Judith Herman, in her Trauma and Recovery (1992) summarizes the discovery and treatment of PTSD in the 20th centuy, as it had to fight its way through the blindness of culture. The discovery started in World War I through Abram Kardiner’s identificaion of “shell shock” and “combat neurosis” (completely rejected by military culture), continued after World War II through Kardiner’s repeated identification of war trauma (still not accepted culturally), and finally came to maturity in the alliance between anti-Vietnam War activity and the study of domestic abuse in the 1970s. This all resulted in the inclusion of PTSD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of 1984.
Convergent with these developments was the discovery of “the felt sense” in psychotherapy.
This begins with the work of Eugene Gendlin at the University of Chicago in the 1970s. Gendlin studied successful psychotherapy and found that those who benefitted from it used an inner body sense that he called “the felt sense”. This resulted in his publication of the book Focusing in 1979 and the founding of The Focusing Institute [P.O. Box 539, Spring Valley, NY 10977, (845) 362-5222] , which trains professionals and holds workshops all over the world. See http://focusing.org.
“When we are Focusing, we enter into the body more and more deeply, finding intricate patterns of personal experience. For this reason, Focusing is widely used by experts on the healing of trauma and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Focusing allows an individual suffering from trauma to be in contact with their bodily felt sense of a traumatic experience as a safe observer, and always at their own pace.”
There is a very good introduction to focusing at: http://www.focusing.org/cornell_three_key_aspects.html
In the 1980s and 1990s, Ron Kurtz and Pat Ogden created Hakomi, which now also goes by the name Sensorimotor Psychotherapy. Ogden and others published the basic description of the method in Trauma and the Body (2006), and the method trains and certifies practitioners all over the world. This method calls the felt sense “inner body sensing”. There are several web sites devoted to this method. See http://hakomi.com/about/
In 1992 Peter Levine published Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma] and called his method “somatic Experiencing. The Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute [6685 Gunpark Drive, Suite 102, Boulder, Co 80301 has professionals and training centers all over the United States and Canada, including of course New York City. [See http://www.traumahealing.com/ ]
Levine acknowledges his indebtedness to Gendlin and notes: “Part of the dynamic of trauma is that it cuts us off from our internal experience as a way of protecting our organism from sensations and emotions that could be overwhelming.” (p. 73)
In Trauma and Recovery, Herman notes that there are three stages in the recovery from emotional trauma, and this where religion enters the picture.
The stages are physiologically grounded and so they always happen.
- Safety-Stability — stop the bleeding, restore boundaries, release tension , sadness, shock, rage, venting … the body starts to recover damaged emotional processes. Of great help at this stage of recovery (often even necessary) is the use of sedative. In emergency rooms, in cases of severe traumatization, sedatives are commonly used to prevent anaphylactic shock.
- Self-exploration, mourning — the body works on detecting specific emotional lesions and repairing losses. Practices such as meditation are classic forms of self-exploration. Herman notes that “the second most common error in trauma treament is premature or precipitate engagement in self-exploration without sufficient attention to establishing safety and securing a therapeutic alliance.” (TR, 172.)
- Personality re-integration — as the body suceeds in repairing damages, new emotional pathways are established.
Traditional religion, as we will discuss at length below, is, historically, a Stage One treatment for the pandemic trauma experienced by homo sapiens.