An estimated five million people suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder in the U.S. alone, and the number continues to rise as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue. In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness, by best-selling author Peter A. Levine, explores the interconnections between neuroscience and the emerging field of body-oriented psychotherapy, and explains that trauma is not a disease or a disorder, but rather an injury caused by fright, helplessness, and loss that can be healed by engaging our innate capacity to self-regulate high states of arousal and intense emotions.
Dr. Gabor Mat√©, author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, describes In An Unspoken Voice as Peter A. Levine‚Äôs ‚Äúmagnum opus.‚ÄĚ The book draws from Levine‚Äôs more than four decades of clinical work as a psychotherapist, a vast collection of citations from research journals, and both classic and contemporary literature. Levine explains, in great depth and with dazzling insight and charming humor, that despite modern society‚Äôs apparent reliance on elaborate language, the key to our capacity to rebound from trauma and restore wellness comes from enlisting the sensing, knowing language‚ÄĒor unspoken voice‚ÄĒof the body. Recently awarded the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award from the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy, Levine is considered a leader in the field.
DailyOm recently featured an excerpt from In An Unspoken Voice, describing the need to adjust our understanding of PTSD.
Most people think of trauma as a “mental” problem, even as a “brain disorder.” However, trauma is something that also happens in the body. We become scared stiff or, alternately, we collapse, overwhelmed and defeated with helpless dread. Either way, trauma defeats life‚Ä¶
‚Ä¶the current terminology, derived largely from the experiences of the Vietnam War, is posttraumatic stress disorder. As PTSD, the universal phenomenon of terror and paralysis‚ÄĒin which the nervous system has been strained to the breaking point, leaving body, psyche and soul shattered‚ÄĒis now fully sanitized as a medical “disorder.” With its own convenient acronym, and serving the dispassionate nature of science, the archetypal response to carnage has now been artificially severed from its ravaging origins. Where it was once aptly conveyed by the terms fright paralysis and shell shock, it is now simply a disorder, an objectified collection of concrete and measurable symptoms; a diagnosis amenable to vested research protocols, detached insurance companies and behavioral treatment strategies. While this nomenclature provides objective scientific legitimacy to the soldiers‚Äô very real suffering, it also safely separates doctor from patient. The “healthy” (“protected”) doctor treats the “ill” patient. This approach disempowers and marginalizes the sufferer, adding to his or her sense of alienation and despair. Less noticed is the likely burnout in the unprotected healer, who has been artificially hoisted onto a precarious pedestal as false prophet.
Recently, a young Iraq veteran took issue with calling his combat anguish PTSD and, instead, poignantly referred to his pain and suffering as PTSI‚ÄĒthe “I” designating “injury.” What he wisely discerned is that trauma is an injury, not a disorder like diabetes, which can be managed but not healed. In contrast, posttraumatic stress injury is an emotional wound, amenable to healing attention and transformation.
Nonetheless, the medical model persists. It (arguably) functions fairly effectively with diseases like diabetes and cancer, where the doctor holds all of the knowledge and dictates the necessary interventions for a sick patient. This is not, however, a useful paradigm for trauma healing‚Ä¶
CLICK HERE to read the entire ‚ÄúChanging Face of Trauma‚ÄĚ excerpt on DailyOm.
CLICK HERE if you‚Äôd like to read an excerpt from Levine‚Äôs best-selling Waking the Tiger.
In An Unspoken Voice has received glowing praise so far:
“With this book Peter Levine secures his position in the forefront of trauma healing, as theorist, practitioner, and teacher. All of us in the therapeutic community‚ÄĒphysicians, psychologists, therapists, aspiring healers, interested laypeople‚ÄĒare ever so much richer for this summation of what he himself has learned.”
‚ÄĒGabor Mat√©, MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction
‚ÄúIn this masterpiece Peter Levine has captured the essence of trauma as residing in the ‚Äėunspoken voice‚Äô of our bodies. Combining a thorough study of animal ethology, brain research, and indigenous healing rituals with vast clinical knowledge, Levine provides a marvelous and original perspective on how trauma results in injuries that can be transformed and healed by attention to the natural healing powers that reside deep within every human being.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄĒBessel van der Kolk, MD, medical director and founder of the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute, director of the National Complex Trauma Treatment Network, and professor of Psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine
CLICK HERE for more information about In An Unspoken Voice.
CLICK HERE to learn more about Peter A. Levine.