(This is part four of the book review: Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma by Peter A Levine...)
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.
"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. Having spent the last twenty-five years working with people who have been traumatized in almost every conceivable fashion, I believe that we humans have the innate capacity to heal not only ourselves, but our world, from the debilitating effects of trauma."
- Peter A Levine, p. 21, Waking the Tiger
"Resolving a traumatic reaction does much more than eliminate the likelihood of reactions emerging later in life. It fosters an ability to move through threatening situations with greater ease. It creates, in essence, a natural resilience to stress. A nervous system accustomed to moving into stress and then out of it is healthier than a nervous system burdened with an ongoing, if not accumulating, level of stress."
- Peter A Levine, p. 254-255, Waking the Tiger
And what can be expected after trauma is healed? Peter A Levine has some inspiring words about what is possible when trauma is overcome:
"Through transformation, the nervous system regains its capacity for self-regulation. Our emotions begin to lift us up rather than bring us down. They propel us into the exhilarating ability to soar and fly, giving us a more complete view of our place in nature. Our perceptions broaden to encompass a receptivity and acceptance of what is, without judgment. We are able to learn from our life experiences. Without trying to forgive, we understand that there is no blame. We often obtain a surer sense of self while becoming more resilient and spontaneous. This new self-assuredness allows us to relax, enjoy, and live life more fully. We become more in tune with the passionate and ecstatic dimensions of life.
"This is a profound metamorphosis - a change that affects the most basic levels of our beings. We will no longer view our world through fearful eyes. Though our planet can be a dangerous place, we will no longer suffer from the constant fear that creates hypervigilance - a feeling that danger always lurks and the worst often happens. We begin to face life with a developing sense of courage and trust. The world becomes a place where bad things may happen but they can be overcome. Trust, rather than anxiety, forms the field in which all experience occurs. Transformation ripples out into every corner of our lives, much like the debilitating effects of trauma once did. Tim Cahill, the adventurer and writer, puts it this way, 'I put my life on the line to save my soul'. In trauma we have already put our life on the line but the reward of salvation is yet to be claimed."
- Peter A Levine, p. 193-194, Waking the Tiger
"People who have worked through traumatic reactions frequently tell me that there is both an animalistic and a spiritual dimension to their lives afterwards. They are more spontaneous and less inhibited in the expression of healthy assertion and joy. They more readily identify themselves with the experience of being an animal. At the same time, they perceive themselves as having become more human. When trauma is transformed, one of the gifts of healing is a childlike awe and reverence for life."
- Peter A Levine, p. 219, Waking the Tiger
Although not explicitly stated in the book, it seems that the message from Peter Levine is that once we are able go through the full story of an event, as well as what happened before and after, without any uncomfortable feelings in the body, mind or spirit, we can be assured that the trauma related to that event has been healed. The traumatic triggers have been overcome. Keep in mind, however, that amnesia may also play a part, where certain traumatic aspects are forgotten. Once these surface, they will need to be dealt with separately again.
"After reaching the point where all phases [of trauma healing] have been satisfactorily completed, describe the entire experience again and look for activation. If the person is feeling discomfort, something may have been missed, or it may be resolved with this final review of the whole process. Suspend work unless symptoms continue or develop later. If so, review any necessary steps."
The symptoms of trauma and PTSD are caused by trapped energies, created at the time of the traumatic event and kept 'frozen' in our bodies. A natural completion of trauma, such as the shaking seen in animals, would discharge these energies, however, we too often don't allow ourselves to complete and discharge the trauma.
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