Purpose Starts with Trauma.

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"The truth for most of us—especially those of us who are incredibly sensitive (i.e. able to sense more)—is that we first come to know our purpose through our ‘shadow sensitivities,’ which is another way to say trauma."

There’s a big, glaring problem with the way I talk about life purpose.

If you really are a genius and have had a life purpose since your moment of birth—why the hell have you felt so off your purpose for most of your life?

Look, you wouldn’t be reading this article if every single moment of your life up until this point has been sunshine and rainbows.

So what’s the story?

It doesn’t make sense to talk about life purpose as something we can achieve, like we usually do (i.e. “My life purpose is to be a writer.” “My life purpose is to be an artist.”). I mean, did you just not have a purpose as a baby?!

But it also doesn’t really make sense that it’s something we don’t achieve. That it’s something we were born with. Because, for most of us, our lived experience really doesn’t match up to that.

Maybe you’ve felt decidedly not-purposeful. Maybe you’ve had a lot of challenges in your life. Maybe you’ve felt like you were “all over the place,” struggling to figure out who you were and what you wanted.

How, then, were you always on your purpose?

The truth for most of us—especially those of us who are incredibly sensitive (i.e. able to sense more)—is that we first come to know our purpose through our ‘shadow sensitivities,’ which is another way to say trauma.

We all have trauma. There’s no trauma judge out there that gets to tell us what is and isn’t trauma.

See, the thing about trauma is it’s subjective. There’s no hierarchy of trauma. No one’s trauma is more or less legitimate. If it feels traumatic to us—regardless of what logical opinions we have about it—it’s trauma.

We’ve seen countless traumas come through Sacred Branding®. Everything from violent sexual assault to being ignored once as a child. And no one but the person who experienced the trauma gets to decide if it’s traumatic or not.

So we all have trauma. In Sacred Branding®, we define trauma very generally as “any experience, emotion, or energy that hasn’t been fully integrated.” That’s it. It’s pretty all-encompassing.

Still ruminating about that mistake you made three years ago? Trauma. Still freaking out about your money situation? Trauma.

And we’ve all got a lot of it.

I think about life purpose a lot like digestion. Most of my day, I live my life integrating—or digesting—all kinds of experiences.

The vast majority of time, I won’t even remember an instance happened to me, just like I might not remember what I had for a snack two days ago. I digested it just fine and wasn’t even conscious of the process.

But, every once in a while, I’ll struggle to digest something. When I’m physically digesting food, this is where my gut sends a message up to my brain, and I’m conscious of an issue. I might feel pain or discomfort.

When an experience is hard to digest, it’s simply “an experience, emotion, or energy that hasn’t been fully integrated”—our definition of trauma.

Maybe it’s that insult someone spewed at me. Or my grandfather’s untimely passing. Or having my business launch totally flop.

There are a million different things that could struggle to be integrated. And, remember, it’s all subjective. But it’s just a part of our experience that is too challenging, too painful, to be fully digested in the moment.

And, as we’re growing up and learning to be ourselves, we’re probably going to start off having more of those moments than not.

Having digestive issues as a baby doesn’t mean we have any less of a digestive system. It just means we haven’t learned our bodies yet. When we realize what makes us feel sick, we actually learn more about ourselves.

It’s the same with purpose. Having trauma doesn’t mean we don’t have a purpose. It means we’re human. And the trauma teaches us about ourselves, our sensitivities, our purpose.

For most of us, it’s easier to identify with the really big traumatic moments in our lives than it is to claim our unique genius from the get-go.

So, in Sacred Branding®, we start purpose work by looking at our trauma. For the simple reason that they’re the experiences we struggle to integrate. They’re memorable. And they can teach us a lot about our purpose.

That being said, for those who are thinking of these concepts outside of the official Sacred Branding® methodology where we have built-in safety parameters, I want to drop in a few caveats:

  • Safety first. Never push yourself to reflect on moments that will feel re-traumatizing. You can start with lighter “traumas” (remember, anything that isn’t fully integrated can be considered a trauma). And consult your therapist or a medical professional, or get whatever support you need, before even beginning to think about painful or traumatic moments.

  • Details are less important than overall feeling. You never have to get caught in the specifics of a trauma because what we’re really interested in is your sensitivity—what you felt and what you wanted to feel. The sensitivity is the thing that points us to your own unique life purpose and genius.

One of the most important—and profound—effects of starting to think about purpose in the context of trauma is that it pulls us out of that dichotomized, black-or-white thinking. Like we’re either “on our purpose” or “off our purpose.” We’ve either “achieved it” or we’ve “failed it.” We either feel “purposeful” or feel “shitty.”

But the truth is the word purpose simply mean “the reason, the why, the meaning behind all things.” And you don’t need to have everything perfect to have a reason. In fact, when things aren’t perfect, your life purpose should ideally tell you the reason why it isn’t perfect.

Trauma has a purpose. There’s a reason things felt so difficult to integrate. And they’re reasons that are specific to us and our sensitivities.

Others might not have been affected as much as we were. Others might have been more affected. We all have different purposes—different digestive systems.

Every medical professional I know starts by looking at where challenges and symptoms have come up to diagnose the deeper issues.

If we want to explore our deeper issues and know our purpose, then we have to be willing to start with our own challenges and symptoms.

We have to be willing to explore our trauma (or whatever trauma we feel ready, equipped, and supported to revisit).

And it’s shocking how quickly the dots begin to connect.


*If you want to discover your own essence and ‘Brand Energies,’ you’re welcome to explore our proprietary Sacred Branding® methodology.

Mike Iamele

Mike Iamele

I help people map their sensitivities and lived experiences to discover their purpose. We call it Sacred Branding®.

Learn how to map your own sensitivities:


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