Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Religious Studies

Reader 1

Oona Eisenstadt

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2020 Isabel Kelly


The purpose of this paper is to create a comparative synthesis between scientific perspectives and spiritual perspectives of understanding the psychosomatic (mind-body) nature of trauma. In order to do so we will consider the works of Dr.Bessel van der Kolk, a world-leading psychiatrist in the field of trauma therapy who advocates for the use of body-oriented approaches to healing, and the works of Carl Jung and Donald Kalsched. Jung is considered one of the founding fathers of the field of Transpersonal Psychology, while Kalsched is a Jungian psychoanalyst who specializes in working with trauma patients. We will see that while Van der Kolk enables us to understand trauma through scientific, diagnostic, and empirical frameworks, Jung and Kalsched illumine the “soulful, mytho-poetic, and imaginal” dimensions of trauma, its healing, and the psychosomatic nature of this process. Though these paradigms addresses trauma through very different “languages,” we will illumine the parallels between them and demonstrate how they can be considered together in order to create a more holistic, expansive, and wider reaching understanding of trauma and its healing. The harmony between these frameworks confirms that the human experience of trauma is indeed a neurobiological phenomena, as well as a psycho- spiritual one. In the course of our individual and collective evolution towards constructing a better trauma-informed society at large, both of these languages play an essential role.