Looking for healing in your head, is like looking for a needle in a haystack. If you are like me you read, read and then read some more. Looking for the answers to why you react or behave in certain ways. When something triggers a fear, or a negative reaction of some sort we try to think our way out of it with limited success. Or talk our way out of it. This may work for some, but I am not one who shares my problems with others. That doesn’t work for everyone. For better or worse, I try to sort things out myself.
For me understanding that there was such a strong relationship between our minds and bodies seemed to be the key to explore further. I always find it funny how when I am intellectualizing something, I seem to happen upon just what I need. Which is what happened with finding Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma by Peter A. Levine, PHD.
Peter A. Levine, PHD developed a method called ‘Somatic Experiencing’. It draws from many different disciplines to address the physiology of stress and trauma.
He was curious about the fact that animals in the wild aren’t traumatized by their life-and-death existence, while people can be traumatized by events that seem inconsequential to many of us.
What he realized was that animals will complete the full sequence of a response to danger, by noticing, reacting and recovering from the threat.
Humans often interrupt it.
When in jeopardy, animals will access and expend enormous amounts of energy providing the ‘fuel’ to escape the danger. He observed that once the threat has been successfully overcome, there is a discharge of excess energy through the body. The body returns to baseline by allowing a chemical discharge to move through the nervous system. For example by trembling, shaking, bucking or running further than necessary simply to escape the predator. This re-sets the mind and body and prepares it for the next challenge.
Somatic Experiencing focuses on the physiological responses that occur when someone experiences or remembers an overwhelming or traumatic event, in his or her body, rather than only through the thoughts or emotions connected to it.
The reason to do this is to restore the nervous system’s normal cycling between alertness and rest.
The normal cycle
- Excitation – either pleasure or to respond to danger
- Settling allows for quiet states necessary for digestion, rest and recharging. Settling permits us to prepare for the next time we need to react, with yet a new demand for energy.
- This cycles continues smoothly, up & down when we are functioning well.
When any part of this normal cycle is interrupted, the charge of energy gets ‘stuck’ in our bodies.
We then fail to fluctuate easily between states of different intensity. And the charge that is stuck in our systems will likely be triggered when in the future we encounter events, things or people that remind us of our earlier experience that was never completed.
Therefore our present lives are colored by the past, often in a negative way, we can’t be fully present.
In any situation we have three possible responses:
Our response comes from a primal part of our brain. Fight, Flight are self explanatory but freeze is where we get stuck. In the Freeze response our nervous system is doing two things. It is ‘playing dead’ in the hope that the danger will pass without paying attention to us, and it is shutting down to some degree so that if the danger doesn’t pass we won’t feel the pain or suffering that is coming.
It happens automatically, without us being aware.
Somatic Experiencing works on the stuck energy in the body to resolve and bring the cycle to completion.
“Trauma is a fact of life; it does not however need to be a life sentence. Peter A. Levine. “
The interesting part however, is that humans very unlike animals are not very in tune with their reptilian brain which speaks the language of sensation. There is a world of sensation based feeling inside you that exists whether or not you are aware of it.
I found all of this extremely interesting, as I had definitely had experiences where my body was entering a panic mode for reasons completely unknown to me. And then I recalled something that I had read in The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Singer.
Each time since early childhood when we stopped the flow of energy in a painful event, we froze that event in both energy and time. This is what we call an energy blockage. The part of our psyche associated with that event also froze in the moment we stopped the pain. That part of our psyche remains frozen until we thaw it out, or remove the blockage. It does not mature as we do. It will not mature until it is healed, and enough healing has occurred to thaw it and initiate the maturation process.
Eureka! Was I finally on to something, I certainly felt like it.
Love and Light
Until we meet again!