by Peter Levine, PH.D.
Book Review by Marta Hatter
This book is a significant resource for trauma survivors and mental health professionals. It includes a twelve Phase Healing Trauma program and guided somatic experiencing techniques on CD.
This book is a pioneering program for restoring the wisdom of the body when trauma has been experienced. The conclusions of research in the mental health field show that survivors of accidents, disaster, and childhood trauma frequently experience lifelong symptoms. These experiences usually include anxiety and depression and may also include illness, unexplained physical pain, fatigue, and unexplained emotional escalations. In his book Waking The Tiger, Dr. Levine introduced his theory regarding Somatic Experiencing methods he developed to promote the healing of the effects of trauma. Waking The Tiger has been translated into 13 languages. The author contends that the unexplained symptoms of trauma originate in the body and healing must address the body itself.
Dr. Levine proposes that rather than our suffering stemming from the past, our suffering is more closely a result of how we deal with the effect that these past events have on us in the present. The author began his professional career as a young stress researcher at UC-Berkley. He found that all animals are born with a natural ability to rebound from distressing situations. In this book, he describes a process for identifying and releasing past traumas, and developing a new awareness of the body.
In chapter one you will read about the full continuum of trauma and how trauma is unique to each individual. The discussion addresses how trauma occurs when our ability to respond to a perceived threat is in some way overwhelmed. There is often a delay following traumatic experience before symptoms are presented. Dr. Levine has developed a very specific, deeply physiological approach to healing following over thirty years of studying stress and trauma. He received his Ph.D. in medical and biological physics, and holds a doctorate in psychology.
Chapter two explores the causes and symptoms of trauma. It is intriguing to consider the author’s examples of the less obvious causes of trauma. Symptoms and their order of appearance are described. The reader gains a great deal of insight regarding body awareness and understanding his or her experiences. Symptoms deliver a message, how present situations trigger traumatic memories and responses is explained. Chapter three describes in laymen’s terms, what occurs physiologically when the individual is in a traumatic situation. This information provides a foundation for understanding the personal how-to guide for using his theory to heal. Chapter four begins the twelve phase healing trauma program.
The Guided Somatic Experiencing techniques include: 1. Preparatory phases, 2. Tracking Skills, 3. Discharging Activation, and 4. Completion: Returning to equilibrium.
There are two chapters which follow the exercises. One provides special insights into sexual trauma and one examines spiritual portals that open to you as you work on resolving trauma. The references to spirituality are general and non-committal. The book concludes with helpful hints for preventing trauma in children and adults.
I recommend this book as a thought-provoking approach. For those of us interested in the mind-body connection, it is a pertinent resource. For many individuals, these techniques may be adjunctive to trauma treatment.