Emotions play out in the theatre of the body, feelings play out in the theatre of the mind ~ Antonio Damasio
This is an excerpt from the brilliantly written book by Peter Levine, Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma: The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences. This book is a must read for anyone who has been traumatised.
Arousal becomes chronic as a result of overwhelming sensations and emotions that have an internal source. This is the reason that trauma can and must be transformed by working with it internally. In re-enactment the world may be our stage. In remaining external, it also remains unchanged. Hence, re-enactment rarely accomplishes its intended task.
It is to our detriment that we live in a culture that does not honour the internal world. In many cultures, the internal world of dreams, feelings, images, and sensations is sacred. Yet, most of us are only peripherally aware of its existence. We have little or no experience of finding our way around in this internal landscape. Consequently, when our experience demands it, we are unprepared. Rather than negotiating it skillfully, if we attempt it all, we are more likely to re-enact it.
With patience and attention, however, the patterns that drive traumatic re-enactment can be dismantled so that we again access the infinite, feeling tones and behavioural responses that we are capable of executing. Once we understand how trauma begins and develops, we must then learn to know ourselves through the felt sense. All the information that we need to begin renegotiating trauma is available to us. Our bodies (instincts) will tell us where the blockages are and when we are moving too fast. Our intellects can tell us how to regulate the experience so that we are not overwhelmed. When these brain functions work as one, we can establish a special relationship between the mainstream for our internal experience and the turmoil of trauma. Moving slowly and allowing the experience to unfold at each step allows us to digest the unassimilated aspects of the traumatic experience at a rate that we are able to tolerate. (Irish psychiatrist Ivor Browne calls trauma: unexperienced experience).
In the theatre of the body, trauma can be transformed. The fragmented elements that perpetuate traumatic emotion and behaviour can be completed, integrated, and made whole again. Along with this wholeness comes a sense of mastery and resolution.
Every trauma provides an opportunity for authentic transformation ~ Peter Levine