Waking the Tiger - Part two
Peter Levine speaks of healing trauma in humans in his book Waking the Tiger, and while I have personally found his methods very transformational, I have also been able to extrapolate his theories when working with anxious or reactive animals. When we or our animal friends experience trauma it builds up in the body, it becomes a physical embodiment of the pain, stress, or fear. Levine guides his clients through a meditation that creates an imaginary situation where the feeling similar to the trauma is experienced, however it is concluded through a release within this imaginary situation.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Levine’s example: you are running from a tiger in the woods, you are panicked and fearful. But then you are directed to climb a tree, and after a moment, the tiger decides to leave you alone. You feel the relief, the calm, the emotional build up has the time to release, to be let go and replaced with comfort.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
It can be difficult to guide our dogs through an imaginative meditation because their brains work differently to ours, but what we can do is supply a release of the same energy felt at the origin of the trauma. If our dog is reactive and spots another dog on the beach they begin to feel fear, stress, and it builds, entering their body as they are on high alert. By bringing your dogs attention away from the object of their fear, and having them express this built up energy through a trick, a fully extended sprint, or redirecting to a toy we can provide a release of the emotional experience they have felt. With repetition, depending on how engrained the trauma is, we can help our animals feel their emotional experience and trauma has been concluded, and isn’t hiding around every corner.