Part eight of the book review: Peter A Levine: Waking the Tiger, Healing Trauma...
Although this is not a huge part of the book, it was an important realization for me, and so I am writing a separate chapter on this aspect of trauma. For me personally, excitement was a hugely important part of life during my teenage years but closing in on the age of 30, I started feeling the need to relax and slow down my lifestyle. I think this had more to do with the stressful lifestyle I had lead and less to do with age.
The ability to rest has been important, especially considering that my adrenal glands had been weakened and so the normal production of adrenal and other stress hormones had been compromised. The symptoms: fatigue and inability to handle stressful situations. I realize now, however, that by simplifying my life and concentrating on relaxation and plenty of sleep, perhaps another important part of my life has been ignored: i.e. I don't tend to challenge myself very much anymore.
And as I don't challenge myself, I don't get the reward of succeeding. And some of the normal exhilaration of life is lost. At the moment, I feel that the below quotes serve as a reminder, and something inspiring to read, but once I complete all the rest I feel I need and have rebuilt the strength of my adrenals, I will hopefully naturally resume challenging activities!
"When we perceive danger or sense that we are threatened, we become aroused. Arousal is the activity that energizes our survival responses. Imagine you are standing at the edge of a steep cliff. As you look down, observe the jagged rocks below. Now, notice what you are experiencing in your body. In this situation, most people will become aroused in some way. [...]
"Most of us enjoy the 'natural high' we get from wild arousal. Many of us seek out 'near-death' experiences like bungee-jumping, skydiving, and paragliding because of the euphoric feeling that comes with extreme states of arousal. I have worked and talked with numerous war veterans who lament the fact that they have not felt fully alive since they were in the 'heat of battle'. Human beings long to be challenged by life, and we need the arousal that energizes us to meet and overcome these challenges. Deep satisfaction is one of the fruits of a completed arousal cycle. The cycle looks like this: we are challenged or threatened, then aroused; the arousal peaks as we mobilize to face the challenge or threat; then, the arousal is actively brought down, leaving us relaxed and satisfied.
"Traumatized people have a deep distrust of the arousal cycle, usually for good reason. This is because to a trauma victim, arousal has become coupled with the overwhelming experience of being immobilized by fear. Because of this fear, the traumatized person will prevent or avoid completion of the arousal cycle, and remain stuck in a cycle of fear. The key for trauma victims is becoming reacquainted with a simple natural law. What goes up must come down. When we can trust the arousal cycle and are able to flow with it the healing of trauma will begin." - Peter A Levine, p. 128, Waking the Tiger
The key to resolving the problem of distrusting the cycle of excitement, according to Peter A Levine, is to uncouple excitement and fear.
"When humans roamed the hills and valleys, gathered roots and berries, hunted wild animals, and lived in caves, our existence was closely linked to the natural world. Every day, every minute, and every second we were prepared to defend ourselves, our families, and allies from predators and other dangers - often at the risk of our own lives. The irony is that the life-threatening events prehistoric people routinely faced molded our modern nervous systems to respond powerfully and fully whenever we perceive our survival to be threatened. To this day, when we exercise this natural capacity, we feel exhilarated and alive, powerful, expanded, full of energy, and ready to take on any challenge. Being threatened engages our deepest resources and allows us to experience our fullest potential as human beings. In turn, our emotional and physical well-being is enhanced." - Peter A Levine, p.42-43, Waking the Tiger
"In order to stay healthy, our nervous systems and psyches need to face challenges and to succeed in meeting those challenges. When this need is not met, or when we are challenged and cannot triumph, we end up lacking vitality and are unable to fully engage in life." - Peter A Levine, p. 43, Waking the Tiger
"For thousands of years, oriental and shamanic healers have recognized not only that the mind affects the body, as in psychosomatic medicine, but how every organ system of the body equally has a psychic representation in the fabric of the mind. Recent revolutionary developments in neuroscience and psycho-neuro-immunology have established solid evidence of the intricate two-way communication between mind and body. In identifying complex 'neuro-peptide messengers,' researchers like Candice Pert have discovered many pathways by which mind and body mutually communicate. This leading-edge research echoes what ancient wisdom has always known: that each organ of the body, including the brain, speaks its own 'thoughts', 'feelings', and 'promptings', and listens to those of all the others." - Peter A Levine, p. 3, Waking the Tiger
"My conclusion is that significant aspects of shamanic practice are valid. When it comes to trauma, we have much to learn from the ways these traditional people practice their medicine. After the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake, it was those families (often from the Third World countries) who camped, ate, and played together that fared better than many middle-class families. Those who remained isolated - obsessively watching replays of the disaster, listening to interviews with geologists claiming 'the big one is yet to come' - were much more susceptible to traumatic effects than those who supported each other in community. [...]
"While I recognize the shamanic approach as valid, and am grateful for what I have learned while working and teaching with shamans from several different cultures, the Somatic Experiencing approach presented in this book is not shamanic. One important difference, I believe, is that each of us has a greater capacity to heal ourselves than the shamanic approach would suggest. We can do much to retrieve our own souls. With the support of friends and relatives, we gain a powerful resource for our healing journeys."
- Peter A Levine; pp. 57, 60-61; Waking the Tiger
Here are some additional quotes from the book, which I found especially interesting and well written:
"Trauma has become so commonplace that most people don't even recognize its presence. It affects everyone. each of us has had a traumatic experience at some time in our lives, regardless of whether it left us with an obvious case of post-traumatic stress. Because trauma symptoms can remain hidden for years after a triggering event, some of us who have been traumatized are not yet symptomatic." - p. 41, Peter A Levine in Waking the Tiger
"It is to our detriment that we live in a culture that does not honor the internal world. In many cultures, the internal world of dreams, feelings, images, and sensations in sacred. Yet, most of us are only peripherally aware of its existence." - p. 188, Peter A Levine in Waking the Tiger
- p. 188, Waking the Tiger
"Untraumatized humans prefer to live in harmony if they can. Yet traumatic residue creates a belief that we are unable to surmount our hostility, and that misunderstandings will always keep us apart." - p. 231
"In our exploration of trauma we have learned about the primordial energies that reside within the reptilian core of our brains. We are not reptiles, but without clear access to our reptilian and mammalian heritage, we are not able to be fully human. The fullness of our humanity lies in the ability to integrate the functions of our triune brain.
"We see that to resolve trauma we must learn to move fluidly between instinct, emotion, and rational thought. When these three sources are in harmony, communicating sensation, feeling, and cognition, our organisms operate as they were designed to." - Peter A Levine, p. 265, Waking the Tiger
"Trauma is traditionally regarded as a psychological and medical disorder of the mind. The practice of modern medicine and psychology, while giving lip service to a connection between mind and body, greatly underestimates the deep relationship that they have in the healing of trauma. The welded unity of body and mind that, throughout time, has formed the philosophical and practical underpinnings of most of the world's traditional healing systems is sadly lacking in our modern understanding and treatment of trauma." - Peter A Levine, p. 2, Waking the Tiger
"Most trauma therapies address the mind through talk and the molecules of the mind with drugs. Both of these approaches can be of use. However, trauma is not, will not, and can never be fully healed until we also address the essential role played by the body. We must understand how the body is affected by trauma and its central position in healing its aftermath. Without this foundation, our attempts at mastering trauma will be limited and one-sided." - Peter A Levine, p. 3, Waking the Tiger
In addition, in this book Peter A Levine discusses, among other things, how to recognize and heal trauma in children, how to provide emotional first aid to adults to prevent trauma from occurring in the first place, and the complex manifestations of re-enactment of trauma.
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