January 30, 2014

Out of the Darkness: The Trauma Roadmap

In part four of our six week series on sex, relationships, and healing sexual trauma with Ben and Jen Rode and Valerie Taormina, Valerie will share with you a profoundly eye-opening concept: how our trauma can also be our roadmap to healing.


Today we are turning lemons into lemonade by transforming shame and trauma into a map to help you reveal your life’s purpose. - YES!  Here’s the deal, the method I’m about to share is just an exercise, a hypothesis, it isn’t truth or the only way.  However, it is something that I formulated from personal experience after facing my shame and discovering my life’s work.  Insofar that I’ve applied it with clients and friends, it seems to work. I’ll let you be the judge. Here we go. . .

Let’s first take a look at trauma in the sexual context.  The reason we are starting here is because it seems to be an area where shame hides out, as it makes us so embarrassed or is so taboo that we store it away and throw away the key.  In order to get a complete look at your shame history it is important to take an even deeper look within your sexual history.

Often when we think of sexual trauma we think of extreme cases like rape or molestation.  These situations are definitely in the “trauma” category. However, they do not represent the complete trauma spectrum.  I prefer to define sexual trauma as any experience that takes you out of your body, and/or impacts your self worth.  Later in this article you will be examining your shame history, so when you do so, make sure to take extra time to explore it within the context of that definition. Here are some examples of traumatic events that tend to be overlooked:

  1. Body image/beliefs about beauty
  2. Religious and spiritual views on sex
  3. Views on masturbation
  4. Gender, ethnic, and socio-economic stereotypes
  5. Pregnancy, childbirth, abortion, miscarriage, inability or difficulty having children (don’t overlook the impact on men)
  6. Unwanted or painful sexual touch
  7. Sexual performance
  8. Sexual desire and guilt associated around what is “normal”
  9. Infidelity
  10. Mommy/Daddy relationships
Now that we’ve gone a bit deeper into sexual trauma, take a step back and read the rest of this article with your entire trauma history in mind.

I recently came across this article that presents 10 ways you know you’ve found your calling, written by holistic health practitioner Lissa Rankin, MD. Here’s the first bullet point, and the point that is relevant for our conversation:

You’ll realize you’ve been training for your calling since the moment you were born.  Even the gritty things, the disappointments, the regrets, and the screw ups, they were all prepping you for what you’re now being called to do.  You’ll realize that the divorce, the bankruptcy, the death of your loved one, the failure, the rejection--it was just school, teaching you the lessons your soul needed to learn in order to be who you’re being called to be.

For the entire list click here

This article is aimed to help people confirm whether they are on the right path, and it acknowledges in the first step that the negative experiences in your life and the lessons they teach you, when reflecting back after finding your “calling”, will connect together in some way and point to where you ended up.   

What I’m proposing is reverse engineering this concept, so instead of mapping things out to confirm you’re in the right place, what if you mapped things out to find the right direction? In other words, if you aren’t sure where to go, look at the negative aspects of your history (your shame and trauma), and that can give you the way forward!

This exercise helps you identify your core wounds (the traumatic and shameful events that made the largest impression) and how you can use these to find ways you can contribute to the world that will provide you the greatest amount of satisfaction.  I personally believe that your most satisfying contribution to the world is what your “calling” really is.  Understanding our shame and integrating this part of ourselves, typically thought of as our dark side, is precisely the thing that can catapult us into our greatest light.  

If you have not done so already, I highly recommend pulling out a pen and paper. 

Creating your Map:

1.)    Make a list of events in your life that you consider traumatic, embarrassing, or shameful.  Make sure to look at specifics such as tripping and falling on your face and getting your braces stuck to your lips right as the school bus drove by (one of the super fun highlights from my childhood), to something broader like being the school nerd or witnessing a nasty divorce between your parents.

2.)    Look at the list and notice which experiences cause the greatest sense of uneasiness in your body.  Instead of rationalizing this self-criticism in your brain, really allow yourself to meditate and feel within. Circle your top 3 reactions and label them from 1-3 (1 being your greatest reaction).  These events can be considered your core wounds. *Try not to choose based on how you think you should feel and instead by what your body and your intuition tells you. Your core wound may not be the big shiny traumatic event, it could be less obvious*

3.)    Ask yourself this question for each of your top choices: What would be the healing needed in this situation to makes things better?  Here are some examples to get you thinking:

Core wound
Healing needed
Being the "fat kid"
Learning how to be healthy, loving yourself despite the ways others see you
Having a challenging learning disability
Understanding your other talents, learning how to function with your disability, developing self confidence or social skills
Growing up in an abusive household
Feeling safe and learning how to trust, feeling empowered in your life

4.)    Now ask yourself this question: What things could I do for the world that would provide this healing to others?  The answers to this question are where to look for your life’s work.  Perhaps some of you will be able to see things you can do that provide healing for a number of your core wounds, this I like to call the combined effect.    

Healing needed
Things you could do
Learning how to be healthy, loving yourself despite the ways others see you
Health related field, childhood obesity, prevention, health research, personal trainer, counselor, teacher
Understanding your other talents, learning how to function with your disability, developing self confidence or social skills
Teacher, Therapist, Coach, something that teaches others what you do know, donor/board member to program that helps people with this challenge
Feeling safe and learning how to trust, feeling empowered in your life
Mentor, family therapist, coach, counselor

Now that I’ve shared with you the exercise, I’ll share a little about me to give you a real life example of how this works.  My number one core wound is around my father.  He was in and out of prison most of my childhood.  I always saw incredible potential in him but nothing I tried to do (or anyone tried to do) seemed to help him straighten up his life.  I experienced most of my childhood watching an incredibly charismatic, intelligent, and talented man take horrible care of himself and make terribly bad choices.  It’s no wonder that my life’s work is helping people (a large portion of whom are men) to develop a deep sense of self love and help them awaken to their extraordinary potential.  Each time I help a client it heals a part of me and causes a unique sense of satisfaction that nothing else can provide.

Finding your purpose doesn’t mean you need to completely change direction and quit everything to follow this path.  Additionally, you may find that you have more than one purpose.  However, finding ways to integrate this type of contribution into your life will be very beneficial.  So if you’re a financial analyst and you realized in this exercise that contributing to teens to help build self confidence might be one of your “callings,” find a way to become a mentor on the side, or find an organization that helps youth and serve on the board, or give a donation.  In fact, I suggest trying to find a way to contribute today.  Loving both the light sides and the dark sides of our history is part of forming a complete love relationship with ourselves, the most important relationship we have. 


Valerie Taormina is a certified somatic sex educator currently working in the greater Bay Area. Her focus is on expanding male sexuality and assisting men with overcoming sexual trauma and emotional blockage, but her essential purpose is to help both men and women develop a deep level of self love and fulfillment. She helps individuals from all backgrounds fall deeply in love with themselves, and reconnect with their bodies so that they might create their purpose, and live a life filled with sexual, intellectual, and emotional satisfaction. She does this through physical and energy related work, with the belief that sexual enlightenment can open up multiple pathways to lasting gratification in one’s life.


  1. I am extremely grateful to Co-Dependents Anonymous for affirmations in their Newcomers manual: 1) My Sexuality and my Spirituality are devinely interwoven! and to Professional Co-Dependents Anonymous for discussing our Dark Sides (Only the Shadow knows for sure...). Wish someone had distinguished Lust from Love in high School Sex- ed.

  2. Thank you for your comment -- I love the affirmation!


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