Allow Yourself To Shake, And See What Happens
What follows is a review of Chapter 1 of Peter Levine’s magnus opus “In An /unspoken Voice”.
Trauma is understood as an experience that is too overwhelming for the body and mind to process.
Imagine yourself crossing the road, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, you are hit by a fast car and finding yourself face down on the ground, contorted in pain and on the brink of consciousness. This is what happened to Peter Levine, PhD, founder of the revolutionary trauma therapy Somatic Experiencing.
Although a paramedic on the scene suggested Peter keep his head and body immobile, Dr. Levine was able, thanks through his years of expertise in the field, to allow himself to trust the sensations in his body and shake, weep and rage.
The kind, watchful eyes of a pediatrician that had stopped by to lend a hand, allowed him to feel safe enough, and to orient to her empathic gaze, to track his inner experience and release the impact of the car accident.
Levine explains that when animals in the wild are not allowed to shake after a traumatic impact, they have little chances of survival.
Our autonomic nervous system knows, instinctively, how to deal with trauma. When we are threatened (physically, psychologically or emotionally) we automatically respond by either fighting or fleeing (escaping) the overwhelming experience. To do so, our bodies summon a tremendous amount of energy. However, when we are immobilized and cannot complete the action of fight/flight, our bodies shut down into a frozen state. The wild energy inside however, has had nowhere to go, it is stuck inside of our bodies. Like shaking a can of Cola and not encorking the lid. If we don’t allow ourselves to feel all of our bodily sensations, and follow their instinctual movement into completion, signs of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are likely to appear.
Throughout the book, Dr. Levine will show all he has learned about the process of trauma resolution and how by trusting the intelligent nature of our nervous system we can free ourselves from PTSD.