Peter A. Levine Quotes

Authors: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Categories: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
The door suddenly jerks open. A wideeyed teenager bursts out. She stares at me in dazed horror. In a strange way, I both know and don't know what has just happened. As the fragments begin to converge, they convey a horrible reality: I must have been hit by this car as I entered the crosswalk. In confused disbelief, I sink back into a hazy twilight. I find that I am unable to think clearly or to will myself awake from this nightmare. A man rushes to my side and drops to his knees. He announces himself as an off-duty paramedic. When I try to see where the voice is coming from, he sternly orders, 'Don't move your head.' The contradiction between his sharp command and what my body naturally wants-to turn toward his voice-frightens and stuns me into a sort of paralysis. My awareness strangely splits, and I experience an uncanny 'dislocation.' It's as if I'm floating above my body, looking down on the unfolding scene. I am snapped back when he roughly grabs my wrist and takes my pulse. He then shifts his position, directly above me. Awkwardly, he grasps my head with both of his hands, trapping it and keeping it from moving. His abrupt actions and the stinging ring of his command panic me; they immobilize me further. Dread seeps into my dazed, foggy consciousness: Maybe I have a broken neck, I think. I have a compelling impulse to find someone else to focus on. Simply, I need to have someone's comforting gaze, a lifeline to hold onto. But I'm too terrified to move and feel helplessly frozen.

Peter A. Levine
In response to threat and injury, animals, including humans, execute biologically based, non-conscious action patterns that prepare them to meet the threat and defend themselves. The very structure of trauma, including activation, dissociation and freezing are based on the evolution of survival behaviors. When threatened or injured, all animals draw from a "library" of possible responses. We orient, dodge, duck, stiffen, brace, retract, fight, flee, freeze, collapse, etc. All of these coordinated responses are somatically based- they are things that the body does to protect and defend itself. It is when these orienting and defending responses are overwhelmed that we see trauma. The bodies of traumatized people portray "snapshots" of their unsuccessful attempts to defend themselves in the face of threat and injury. Trauma is a highly activated incomplete biological response to threat, frozen in time. For example, when we prepare to fight or to flee, muscles throughout our entire body are tensed in specific patterns of high energy readiness. When we are unable to complete the appropriate actions, we fail to discharge the tremendous energy generated by our survival preparations. This energy becomes fixed in specific patterns of neuromuscular readiness. The person then stays in a state of acute and then chronic arousal and dysfunction in the central nervous system. Traumatized people are not suffering from a disease in the normal sense of the word- they have become stuck in an aroused state. It is difficult if not impossible to function normally under these circumstances.

Peter A. Levine
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