Main Session: Audrey Lehmann, PhD LMFT

The Trauma/Transcendence Interface: The Convergence of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Transcendent Experiences


This study examines the interface between two contrasting states of consciousness: PTSD-related traumatic states and transcendent states of consciousness, called a trauma/transcendence interface. In this study, the trauma/transcendence interface is examined among those for whom it has led to profound psychological growth and spiritual development, i.e. a spiritual emergence. It is important to note, however, that difficult, negative and/or damaging outcomes of a trauma/transcendence interface are relatively common. Such is the subject of further study. In this research, the interface prompted substantial recovery from trauma and was profoundly life-changing for all participants.
A qualitative analysis of six participants’ experiences of one or more trauma/transcendence interfaces uncovered
(a) a reciprocity between these two states by way of shared characteristics,

(b) catalyzing properties within each state which encouraged a transition between states,

(c) participants’ abilities to better maximize the benefits of each consecutive interface because of increased experience,

(d) processes in which recovery and spiritual development necessitated, and naturally encouraged, a trauma/transcendence interface, and

(e) nuanced differences between particular “phases” during an interface, each of which requires different approaches of care and clinical attention.
Thirteen essences, or themes, were extracted from the findings:

(a) cascades of distress,

(b) variations on regression in the service of transcendence,

(c) psychological stress catalyzing a transcendent state,

(d) intensity of shared characteristics,

(e) altered states of consciousness,

(f) loss of control/ surrender,

(g) adrenaline versus kundalini,

(h) levels of energy and intensity,

(i) psychic hypervigilance,

(j) dissociation,

(k) strong interfaces leading to milder interfaces,

(l) newfound healing capacities, and

(m) chronic illness.

Many of these essences represent invariant characteristics which occurred consistently, and in the same sequence, during all participants’ trauma transcendence interfaces.

Based on these essences and invariant characteristics, research suggestions are provided regarding treatment of an individual undergoing a trauma/transcendence interface. Suggestions for further research are also presented concerning how the clinician can promote such an interface, for the purposes of recovery from trauma, psychological development, and spiritual growth.

Presenter Bio

Audrey Lehmann is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with 23 years’ clinical experience. She taught and provided therapy at San Francisco’s Center for Psychological and Spiritual Health, formerly known as the Spiritual Emergence Network. It is through her clinical work with individuals and groups that she witnessed the confluence of trauma/PTSD and transcendent experiences. For the past 15 years she has researched and lectured regarding this overlap, which she calls the Trauma/Transcendence Interface. She graduated with distinction for her doctoral work in East-West Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, based to her presentations and research on the Trauma/Transcendence Interface. It is a subject she holds near and dear to her heart. Audrey is also a Registered Expressive Arts Therapist, Board-Approved Clinical Supervisor, and Adjunct Professor at Southern Oregon University.

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