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Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  4,864 ratings  ·  379 reviews
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 traumatic symptoms, the mystery of hu ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published July 7th 1997 by North Atlantic Books
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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 evide…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)

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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
Jul 16, 2015 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 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Okay, consider my mind blown. And that's not easy to do.

It's especially difficult when starting off with such an unfortunate title (which evokes nothing quite so much as the beleaguered Ralph Macchio's dojo). Add to this the author's trademark of his treatment method - meaning every time he mentions the name it comes up in the text with a registration symbol. (Cue jazz hands and a laser spot.) Top it off with the sad truth that metaphors are not his friends. Be it myth, the environment or the an
Feb 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology, trauma
I love the hero's 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. Levine's book was a useful discussion on healing trauma. Don't expect a lot of "inspiring" stories or case examples like psychology books often contain.

Clash of the Titans

Peter Levine made an explicit connection between trauma, and in this case, the tale of the hero Perseus a
Jan 27, 2010 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
Michael Shore
Jul 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
I recommend reading “The Body Keeps the Score” instead.
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
ben adam
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: trauma-studies
Okay, I am going to be honest because I know a lot of people were stoked on this book, but I really did not enjoy it. I know it was written to be accessible and comprehensible for non-experts, but he cites nothing at all as proof for his central tenets. The basic summary is that trauma is not just a psychological experience resolved by changing thoughts and emotions but a full-body, physiological experience that requires full-body interactions in order to heal. This is the only good part of the ...more
Eddie Black
Jan 09, 2009 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
Kate Collins
Jun 23, 2011 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. ...more
Nov 03, 2011 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
Apr 06, 2016 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
Jul 22, 2012 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
Dec 19, 2012 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
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.
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Though I've read several books on trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, and methods for processing trauma, I felt this book added some new perspectives while containing enough overlap and grounding with past work to be trustworthy (as opposed to, e.g, the cottage industry of self-help style books on trauma). After some brief background on types and origins of trauma and a helpful illustration of how trauma is processed (and cleared) in animals, the author explains how uncleared trauma is uniqu ...more
Daniel  Potts
May 22, 2019 rated it did not like it
Speculative and insubstantial Waking the Tiger is a maddeningly imprecise account of trauma and its causes. The author stitches together poorly explained scientific concepts and new-age/psychodynamic theories to produce a confused and unconvincing pastiche. The writing is convoluted, obtuse, and worst of all repetitive. The jist of the book could have been well explained in 1000 words, but Levine torments us for nearly 300 pages. It may in some sense be true that, as Levine argues, the symptoms ...more
Mar 20, 2007 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.
May 02, 2019 rated it liked it
I learned some things about trauma that felt validating. But I’m a bit skeptical of the treatment process proposed. Seems a bit wackadoo.
Phil Jensen
Jul 31, 2020 rated it it was ok
First of all, check out Rachel's review for a better explanation of the problems with this book:

My personal experience with this book:

I read the intro and prologue first. Here are some red flags:

*Levine says his approach blends science with "oriental" wisdom. I prefer my science to be blended with more science. How do I assess the quality of the science? I check the works cited. This book has none. This is an entire "scientific" book with no works cited s
Jan 23, 2021 added it
Read at the recommendation of my therapist.

• the idea that people come out of trauma stronger/more resilient is implying that people need to be traumatized to get there. I disagree with every fibre of my being. People DO NOT need to be traumatized to become more aware, more in touch or just a better person overall.

• I do agree that somatic experiencing can help the body get out of the hyper-arousal state and “renegotiate” the trauma once it has been experienced.

• I learned much about the cycl
Jan 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure how to sum this one up. I appreciate so much about the book: explanations of the hypothetical way that trauma can become stuck in the body, how animals release trauma and how humans can block this process, how finding the root cause or memory is not necessary in order to allow trauma to complete its energetic cycle and discharge, and even how trying to determine a memory of the root cause can be harmful.

But I also felt that I wish there had been more scientific footnotes/evidence, t
Ben Rogers
Aug 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really good.

Powerful read.

Great clinically, lacks empathy. I wish for greater value for one’s entire narrative as much as is given to the body and symptoms.
Bastard Travel
Dec 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's an excellent and insightful book on the topic of trauma therapy. The gold standard of current PTSD treatment is the acknowledgement that the body keeps the score. That's why PTSD flashbacks are so visceral. The refrain is, "It's like I'm back there, in that moment", and as far as the body is concerned, you are. The evolutionary perspective justifies this both in the understanding that we are animals operating on primitive mammalian hardware, and in the body's reasoning that whatever it was ...more
Lance Greenfield
Aug 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
There was much in this book that resonated with me. Some of my personal life experiences, good as well as bad, run parallel to the case studies that Levine cites.

He examines trauma in great detail and talks about animal reactions to danger: the commonly discussed fight or flight and the less discussed freeze. You may have seen this in wildlife documentaries or even have witnessed it for yourself. When a prey is chased and caught by a scary predator, it might freeze and ‘play dead’. The predator
Feb 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
There is so much to absorb in Waking the Tiger, especially if you're new to how trauma is stored in the body. I understood this process better after I read Gabor Mate's work on addiction or Mona Delahook's work on behaviors associated with trauma. ...more
Feb 29, 2008 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. ...more
Phi Unit
Apr 14, 2020 rated it liked it
I thought this would be a timely read, but just couldn’t find much value from it
David Gamble
Holy crap, what an amazing book! I want to give this a million stars! If only I didn't have a personal standard against 5 stars for books including contributions to racism and white supremacy.

A book like this is hard to leave a review on. As an author, I know Goodreads and Amazon reviews are the two most important factors in determining book sales. A book like this, which is excellent in it's field but also falls into pitfalls common to the field probably without the author's awareness, are tou
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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

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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.” 16 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.” 7 likes
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