Healing Trauma

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By Peter A. Levine, PH.D.

Published 2008 by Sounds True Publishing

Purchase at Amazon.com

If you bring forth that which is within you,

Then that which is within you

Will be your salvation.

If you do not bring forth that which is within you,

Then that which is within you

Will destroy you. -The Gnostic Gospels

Cited on page 1 of Healing Trauma

Chapter 1: What is Trauma?

In this chapter the author, Peter Levine, examines the nature of trauma and how it can affect a person. Levine points out the trauma does not, necessarily, have to result from one major catastrophic event, but can also be a result of multiple minor events. The lasting impact of traumas may not show up for years in a person, so in order to overcome these experiences one must carefully examine all aspects of their life. People “become traumatized when our ability to respond to a perceived threat is in some way overwhelmed.” Levine goes on to point out that this traumatization can lead to a person living a restricted life, which includes a “loss of vitality” and the ability to achieve one's goals.

Chapter 2: The Causes and Symptoms of Trauma

Almost any event can have some kind of traumatic affect on a person. Levine suggests that there are two categories for traumatic experiences: the Obvious and the Less Obvious. The obvious causes of trauma are major events that are extremely stressful and horrific. These events include: war, childhood physical or sexual abuse, experiencing or witnessing a violent act, rape, and catastrophic injuries or illnesses. These events are traumatic for almost all people. The less obvious causes are events that may only be traumatic for one person. These include: minor automobile accidents, invasive medical or dental procedures, natural disasters, being left alone (especially in young children), and sudden loud noises. These events can be very traumatic for some people, but to others they may have no effect.

In the second part of the chapter Levine discusses the various symptoms that people may experience as a result of trauma. Some of these symptoms include: hyperarousal (an increase in heart rate, sweating, difficulty breathing, and muscular tension), constriction (narrows perception and increases efficiency and strength by changing breathing, muscle tone, and posture), disassociation/denial (a removal from the situation, so that a person can be protected and not overwhelmed by the event. This is common in cases of chronic pain), and immobility/freezing. Another common symptom in people who experienced trauma is that they tend to repeat traumatic experiences throughout their lives. Levine discusses the psychological aspects of this phenomenon at length to end this chapter.

Chapter 3: How Trauma Affects the Body

One of the main questions Levine seeks to answer is how traumatic experiences can affect the body. His theory suggests that during a traumatic experience people have a large amount of energy flowing throughout their body. He gives the example of a mother having the ability to lift a 2000 pound car off of her son who is stuck beneath it. Most of the time the human body normalizes itself after these events, which releases all of this energy. However, Levine suggests that if the body does not normalize the brain will continue to release high levels of adrenaline and cortisol, which the body holds onto creating a high-energy ramped up state.

Levine goes on to suggest that in many cases people utilize their immobilization response. Most people are familiar with the “fight or flight” response to an outside threat, where a person either fights the threat or runs away. Levine discusses another reaction to a perceived threat called the immobilization response, which involves a person becoming limp or motionless to avoid feeling pain.

Chapter 4: Twelve-Phase Healing Trauma Program: A Guide to the Audio Exercises

In this chapter Levine offers an in depth treatment program that is designed to help trauma sufferers release energy and restore their bodies. Levine stresses that a person should go through the program at their own pace. The following is a brief outline of the program.

  • Phase 1- Safety and Containment Exercises
  • Phase 2- Grounding and Centering
  • Phase 3- Building Resources
  • Phase 4- From “felt sense” to Tracking Specific Sensations
  • Phase 5- Tracking Activation: Sensations, Images, Thoughts, and Emotions
  • Phase 6- Pendulation: Tracking Your Rhythms of Expansion and Contraction
  • Phase 7-Fight Response: Natural Aggression versus Violence
  • Phase 8- Flight Response: Natural Escape versus Anxiety
  • Phase 9- Strength and Resiliency versus Collapse and Defeat
  • Phase 10- Uncoupling Fear from the Immobility Response
  • Phase 11- Orientation: Moving from Internal to External Environment and Social Engagement
  • Phase 12- Settling and Integrating

Chapter 5: Sexual Trauma: Healing the Sacred Wound

1 in 4 persons have been sexually assaulted at some point in their childhood. Here Levine discusses some basic ways how parents can nuture their children and help them develop a healthy sexuality. Levine says that “When parents become less afraid fo experiencing their own sensations, practice appropriate boundaries and have an understanding of what children need to develop healthy sexuality, awkwardness and tension turn into more comfortable family relationships.

Conclusion: Helpful Tips and Techniques for Preventing Trauma

The conclusion of the book provides the reader with some useful tips on how to avoid lasting traumatic experiences. Levine provides simple and clear tips for events that happen to both children and adults. He lays out clear cut guidelines to take in any situation to ensure that a person will recover quickly and fully after a traumatic event.


Amazon.com Customer Reviews


An Amazon Customer said:

Bought this book and as an adult survivor of childhood abuse found this book extremely helpful. It was especially good in helping with body memories and re-establishing protective boundaries - both integral to the ongoing healing process. Highly recommended.

About the Author

Peter Levine has a PhD in medical biophysics from the University of California at Berkley and a doctorate in psychology from International University. He has worked in the field of stress and trauma for over 40 years and is the developer of “Somatic Experiencing.” (Source)

Michael Picucci of theinstitue.org interviewed Peter Levine and discussed his career in psychotherapeutic healing and trauma recovery. It is an extensive interview that gets into the depths of Levine's research that is behind another one of his books, Waking the Tiger. Levine discusses how his idea of "Somatic Experiencing" developed from his time at UC Berkley till he began writing his book. The interview can be viewed in its entirety here.

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