Download Peter a. Levine - Waking the Tiger - Healing Trauma - The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences - 1997 - OCR PDF

TitlePeter a. Levine - Waking the Tiger - Healing Trauma - The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences - 1997 - OCR
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Waking the Tiger

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• Make a note of the time it took you to relax after each exercise.
Most people will have similar responses to all three scenarios. Any potentially
traumatizing event, real or imagined, results in certain physiological responses that vary
from person to person, primarily in their magnitude. This response is a generic 8
phenomenon throughout the animal kingdom. If you personally find it difficult to control
your arousal, then open your eyes and focus on some (pleasant) aspect of your
environment. Whenever humans or animals lack the resources to successfully deal with a
dangerous event, the arousal and other physiological changes that mark their response to
the event will be essentially the same. Because everyone experiences the early stages of
trauma in a similar way, you can learn to recognize this experience just as the exercise
above taught you to recognize the initial response to danger. Once again, the place to look
for these similarities is in the felt sense. How do they register in your body?

The Core of the Traumatic Reaction
There are four components of trauma that will always be present to some degree in any
traumatized person:
1. hyperarousal
2. constriction
3. dissociation
4. freezing (immobility), associated with the
feeling of helplessness.
Together, these components form the core of the traumatic reaction. They are the first to
appear when a traumatic event occurs. Throughout our lives, we have all experienced
these as normal responses. However, when they occur together over an extended period
of time, they are an almost certain indication that we have experienced an event that has
left us with unresolved traumatic residue.
When we learn to recognize these four components of the traumatic reaction, we are well
on our way to recognizing trauma. All other symptoms develop from these four if the
defensive energy mobilized to respond to a traumatic event is not discharged or integrated
within a few days, weeks, or months following the experience.

During times of conflict or stress, most people experience symptoms such as increased
heartbeat and breathing, agitation, difficulty in sleeping, tension, muscular jitteriness,

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racing thoughts, or perhaps an anxiety attack. Though not always indicative of traumatic
symptoms, these signs are usually due to some form of hyperarousal. If hyperarousal,
constriction, dissociation, and a sense of helplessness form the core of the traumatic
reaction, then hyperarousal is the seed in that core.
If you reflect back on the previous exercise, you will realize that it invoked at least a mild
version of hyperarousal. Whenever this heightened internal arousal occurs, it is primarily 9
an indication that the body is summoning its energetic resources to mobilize against a
potential threat. When the situation is serious enough to threaten the organism's very
survival, the amount of energy mobilized is much higher than that mobilized for any other
situation in our lives. Unfortunately, even when we know that we need to discharge the
aroused energy, doing so is not always easy. Like many instinctual processes,
hyperarousal cannot be voluntarily controlled. The following exercise is a simple way to
experientially confirm this.
During the three scenarios you experienced in the last exercise, did you imagine or create
the responses in your body or were they produced by your body as an involuntary
response to the scenarios you envisioned? In other words, did you make them happen or
did they happen on their own?
Now attempt to deliberately make your body have such a response without envisioning a
threatening scenario. Use a direct approach and see if you can make your body produce
responses similar to those you experienced in the three scenarios
In your eyes.
In your posture.
In your muscles.
In your level of arousal.
Now try all the parts of the experience together at the same time.

When you compare your experience in this exercise to your experience in the earlier
one, how is it similar? How is it different?

When attempting the exercise above, most people can duplicate the physical posture, the
muscle contractions, and the movements that accompany hyperarousal to some degree,
though generally not with the same level of coordination and synchronicity that
accompanies the real thing. Heightened internal arousal is much more likely to happen if
you do all the parts of the physical response at once rather than one at a time. Even doing
them one at a time is more effective than saying, "Nervous system, become
hyperaroused." The vast majority of people will not be able to mobilize the same level of
arousal using this kind of direct, deliberate approach. It just doesn't work. Hyperarousal

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Peter Levine received his Ph.D. in Medical and Biological Physics from the University of California at Berkeley. H e 2 0 3
also holds an independent doctorate degree in Psychology from International University. During his thirty year study of
stress and trauma, he has contributed to a variety of scientific and medical publications, including the chapter on stress
in The Handbook of Psychophysiology.
He was a consultant for NASA during the development of the Space Shuttle, and has taught at hospitals and pain clinics
in both Europe and the US, as well as at the Hopi Guidance Center in Arizona. He is currently a consultant for the Pain-
Rehabilitation Center in Boulder, Colorado.
Dr. Levine lives in the foothills of the Rockies, on the banks of the St. Vrain River, near Lyons. Colorado.

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Further Information 204
To learn more about Somatic© Experiencing, including literature, public lectures, or
professional training programs, as well as finding a Somatic Experiencing© Practitioner
in your area, please contact:

Foundation for Human Enrichment
a not for profit organization
6685 Gunpark Dr. Suite 102

Boulder, Co. 80301
Tel: (303) 652 - 4035
Fax: (303) 652 - 4039

Email: [email protected]
Web Site:

For further information on literature and events by Peter A. Levine, including books in
progress and upcoming events, please login to his personal web site:

mailto:[email protected]

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