Excerpted from Feel to Heal: Releasing Trauma Through Body Awareness and Breathwork Practice
By Giten Tonkov
In the fight-or-flight process, even if we triumph over a threat, we come face-to-face with danger. The danger can be real or imagined. It can be very sudden or long-term. Regardless, in the moment of activation, we survive thanks to our innate and learned strengths, our support systems, and our comforts. If we’re suffering with residual trauma, it might not feel like our strengths are strong enough—but they do exist. They are tools in the toolbox. They might be literal, figurative, emotional, mental, physical, physiological, or spiritual, and they are with us every day. Employed intentionally, these tools help us to structure both a trauma-release session and, with practice, a trauma-free life.
In BBTRS, we call these tools “resources,” and we use the word “resource” as both a noun and a verb. Resourcing is calling into play anything or anyone that supports our well-being. Active or passive, internal or external, resources can be people, nature, pets, dance, music, art, a feeling, exercise, physical touch, a scent, a memory, and a million other things, ideas, or actions. Once we’re adept at identifying what resources might be useful on a given day or in a given situation, they can come to our aid at a moment’s notice in other situations. In Waking the Tiger, somatic expert Peter Levine writes, “the resources that enable a person to succeed in the face of a threat can be used for healing. This is true not just at the time of the experience, but even years after the event.”i This means that resources can become lifelines. They can help us “just get through” a situation, and they can literally save our lives. Therefore, it’s difficult to overstate the importance of understanding how to identify and utilize resources.
When we put our attention to the subject, resourcing can seem kind of obvious. And part of it is. Most of us resource all the time—we take a deep breath when we’re frustrated; we take walks to clear our minds; we hug a friend or partner when we’re sad. Our natural tendency to call upon resources is built in. However, the process of learning how to call upon these resources deftly, quickly, and easily is learned.
In this day and age, we’re used to technology, conveniences, constant streams of information and products. We’re simply not used to delving into our innate resources, our animal instincts. “What we need to do to be freed from our symptoms and fears is to arouse our deep physiological resources and consciously utilize them,” Levine writes.ii To expand our natural resourcing capabilities, we think critically about what supports us in our lives—and then we do more of that. We buy a bigger toolbox and fill it with more tools. By looking around us, Levine says we can take stock of our starting points:
- Life context—family, friends, general health and fatigue, ongoing stress, nutrition
- Physical characteristics—genetic resiliency, physical strength, fitness, age, physiological development and resiliency
- Learned capabilities—life experiences that define our familiarity and coping abilities with various situations
- Self-confidence—our personal sense of our capacity to cope or defend ourselves, which might or might not relate to existing resources.iii
By taking an honest look at our lives, we can begin to assess what we have “on our side.” If we instantly say, “if I only had ____, I could feel stronger,” then we know the first place to bulk up. If our physical bodies are not healthy, or if we have physiological deficits that invite stress, then we can consider ways to either strengthen our bodies or work around our weaknesses. If we find our social network to be a little sparse, then we can consider ways to grow our human connections. If we feel “unable,” or “incompetent,” then we practice whatever skills need reinforcement. Just like anything else we’ve learned to do—a sport, a job, playing the piano—with attention, we get better.