The word “overwhelmed” resonates with me when thinking about our culture today, our human and social condition. It is linked to the world of social media, to technological advances, to how much information is at our fingertips and how much we can take in at any given moment. It is also linked to the world of popular psychology which provides us constantly with ways to ‘fix’ ourselves, become better, and live fuller lives. It IS overwhelming.
But there is a new paradigm or way of looking at our psyche, the human condition, and our world, so we can begin to “awaken” from the inside out.
Let us begin by defining the word “trauma”. We are learning a lot from research on trauma, animal and human physiology and the brain. Peter A. Levine (Trauma Through a Child’s Eyes, 2007) tells us that:
“Trauma happens when any experience stuns us like a bolt out of the blue; it overwhelms us, leaving us altered and disconnected from our bodies. Any coping mechanisms we may have had are undermined, and we feel utterly helpless and hopeless. It is as if our legs were knocked out from under us”.
Even though we may not have been abused, or have PTSD; we are learning that being in a neglectful or stressful environment for extended times, or being in a hospital without the proper human connection or care can cause varying degrees of symptoms typically associated with those of trauma that eventually cause physical ailments.
The exciting news is that we are ‘biologically’ set up to heal and cope with our particular trauma and the hardships of life. Peter Levine’s research took him to working with the body of the person; coming from the premise, that the traumatic event(s) is stuck in the nervous system, and not in the actual event. It was in how the individual processed what happened in the body in the moment and particular moments of the event. He began to notice that by working with the body, the sensations and fine motor movements in the body that the nervous system could finish what it needed to do. The body began to “freeze”, to “constrict” itself and inhibit its natural impulses. By releasing this ‘energy’ that is stuck in a myriad of bodily sensations, images, thoughts and a narrative or ‘story’, the person can begin to live in the present moment, and feel and sense his or her “true” self.
Many scientists and psychologists today emphasize working with the awareness of the body in conjunction with the brain to bring about healing. This gives a new ‘literal’ meaning to the saying that ‘the teacher or Buddha is within’; it IS in our bodies.
It’s an exciting ‘shift’ amidst perplexing times to the wisdom in the body.
Flora M Torra, Ed. S.