Waking the Tiger: 1; The Body As Healer
I’ve begun two books. This one, of course, as food for thought and targeted thinking, seeking advice and methods for coping. The other, is a book that is in a highlight right now because of the movie that was made from it: “The Fault In Our Stars” by John Green (of vlogbrothers fame). This book has been under fire as well as praise, because some people saw it as some kind of Hollywood glorification of illness. I know that at least in terms of appearance, kids dying of cancer look a lot more sick than they look in movies- even that movie. It’s not appearances I’m reading it for- I’m reading it for the insights. And perhaps John Green has never been dying of cancer. I’ve never been dying of cancer either. But I have been dying before. And there is still some merit in reading something to find something to relate to.
Anyhow, on with “Waking the Tiger“.
The immobility response is one I can relate to in terms of the early traumas of my life. In words and arguments I sound like a fighter, a flighter. I sound like someone who will bite, kick, scratch, punch and scream my way out of the kinds of abuse I endured; but I didn’t. I froze. I held my arms close to my body and closed my eyes and waited. I mentally tried to normalize what was happening and believed that there was nothing I could do, and that if I tried, the consequences would be exponentially worse than staying silent. I had opened my mouth and asked for help once, at great personal cost. I hid the abuses that followed after with a deafening silence and an act so elaborate, it was Oscar-worthy. “[The immobility response] is a state very similar to death.” According to Peter Levine it is a gift to us from the wild to be able to do this in order to avoid the effects of trauma. But what do you do when the actual danger is gone and everything you didn’t feel then over years of abuse comes to surface all at once, like the pain is new?
As he outlines in this chapter, the first step to trying to recover was being able to speak about it at all, and then I couldn’t not speak about it. Then came being able to talk about it without crying. But truth be told, I do relive it. I remember it when I talk about it- you have to. You are forever tied between the facts of events and the feelings you experienced- especially when, like me, they were the first time you felt those feelings at all. You always remember your firsts of things- developmentally it is how we learn to do things, to behave and navigate. I realize those were not the appropriate ways of doing things. I know I didn’t permit what happened to me and that it was wrong. But when will I learn to accept that it doesn’t have to happen again and it doesn’t have to dictate the rest of my life? Is that what I fear? A neverending cycle of abuse? I suspect it might be.