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Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma: The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  2,293 Ratings  ·  163 Reviews
Nature's Lessons in Healing Trauma...

Waking the Tiger offers a new and hopeful vision of trauma. It views the human animal as a unique being, endowed with an instinctual capacity. It asks and answers an intriguing question: why are animals in the wild, though threatened routinely, rarely traumatized? By understanding the dynamics that make wild animals virtually immune to
Paperback, 288 pages
Published July 7th 1997 by North Atlantic Books (first published 1997)
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Jessica Levine defines traumatization as a debilitating state of distress, lasting weeks to years which interferes with normal physical functioning. The…moreLevine defines traumatization as a debilitating state of distress, lasting weeks to years which interferes with normal physical functioning. The evidence for his observation that animals do not remain in such states would be in their observable return to normal activities moments after a life threatening event. I suppose his evidence is available to anyone who would like to observe wild animals.

Levine is not suggesting that he knows what is going on in the minds of wild animals. He is saying that it is clearly observable that they return to normal functions and activities within minutes of near death experiences. How they feel once restored to their physical faculties is not being discussed. Trauma is what happens when a person is unable to function due to prolonged mental/emotional anguish. Animals return to functioning and so are natural teachers in how to do that.(less)

Community Reviews

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Totally idiotic, condescending, and insulting. Levine's central premises - that the body plays an important role in trauma, and that common events such as medical procedures and accidents can have psychological effects similar to those of severe trauma - are both true and important, but he reaches them by denying the lived experiences of trauma survivors at every turn. I finished this book shaking with anger.

Assorted rebuttals and points of disagreement:

- Actually, contrary to what Mr. Levine sa
Feb 02, 2016 Kerry rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
I love the hero tale. A quick glance of my other reviews will confirm as much. But I also believe those wonderful tales perform a valuable purpose. They can provide guidance for difficult transitions through the use of symbols and metaphor. In this instance, I picked up Levine's work because it had Medusa.

Clash of the Titans

Peter Levine makes an explicit connection between trauma, and in this case, the tale of the hero Perseus and the Gorgon Medusa. When Levine speaks of trauma it is a buffet of any trauma the wor
Jan 27, 2010 Nathaniel rated it really liked it
“Waking the Tiger” advances Peter Levine’s hopeful theory that trauma has been badly misunderstood and mistreated in Western Culture. He uses numerous examples from the animal kingdom along with case studies of his own patients to argue that people can make a complete and healthy recovery from trauma by somatically renegotiating their traumatic experience. He emphasizes that “somatic experiencing” is not re-enactment—an approach that he is skeptical about, at best. His contention is that the tre ...more
Jul 16, 2015 Polaris rated it it was ok
I have rather mixed feelings about this book. Being an asshole, I'll start with the negative ones.

On the downside, this book is not well written. Sometimes the tone is downright condescending.

Then there's the issue of credibility. The author bases his views on his practice as therapist. He really does that to the max: there are almost no references to psychological science. No footnotes or endnotes. Typically, when another book is quoted, that book is a work of fiction. I take no issue in takin
Nov 03, 2011 Cole rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Almost everyone
Recommended to Cole by: Maeghann Alder
Shelves: non-fiction
I think just about anyone could benefit from reading the first four chapters of this book. This offers a refreshing, biological-based look at trauma and its after-effects, while dispelling many of the myths that surround trauma and PTSD in Western psychology today. This is a book that actually could change certain peoples' lives for the better.
I like that the author writes in simple, layman's language. He tells you what methods of therapy do not work, and why they do not work, and also tells you
Kate Collins
Jun 23, 2011 Kate Collins rated it it was amazing
If you or anyone you care about has suffered a severe shock or been under enormous stress, there are many ways their traumas will come out if not dealt with adequately. This book helped me tremendously after my husband passed away suddenly. I didn't understand that some symptoms appear months after the fact, and doctors didn't know what to do with me other than hand me prescriptions. This book changed my thinking and therefore my approach to dealing with the grief. I highly recommend it.
Eddie Black
Jan 09, 2009 Eddie Black is currently reading it
1/2 way through. I am left wondering what exactly this 'energy' is that Levine writes about. If it is indeed some sort of energy, then can we find a scanner to find it? Or is it instead not an increase in any type of energy per se (like there is no more water in a pipe system) but that the body isn't regulating the energy any better (the valves are out of sync). The first is that if it is indeed an increase in some form of energy then we can look for it and find it in scans. If it is not a form ...more
Rabbit {Paint me like one of your 19th century gothic heroines!}
Rating: 4.5

Review to come.

This was a very unique healing from trauma book. It takes another look at PTSD and other forms of anxiety/panic disorders, and gives us other tools along with our therapy/medication. I believe this will be great help to me, personally.
Steve Woods
This is an outstanding piece of work. It was published in 1997 and I added it to my reading list in 2011 and it has sat on my shelf for over two years. Just the luck of the draw I suppose, but in reading it my one disappointment is that I didn't do so years ago. I have struggled my way through the effects of a severely abusive childhood and combat related ptsd derived from service in two wars, and no doubt I have made great progress at relieving some of the more radical symptoms from which I hav ...more
Jul 22, 2012 Michael rated it it was amazing
The book is written by Peter Levine with Ann Frederick. I find this book fascinating, and it has helped me to see that I have been sometime in my childhood (probably) traumatized because I have these four common symptoms: hyperarousal, constriction, dissociation, and helplessness. I hope to begin therapy soon with someone who has been trained in "Somatic Experiencing," which was devised by Levine. More later, when I finish the book!

I have now (8-11-12) finished the book and have talked with a c
Feb 29, 2008 James rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Trauma survivors and helping professionals
A great book, both practical and inspiring, on an underused approach to healing trauma. This has a lot in common with other holistic treatment approaches that address the physiological/neurological along with the mental and emotional parts of a person's makeup. It is strong in both practice, what has worked for this clinician and his clients, and a theory that makes sense of why it works. I recommend this strongly for both trauma survivors with PTSD and clinicians who are working with them.
Narda Martine
Dec 19, 2012 Narda Martine rated it really liked it
this book was given to me by my therapist many years ago and helped me greatly in understanding the effects that trauma had on my body that i had been unable to shake off such as hypervigilance. looking at the way animals deal with traumatic experiences such as being pinned down by lions and being able to just walk away and shake it off allowed greater understanding of how we have lsot this ability as humans. good read for anyone with PTSD or unresolved grief
Mar 20, 2007 Brandt rated it it was amazing
This book offers remarkable insight into the most important challenge our century faces: trauma. Wedding a naturalistic perspective with an understanding of the neuroscience of trauma reveals a unique approach to the resolution of the sequelae of overwhelming experience. This book has influenced many other theorists and clinicians treating post-trauamtic stress disorder, and yet is perfectly accessible to the layman.
What constitutes trauma? Go ask your nervous system.
The Audible narration was terrible, but fortunately I had the kindle option as well. The author brought a lot of knowledge from the Somatic Experiencing perspective. I enjoyed the parallels between the animal experience of trauma and the human animal experience of trauma, or rather, "the organism's" experience. The author's repetitive referring to the experiences of "the organism" was off-putting. I get it, we are all animals.
Mar 25, 2011 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: survival, therapy, trauma
I have been looking for a book like this for a while. Most of us have become estranged from a very powerful part of ourselves. Although not all of this material was new to me, I really liked the way it was organized and presented here.

Why do some people survive seemingly extreme traumatic experiences relatively unscathed while others emerge with deep psychological scars? Furthermore, why do some people experience more routine and seemingly benign events as traumatic and debilitating? Is it possi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Erin Drake
Mar 21, 2010 Erin Drake rated it it was ok

Peter Levine has worked with traumatized people for over 25 years as a counselor and mentor as well as earned doctorates in Psychology and Medical and Biological Physics. His interests and education are evident in his straightforward work Waking the Tiger in which he weaves complex biological concepts into practical explanations of how trauma is experienced in the body.
In his book, author Peter Levine argues that not only can psychic trauma be healed, human beings possess the instinctual capac
Apr 06, 2016 James rated it it was ok
As with literally any subject involving human emotion, there are very few clear answers and if someone offers a simple solution to any deeply complex emotional problem, the solution is usually only partially helpful under very particular circumstances.

In Waking the Tiger, Levine offers the opinion that all trauma is simply a disruption of a very instinctual process of handling extreme stress. You either fight, run, or freeze and it's the freezing Levine is most focused on. He explains that if y
Ana Gonzalez
Aug 03, 2015 Ana Gonzalez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essay, psychology
We tend to identify trauma with terrible events like accidents or war, but there is no much information about the real effects of a trauma.
This book is based on an energetic vision of trauma. It is based on the reactions of animals in the wild, and the complex relation between our reptile, mammal and rational brain, each one reacting in different ways to the effects of a traumatic event.
The premise is the trauma is created by the energy that, in the wild, is released by animals after the event i
Jan 20, 2017 Josie rated it it was amazing
Where is Van der Kolk's "The Body Keeps the Score" is highly scientific and evidence-based, this book is practical and pragmatic. The emphasis in this book is on Somatic Experiencing, not EMDR, but these two authors are in constant dialogue with each other on best practices for healing trauma.

This book provided concrete ways to identify markers of trauma in my students and clients and practical tips to bring them back into their bodies and into the room when they are experiencing hyper-vigilance
Jos-Madelaine Standing
Dec 17, 2012 Jos-Madelaine Standing rated it really liked it
This read is both practical and imaginative. Dr Peter Levine shows both the inexperienced in science and health studies, the Counselor, and the Therapist how to enrich their skills for helping Self and others. I was amazed by how accessible the information and exercises are for anyone seeking self-empowerment.
Debra Roinestad
Jul 27, 2012 Debra Roinestad rated it it was amazing
Excellent! A wonderful understanding of trauma and the journey of healing. Dr. Peter Levine has been studying trauma and healing for over 40 years. Trauma and suffering is indeed curable through Somatic Experiencing.
Mar 02, 2009 Maureen rated it it was ok
Some interesting research and ideas regarding healing trauma. Most of the book was repetitive and the argument was often convoluted and incomprehensible--much of it seemed just a rehash of psych 101 rather than the big psychology breakthrough it claims. I was disappointed.
May 05, 2008 Bridgett rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
This book went into detail about the fight, flight, and freeze responses and the physiological effects of trauma (such as hypervigilance). I related to it well.
Feb 20, 2011 Kipbob rated it did not like it
I learned one thing: Use your "felt sense" to quiet trauma symptoms. But I wanted a clearer description on how to do so. He beat around the bush, did not clearly describe the process.
Jul 22, 2012 Judy rated it really liked it
Shelves: work-related
Trying to get past the "immobilizing" and anxiety symptoms induced by past work experiences at work. This book best explains the symptoms and I hope to learn from it.
Enrique López Mañas
Oct 30, 2016 Enrique López Mañas rated it it was ok
The book states a few fair points:

- Body-mind connection, generally disregarded in psychiatry.
- Remark of the freeze strategy as an addition to the fight-escape strategy, which is as well overlooked in most of the behavior theories.

Did not like:
-Lack of academic references, and basing only the theory on Lavine experience dealing with victims of trauma. Without any academic references the book turns out to be a fictional book.
- Many myths and spiritual paragraphs I do not expect in a scientific b
Jun 11, 2017 P L rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Seems very right. Thx thx.

Thank you. It helps. It gives me a way forward. Hope this book gonna help some of u too. Submit.
Ekin Koyuncu
May 09, 2017 Ekin Koyuncu rated it it was amazing
Everyone should read Waking the Tiger, at least once in their lives
Oct 14, 2016 Chelsea rated it really liked it
This is a great book for people needing to connect, begin their healing experiences, and overcome trauma. However, it is poorly written and at times can be quite condescending so read with a grain of salt and take what you need out of it to heal your past trauma.
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Peter A.Levine, Ph.D. is the originator and developer of Somatic Experiencing® and the Director of The Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute. He holds doctorate degrees in Medical Biophysics and in Psychology. During his thirty five-year study of stress and trauma, Dr. Levine has contributed to a variety of scientific and popular publications.

Dr. Levine was a stress consultant for NASA during the
More about Peter A. Levine...

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“Resilient strength is the opposite of helplessness. The tree is made strong and resilient by its grounded root system. These roots take nourishment from the ground and grow strong. Grounding also allows the tree to be resilient so that it can yield to the winds of change and not be uprooted. Springiness is the facility to ground and ‘unground’ in a rhythmical way. This buoyancy is a dynamic form of grounding. Aggressiveness is the biological ability to be vigorous and energetic, especially when using instinct and force. In the immobility (traumatized) state, these assertive energies are inaccessible. The restoration of healthy aggression is an essential part in the recovery from trauma. Empowerment is the acceptance of personal authority. It derives from the capacity to choose the direction and execution of one’s own energies. Mastery is the possession of skillful techniques in dealing successfully with threat. Orientation is the process of ascertaining one’s position relative to both circumstance and environment. In these ways the residue of trauma is renegotiated.” 9 likes
“Every trauma provides an opportunity for authentic transformation. Trauma amplifies and evokes the expansion and contraction of psyche, body, and soul. It is how we respond to a traumatic event that determines whether trauma will be a cruel and punishing Medusa turning us into stone, or whether it will be a spiritual teacher taking us along vast and uncharted pathways. In the Greek myth, blood from Medusa’s slain body was taken in two vials; one vial had the power to kill, while the other had the power to resurrect. If we let it, trauma has the power to rob our lives of vitality and destroy it. However, we can also use it for powerful self-renewal and transformation. Trauma, resolved, is a blessing from a greater power.” 4 likes
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