200: Somatic Experiencing and Couples Therapy with Peter Levine

Welcome back to The Couples Therapist Couch! This podcast is about the practice of Couples Therapy. Each week, Shane Birkel interviews an expert in the field of Couples Therapy to explore all about the world of relationships and how to be an amazing therapist.

In this episode, we’re talking somatic experiencing and couples therapy with Peter Levine. Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and your other favorite podcast spots, and watch it on YouTube – follow and leave a 5-star review.

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The Couples Therapist Couch 200: Somatic Experiencing and Couples Therapy with Peter Levine

Find out more about the Couples Therapist Inner Circle: https://www.couplestherapistcouch.com/inner-circle-new

In this episode, Shane talks with Peter Levine about somatic experiencing and couples therapy. Peter is the Developer of Somatic Experiencing and the Bestselling Author of several books on trauma. His new autobiography comes out in April 2024. Hear what somatic experiencing is, where trauma comes from, how past individual trauma affects couples, the greatest gift we can give our partner, and why trauma doesn’t have to be a life sentence.

This episode covers everything from somatic experiencing to trauma. Here’s a small sample of what you will hear in this episode:

  • What's the story behind Peter's autobiography?
  • How do parents impact how we handle trauma?
  • What is somatic experiencing?
  • How do you get couples to work with each other better?
  • What makes relationships feel safe?
  • How important is it for therapists to do some of this work themselves?
  • What are unconscious nonverbal memories?
  • How does co-regulation work?

To learn more about Peter, visit SomaticExperiencing.com

For trainings, visit TraumaHealing.org

For Peter’s books, visit SomaticExperiencing.com/SE-Books

Check out the episode, show notes, and transcript below: 



 Show Notes


What is The Couples Therapist Couch?

This podcast is about the practice of Couples Therapy. Many of the episodes are interviews with leaders in the field of Relationships. The show is meant to help Therapists and Coaches learn how to help people to deepen their connection, but in the process it explores what is most needed for each of us to love, heal, and grow. Each week, Shane Birkel interviews an expert in the field of Couples Therapy to explore all about the world of relationships and how to be an amazing therapist.

Find out more about the Couples Therapist Inner Circle: https://www.couplestherapistcouch.com/inner-circle-new


Please note: this transcript is not 100% accurate.

Peter Levine 0:00
Trauma is a fact of life. And from it doesn't have to be a life sentence.

Intro VO 0:09
Welcome to The Couples Therapist Couch, the podcast for couples therapists, marriage counselors and relationship coaches to explore the practice of couples therapy. And now your host, Shane Birkel.

Shane Birkel 0:24
Everyone welcome back to The Couples Therapist Couch. This is the podcast that's all about the practice of couples therapy. I'm Shane Birkel. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, and I'm here to bring you the most up to date information on how to help people have a better relationship. So whether you're a therapist who's looking to learn more about working with couples, or a person who just wants to have better relationships, I'm hoping that this information will be valuable for you. I tried to bring on many of the leaders in the world of couples therapy for interviews. So if you're interested in this, definitely subscribe. And like the episode, I'd be really, really grateful for that. And if you're interested in the Couples Therapist Inner Circle, there's more information about that in the show notes. And you can click the link to find out more. So thank you so much. Please click subscribe. And I hope you enjoy the show. Everyone welcome back to The couples Therapist Couch. This is Shane Birkel. And today I'm speaking with Dr. Peter Levine, developer of somatic experiencing and author of several best-selling books on trauma. Hey, Peter, welcome to the show.

Peter Levine 1:32
Good to be with you.

Shane Birkel 1:33
Yeah, I'm really excited to talk with you about somatic experiencing today. But I'd love to start by hearing more about the new autobiography that you have coming out. Oh,

Peter Levine 1:43
okay. Well, in my elder years, I thought it was time for a reckoning with myself, to really delve into my life, what things have happened and what things were missing, and to kind of try to form a coherent narrative. So it's really an excavation just for me. And then a very good friend who read it said, Peter, you need to publish this as a book. And I said, I can't do it. It's too vulnerable. I mean, there are beautiful parts, but it's just, it's too revealing. And she said, Well, I really think about it. So a lot of times I do my thinking at night when I'm asleep, in the form of dreams. So in the dream, I've standing by an open field, and I have in my hand a bunch of sheets of pages that are typewritten manuscripts of some kind. And I look to the left and look to the right, and I just cannot decide what to do. So in my indecision of reads, a wind comes from behind me, it takes all of these pages, and lifts them into the air to land where they may. And then that was my decision that I will put this out, because I do and my my friends really reinforced this, that I think it's something that can really help people with their own healing. And so I then published it. And even though some very violent things have happened to me, involving the mafia, and so forth, in somatic experiencing, we don't go for the traumatic for, we really work around the periphery and connect with body experiences, which are very, which are, in a way the opposite of trauma. So for example, when I was writing this, this memory came up with my parents. When I was four years old. I, I woke in the morning, and at night, my parents had put a a Lionel train tracks all around underneath my bed and all the way into the room and then back underneath my bed again. And I woke up with such joy. And I just jumped out of bed and went to the transformer and change the speed and made the whistle go. And in that moment, I knew that I was cared about that I was loved. And I could feel that in my body. So that when I was beginning to work with this, this time of tremendous violence and life threat. I had a foundation for that as support for that. And so the book, I really hope I really believe really weaves back and forth with so many different things. I mean, many people know me, as you said, as the developer of somatic experiencing. But very few people almost no people, just a handful of people know anything about my history, and how my own personal Chiron the wounded healer was pivotal in developing somatic experiencing. So that basically, is the subtext of the book, An Autobiography of trauma healing journey, when I have a really strong belief that it will help the reader, excavate their own stories, and even write their own stories, so you can get it pre order it on Amazon or Barnes and Abel, Barnes and Noble. It's, though I'm just at first, I mean, I really just still had many apprehensions, and I have a little bit. But in the endorsements, a number of people I knew, and people in the field wrote such beautiful things about me and my work. And the book that I really felt their caring and their support. And again, that gave me more of an impetus. Yes, I'm ready to let these pages go fly in the wind and my hand where they may.

Shane Birkel 6:06
Yeah, and that's one of the things it's so beautiful about authors sharing their story, that it can be so helpful to other people. But it is so vulnerable and scary to put yourself out there in that way. So I'm really grateful that you are willing to do that, because I'm sure it'll be helpful to so many people out there. Oh, thank you. Yeah. Well, as you were talking about the experience that you had with your parents, as a child, you know, it's such a loving experience that helps you feel grounded. And oftentimes, I feel like when we're talking about people experiencing adversity in their life in the present day, oftentimes we talk about the difficult things that they went through and how that's informing what's going on in the present. But can you just talk a little bit more generally about somatic experiencing? Maybe for those listeners who aren't as familiar with

Peter Levine 7:02
it? Yeah, if somebody said, there is no present, there is no future. There's only the past replaying itself over and over again, I think those Faulkner said something like that. And it is, I mean, you know, many traumas, we have some memory of conscious memory, but many, probably even most are way down hidden in the in the unconscious realms, and the non verbal realms. And so how to work with those how to excavate those memories, those experiences, and bring them to a healing conclusion so that they can be put in the past, where they where they belong. And, you know, sometimes I just out of the blue, you know, we're at a party, and somebody introduces himself to us. And all of a sudden, we're just in an emotional state where writing or were at angry, we're at a body stiffens. But Where's that coming from? That usually doesn't have anything to do with that particular person, but something got triggered. Anyhow, these types of memories, again, as I say, are not conscious memories. They might be called body memories, or maybe even more accurately procedural memories. So for example, if we learn how to ride a bike, and we learn that just by having a parent or a sibling, older sibling with us, and supporting us as we moved, and then letting go, and then that's something that you never forget, like skiing, once you learn it, you know, it's still in your body, it's in your body memory. Those are positive things, other adaptive things. However, what happens when we're traumatized and our bodies react by stiffening and contracting and twisting? Well, that's very different. And those also last with us go with us for all of our lives, until we're able to complete those responses that were overwhelmed at the time. You know, Freud, I think, in a way said the one of the best definitions of trauma. That was before we got into this whole Oedipus stuff, that trauma is a breach and a protective barrier against stimulation, leading to overcome overwhelming feelings of helplessness. I would just change that a little bit. Trauma is happen happens when? When there's a breach in the protective Garrett barrier against over stimulation leading to feelings of overwhelming helplessness. And that's what trauma is about. And so many times when we're really enraged or helpless or collapsed, or stiff. That's not Do something in the present. Usually, it's something that may have happened years ago, maybe decades ago. So again, how to recognize them. When we're with a client. How does it show up? For example, in a therapy session?

Shane Birkel 10:16
Yeah. And can you? Based on that definition of trauma? Can you say how the trauma of neglect would fit with that? Yeah. Not feeling safe?

Peter Levine 10:26
Sure. Yeah. Again, again, neglect is about not feeling safe, because that's a big part. Yeah. But we are overwhelmed by those feelings of unsafety of being unprotected, that can be overwhelming, because, as you know, as mammals, when something like that can happen to us, we can can be killed, we can die. So we need that protection. And so, again, if we're feeling unsafe, even though it's due to neglect, it's good to not being overstimulated, but in a way, it evokes these feelings of threat and danger and eminent danger. So I think that we could say that, that neglect can be experienced like death, because it could be like that, in mammals or in primates. For example, if one youngster is put away from the group not allowed to, because he may have done something that was not acceptable. And unless he is able to find another tribe to connect with, which they usually not, they will die. So that lack of that ostracization, then the lack of neglect can be experienced, like a death, because it could be a death. So it's still fits in with that definition of trauma. But it's different is there different nuances and, and I think those are the difference, one of just being overwhelmed sort of by an external event, and then being overwhelmed by an internal event. I mean, in some ways, they're both internal. But you can see that you can compare and contrast. But they've, they're all traumatized, traumatic. And again, if we don't feel that sense of safety, then when we're threatened as, at a later time, it feels more devastating. But it's because of the earlier foundation. So and there's a lot of research on this right now, that basically our bonding and attachment experiences with our parents and caregivers, they make a very big difference in our susceptibility to trauma in our overall resilience and our capacity to rebound from traumatic events. And so again, that also fits in with that neglect. Question.

Shane Birkel 12:53
Yeah. So if I'm growing up with parents that are, provide me with a sense of safety and love and being cared for, and I go out into the world, and I experience some sort of trauma, then I have that sort of home base to go back to and to sort of process what happened and to feel safe. But if I don't have that, whether it's an abusive situation or neglectful situation that I have with my parents, then it makes it much more confusing, and I never have the ability to process what happened. And is that sort of how you would think about the impact of the parents in the situation?

Peter Levine 13:29
Oh, absolutely. Shane, I mean, you said spot on. I mean, there's really not that much I could even add to that, you know, that foundation will carry us through our lives. As I was talking a little bit about my autobiography, just knowing. And again, there's some research on this, if one person at one time really cared for you supported you, and you felt love from them, and caring, that can make the difference. Because otherwise, I don't think I could have faced some of the horrific things that happen from the mafia for many, many, several several years that went on, and eventually wound up my father because he refused to testify, because we would have been murdered, eventually went to prison. So this is a heart wrenching time from my a frightening time and a heart wrenching time. But again, going back and forth between some of those memories and that memory to a couple of memories again, of when I felt caring and felt love. I don't know if I would have survived it without that. And I think almost all people that are not in mental institutions, broke mental institutions have had someone at some time who cared about them and let them know that they were valued. So when you're ready thing with somebody and there's so much trauma, I think it's essential to kind of explore first, those things that let us know that we were not alone, that we were really. We were supported, we were cared for. We were in a word love.

Shane Birkel 15:20
Yeah, and this is why I think therapy can be so helpful for people because it's very confusing to make sense of what you're experiencing in the present. Sometimes I might be feeling angry, or afraid, or hurt or sad, or whatever, based on what's going on in the present day world. But, you know, have, it's not just as clear cut, as you know, I went through this trauma, and that's why I'm feeling this. It's like no, at times, I felt loved at times, there was trauma at times, there were a lot of different things happening. And it becomes very confusing to, to know how to make sense of what's going on, sometimes.

Peter Levine 15:57
Well, and again, how to stitch these together. So they they're not just remaining, its opposite. So you're able to hold together in one hand, the supportive, grounding, centering experiences of being careful, and the other hand that trauma, and you're able to kind of shift back and forth, you don't just go for one, or Despo for the other, or go for one and avoid the other or vice versa. It really, really is about holding them together. Because this has had a lot to do with how we developed as human beings.

Shane Birkel 16:35
So I'm curious, I was wondering if we could shift a little bit I feel like as we're talking, I'm thinking about so many relationships, situations that I see with couples, you know, where it's almost like when couples are in a state of stress, they start to feel that sense of that they're not safe, they start to feel like I really need this person to love me and care about me. And if if that's not what I'm feeling, then there's that feeling that it's not safe. And it can become very difficult to figure out why the relationship is doesn't feel like it's working.

Peter Levine 17:13
Yeah, I mean, first of all, I don't know how anybody can do couples therapy without some knowledge, or ability to deal with trauma when it when it comes up. Here's a specific example. number of years ago, 25 years ago, 20 to 25 years ago, I was asked by one of my students to see a couple that he she had been working with in couples therapy. And for I agree to do that. And the couple, the husband and wife came in. And you know, and of course we have the couples therapy couch, and they sat on the couch as far apart as they could possibly sit. And again, that's not something that's unusual to couples therapists, that say something about the dynamics of the you know, that relationship. But this was extreme. And again, if they could be other sides of the room, they probably would have been but they weren't as far away as possible. And I'm wondering what in the world is going on here, because the person who referred them was an excellent couples therapist. But I noticed something that was curious. They both had a scar that went across their throat. And I thought, well, maybe they had a thyroid condition that needed to be operated on. I didn't really realize what it was about at that moment. But then when I started to work, as we do in somatic experiencing with these unconscious, nonverbal memories, the following memories came up, though they were driving somewhere in their Volkswagen bus, and they came across a hitchhiker. And so they stopped, and the hitchhiker came in at the back of the VW bus, and they were in the front and they were driving. And then the person was totally crazy. And took a knife and slit both of their throats. I mean, and they were almost capacitated decapitated. Thankfully, they were just a few minutes from an emergency room and that saved their lives. So anytime that they got closer to each other, that memory reactivates as a body memory, so I've worked with each one of them individually while the other one was present in each work with that, you know with that the horror and terror of this And it was so rewarding. At the end of the session, they were just sitting together holding hands, looking at each other. And in a way falling in love again. So again, you could again, that's an extreme example. But it is an example of the kinds of things that make it difficult. So if we've had sexual trauma in our, in our life, well, it's very likely that when we then a couple of tries to be intimate or wants to be intimate, then instead the body stiffens, the breathing constricts. And they, they just then go into an avoidance pattern. And until you work with that, and heal some of that, then they're not going to be able to find the closest and even if they have conscious memories, or emotional memories, still their body's defense, and you have to work again with those body memories with those procedural memories, so that they don't stiffening and are so that they can connect. Sometimes when, you know, for example, a person relive the memory or understand the memory and has emotions about the memory, and then they still can't connect. I think they feel even more hopeless. And until you work with the body revulsion, the body memory of the revulsion, then they're not going to be able to connect. And so that's why I think that you I don't know, I mean, of course, there's some degree, there's normal run of the mill, you know, couples therapy. But so often there are traumatic events and body experiences that are keeping them from connecting with themselves connecting with each other, and being able to share a warm, connected embrace.

Shane Birkel 21:56
Yeah, and I'm wondering if we could get into that a little bit deeper, even as far as explaining what happens for people that, you know, they start off by sitting on separate ends of the couch. And then two hours later, they're feeling a sense of combat compassion for each other, and understanding and love for each other. And maybe, I mean, that was a shared experience. But I think, you know, oftentimes we see a dynamic where one partner A's trauma from childhood is coming up against partner partner B's trauma from childhood, and it creates this dynamic where both of them feel a lack of safety in their relationship. But when you work with them, what's happening that allows them to move into a more authentic understanding of what's going on?

Peter Levine 22:49
Yeah, well, I think the key the operative here is safety. And safety is not a mental concept. It's very much a bodily concept. And so if you feel unsafe in your body, everything in the world will seem unsafe, of course, including your partner. So how to go from trauma to safety. You know, trauma involves two main systems. One System is the fight or flight system. And the other system is the freeze and collapse system. And if we're stuck in either of those, then we absolutely do not feel safe. And so how to move from there to safety. And there are a number of types of exercises and so forth that I teach clients and work with, that they move from those those defensive responses to what my really dear friend, colleague, Steven Porges, calls the social engagement system. So we're not in fight or flight and we're not in freeze and shut down. Our default mode should be social engagement. We care we like to connect we want to connect with each other. I mean, even doing this on Zoom for me, you know, I'm getting to feel you a little bit I'm getting to know you a little bit and, and this brings a feeling of goodness and enjoyment. And, you know, when I started because of COVID doing more things online. At first, I felt very awkward about it. I was you know, I've said I just was it seems so unnatural to have to do this all online. But now I find that it's that it's relatively easy to be able to do that now. And, and to really feel that desire for connection. And I think once we are feeling safety in ourselves, we will want to reach for the other and if it's a couple of dynamic we will want to reach for the other half of Are couple and really desire contact, then Proventil contact eye contact. But again, remember, if on the other hand, were stuck in fear and fight or flight or shut down and freezing and shut down, we're not able to make that contact, it just is not possible, because we will not experience the safety that's necessary to have that connection, that social engagement, connection, it's, it just can't happen physiologically, it's not possible. So again, when you talking about couples work, you have an you have to look at least explore or see that possibility precede the possibility that there might be trauma operating here. And as couples therapists, you know, you may not be trained to work in this way with couples, but still, then you can refer them to do either one or both of them. That's to do both, to do individual sessions with a trauma informed therapist, hopefully a therapist that knows not to flood people with their traumas, but how to work gently to titrate to gently connect with some of those sensations and feelings. And then to come back into the, into the couples therapy. And again, when that happens, our natural our default mode is to connect. FM four said, connect only connect. And I think that's our basic drive, to connect to ourselves in wholeness, and connect to the other person in soft desire in wanting to open to that other to be with each other in an in an intimate way, in a connected intimate way. But again, if our body recoiled, where every time we start to make contact, that can happen. So we have to find safe safety enough. There's no such thing as absolute safety. I talk about relative safety, we we feel more safe than not safe. And that's what makes it possible to connect at that intimate level. That's at least that's my years of experience. Tell me before me. Yeah,

Shane Birkel 27:21
yeah, I want to share something about from my perspective, you can tell me if you disagree, or if you see it differently. But and along the lines of what you're saying, the way that I see it, is that I believe people have to take responsibility for their own safety, even in the context of a relationship meaning, you know, I love what you said earlier, as far as the other partner can be a compassionate witness for the work that one partner is doing about their own trauma. But that I want to guide that individual into compassion, let's say for their childhood self, who went through a traumatic experience, so that they can move into valuing themselves more, and showing up in their relationship as their adult self in a more intimate way, so that they aren't dependent on their partner for that safety, but that they will be a safer person to attach to if they are taking responsibility for themselves.

Peter Levine 28:24
I think the greatest gift that we can give to the other, the intimate other is that we can provide safety within ourselves that we can know ourselves in that that deep way. And when you have two couples or you know two parts of a couple that can do that for themselves. And then they can give that to each other, then again, that support that capacity for connection, you know, and to take responsibility for ourselves. If you break that word up, its response ability, the ability to respond in the here and now. And again, I think that's what all of us, I think really strive for in our lives and in our relationships.

Shane Birkel 29:23
Yeah, that's great. And you mentioned something earlier about the unconscious nonverbal memories. And I'm wondering how you work with that or if it is it necessary for people to have to bring things up to the consciousness, or is it possible to help people without going there?

Peter Levine 29:47
No. I mean, I don't think so. I mean, it depends how you go there, of course, but I think you know, at some level they will always interfere with our attacks. judgment capacity. And it will come up in the relationship and how many people meet somebody, and they say, this is the relationship, this is the person I want to be with the rest of my life. And then some months later, it's like, Oh, my God, this is happening again, you know, that song by Bob Dylan? Oh, mama, could that really be the end to be locked inside a mobile with the Memphis blues again. So we find that our, our belief, our initial hope for safety with that person gets dashed. And you then need to look for where is that coming from? That's not that person didn't change in the few months from when you met them in the first time and fell in love. That something that got triggered in you, and probably something in you, that got triggered in them. So again, if we're not committed to doing our own work, then I think we're limited in the capacity for connection and social engagement.

Shane Birkel 31:13
Yeah, that's great. And so if something is nonverbal, does that have to do with slowing them down and having a move into their body and experience Yeah, emotions, of whatever's coming up.

Peter Levine 31:27
Yeah, experience the emotions, but even more so experienced the sensations. And again, in somatic experiencing, we don't just dive into the emotions and the difficult sensations, we touch into them. And we are we our fear is that we'll contract but we will a little bit. But if you're, we're guided, there's a contraction. And that's followed by an expansion, and then a contraction and followed by an expansion. And I think, when we're guided to do that, then we don't feel stuck anymore. Here, I have this little like thing here is called the whole atmosphere. And so when people first touch into their trauma, or to into their difficult sensations, there is a contraction, and most of the time we fight against that contraction, but that just keeps it stuck. So if we're guided to just touch into this sensation, then it will move into an expansion, and then another contraction, and then a greater expansion, and another little expansion and a great contraction and a greater expansion. So again, I think it's really one of the things that somatic experiencing, is adamant about, is that we don't plunge into the trauma. Because, you know, I mean, one of the things about somatic experiencing, is it really helps people do better what they do, to do, how they do what they do. So we train people in all different forms of psychotherapy and psychiatry, but also people who are doing bodywork or other kinds of healing work. So I think that these are tools that can be used by anybody, and can be used by couples therapist, you know, one of the things that I unabashedly could recommend, is to take at least the first 12 days of the training, the first level of the training, because then you'll have some of those basic tools of how to track people, where they are how to observe that in their bodies as you and you interact with them, or as they interact with each other. You can go well to the Trump, somatic experiencing.com website, there's also connection to the trauma healing.org where those trainings are in where they're given, they're given in many, like 44 different countries. So it's usually fairly easy to find the training. And I say just do the the that first year that first semester. And then of course, that most people get addicted to it, addicted and then take, they want to continue it with that work. So it's a pretty extensive training. But again, just to do that, so you learn these basic skills of perception, and it will help you in your psychotherapy, it will also help us in our relationships. Because when we say that our our partner is going into a place where they're stuck in their bodies, we can just and just stay there, be centered and grounded and present ourselves and just say non verbally and even verbally. Dearest Sweetheart, I'm right here with you. I'm right here to give you support. And if you can just tell me what you think that you need. I will try to provide that. So again, if we've got I'm listing ourselves, that is the gift that we can share with each other. And I think if there's anything that I want to say about couples salary therapy, it really is just this, that it's about the capacity to co regulate. But that's difficult if we weren't co regulated as, as, as babies, infants and babies. It's something we skill, it's really what it is, it's a skill. And we can learn that in doing some kind of therapy work, especially something like somatic experiencing, where we learn how to do this, when we work with our partners in the class, how to co regulate had to had to be regulated, or helpfully to be regulated, and on the other hand, to then learn how to self regulate it. And that's kind of the normal development for, you know, going from infants, to babies to toddlers. And then to, you know, we we start first heart, with needing the capacity to co regulate, because we can't regulate ourselves, infants can't do that, if they're cold, they can't put on a sweater, they can cry and yell. And the parent hopefully is attuned to that enough, and then just call them and, you know, put and see if they, you know, if they need some comfort along those lines, the infant cannot self regulate, they have to learn that from the caregiver, to learn how to co regulate first and then to be supported to learn how to self regulate and to use the SE tools, somatic experiencing tools, to do exactly that, to learn how to self regulate, to be reflected within other but then to learn how to self regulate. And again, I think this is the greatest gift that we can give to the other is to be there present, enough for them to use us to co regulate, and then to learn how to self regulate. I maybe I'm being redundant here. But I think it's such an important thing to learn that if we're not aware of that as a possibility, we could easily kind of go past it and not attend to it and not really even know that it's happening that that need is there.

Shane Birkel 37:28
Now, that's great. That's great. I'm wondering how important you think it is for therapists themselves to do some of this work in order to serve the clients they work with?

Peter Levine 37:42
Oh, my gosh, shame, we have to do our own work. That's one of the things that I tried to make clear in the autobiography of trauma, that we have to, you know, those of us who are attracted, attracted to the healing professions, most have at least some significant trauma in their lives, or we'd be doing something else. And to see this as an opportunity to be able to do our own, do our own work. I think I mentioned there's an archetype of Chiron, which is the wounded healer. And so some parts of my book are really about this, how I came to peace with my wounding, and how I was able to use that healed wounding to help others heal their wounds. So yeah, we have to do our own work, as therapists, we owe it to our clients, if nothing else to do our own work. I mean, I don't see how people can be therapists without doing their own work. I mean, yeah, I mean, I suppose there are some kinds of therapy where you don't have to do so much your own work, but even there, it may be marginal, but say if you're doing cognitive work, and that can be useful, but it's certainly not going to take care of the traumatic residue, that we are often carrying it. Again, I think in order to be there, we have to be there for ourselves. And then we have the possibility of being there with the other and being able to hold those hold that space together with them. So yeah, as therapists, you have to do our own work, we have to do our own work. And, you know, and for me, right, frankly, therapy is a necessary luxury. You know, people ask, well, something like I hear do you do therapy, or something like that, or? And I say, yes, absolutely. I do therapy, you know, almost all the time. I'm doing some kind of therapy because I'm having somebody reflect to me what's going on in my life and what might be troubling me, and feeling and being held emotionally by that person. So I worked with somebody here who does really good attachment work. So I'm always working on my attachment, we all are always working out our attachment issues. And then I teach quite a bit in Switzerland, Simon Zurich a lot of the time. And so of course, I worked with a youngin, 86 year old woman who's really just delightful. And so we'll work with dreams or even work with the eaching. And, you know, even though I don't see her that often, because I'm teaching, and I'm not in town, a lot of the times, I really look forward to that to that kind of support. And that feeling of feeling safe enough, adequately enough to bring your wife might be difficult to bring up. Shame, for example, is a very difficult word to work with, for for, for all of us for individuals. But I've seen it even watching videos in supervision, the posture of shame starts to come up with the person, and that the therapist deflects them away from dealing with the shame, because of their own unresolved shame issues. So again, there are so many things, we really have to clear on our own work. So we don't, we don't need to fear with our capacity to do therapy with with our patients or with our clients. It's, it's, it's absolutely necessary, and it enriches our lives. And again, it's like in my therapy, I don't really work with traumatic material, per se, because I've done a lot of that work. And in the autobiography, I talked about one of my students helping me work with this terror with this horrific trauma, and how I'm able to put that in the past and really go forward in my life. Because otherwise, that was holding me back. But of course, you never know, when a trauma might come up. But you know, when it does come up, sometimes it's in a dream. And the dream is actually as a specific memory of a medical procedure that I had many, many, many, many years ago in my 20s. And I just woke up and I said, Oh, my goodness, that's great. It looks like I just got the final residue of that. And it's really gone. It's really back there. And I can think about it if I wanted, but there's no charge to it. So I don't know what your question was. But no,

Shane Birkel 42:43
that's great. I completely agree. You know, I'm just so grateful for this conversation. I know, we're getting close to the end of the time. And I think I think that all couples therapist should have some background and trauma. So I'm so grateful that you mentioned that the training that the level one training that people could take advantage of. And I'll make sure I put a link to that in the show notes and register to put a link to your book in the show notes. Any anything else that you'd like to mention for people? Well,

Peter Levine 43:14
I think on that website, there are a number of my books. The first book I wrote, was waking the tiger healing trauma. I wrote that in 92. It eventually got published in 96. And that's that's been a big bestseller. And then my book in an unspoken voice how the body releases trauma and restores goodness. And then more recently, trauma and memory, brain and body in the search of a living past.

Shane Birkel 43:41
Yeah. Well, thank you so much. I'm just so grateful for all your work over the decades to the field of psychotherapy. Thank you so much for coming on and talking about this. Anything else? Any final thoughts before we end for today?

Peter Levine 43:56
Okay, here's one. Trauma, it is a fact of life. And trauma. It doesn't have to be a life sentence. And I believe that deeply in my soul in my experience in my learning over the many decades.

Shane Birkel 44:18
Well, thank you so much, Dr. Levine. Hopefully we can catch up again at some point in the future. Thank you so much, everybody for watching the show. I'm Shane Birkel, and this is the couples therapist couch podcast, a podcast. It's all about the practice of couples therapy. If you enjoy the show, please hit subscribe, please hit the like button. And you can continue to get all of the most up to date information in the world of couples therapy. If you are some therapists who's interested in learning more about the practice of therapy or if you're someone who just wants to learn more about how to have a good relationship, definitely hit subscribe so you can get all the latest episodes. Thank you so much. and also if you're interested in the Couples Therapist Inner Circle, you can click on the link in the show notes but thank you so much for for watching. I'm Shane Birkel. This is The Couples Therapist Couch.


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