be at different stages of development and emancipation.

Recent psycho-neurobiological research has demonstrated that within the hierarchical development of the brain there are some inherent difficulties with processing of trauma. It seems that the highest parts of the brain, capable of very sophisticated thinking and complicated analytical processes are the first to shut down in trauma, i.e., the cortico-hippacampal area of the brain, necessary for fully processing narrative information, is partially shut down during extreme duress. (Perry. 2005) The more extreme the stress, the less ability this part of the brain has to function. When an individual anticipates a life threatening action being taken towards them a lower, more primitive ‘instinctive’ part of the brain takes over, e.g., The dynamic seen in an animal that, as it is being pursued by a much larger stronger animal ‘plays dead’ .  This action is not a carefully calculated strategy on the part of the terrified animal, but rather, an ‘instinctive’ lower brain response.  The human capacity to act out of instinct based on incoming threat information into the brain even before the ‘knowledge’ reaches the thinking, analyzing temporal lobe of the brain, has been identified by Stephen Porges as ‘neuroception’.  

There are two important dual dynamics. Concurrent to the ‘shutting down’ within the temporal lobe, the limbic area of the brain is highly activated and becomes involved in managing the incoming trauma signals. The limbic is lower and a more primitive part of the brain than the more sophisticated cortico-hippacampal areas where thinking and analytical processes are found.

The limbic part of the brain is responsible for more basic human functions, i.e., affect, sight, sound, smell taste, touch.  It seems that during trauma the limbic is the part of the brain that is still active and therefore stores the details of the event in a fragmented,  affective, somatic, sensory and ‘state dependent’ way unlike the usual  processes involving higher analytical processes. Importantly, the lower more primitive parts of the brain do not use ‘words’ to function so there is no narrative.  The clear narrative deficit is often very distressing to survivors of trauma who cannot consciously remember the details of their trauma. 

Trauma recovery necessarily involves the purposeful establishment of a temporary synthesis of the whole psyche to enable improved inter-hemisphere collaborative connectivity of the brain. Improved connectivity enhances the potential for connection between previously unavailable ‘state dependent’ trauma affective somatic and sensory material. Improved access leads to the creation of new neural circuitry which in turn enables further access, thinking and resolution. 

Creativity, an already well recognized medium to access right brain or ‘unconscious’ processes was a logical direction to take to apply the psycho-neurobiological theory.

The medium of the Mandala is used, primarily, as a ‘container’. The word Mandala was first found in Sanskrit writing 2,500 years ago and the medium of mandala has been used for spiritual, healing and aesthetic purposes for hundreds of years.  The mandala circle is symbol of ‘wholeness’. In the trauma resolution context it becomes a symbol of the ‘whole psyche or self’ and was chosen as a vehicle for applying the theory because it quite naturally and efficiently becomes a container for ‘holding’  the  emerging self. 

The aim of the construction of the mandala is to resolve past trauma and develop an improved and integrated experience of living. This is established through creating a psychological congruent coalescence within the traumatized psyche and symbolizing the affect, somatic and sensory material as well as known narrative. This temporary synthesis in turn creates improved inter-hemisphere collaborative connectivity enabling processing and resolution of previously unprocessed trauma material through the establishment of new neural circuitry.   

Symbols are used to represent the pre and past trauma selves, the victim/survivor self in the present and the hopeful self who hopes and dreams of a future.

The work is constructed in circles. The circle is the symbol of wholeness. The whole self. 

At regular intervals the process of the work is articulated to fellow group members who in turn share their process and give validation feedback.


Lindy Bearup

Copyright © 2010, Commonwealth of Australia

The material contained on this website constitutes Commonwealth copyright and is intended for your general use and information. You may download, display, print and reproduce this material in unaltered form crediting the authors. All right reserved.



Moonyah acknowledges that we work on the land of the Wurundjeri Traditional owners.


"Yesterday is already a dream and tomorrow is only a vision, but today well lived -
makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope"
old Sanskrit proverb.


Copyright © 2010, Commonwealth of Australia

The material contained on this website constitutes Commonwealth copyright and is intended for your general use and information.
You may download, display, print and reproduce this material in unaltered form crediting the authors.
All right reserved.