By Peter Levine
Based on years of experience studying animals and observing human behavior, Peter Levine developed the somatic experiencing method of treating trauma. This book is designed as a guide for clinicians and professionals working with trauma survivors. Levine shares his own experience of being hit by a car and demonstrates how by tracking his bodily sensations and allowing his instinctual impulses to come to completion, he moves through the experience and achieves resolution of the trauma rather than becoming stuck and developing PTSD. Over the course of the book, Levine lays out the evolutionary underpinnings of the nervous system that are so closely tied to biological functioning and emotional processing, leading to the clear conclusion that bodily awareness facilitates the resolution of trauma. As a guide for clinicians, Levine also details the step-by-step process in which clinicians can help those stuck in traumatic states develop an awareness of their physical and emotional sensations, touch into those processes without becoming overwhelmed, and eventually bring the trauma reaction to conclusion by allowing the body to complete its fight, flight, freeze, or fold response. Throughout, Levine also points out the importance of social connection as a key component of resolving trauma, which can be played out in the client/clinician relationship, or in other supportive settings.
“In an Unspoken Voice” by Peter Levine offers a holistic perspective on the impact of trauma and actions that can help lessen or resolve the stuck trauma response. Levine broadens the understanding of trauma response by adding in the notion of “folding,” an utter surrender to the circumstances, to the primary responses of fight, flight, and freeze. He also addresses the importance of social connection in interrupting the body’s descent into trauma response, and restoring homeostasis after the body becomes stuck. Social connection can be as little as a reassuring glance and gentle, consistent presence or as much as primary attachment to a caregiver. Rather than detailing the multitudes of trauma responses, Levine provides a handful of case examples and instead focuses on the autonomic, biological, evolutionary, and physical processes that interpret the external world and influence the internal one.
This is a good book, to be sure, but quite dense. As a guide for clinicians, Levine assumes a foundational level of knowledge in his audience and therefore applies liberal use of jargon. At times it was hard for me to follow his points because I was unable to see how it fit into the big picture of the whole book. This is certainly a useful book for anyone that works with trauma survivors. He broadens the understanding of trauma to include a greater variety of bodily processes that are impacted by traumatic events and must be engaged to resolve trauma, which is invaluable information. If applicable to your work, well worth the read. If not, stick to one of his other books that might be somewhat more accessible.