The Felt Sense in Trauma Healing

The felt sense, as already discussed in the previous part of this book summary, is a sense we all have, which we usually already feel to some extent but can learn to feel more. It consists of the body's feelings and could, in my personal experience, also be called movement of energies. To begin working with the felt sense all we really need to do is to learn to pay more attention to our bodies and how they feel. The very subtle feelings are as important as the more obvious ones. It seems from what Peter Levine teaches, that there is much more to our body sensations than we are used to thinking.

(You are reading part three of the book summary: Waking the Tiger by Peter A Levine...)

"Most of us are taught to ignore these innate resources and depend upon the 'advantages' offered by technology. We choose to accept this solution without realizing that we have given up important parts of ourselves. Perhaps we are unaware that we have made this choice." - Peter A Levine, p. 42, Waking the Tiger

"... people who are more in touch with their natural selves tend to fare better when it comes to trauma. Without easy access to the resources of this primitive, instinctual self, humans alienate their bodies from their souls. Most of us don't think or experience ourselves as animals. Yet, by not living through our instincts and natural reactions, we aren't fully human either."

- Peter A Levine, p. 43, Waking the Tiger

To awaken the felt sense and to start to become more aware of it, Peter Levine suggests simple exercises, such as leafing through family photographs, or showering each body part at once, paying attention to the feelings and thoughts that arise, and sensations in the body (the felt sense). Sit with any feelings that arise giving them your full attention. He advices you to concentrate on the body, rather than your thoughts or images that may show up in your mind.

"When you are first starting out, it is especially important to check and double-check that you have brought every characteristic of a particular sensation into your awareness by consciously making note of it. You can miss some characteristics of a sensation because you take them for granted, because you aren't letting the whole sensation into your awareness, or because the characteristic in question is subtle or elusive." - p. 82

"Sensations occur in infinite variety. This is one of the reasons that simple awareness is so important. Receptivity will help you notice the nuances in your sensations much more easily. In the land of physiology, subtle sensations and rhythms are just as important as blatantly obvious ones." - p. 82, Peter A Levine in Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma

Slow down to the speed of life:

"Physiological phenomena occur in cycles. These biological rhythms are fundamentally important in the transformation of trauma. It may be difficult at first to have the patience to allow them to come into consciousness. Their pace is much slower than the pace at which most of us live our lives. This is one of the main reasons that trauma develops in the first place; we don't give our natural biological rhythms the time they need to reach completion. In most cases, the cycles I'm talking about will run their course in a few minutes at most but those few minutes are essential. The primary place you will notice these rhythms is in the ebb and flow of your sensations. A sensation will transform into something else (another sensation, image, or a feeling) as you notice all its characteristics and will do so at its own pace - you can't push the river." - p. 83

The felt sense enhances everyday life:

"There are many reasons why we might choose to develop a greater facility with the felt sense. It heightens our enjoyment of sensual experiences. [...] We are used to living in a very disconnected way - a way that hasn't embraced our felt sense." - p. 73, Peter A Levine in Waking the Tiger

Peter Levine explains that it is not always easy to work with the felt sense, but advices always to focus on the feelings below any other manifestations, e.g. not to focus on images but on physical feelings in the body.

"If an image of a horrifying scene shows up in your mind's eye, ever so gently notice what sensations come with it. Sometimes, when sensations are intense, images come first. The sensation is ultimately what will help you move through the trauma - whatever it is." - p. 78-79, Peter A Levine in Waking the Tiger

"Those of us who are traumatized should be aware that learning to work with the felt sense may be challenging. Part of the dynamic of trauma is that it cuts us off from our internal experience as a way of protecting our organisms from sensations and emotions that could be overwhelming. It may take you a while to trust enough to allow a little internal experience to come through. Be patient and keep reminding yourself that you don't need to experience everything now. This hero's journey proceeds one tiny step at a time." - p. 73

"Information will come to you in the form of words, pictures, insights, and emotions, which invariably will be accompanied by another layer of sensations." - p. 74, Peter A Levine in Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma

"If feelings and sensations become too intense or unpleasant, deliberately shift your attention to a pleasant experience that you have had, or that you can imagine having." - Peter A Levine in Waking the Tiger

"... internal experience [...] like an ice cube [...] will change as you hold it for a while. Once you become aware of them, internal sensations almost always transform into something else. Any change of this sort is usually moving in the direction of a free-flow of energy and vitality." - p. 82, Peter A Levine in Waking the Tiger
the felt sense of the body, trauma healing

The felt sense is a natural instinct, Peter Levine, explains, and something we cannot live without. It is in this connection to nature that our body is able to heal itself in its physical, mental, energetic and spiritual realms.

"At the level of basic biological organism, there isn't any thinking or conceptualizing, there is only instinctual response to whatever presents itself. In the human organism, some of these impulses are obscure, others are all-powerful and compelling." - p. 85, Peter A Levine in Waking the Tiger

"The experience of the felt sense gives us a backdrop for reconnecting with the animal in ourselves. Knowing, feeling, and sensing focuses our attention where healing can begin. Nature has not forgotten us, we have forgotten it. A traumatized person's nervous system is damaged; it is frozen in a kind of suspended animation. Rediscovering the felt sense will bring warmth and vitality to our experiences." - p. 86, Peter A Levine in Waking the Tiger

In anatomy, the part of the brain where instincts and primary impulses are said to originate from, is often called the reptilian brain. This term has been disputed by some neuroscientists and an alternative term for this part of the brain is the basal ganglia.

"Sensation is the language of the reptilian brain." - p. 87, Peter A Levine in Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma

Trauma Healed and Transformation

Although trauma seems to be part of everyone's lives these days, through conscious and subconscious suffering, there also seems to be much to gain from trauma that has been healed.

Returning back to a non-traumatized state where our energies can flow freely and where our minds and bodies are strong and functioning in tune with the natural world, an enhanced experience of life can be achieved, new insights can be gained and a certain freedom from fear and anxiety can be experienced. This, at least, seems to be what Peter A Levine is saying in his book.

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