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An Autobiography of Trauma and Healing: Peter Levine, PhD, on PYP 581

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“Trauma is perhaps the most avoided, ignored, belittled, denied, misunderstood, and untreated cause of human suffering.” – Peter A. Levine

Drawing upon healing traditions that go back thousands of years, Peter Levine, PhD has created a method of healing trauma that has the power to revolutionize the mental health field. His modality, Somatic Experiencing (SE), takes the client on an inward journey to where they can access their own body's wisdom and instinct toward wholeness.

His books Waking the Tiger and In an Unspoken Voice share his methodology. One of the most stunning demonstrations of SES can be found on YouTube. In the video, Peter helps an Iraq War vet overcome a persistent facial tic by guiding his body to complete a movement sequence that had been abruptly interrupted by the explosion of an IED.

His new book, An Autobiography of Trauma: A Healing Journey, is a deeply personal, courageous, and clear-eyed look at the events, forces, and people who shaped Peter's life, worldview, and work. It's not for the faint of heart. Peter recounts a brutal rape that was perpetrated upon him at the age of 12, as well as deeply unsettling family scenes from his childhood.

He also talks about the dreams and synchronicities that have guided his path — and the ones that he ignored to his detriment.

One chapter pays homage to the women who influenced his professional and personal development, including body and breathwork pioneers Charlotte Selver, Magda Proskauer, Ida Rolf, and Mira Rothenberg. Another chapter explores his relationships with brilliant men of science, including Ilya Progogine, René Thom, Leon Harmon, and T. Berry Brazelton. Much of Peter's life and work has been to integrate the archetypically masculine world of measurement and replication and the archetypically feminine domain of spirit and intuition — a synthesis that lends SE much of its power.

In our conversation, we talked about dreams. I asked Peter why meaningful dreams come to him, and how others (me!) might go about inviting dream insights. He responded with many stories and suggestions that I'm already incorporating into my evening and morning rituals.

At one point, Peter referred to the unconscious as “she,” and spoke of it as a source of great wisdom. Given my familiarity with the neurological basis of his work, I had thought of the unconscious as a more or less infantile part that was concerned solely with survival. I thought all it could do was fight, flight, freeze, fold, or socially engage (based on Stephen Porges' Polyvagal Theory).

Peter shared his understanding, following Jung, that the unconscious contains drives and impulses beyond those of physical survival. He cited the drive for wholeness, referenced in the subtitle of In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness.

We talked about his year-long “active imagination” mentoring by Albert Einstein in a California restaurant, and his later discovery that Einstein had saved his parents' lives when his mother was 8 months pregnant with Peter.

We also spoke about the Dine (Navajo) ceremony to reintegrate returning warriors from battle to community, and his encounters with healing and wisdom teachers from a variety of ancient lineages.

The mic drop lines, for me:

“Given the right tools, trauma won't rule.”

“We can stop reliving and start living.”



Learn more about Peter and Somatic Experiencing® (SE™) at

An Autobiography of Trauma: A Healing Journey, by Peter A Levine, PhD. It's also available at Ergos Institute, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Amazon UK, Inner Traditions, Books A Million, and

In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness, by Peter A Levine, PhD

Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, by Peter A Levine, PhD

Trauma and Recovery, by Judith Herman

Children with Emerald Eyes: Histories of Extraordinary Boys and Girls, by Mira Rothenberg

Let There Be Light — John Huston's movie about healing trauma in US servicemen following WWII

My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, by Resmaa Menakem, MSW

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel van der Kolk, MD

The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory: The Transformative Power of Feeling Safe, by Stephen Porges, PhD

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You CAN Change Other People!

Well, that's what Peter Bregman and I claim in our provocative book of that title.

What we really mean is, you can help the people around you make behavioral changes in their own best interests. If you think you're powerless to help people change, it's because you've been going about it the wrong way.

Discover our straightforward, replicable process here: You Can Change Other People.

Audiobook: Use the Weight to Lose the Weight

Listen to Josh LaJaunie and me narrate our latest audiobook, about how to start moving when you're obese.

It's $10, and Josh and I split it evenly 🙂

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It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.

You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website,


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