I was recently thinking about one of the main tenants of Dr. Peter Levine's perspective on trauma:
"Trauma is not in the event(s), it is in the patterns we form around the event(s) which find expression as our habits."
For Dr. Levine, the nervous system is primary in the repetition of pattern; I agree.
Seeing trauma, or for that matter anything, in terms of pattern is useful in that this can potentially strip the "thing" -- in this case, the traumatic event of its narrative content, placing it in the context of the present moment.
In this context, what is happening can be seen as emerging out of the pattern of trauma, and not out of the story of trauma.
So, in the case of childhood abuse for instance, the child does a number of things to alleviate the anxiety and confusion around traumatic events. They may form an identity around these events. This identity inevitably involves habits of dissociation. Whether this looks like collapse, hyper-vigilance, or both, there is usually the formation of habits that have the function of separating themselves from the present (unsafe) moment.
Herein lies what I think is the primary mechanism of the repetition of trauma patterns, and the repetition of pattern in general. Without access to the present moment i.e. what is actually happening right now in the body, mind, and experience in general, the victim of trauma is left without the resources to adequately address and heal the trauma pattern.
What is actually happening is obscured by the story of history which has found expression in the various shapes, gestures, and orientations through which we contextualize our experience.
From my perspective, choice emerges out of having access to experience within the present moment. Helping people out of their history, and into the potency of the "Now" is the focus of my work as an integrative manual therapist.
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