Published in HoneyColony

What if trauma was biological and treating it on a mental level was as futile as psychokinesis? Therapist Peter Levine got the idea when he first observed a deer narrowly survive a lion attack. The deer froze, then shook and twitched, until it was back on its feet. This reflex is called tonic immobility, also known as playing dead, and it is an evolutionary instinct designed to maximize the survival odds of a prey. Levine proposed that it was also the animal’s way to process the trauma.

Humans share the same instinct, but are too self-conscious to shake and twitch in shopping malls, so instead they try to subjugate the trauma with pills, booze, or talk (read: psychotherapy). Result: depression, anxiety, and a host of other DSM-5 index words.

In Levine’s world, trauma doesn’t limit itself to war veterans with PTSD, any childhood abandonment issue is ripe material. The trigger is different for each of us and may be relatively easy to jostle, judging by the recent mental health statistics in the United States.

Levine proposes to heal trauma, whether it originates in the battlefield or the crib, by helping the subject relive the suppressed physical sensations associated with tonic immobility. In other words, you get to shake it off legitimately while your brain processes the responses that it was unable to process while under the trauma.

A suppressed volcano of mimetic energy erupts as you release the physical component and the trauma is released. Zing! Magic—or sufficiently advanced technology to be indistinguishable from science?