What must we do to bring positive change and healing to the planet? What prevents us living in a Utopia where we can be free from hunger and fear? What drives out peace on earth? In the past few decades we have made huge technological advances and our standard of living has risen dramatically. How strange it is that we still suffer the most appalling atrocities? We experience an enormous amount of violence, particularly in the inner city areas. Terrorism is seen as a huge planetary threat. Wars rage around the globe. Millions of people live in dire poverty. Rape is a common occurrence. The more cynically minded amongst us, describes this behaviour as ‘innate’, drawing conclusions from so called observations of the natural world. ‘Life is naturally a struggle for resources.’ ‘It is survival of the fittest’. ‘Dog eats dog.’
How strange to discover that actually it is only humans that torture, maim and kill their own species. Animals routinely kill and eat animals of other species. They also exhibit aggressive behaviour in mating or in feeding. However, they do not generally kill members of their own species. They have behaviours that aid them to assert dominance in territorial disputes, but to prevent actually killing each other. They may lock horns, or butt heads, or display their plumage in sexual conflicts. The end of a conflict is often signalled in ritualistic or submissive behaviour, such as a dog rolling on it’s back to expose a vulnerable belly.
What then is it about humans that cause us to behave in ways that brings death and destruction on our own species? What causes us even to damage the environment in which we live; to destroy the very fabric of life. To break the web of our interconnectedness? Is it our intelligence? Our neo cortex? The answer is a resounding ‘YES’.
The complexity of the human brain makes us very vulnerable to being traumatized, whilst animals do not seem to be afflicted in this way. Both humans and animals have a part of the brain which has been developed specifically to deal with protecting the organism against life threatening situations. This is known as the reptilian brain. When triggered by a perceived threat, it immediately sends a cascade of neuro-transmitters to the body causing it to fight or flee, and if that doesn’t work, the second line of response is to freeze. The first behaviour may mean that the animal escapes the threat. The second response may also cause the animal to survive or if it is captured, it will probably be numb or unconscious to the pain of death. If the animal survives the threat, it will shake the intense energies of the experience out of its nervous system by shaking vigorously for a period of time. Thus also clearing the peptides from the system
The human brain is much more complex. The Neo Cortex, or rational thinking brain means that even though the Reptilian Brain is triggered by the perceived threat, its’ protective response is interfered with by the Neo Cortex. This may be because humans have been both prey and predator in their evolutionary development. The brain becomes confused as to which mode of behaviour is most appropriate to the situation. The Neo Cortex gets drawn into ‘thinking’ about it, either during the experience or immediately after the experience. We also interfere with each other. For instance, when the natural reaction may be to begin to cry or shake, we may be told to ‘pull ourselves together’. The consequence of the interference by either our own Neo Cortex, or that of another human being involved in the situation, is that the energies of the event become frozen in our bodies. Peter Levine is his seminal book, ‘Waking the Tiger, Healing Trauma’, talks of frozen trauma energies being locked in our bodies. Animals very rapidly discharge these energies. Humans get them trapped in the body. It is not the initial event that causes the trauma, but our inability, due to the Neo Cortex, of ridding our body of these immensely powerful energies.
It has been little understood by the orthodox medical establishment, that trauma is a huge problem amongst humanity and is often the underlying cause to many inexplicable, apparently untreatable symptoms, including mental illness. Trauma can be caused either by a specific life threatening or perceived life threatening event, or to a series of events over a period of time, which produces a ‘tipping point’ with regards to the reactivity of the nervous system. The types of experiences that cause trauma and Post Traumatic Shock Disorder are many and varied and include both the obvious such as rape, violence, war, and accidents, and the less obvious such as long term neglect, emotional abandonment, birth and events which happen to the tiny newly developing human from pre-conception to birth.
Trauma is possibly the most serious of all human conditions and could be the condition that ultimately causes the total demise of humanity and destruction of the planet. One aspect of trauma, not commonly understood, is the tendency to recapitulate the traumatic event, in order to heal. The psyche unconsciously draws the experience back time after time until it becomes conscious, and then can be resolved. A traumatized individual will unconsciously re-enact the trauma, time after time. It is this aspect which makes trauma so dangerous and is perhaps the reason why wars continuously rage upon the planet. Trauma is probably a major root cause of war and war is a cause of trauma. Its re-enactment is escalating in a world wide cycle leaving a legacy of violence, fear, separation, alienation and atrocities.
When we are traumatized we become hyper vigilant, continually looking for the threat. When we have two different ethnic or social groups, both suffering from post traumatic stress, it is inevitable that they begin to perceive each other as the cause of the threat which they feel in their systems. Further conflict becomes consequent unless the original trauma is healed.
Although the symptoms of trauma are often little understood or even unrecognized and the significance of its potential threat to our survival as a species unappreciated, the good news is that there are methods of treating it which are highly successful. Peter Levine has pioneered ‘somatic experiencing’ as a way of healing trauma. It doesn’t matter what the root cause of the trauma is because it works with healing the nervous system through the body.
At Healing Waters I use the methods of Peter Levine, as well as working with pre and peri-natal trauma applying the work of Karlton Terry and Dr William Emerson. The combined approach means that many people can now successfully heal and gain control of their lives and a sense of peace and safety. If you are interested and have need of help please see my website for further information. Juliet Yelverton