In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Unraveling trauma in the body, brain, and mind - a revolution in treatment.
In this culmination of his life's work, Peter A. Levine draws on his broad experience as a clinician, a student of comparative brain research, a stress scientist, and a keen observer of the naturalistic animal world to explain the nature and transformation of trauma in the body, brain, and psyche. In an Unspoken Voice is based on the idea that trauma is neither a disease nor 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. Enriched with a coherent theoretical framework and compelling case examples, the book elegantly blends the latest findings in biology, neuroscience, and body-oriented psychotherapy to show that when we bring together animal instinct and reason, we can become more whole human beings.
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|Listening Length||12 hours and 9 minutes|
|Author||Gabor Maté - foreword M.D., Peter A. Levine|
|Audible.com Release Date||September 28, 2017|
|Publisher||North Atlantic Books|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #6,874 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#111 in Mental Health (Audible Books & Originals)
#121 in Mental & Spiritual Healing
#264 in Psychology (Audible Books & Originals)
Reviewed in the United States on March 16, 2021
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He is not wrong about the importance of body awareness (i.e. mindfulness) and being able to hold and contain strong feelings. This is vitally important. But his complete dismissal of identifying causes and beliefs that contribute to suffering are detrimental to his overall argument. Exhaustively cataloging every bit of harm from your life is indeed useless, but being mindful of and able to identify and label general beliefs and thinking patterns (like "Oh, I'm thinking I'm worthless again." or "I'm getting sucked into the story of how no one will love me") is, in my opinion, extremely useful for being able to let go of them and live happily in the present (when you remind yourself they're useless relics from the past). The author doesn't place any value on this sort of broad exploration of the past. So in the end, while a lot of what he says is spot on and very useful, I feel that he himself has thrown the baby out with the bathwater (even if unintentionally.)
A very good companion book to this one, which balances this purely "visceral" view, is "Bouncing Back" by Linda Graham, which is a book on neuroplasticity which discusses the importance of mindfulness of body AND thoughts.
I'm not going to outline the contents of this book because other reviewers have already done a great job of that. I actually think the information and theory of Peter Levine deserves 5 plus stars. I appreciate that he's going against the toxic psychiatric mainstream of labelling trauma as some sort of brain disease/disorder. He sees trauma as an injury that can be healed, no matter how long ago it happened, and that gives anyone with trauma hope.
Here's why four starts instead of five:
He's got a trade-marked therapy with it's own steps and jargon etc. "So what?" you might say, "there are lots of trade-marked therapies what does that have to do with anything?" Well here's the thing, I can image many people reading this (or any of his other books) and finding relief to have their trauma explained. They feel hope that there is a way out. BUT after this initial joy they are faced with bitter disappointment when they realise they could never have access to this trade-marked therapy because of their location and/or financial situation.
So what are those people to do? Will they never have a chance to heal and resolve trauma? Are they to be stuck in their pain forever because there's no Somatic Experience therapist in their town, state, country? This is the problem with trade marked methods. They implicitly suggest that it is THE (only) method to recovery. I know that this is not what Levine intends but isn't this the logical conclusion after reading through his books?
I highly recommend this book for anyone with trauma or with unexplained anxiety or depression. You will understand why you feel as you do. However, if you are not fortunate enough to have access to Somatic Experiencing Therapy it's ok. What you need to understand is that Levine's therapy teaches you skills in how to handle and resolve your trauma. These skills can be learned by other methods than his therapy. I say this with the utmost respect for Dr. Levine and his work. If you have a chance to work with his specific programme, then take it!
But here's the thing: the core skills (as I understand them) of his therapy are
-becoming aware of the physical body
-feeling safe in the physical body
-knowing (through experience) that all feelings and sensations are temporary
-being aware of yourself and knowing how to pace yourself
-feeling uncomfortable sensations without being overwhelmed by them
-letting go and allowing your body to do what it needs to do (whatever it wanted to do at the time of the traumatic event)
Obviously there are some more nuances and details but the above skills are basically the core of it. (I suggest you read the book to get a full explanation.) As anyone who has worked in any education setting knows, there is more than one method to teach any given skill. If you do not have access to a Somatic Experiencing therapist or any therapist at all here are some resources that can teach you the same basic skills:
-Mindfulness training. Mindfulness is becoming more and more established and practiced. You may even find a mindfulness centre or mindfulness classes in your city. If this is not an option I recommend the excellent mindfulness programme (book) "Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world" by Mark Williams. You can download the meditations for free on the internet. This programme is designed to ground you in your body, become aware of physical and emotional sensations and how they are always changing and how to stay in the present moment. It also teaches you to befriend negative feelings.
-Trauma Release Exercises. Only do these after doing mindfulness training. These were developed by David Berceli and are detailed in his book "The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process". These are designed to discharge trapped energy, which is a component of Levine's therapy. (They're also trademarked, but I have no gripes with this because they are designed as self-help. You don't need a specialised therapist to do them.)
-Self-compassion. Do this at any time, maybe together with mindfulness. The best book is "Self-Compassion" by Kristin Neff. I think the title is pretty self-explanatory.
It is important to note, that if you decide to try any of this you at least have a support person, if not a therapist, with whom you can share things if it gets a little overwhelming or you need to talk about things that come up. I hope these alternatives help people who don't have access to the specific therapy described by Levine. I do not think that the books I suggested are in any way better or superior to Levine's, they are just much more readily accessible and provide the same basic skills if done correctly.
One thing that I didn't quite understand or even fully realize I had was a preoccupation with water imagery in my creative work, particularly hair under water and how beautiful it is. I did understand my body as having some sort of memory. If triggered, I tremble vigorously, noticably, especially if I'm in water and in perceived danger of not having my head above water, as well as my feet firmly planted on something solid. I have also had days, dating back to childhood, when I cry and cry for inexplicable reasons. It is as if my body remembers something that I do not fully comprehend.
Recently I learned that this is a phenomena among trauma victims called somatic memory. I looked it up and came across "In An Unspoken Voice", by Peter Levine. I bought it and read it, and I can say that the book has helped me to understand what makes me tick. For example, I've always had a gift for seeing beauty everywhere. Now I realize that this was probably a childhood coping mechanism. I learned from Peter Levine in "In An Unspoken Voice" that you cannot focus on fear at the same time that you focus on some other sensation. Living in a climate of fear as a child, I realize now that that's why I see so much beauty everywhere. I must have focused on the beautiful to protect myself from the terror. My mother's hair under water, for example, as she rescued me (she described the event to me many years later), when my father tossed my toddler body overboard, into the depths of a lake, because he was annoyed by me.
I also now realize that my occasional sense of being outside myself, of watching myself, is disassociation. Crazy not to have realized this before, but true. I now see how this coping mechanism, disassociation, may have led to me becoming passive at times when people hurt me or want to hurt me, because I become the watcher, not the victim. Knowing this can only empower me. Likewise, I've also realized that my inclination to love everyone and to accept people into my life in spite of red flags probably comes from having survived by muting myself and my reactions to the violence I saw and experienced as I grew up. Because only by staying calm and squelching all judgments of the perpetrator, my loved ones, would I be safe. In short, my understanding of myself grew.
I sincerely hope that "In An Unspoken Voice" can do this for you. Read it all the way through or in bits and pieces as I did, but read it thoughtfully. It may help you to understand what makes trauma survivors--you or your patients--tick. To know thyself is to empower thyself.