I have a prop that I carry with me
just for these reasons, and it kind of illustrates what happens in trauma. OK, this represents our energy, our
arousal level, and so we’re just taking walk and our energy is, you know,
basically moving like this up and down. If we’re taking a run there’s more
movement in our energy. If somebody is chasing us and threatening us then our
energy is really excited. Now, what happens in trauma is that we have this tremendous excitation, and then, boom, we’re overwhelmed. This energy becomes locked–it becomes stuck in our bodies and our nervous systems. When this arousal, this activation, this hyperarousal doesn’t get released, it leads to all kinds of symptoms. Not only the classic symptoms of PTSD like flashbacks and nightmares, which Ray experiences, but to many physical sensations, physical symptoms–chronic pain, chronic stiffness in different parts of the body. What is the key to resolving trauma? First, we have to recognize that trauma has emotional effects, it has cognitive effects, but primarily it’s a physiological process. And until we begin to resolve it at the physiological level, it’s not possible to resolve the emotional and the meaning issues that traumatized people have. One of the conundrums in trauma therapy is that therapists are trained, and are usually very good, at being empathic. And with many clients, that really helps them settle enough to be able to work with their issues. When a person is deeply traumatized, the ability to read others’ emotions by their faces and their postures is very much compromised, so that they’re really not able to take in that empathy. And often clients even feel like they’ve done something wrong because they’re not able to take in that soothing, to take in the kindness of the therapist, and then equally the therapist is often very frustrated because they don’t know why what they’re doing isn’t working. The traumatized nervous system can’t take too much activation, as I illustrated with the Slinky, because they’re overwhelmed, easily overwhelmed. So it has to be done one dose at a time, one small experiential quantum. And an analogy that I use is what happens when you take a strong acid and a base. If you put them together, there’s a tremendous explosion. However, if you take one drop of the base and add it to the acid, there’s a little bit of an Alka-Seltzer fizzle, and then it quiets down. And then another drop. And then finally it’s neutralized. It’s neutralized but without the explosion. And this is what you see with Ray and with traumatized clients in working this way, is that they come to rest, they come to equilibrium, and their life energy is restored to them. And for me, any trauma therapy really isn’t successful until the person regains, re-owns their life energy and lives within their life energy.

Peter Levine Demonstrates How Trauma Sticks in the Body
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19 thoughts on “Peter Levine Demonstrates How Trauma Sticks in the Body

  • August 25, 2016 at 8:10 pm
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    The slinky illustration needs some work…

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  • August 26, 2016 at 12:19 am
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    hmmm,makes sense,as all is energy

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  • July 7, 2017 at 8:59 pm
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    Peter A Levine is a GENIOUS!

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  • July 7, 2017 at 9:02 pm
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    …. sorry… GENIUS!

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  • July 10, 2017 at 10:49 am
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    What if the trauma is locked into the body?

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  • October 21, 2017 at 2:08 pm
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    Amazing message, brilliant man, such an warm emphatic heart✨
    Thank you 🙏🏻

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  • December 3, 2017 at 11:52 pm
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    His explanation is charismatic, but wrong. Trauma is stored in the brain — conceptually, in a form of conditional reflexes. Becoming aware of our emotions, bodily sensations, thoughts — mindfully — changes those reflexes. I.e., reprogramming of the brain happens. Classical conditioning at work, essentially.

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  • January 23, 2018 at 10:09 am
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    Wait… what? "Those who have been traumatized, the ability to read others emotions by their faces and their postures is very much compromised, so that they're really not able to take in the empathy" I disagree. If you have c-PTSD due to childhood trauma inflicted by mentally ill, substance abusing parents and you're trapped in that chaotic/abusive situation for years, you very quickly learn how to read people. You become empathetic as a means of survival, I have to know how to read your mind/feelings essentially, to come away from the situation/interaction without being harmed. It's not a lack of ability rather it's hyper awareness & hyper vigilance of others very subtle body language that many (including the other person) may not even notice. Facial expressions, tone of voice & posture. I can recognize and "take in" empathy. It's not due to lack of ability at all, it's a TRUST issue. Even many monster parents have moments of empathy, love & kindness. It's the inability to trust that the empathy we're picking up on won't, with the flip of a switch, be turned off and become something completely different. Because that is what we've experienced.

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  • May 6, 2018 at 9:47 pm
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    hmmm yeh… i dont know

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  • June 10, 2018 at 1:08 am
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    This is assuming the therapist IS empathetic.

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  • July 15, 2018 at 12:26 pm
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    Thank you ! Excellent explained!

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  • August 21, 2018 at 11:56 pm
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    Thank you! This is very helpful!♡

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  • August 27, 2018 at 3:23 am
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    0:40 my energy when someone eat my food

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  • September 28, 2018 at 11:50 am
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    You can't change what you can't acknowledge.

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  • December 14, 2018 at 11:55 pm
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    No it's really true……..

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  • March 23, 2019 at 2:21 pm
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    Aca is a great fellowship

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  • May 17, 2019 at 11:01 am
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    it wasnt body memory, it likely ur back brain experience cramp due to intense emotion pressure which u dunno its cramp n make whole body stiff, n loosen cramped brain is tricky, feel the cramp n twist neck to let it out until no more stiffness around neck, take 9 month, breathing regain smooth 7 times probably mean worsen drastic 7 times, feel more relax tiny by tiny, tat my exp.

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  • June 17, 2019 at 9:38 pm
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    Why isn’t this clear—why not just say:
    “trauma energy/ experiences can get stuck in the body”

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  • June 26, 2019 at 3:27 pm
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    thankyou doc! trauma somatic therapy is the best

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