Somatic healing of trauma
“I have come to the conclusion that human beings are born with an innate capacity to triumph over trauma. I believe not only that trauma is curable, but that the healing process can be a catalyst for profound awakening—a portal opening to emotional and genuine spiritual transformation. I have little doubt that as individuals, families, communities, and even nations, we have the capacity to learn how to heal and prevent much of the damage done by trauma. In so doing, we will significantly increase our ability to achieve both our individual and collective dreams.” ― Peter Levine
The Biodynamic breath and trauma release system integrates a soft approach to trauma healing which was developed by Peter Levine called Somatic Experiencing. Trauma occurs in our bodies when our nervous system becomes overwhelmed and our bodies are not able to stabilize and regulate themselves. Peter Levine made a revolutionary discovery that when we become activated by a distressing event we can have two basic responses. Either our fight or flight response is activated and we become hyper aroused, or the fight or flight reaction is suppressed and does not complete and we dissociate and surrender to the overwhelming experience. When this fight or flight response becomes undirected and is not completed we come into a freezing response. We use a lot of our energy in order to physically hold back this incomplete reaction. This tension settles in the tissues and belts of tension start to form as a result of this contraction in the body. This freeze response settles in the body. This can lead to physiological, cognitive, emotional, behavioral and spiritual symptoms and a host of stress related disorders. We can feel helpless, hopeless and a sense of being out of control. We also become more vulnerable to further insults.
Trauma can be healed, however we must be willing to let our natural biological instincts guide us. For many is a whole new way of understanding and experiencing themselves. Peter Levine studied the responses of animals in response to life threatening experiences. He noticed that these animals have a freezing response when unable to escape an overwhelming threat as a last-ditch survival strategy. They do this to dissociate from the overwhelming feelings of fear and pain. When the animal manages to escape the threat and comes back to safety he observed that it would shake off the residual effects of the immobility response in order to regain full control of the body. Peter Levine shows that humans have a similar freezing response when faced with threat. However when we do not let the body release the tremendous amount of energy which has been used to hold a fight or flight response during freezing, we experience trauma. We remain in a deep fear of the underlying response which has not been expressed, but we pay dearly for it. Peter Levine has developed a method which helps people go into and come out of this natural response which is the key to avoiding the debilitating effects of trauma.
We have been conditioned to behave in a certain way which have led us to ignore our primitive instincts. We accept this without realizing that we give up an important part of ourselves. Modern life offers us few opportunities to respond powerfully and fully to life threatening events. Our survival depends on our ability to think rather than to physically respond, and so we become susceptible to trauma. We are scared of our fight or flight responses as well as the immobility or freeze response which is the fear of paralysis, entrapment, helplessness. We also fear the rage which comes with coming out of the immobility/freeze response. Self judgment about our rage is what keeps us living as traumatized individuals. When this fear is broken from the sensation of immobilization or freezing, fear dissipates and ceases to exist and the vicious cycle of trauma can be broken. With BBTRS we help a person very gently move out of trauma by uncoupling fear from the immobility and fight or flight reaction.
Peter Levine's theory of trauma
Our drive to come out of this uncompleted fight or flight and freezing response remains no matter how long It has been in place. We use techniques which help to uncouple this freezing response in the body with the emotion of fear so that we can allow the fight or flight reaction to be expressed. We do this by keeping our attention to our felt sense and bodily experience without interpreting and rationalizing our experiences. We use circular breathing in order to activate the suppressed sympathetic nervous system, or fight or flight response. As we bring awareness to where the fight or flight response was collapsed and left incomplete we can allow energy to release from this area. As we exit from a freeze response we experience a discharge of energy which was previously interrupted from being expressed. We use a method of titration where we allow bits of charge to be released at a pace which is suitable for our bodies so as not to become overwhelmed by the experience.