What is Trauma? An Overview of Waking The Tiger: Healing Trauma by Peter A. Levine with Ann Frederick

Knowledge is power. When I started Synchronicity Revealed-Inspired Writings, my purpose was to share and inspire.  Thanks for going on this journey with me. After three years, my mission continues, even though my topics have expanded beyond analyzing the Hero's Journey and the philosophies of Carl Jung to include book reviews. Recently, I pondered on the impact of trauma on the human experience. At the library, I discovered Waking The Tiger: Healing Trauma by Dr. Peter A. Levine with Ann Frederick, which describes trauma from a mental and physical perspective. Let's discuss…

Trauma Defined

Per Dr. Levine, "Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence (Levine, 1997)."  We all have experienced, directly or indirectly, a form of trauma in our life. 

Merriam-Webster defines Trauma as:

  • a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury
  • an emotional upset
  • an agent, force or mechanism that causes trauma
  • an injury (such as a wound) to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent

Physical vs Emotional Trauma

Physical trauma, in some cases, is easier to heal than emotional trauma. A few weeks ago, I cut my finger. I washed my hands and covered my finger with a bandage. After a couple of days, my finger healed without scars.  In contrast, it has taken me weeks to get over the death of a loved one. 

In her book, Healing Journeys, Linda Daniels shares how trauma survivors learned to recover and create a new life for themselves.  The journeys are diverse; no two people heal the same way. 

Adverse Childhood Experiences

Our childhood experiences have an important impact on our wellbeing throughout our lives and can influence how we process traumatic events. The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, which was conducted from 1995-1997, was an investigation of childhood abuse, neglect, household challenges, later-life health and well-being (CDC, n.d.).

The ACE Pyramid is a conceptual framework of the ACE study:

ACE Pyramid - Source Wikimedia.org/Commons. CDC

Examples of ACE:
  • abuse and neglect
  • familial violence
  • divorce
  • parental separation
  • abject poverty
  • generational trauma
  • bullying
  • abandonment
  • belittlement
  • being undermined
  • molestation
  • witnessing violence
  • serious medical procedures
  • physical injuries
Unresolved childhood trauma does not heal without attention and support. Per the ACE study and pyramid, childhood trauma may lead to social impairment, adoption of health-risk behaviors, disease and early death.  It is crucial to seek the help of therapists and counselors to heal unresolved trauma at any stage of life.  

How Does Trauma Manifest?

Unhealed trauma manifests in our personal, private and professional life through the relationships we have with ourselves and others. The co-worker who is always angry is not because of you. The fits of anger is probably due to internal trauma in need of healing. If you struggle with trusting others, it could be due to a betrayal by someone you trusted. Being easily triggered by minor social slights may be a sign of unresolved emotional pain. I have heard people say, "Hurt people, hurt people", which is true but is not an excuse for toxic behavior. Help is within reach if you want to heal. 

Critical Years: 18 yrs - 25 yrs

Traditionally, between 18yrs-25yrs is when young adults make crucial decisions about their future. Questions such as: Do I attend college, technical school or work? What career should I pursue? Should I start a family now or wait? Should I marry or remain single? What is my religion? etc. In actuality, the rational part of the human brain is not fully developed until 25 years old, or so (Health Encyclopedia). As a result, young adults make life choices when they know the least about life itself.  Add on to this stage in life unresolved childhood trauma, which for many young adults, is a recipe for making unfavorable choices.  

Waking the Tiger, Healing Trauma by Peter A. Levine With Ann Frederick

Waking the Tiger is about resolving traumatic symptoms using a naturalistic approach developed by Dr. Levine (Levine, 1997). 

Per Dr. Levine:
  • "Trauma has the potential to be one of the most significant forces for psychological, social and spiritual awakening and evolution"
  • "...trauma is not, will not, and can never be fully healed until we also address the essential role played by the body"
  • "...the study of wild animal behavior is essential to the understanding and healing of human trauma"
  • "Traumatic symptoms are not caused by the "triggering" event itself. They stem from the frozen residue of energy that has not been resolved and discharged; this residue remains trapped in the nervous system where it can wreak havoc on our bodies and spirits"                                 
Waking the Tiger has 266 pages and four sections. The sections define and/or explain: 
  • Section 1: The Body As Healer - how post-traumatic symptoms begin
  • Section 2: Symptoms of Trauma - the intricate elements of traumatic reactions
  • Section 3: Transformation and Renegotiation - ways to transform personal or societal traumas 
  • Section 4: First Aid for Trauma - methods to prevent trauma from occurring after an accident

                                                                      Flowers courtesy of pxfuel
In Reflection:

My finger shows no signs of trauma after I accidently cut it while making dinner. My finger healed after I left it alone and allowed nature's healing properties to take over. Emotional trauma heals differently because it requires us to actively participate in the healing process.  Leaving emotional trauma alone does not work. We need to cry, feel the emotions and, in some cases, seek professional help.  I miss my loved one, but I have learned to accept death and cherish the memories we shared. 

Waking The Tiger is written in a conversational style and is easy to read. The book is an introduction to the study of trauma. Dr. Levine's perspective is a reflection of his experiences in the field. I intend to research other books to learn more about the topic. 

                                                                        Courtesy of Pixabay 


Levine, P. and Frederick, A. (1997). Waking The Tiger, Healing Trauma. North Atlantic Books. 

ACE Study and Pyramid: 

ACE Pyramid, Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_ACE_Pyramid.gif

Rose - Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/photos/flower-rose-buds-rose-bloom-petals-3431316/

Daniels, L. (2004). Healing Journeys, How Trauma Survivors Learn to Live Again. New Horizon Press. 

Yellow Dandelions  Retrieved from https://p1.pxfuel.com/preview/196/409/165/dandelions-yellow-healing.jpg

Understanding the Teen Brain. In University of Rochester Medical Center. Retrieved from https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=3051