Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma

Peter A. Levine

Waking the Tiger

“A threatened human… must discharge all the energy mobilized to negotiate that threat or it will become a victim of trauma. This residual energy does not simply go away. It persists in the body, and often forces the formation of a wide variety of symptoms e.g., anxiety, depression, and psychosomatic and behavioral problems. The symptoms are the organism’s way of containing (or corralling) the undischarged residual energy” (20).


“When a young tree is injured it grows around the injury. As the tree continues to develop, the wound becomes relatively small in proportion to the size of the tree. Gnarly burls and misshapen limbs speak of injuries and obstacles encountered through time and overcome. The way a tree grows around its past contributes to its exquisite individuality, character, and beauty…” (33).


“We must realize that it is neither necessary nor possible to change past events. Old trauma symptoms are examples of bound-up energy and lost lessons. The past doesn’t matter when we learn how to be present; every moment becomes new and creative. We have only to heal our present symptoms and proceed. A healing moment ripples forward and back, out and about” (39).


“In order to stay healthy, our nervous systems and psyches need to face challenges and to succeed in meeting those challenges. When this need is not met, or when we are challenged and cannot triumph, we end up lacking vitality and are unable to full engage in life” (43).


“Real heroism comes from having the courage to openly acknowledge one’s experiences, not from suppressing or denying them” (63).