Note: All quoted sentences are direct quotes from the book, Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma by Peter A. Levine


Key Thoughts:


  • More people experience trauma in early childhood than not
  • Memories are not factually based
  • Trauma waits in the body until it is safe to be released
  • “Freezing” is not bad, rather self-protective
  • TRE™ as a powerful resource to release old trauma and  stress
  • Healing the nervous system increases resilience to new, incoming stress

I am extremely grateful this book was on the required reading list for TRE™ certification. It took me on a powerful journey.   

Life is traumatic for the majority of human beings.  My life has been “minimally traumatic” for which I am even more deeply grateful than ever.  The fact that a great number of innocent people have been sexually abused and or/assaulted by people they trusted is mind boggling to me.  Peter Levine’s book has given me new tools to be even more compassionate, understanding and empathetic to the stories I hear from others about trauma.

Memories of traumatic events are not reliable indicators of fact.  The mind forms mosaics or snippets of different events than can form “memories.”  These composites can be indicators of what needs to be healed and released, but are not to be confused with facts.  Therapists can often be contributors to promoting “memories as facts” and this is a disservice to their clients.  I thought about how in my family siblings often report different memories of commonly experienced events.  This was a WOW to me:  Peter write: “A traumatized individual may end up believing that he or she was raped or tortured when the actual message the organism is trying to convey is that this sensation you are experiencing feels like rape or torture.” 

Trauma waits in the body until it is safe enough to begin the release process. “While trauma can be hell on earth, trauma resolved is a gift of the gods – a heroic journey that belongs to each of us.”  I was surprised to learn that operations and anesthesia are common sources of trauma and it was fascinating to think about what is occurring on the cellular level when a body perceives these experiences as “threats” and how instinct always trumps reason.  I discovered remnants of trauma from  my hysterectomy & thyroidectomy and was able to release them from my body and nervous system. 

The freeze response is common to all humans and animals in the face of overwhelming or situations perceived as inescapable.  Previously I thought of this as certain individual’s default mode, (mine most assuredly) but not a universal one.  I did not think of it as he describes as a “gift from the wild” and a “natural response and the key to avoiding the debilitating effects of trauma.”  Although I have fallen victim to the modern world version that “strength means endurance” I am solid in the belief that “real heroism comes from having the courage to openly acknowledge one’s experiences, not from suppressing or denying them.” 

Chapter 8:  Freezing

  • Our new-cortex gets in the way of our healing.Fear and terror become “supercharged energy locked in the nervous system
  • Fear greatly enhances and extends immobility.
  • Rape victims who start to come out of shock often feel the impulse to kill their victims (and the injustice of the term “pre-meditated)
  • “The impulse towards intense aggression is so frightening that the traumatized person often turns it inward on themselves rather than allow it external expression.”
  • Trauma victims may become “trapped in a vicious cycle of terror, rage and immobility” …”but remain inhibited because of fear of violence to themselves and others.”

TRE™ is a Powerful Tool for Healing

TRE™ may be the most powerful tool discovered/formulated to date that will awaken natural abilities to transform original trauma into scenarios that include heroism, personal transformation and escape from debilitating trauma.  Peter did an amazing job of laying out the case to demonstrate that “traumatic symptoms are physiological as well as psychological.  “Trauma represents animal instincts gone awry.” 

He presents a hopeful narrative based on his experience that “held within the symptoms of trauma are the very energies, potentials, and resources necessary for their constructive transformation.”  His case studies were very informative and made me think deeply about some of the traumatic experiences which are a part of my life story…some of which I addressed during my 5 years of bioenergetic therapy, and some which have begun to surface since practicing TRE™.

Increased Resiliency to Stress and Trauma

We can have greater resiliency to stress and new sources of trauma by effectively releasing old/stored sources of trauma.  “Being threatened engages our deepest resources and allows us to experience our fullest potential as human beings.  In turn, our emotional and physical well-being is enhanced.” 

His presentation of the FELT SENSE was new information to me and very thought provoking.  “The only way to consciously access our healing resources is through sensation and the felt sense.  Sensation is the language of the reptilian brain.”  The benefits of becoming more in tune with the felt sense are enticing.   “Recovering the felt sense will bring warmth and vitality to our experiences.”  And “When we are healthy and un-traumatized, these instinctual responses add sensuality, variety, and a sense of wonder to our lives.”

Easy does it

The case for developing the attribute for taking it SLOWLY and to maintain “an open and curious attitude” was important for me to absorb since I tend to be a ‘jump into the deep water and swim like hell kind of girl!”  Ha.  I continue to develop my ability to listen to the whole me and trust that a slow and steady process will be best for my clients.  I love this:  “Part of the grace of the nervous system is that is constantly self-regulating.  What you can’t process today will be available to be processed some other time when you are stronger, more resourceful and better able to do it.”  And this:  …subtle sensations and rhythms are just as important as blatantly obvious ones.” 

Nature has not forgotten us, we have forgotten it

The concept of the orientating response was new to me and important for me to consider:  “Orienting responses are the primary means through which the animal tunes into its environment…The process of determining where it is, what is and whether it is dangerous or desirable happens first in the subconscious.”  In my past. I weighed more heavily on my philosophical belief (thought) that we are “all connected.”  The idea of trusting my reptilian brain and feeling/limbic system to engage, sense and perhaps increase my safety and protection has given me much to ponder.  “We must pay attention to our animal nature to find the instinctive strategies needed to release us from trauma’s debilitating effects.