Peter Levine on releasing the physiological effects of trauma 03/01/2011Posted by ALT in Treatments.
Tags: Peter Levine, physiological response, PTSD, self-healing, trauma
From Peter Levine’s book Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma
“Trauamtic symptoms are not caused by the “triggering” event itself. They stem from the frozen residue of energy that has not been resolved and discharged; this residue remains trapped in our nervous system where it can wreak havoc on our bodies and spirits. The long-term, alarming, debilitating, and often bizarre symptoms of PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] develop when we cannot complete the process of moving in , through, and out of the “immobility” and “freezing” state…
[See the immobility state as a potentially life-saving response to trauma in this video of a lion hunting a gazelle. The gazelle freezes completely as the lion carries her off. SHE IS NOT DEAD. Her body's natural response is to freeze a. so that she may attempt an escape after lulling the lion into a false sense of security or b. she can protect herself from further trauma - in this state she experiences no pain.]
A threatened human must discharge all the energy mobilized to negotiate that threat or it will become a victim of trauma. This residual energy does not simply go away. It persists in the body, and often forces the formation of a wide variety of symptoms e.g., anxiety, depression, and psychosomatic and behavioral problems. Thesee symtoms are the organism’s way of containing (or corralling) the undischarged residual energy.
Animals in the wild instinctively discharge all their compressed energy and seldom develop adverse symptoms. We humans are not as adept in this arena. When we are unable to liberate these powerful forces, we become victims of trauma. In our often unsuccessful attempts to discharge these energies, we may become fixated on them. Like a moth drawn to a flame, we may unknowingly and repeatedly create situations in which the possibility to release ourselves from the trauma trap exists, but without the proper tools and resources most of us fail…
Fortunately, the same immense energies that create the symptoms of trauma, when properly engaged and mobilized, can transform the trauma and propel us into new heights of healing, mastery, and even wisdom. Trauma resolved is a great gift, returning us to the natural world of ebb and flow, harmony, love, and compassion… I believe that we humans have the innate capacity to heal not only ourselves, but our world, from the debilitating effects of trauma.”
- Peter Levine
You can also hear more from Peter Levine in this 45 minute interview about the premise of his “Somatic Experiencing” therapeutic response to trauma.