#416 – Trauma and The Soul with Donald Kalsched PhD

Donald Kalsched


Donald Kalsched, Ph.D. is a Clinical Psychologist and Jungian Psychoanalyst in private practice in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is a senior training analyst with the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts where he teaches and supervises. His 1996 book The Inner World of Trauma: Archetypal Defenses of the Personal Spirit has found a wide readership in both psychoanalytic and Jungian circles and has been translated into many languages. Dr. Kalsched teaches and lectures nationally and internationally, pursuing his inter-disciplinary interest in early trauma and dissociation theory and its mytho-poetic manifestations in the mythic and religious iconography of many cultures. His latest book Trauma and the Soul: A Psycho-Spiritual Approach to Human Development and its Interruption, was published in April, 2013.

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A psychology podcast by David Van Nuys, Ph.D.

copyright 2014: David Van Nuys, Ph.D.



  1. Peter Myran
    Posted August 17, 2014 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Hello David,

    Congratulations on another great podcast – #416 – Donald Kalsched, Trauma and the Soul. Very interesting! I wanted to share briefly a resonation inspired by the interview. I believe you know that I was in a group therapy group for six years – finishing in 2012. Many of us were childhood trauma survivors, wounded by what you call in the interview bad parenting. Kalsched talks about the dynamic of wounded children who often strategize a retreat to the protective their inner world, the mytho-poetic realm. As I understand it, the upside it affords is a layer of safe-keeping from the harsh and harmful reality of their childhood. This is what I experienced and experienced again in the stories of my fellow group-mates. I always had a rich dream life and vivid inner world. I also had plenty my own maladaptive behaviors in adulthood as I perhaps lingered too long in this outmoded strategy. I like the idea that protective angels can also become fearful, destructive demons – perhaps keeping us safe prisoners. Throughout my adult life, at least until this lastest period of therapeutic repair and integration, my dreams have been frequently haunted by menacing evil characters. A big connection for me with the interview.

    I know of this story told by Tara Brach (Buddhist teacher, psychotherapist and podcaster) of exactly this process as revealed by one of her clients, a survivor of abuse, in the form of the Blue Fairy.

    Here is a link to the who text: http://www.tarabrach.com/articles/trauma.html

    Members of my group therapy often used and referred to this story because it gave them such a good perspective on their own experience and path to healing. In it the client reveals the following:

    “[The Blue Fairy is] telling her she can do something to help. She can do something that will let her forget for a while about the horrible things going on, so she can grow up and handle it when she’s stronger.
    … “She says she is going to touch different parts of her body with her magic wand and they will change and be able to hold all the terrible feelings for her.” She paused, listening inwardly, and then continued, “The good fairy is saying that even though it’s hard to be so bound up, it will be her way to survive, to be quiet and control what’s happening inside her.”
    … “Well, the fairy put the little girl’s rage and fear into her belly, and then she bound it up so it could stay there. And then she put a magic lock on her pelvis and vagina so her sexual feelings couldn’t get her in any more trouble.” Rosalie took a few shaky breaths, and I gently asked, “What else?”
    Tears began rolling down her cheeks as she said, “She told her she’d have to let her rib cage tighten so she wouldn’t feel the pain of her heart breaking.” Rosalie was quiet and then she went on, her voice a little stronger. “She said her neck would be a fortress with very thick round walls so that she wouldn’t cry out for help or scream out in anger.” Rosalie fell quiet and I just sat with her in silence.
    “You’re doing beautifully,” I told her, and then added gently, “Is there anything else the fairy wants you to know?” Rosalie nodded. “She says some day the little girl will no longer be able to hold all this in, and her body will start unwinding its secrets. She will let go of everything she has been holding for so long…and she will do this because most deeply, she wants to be whole and real.” Rosalie was softly weeping, her shoulders shaking. “She just told the little girl not to worry. She would find people who cared and would hold her as she finds herself again.”

    I find this connection to Kalsched’s work quite clear and compelling.

    I hope you are well, David. I love what you provide me … as food for thought. It is always what makes my monthly donation so worthwhile.

    Best wishes, as always … your friend!


  2. Posted August 21, 2014 at 4:32 am | Permalink

    Pete, thank you..!
    As an avid listener and ardent admirer of both Dr Dave and Tara Brach, and having just finished #416– Donald Kalsched, Trauma and the Soul, my interest was grabbed immediately in the story you shared.

    Having now followed the link, I can well understand why the “Blue Fairy” story provided such a powerful source of hope in your therapy group.

    I have emailed myself a copy of Tara’s blog to hold as a permanent reference for anyone one I know who may be healing from childhood trauma.

    With gratitude..!
    Barclay Braden

  3. Posted August 21, 2014 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    My thanks too, Pete for linking to the Tara Brach story. It is just brilliant. I can relate to pretty much everything she talks about in the article and I love the way she describes the problems that meditation presents for anyone with unhealed trauma. There are way too many meditation teachers out there these days who have absolutely no understanding of the unconscious.

    I have also had experience of hypnotherapy as a way of healing trauma and can vouch for its effectiveness with the right therapist. I emphasise the latter because I have also had experience with two hypnotherapists who actually did more harm than good.

    I lucked onto my helpful hypnotherapist at a time when the veil between the conscious and unconscious had been parted through an intense inner experience and in retrospect I can see that the experience enabled me to attune to my inner guidance enough to trust again. This therapist has since become my closest friend.

    To anyone who is suffering trauma and feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the task of healing, I say never give up and keep listening to Dr. Dave!

  4. Dr. Michael Ocana
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    My review on “Trauma and the Soul”.

    “Kalsched has produced an absolute masterpiece which I would highly recommend to any of you fascinated with psychology, spirituality and/or the resolution of trauma. Kalshed weaves together insights based on his training as a Jungian analyst, his deep understanding of object relations psychology and his familiarity with recent developments in neuroscience and body psychotherapies. He then relates beautifully narrated tales of healing from his therapy practice, weaving these together with classical works of fiction, mythological stories, fairy tales and other works of literature to illustrate a powerful conceptual understanding of the impact of trauma on our very essense. This essence is what Jung refers to as the Self and what Kalshed unabasedly refers to as the soul. This aspect of us, Kalsched proposes, holds a core of innocence and vitality which is disconnected from us during traumatic events, but preserved within our subconscious to be rediscovered at a later time, when we can process the traumatic events that were overwhelming at the time. This may sound simple, but Kalsched then illustrates the complex and potent forces that defend against this reintegration. Forces that he refers to as the “self care system”, but can at times be perceived as demonic and persecutory. Kalsched’s insights go a long way to explain how traditional psychotherapeutic techniques have failed so often to overcome these forces and why efforts to heal trauma can be so frustrating for the client and the therapist. I have found myself rethinking many of my own previous assumptions and thank Kalsched for this masterful work which I hope gains the broad audience it deserves.”

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