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Trauma Resolution and Biomimicry

Escaping Cheetahs photo“Why are animals in the wild, though routinely threatened, rarely traumatized? By understanding the dynamics that make wild animals virtually immune to traumatic symptoms, the mystery of human drama is unveiled.”

-Peter Levine

Last week I heard a talk by Jamie Dwyer from Biomimicry 3.8 about how we can learn a lot from nature to solve our problems. It turns out that nature has been solving problems and evolving for 3.8 billion years so she knows a little bit about the process. Besides being awed by the potential behind biomimicry to solve technological problems, or inefficiencies, I came to realize that biomimicry even has a lot to say about how we can resolve our psychological issues. In fact, the whole field of somatic experiencing and the life’s work of Peter Levine is based on it.

Peter Levine, author of In an Unspoken Voice, spent time observing how animals handled a traumatic situation, like being pinned down by a predator or being threatened by another animal. He noticed that animals make decisions either to fight, flee or freeze depending upon the situation and that there was a normal flow to each of these responses, from a traumatic response back to a natural state of safety and free flowing energy.

According to Peter, “Somatic Experiencing views the human animal as a unique being, endowed with instinctual capacity to heal as well as the intellectual spirit to harness that innate capacity. It asks and answers and intriguing question: why are animals in the wild, though routinely threatened, rarely traumatized? By understanding the dynamics that make wild animals virtually immune to traumatic symptoms, the mystery of human drama is unveiled.

“Somatic Experiencing is a short-term naturalistic approach to the resolution of post-traumatic stress reactions. It is based on the ethological observation that animals in the wild utilize innate mechanisms, which regulate and neutralize the high levels of arousal associated with defensive survival behaviors. Somatic Experiencing normalizes the symptoms of trauma, which bind this arousal, and offers the steps needed to resolve activation and heal trauma.”

This video is an amazing example of how an antelope goes into a freeze response when threatened by a hyena. After playing dead, the antelope is able to escape when a window of opportunity arises. It comes out of freeze and explodes with energy to run towards safety and survival: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOVzWBnP-7o

We so often forget to see that we evolved from animals. There is still a part of us that is an animal, just as there are parts of us from our evolutionary and historical past that exist within us, including our baby self, our child self, our adolescent self, etc. All these are like nesting dolls within us, often more powerful and more real the deeper we go. Our exteriors rarely show the fullness of who we are. We need to take off layers to uncover the other aspects of our selves, all the way down to and past our instinctual animal nature and our precious inner child.

The role of spiritually focused somatic psychotherapy is to touch into and integrate these parts of our selves, to include and transcend them as we evolve into deeper and higher levels of our true nature.

Biomimicry teaches us to “quiet our cleverness” and to slow down our urge to figure things out on our own. It encourages us to observe the natural world for inspiration and innovation. The field of trauma resolution has learned a lot from watching how animals handle trauma and we too can learn and grow from this observation and nature-based solution. We can also learn a lot from observing our own inner nature and listening to the shadow voices and instinctual urges that often go unnoticed.