"Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence." This statement, from the book, Waking the Tiger, written by Peter Levine captures the transformative potential intrinsic to healing from trauma—a force capable of shaping our psychological, social, and spiritual evolution.
Levine emphasizes that true healing involves acknowledging the body's role in the process: "Trauma is not, will not, and can never be fully healed until we address the essential role played by the body." This highlights the importance of harnessing the body's primordial energies to facilitate comprehensive recovery.
The concept that revisiting past memories to heal trauma is the only way to go is challenged by Levine, who prefers focusing on being open to the possibility that literal truth is not the most important consideration. “If we feel inclined to vehemently focus on memories alone, it is essential to understand that this choice will impair the ability to move out of our traumatic reactions. Transformation requires change, and one of the things that must change is the relationship we have with our memories.”
Somatic experiencing provides an alternative route, enabling individuals to observe the effects of trauma on their mind, body, and soul without becoming entangled in painful memories. This parallel between somatic experiencing and breathwork becomes evident. In breathwork, the primary emphasis is not always on achieving a traumatic release, but it is possible. This is why we emphasize not getting attached to the narrative. Instead, be aware of it, recognize its presence, breathe into it, and then release it.
Levine writes, "The solution to the problem lies in increasing our knowledge about how to heal trauma."
I too believe we should increase our knowledge about how to heal trauma. Alongside that, we should have more people advocating for the integration of trauma education into formal learning. Understanding developmental trauma, the felt sense and the window of tolerance should be as fundamental as learning math or history. Community support should be another mandatory reoccurring topic of conversation- learning from a young age the importance of it and how it is a pillar in healing. We should also be taught that if something traumatic happened to us as children no matter the severity (or not) it is not at all our fault. However, as we come into adulthood it is our job to take 100% responsibility for our healing and that we don’t don’t have to do it alone, because we know we can seek the support of our communities. If this is the way we lead, trauma would be recognized as diverse, including developmental experiences, collective trauma, and physical injuries, rather than only seeing it as catastrophes, PTSD, and war zones. This would reframe the narrative, offering us validation where we once had none.
This reflection extends to global implications, contemplating the societal shifts that could occur if individuals were equipped with the tools to heal from trauma at a young age.
As I write this, there is a raging war in the Middle East, and as I reflect on it, I ask myself, how many of these people have been traumatized in their lifetime? What if they had learned to release that trauma from their bodies? Where would we be as a society today?
“Much of the violence that plagues humanity is a direct or indirect result of unresolved trauma that is acted out in repeated unsuccessful attempts to reestablish a sense of empowerment. Whereas a transformed person feels no need for revenge or violence – shame and blame dissolve in the power of renewal and self-acceptance.”
Levine's exploration of illnesses and mysteries within the body challenges conventional thinking. Most of us think that there’s always a medical answer to everything, and going within, sitting in solitude, and reflecting is a last resort, but it shouldn’t be because often it is where our transformation lies.
“It is to our detriment that we live in a culture
that does not honour the internal world. In many cultures, the internal world of dreams, feelings, images, and sensations is sacred. Yet, most of us are only peripherally aware of its existence.”
Healing our trauma helps us navigate our way out of the loop that we continually find ourselves in, steering us in the direction of breaking cycles and creating new neural pathways in our minds, where we aren’t reliving the same old patterns and beliefs over and over again.
“There is no magic pill. Transformation requires a willingness to challenge your basic beliefs about who you are. We must have the faith to trust responses and sensations that we can’t fully understand and a willingness to experience ourselves, flowing in harmony with the primitive, natural laws that will take over and balance our seemingly incongruent perceptions.”
The call to honour the internal world and challenge basic beliefs marks a transformative journey.