I recently took a weekend intensive with Steven Goodman at CIIS called Tibetan Compassion Practices: Working with Terror, Trauma, and Transcendence.
Through Tibetan Buddhist compassion practices we found ways of accepting and integrating difficult memories and emotions into our lives. We looked at practices such as calming relaxation, mindful awareness, and Tantric visualization that helped to create a context for identifying and integrating painful, emotionally conflicted aspects of our psyches.
We explored a western somatic-psychotherapy model called Somatic Experiencing (SE) to help us find ways to access emotional holding and free up the energy that is bound up in it. Below is a brief summary of trauma and SE, after I read Peter Levine’s Book Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma.
What is trauma?
Trauma is considered within the context of each individual’s perception. What may be traumatic to one individual may not be traumatic to another: it is the subjective perception of “threat” that determines the intensity of each person’s reaction.
Traumatic events are classified as degrees on a continuum: “big-T” trauma and “little-t” trauma were defined. Big-T trauma is associated with specific, identifiable events and usually involves a distinct memory that the individual can recall. Violence, abuse and war are examples of big-T trauma. Little-t traumas are more cumulative and associated with continual or recurring situations. Examples include: dog bites, criticism or verbal abuse, repeated failures at school or work, or intermittent childhood neglect or isolation, being bullied or teased, etc.
Trauma is created when a devastating moment is frozen in the body. A surge of adrenalin and chemicals is released when we are faced with such a threat. If not discharged or let out, this experience can stay within us and lead to destructive beliefs and actions. Our rational mind interferes with our natural ability to heal by somehow blocking or changing normal reactions to the event. Trauma symptoms are caused by this blocking or immobilizing of reactions that would help discharge the energy from the body.
By building tools of awareness, we can go into the trauma slowly and gradually to allow our bodies to discharge and release the frozen emotions held in the body. This often leads to a more free sense of being in the world, letting go of destructive behavioural patterns and beliefs.
Continue reading “Terror, Trauma, and Transcendence: an East/West approach”