Thursday, April 5, 2012

Book Review - In An Unspoken Voice:How The Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness

It's not easy being green
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
And people tend to pass you over
'Cause you're not standing out
Like flashy sparkles in the water
Or stars in the sky

But green's the color of spring
And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like a mountain
Or important like a river
Or tall like a tree

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why
But why wonder why wonder
I am green, and it'll do fine
It's beautiful, and I think it's what I want to be

It's Not Easy Being Green makes the perfect accompaniment to my book review of Peter A Levine's brilliant book, In An Unspoken Voice:How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. It's not easy being green -- it's not easy being a trauma survivor until you surrender, accept with clarity what's happened and discover that life is absolutely phenomenal.

I have referenced Dr. Levine's work throughout my blog these past several months and said one of these days I'll get to finish it and write my review. Today is the day. I learned about Dr. Levine's work through Michele Rosenthal of Heal My PTSD. The title of the book is what spoke to me - no pun intended.

Reading Dr. Levine's book places in a scientific context how the body releases trauma and is able to return to its natural state of goodness, wholeness, vibrancy and a connection to something greater than ourselves. Dr. Levine weaves in theories from psychology and science along with anatomy to help the reader understand trauma from a multidimensional viewpoint. Whether you are a therapist, a scientist, a survivor, a seeker of truth and wisdom or someone who is curious about philosophy, psychology, evolution and spirituality, you will resonate to some or all of Dr. Levine's book.

Dr. Levine weaves in quotes from literature, mythology, Eastern philosophies and case studies to bring the reader to a rich, deep understanding of the impact of trauma on the mind body connection and how the body has an innate capacity to heal and return to a state of goodness once the body is able to complete the actions it was unable to complete during the traumatic event. One of the points that Dr. Levine brings home over and over again is the importance of having the presence of a compassionate other to help transform the trauma.

Dr. Levine uses himself as a case example in the beginning of the book sharing how, because of the presence of a compassionate samaritan who just happened to be near by when he was hit by a car, he was able to transform his trauma and prevent it from developing into full blown post traumatic stress disorder. Dr. Levine is also a supporter of changing the diagnosis from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to PTSI - post traumatic stress injury. "The very diagnosis of PTSD disempowers the patient and results in burnout for the unprotected healer who has been artificially hoisted onto a precarious pedestal as false prophet," Dr. Levine writes.

Dr. Levine has been working in the field of trauma for over 40 years. His passion, compassion and dedication to helping people heal their lives is palpable in the pages of his book. PTSD has until recently been considered a sort of death sentence. Once trauma happens you are scarred for life; Dr. Levine addresses this in his book. Yes there are scars of battle every trauma survivor has but Dr. Levine emphasizes the gifts that happen as a result of trauma and the powerful potential that resides in every person to transform and heal trauma. "Once uncoupling occurs (he is talking about uncoupling the fear from the sense of paralysis or tonic immobility) and then able to exit immobility, the individual opens into a mother lode of existential relief, transformational gratitude and vital aliveness." (p. 91) One reason why Dr. Levine captured my heart as well as my mind is because he speaks to the healing power of yoga and other mindful movement modalities throughout the book.

Dr. Levine speaks to how unresolved trauma is responsible for a majority of the diseases of mankind but once resolved, the experiences are transformed into a renewed sense of confidence and joy. He provides case examples from young children, to survivors of 9/11, to an elderly man who was a holocaust survivor to a fire fighter with a frozen shoulder that was unresponsive to physical therapy intervention. Dr. Levine speaks to why talking therapies alone and especially insight oriented psychotherapy can be counter productive for the trauma survivor. "Becoming the world's leading expert on myself has nothing to do with being fully present in the moment. Having the same reaction over and over while having the insight or understanding can be demoralizing." (p. 289).

The road to recovery for a trauma survivor is often fraught with many trial and error therapies. Dr. Levine brings together the latest theories in biology,neuroscience and body-oriented psychotherapy to bring a message of hope and a road map for therapists and survivors to demonstrate that transformation even in the face of the most "painful assaults to our humanity" is not just possible - it happens!

Embody, Embrace, Release

My body banged up a little worse for wear
but my Spirit shines
how can it not?
Human hands cannot touch what is Divine.

It is an honorable endeavor to reject the violence
pushing it away
what you resist persists
and shuts out the world of love and joy.

Energy drains
anxiety reigns
what if someone finds out the truth
what if I found out the truth.

As I embody the violence, I embrace myself
compassion and love overflow
tenderly tending to the wounds
cleansing breath.

I admire the beauty of scars and adhesions
my battle wounds
mighty warrior survived
transformed into a humble warrior.

Moving through my practice quieting my mind
listening in stillness
hearing the hum of connections once lost
singing in perfect harmony.

From my heart to yours
With deepest love and total gratitude,

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