Trauma Recovery Mandala Therapy is based on developments in
brain research together with clinical observations over many
years and can be used individually.
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
psyche of the very traumatized individual can
concurrently be at different stages of development and
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
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
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.