The Role of Trauma in Transformation


The tower tarot card, in almost any rendition, can be a very startling image when it presents itself in a spread. My clients, as they have tried to decipher their spreads in the past, always glance at the card with nervousness. Frankly I don’t blame them. In the traditional illustration by Pamela Coleman Smith we are shown a lightning bolt striking and destroying a large fortified tower. The crown which was onced placed on top of the structure is overthrown and the figures who live there are also flung out of their home. These are not very comforting images. With Saturn having starting it’s retrograde motion  for a good portion of this year, I thought it would be appropriate to address this card and it’s significance in our development.

The tower card, much like Saturn and it’s station in retrograde, signifies a very strong form of destruction. In as much as these traumas are difficult to face there is something very cathartic about their experience.  Having suffered from some significant forms of childhood trauma, it has taken me quite some time to give myself permission feel and face those suppressed feelings. Although the trauma occurred decades ago, surrendering to these feelings as they present themselves can be just as destructive emotionally, mentally and most of all, spiritually . This is often why we suppress traumatic experiences as the feelings are synonymous to the overwhelmingness of ecstasy, only in the form of overwhelming pain.


These traumatic experiences are opportunities for complete destruction, and destruction gives rise to transformation. The key is in having faith that facing this trauma will allow us to destroy all that no longer serves us and rebuild from a healthy place.


Saturn, our karmic ruler of lessons learned and cosmic purpose, going retrograde forces us to confront these traumas and difficulties. It’s retrograde is different than that of Mercury, which stations retrograde a few times a year and is much more unstable in it’s path. Saturn’s retrograde is slow and steady. It stays on this path for a good portion of the year and is comfortable with it’s energy. Thus these opportunities are great to unveil whether or not we have learned our cosmic lessons and are ready to face our inner demons.

When the tower is struck by lightning, we are asked, is our fortification strong? If not, that’s also alright. The other day a giant windstorm struck my town – trees were ripped down, streetlights fallen, power outages and the like. I went to my favourite clearing afterwards to find trees broken down over the shores of the river. Under one of the large trunks I found the body of what appears to be a rusty crayfish – an invasive species, and it got me thinking. Trauma manifest itself in different ways, and in my case that was fear; Fear doesn’t belong in our world though, even though I had made a comfortable home for it. After the storm these species get washed up and destroyed because they have no place here. Only the true love and beautiful parts of ourselves stay rooted. They are the only things that are real.


So, giving mysefl permission to experience or relive my trauma allowed me to destroy those fears. It was an opportunity face the storm and let it take with it all that no longer fortified my soul in a healthy way.  We can continue to let these traumas warp and shape our sense of reality, or we can look them in the eye, reshape and/or extinguish them. The process, much like a snake shedding it’s skin is not easy. Transformation is sometimes painted as a beautiful unveiling of our inner light, but that’s not always, if not never, the case.


Once you decide you are ready to move onto higher vibrations and create a life that is aligned with a greater purpose, like the crown that is overthrown in the tower tarot card, there are plenty of things, ideas, people and energy that you must let go of, and this process is not a pretty one. Destruction must happen to give rise to transformation. We have pain sensors in our body that protect us in case our life is threatened. So our innate tendencies is to avoid the experience of pain. However, this discomfort works well for us in unhealthy emotional, mental and spiritual habits. The demise of these structures allow us to create better energetic relationships. The discomfort comes both from the pain and the unknown of what will grow once these fortifications are destroyed. The entire process requires a leap of faith.


The difference in allowing ourselves to feel these traumas is that unlike our physical bodies, these emotions and energies are not fixed. They are not bound by the physical world of life and death – they are ever changing and infinite. Holding onto these traumas and fears acts against these natural flows of energy. Allowing yourself to feel them and push through will eventually lead to its transformation. The release of this energy will eventually heal the wounds and propel us forward.

Rabyor, Mary. Our Light Body. (2012).
Radcliffe, Shawn, Trauma as a Pathway to Spiritual Surrender. (2008)

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