Traumatic experiences are real! Most human beings experience some form of trauma – whether great or small – at some point throughout their lives. But, would you believe that human beings, compared to other animals, are one of the most susceptible to the devastating effects of trauma (Levine)? When I learned this information, originally I was shocked. Since humans are deemed to be the most “intelligent” creatures on Earth, I assumed we might be the most knowledgeable Earthly creatures when it comes to handling trauma. But, apparently, that might be quite far from the truth.
According to Walking the Tiger, animals in the wild do not get traumatized even though daily they are faced with life threatening situations (Levine). As human as I am, sometimes I unrealistically may feel like my life is coming to an end! If I run out of my favorite chewing gum, misplace my earphones, or oversleep before class, I begin to panic. In fact, depending on the intensity of the situation, I may feel an illusion as if I’m in a life threatening situation. The thought of being without gum, the ability to listen to music, or the opportunity to make it to class, can be traumatic for me! Similarly, during the DU Wellness class this past Thursday we discussed “shadows” and how each individual has “shadows” or personality traits that they despise about themselves (Willink). If we are to behave in ways that bring these shadows to light and are contrary to the way we feel our “self” should behave, we risk being in humiliating situations and having traumatic thoughts. While these moments may be very miniscule compared to other traumatic moments, what is to blame for these traumatic feelings?
Dr. Peter Levine realized that as the neocortex evolved (which is part of the brain that makes us the most human and gives us the ability to ponder deep philosophical questions) our ability to override our instinctual responses also comes online (Kriegler). According to the Somatic Experience handout, “In most cases this is a really good thing. We don’t have to automatically lash out and kill someone just because they took our food. We can creatively think up better strategies to deal with threats. [Although in] this case the ability to override the instinctual responses of the nervous system left us with a vulnerability to being traumatized.” So, in attempt to learn more about curing trauma, Dr. Levine decided to create Somatic Experiencing®. Using studies of The Autonomic Nervous System, he’s been able to create Somatic Experience (SE) sessions in which clients are encouraged to tune into physical sensation, which creates the space for their bodies to reconnect with their innate healing response. This naturalistic process resolves symptoms by gently discharging the high levels of nervous system arousal associated with trauma, and helping their bodies return to a more manageable level of functioning (Kriegler).
Fellow blog readers, I encourage you to find out more about Somatic Experiencing® and how to overcome trauma. Traumatic experiences occur throughout life; sometimes in ways we don’t realize! In fact, trauma can affect our wellness in ways that we don’t even recognize. For more information on what can directly/indirectly cause trauma and how to avoid the side effects of being traumatized, please check out the “Somatic Experiencing” handout by Dr. Susan Kriegler. It has great information on knowing the trauma symptoms, the process for illuminating trauma, and how to properly understand our autonomic nervous system.
Until next time,
T. Ashley, WLLC 2015-2016
Kriegler, Susan. Somatic Experiencing Handout (Based on “Walking the Tiger Healing the Trauma”). Print.
Levine, Peter A. Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma: The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 1997. Web.
Willink, Kate. Wellness Class Lecture. 4 February 2016.