"Trauma is caused when we are unable to release blocked energies, to fully move through the physical/emotional reactions to hurtful experience. Trauma is not what happens to us, but what we hold inside in the absence of an empathetic witness…[who must learn] how to listen to the unspoken voice of the body."
–from the foreword to In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness by Peter A. Levine, PhD.
From one perspective, this quote could seem rather oversimplistic, or even sound like it is minimizing the impact of traumatic events. No one is immune from trauma. It is something that happens to everyone, perhaps at varying levels of severity, frequency or at different times during the life cycle; but there is no value in ranking or comparing traumas. What is valuable is how we support each other to heal and move through trauma.
This quote also emphasizes the importance of empathy. Witnessing without empathy is merely voyeurism. Empathetic listening involves listening to all the ways that someone's story is told, not only in the content of words, but tone, volume, inflection, facial expressions, tears, silence, movement, body language, hunger, thirst, sleep, energy.
Listening with a non-judgmental open heart means making space for silence; both the witness and the storyteller are willing to stay open to one another with respect, patience, trust and compassion. In doing so, mutual healing is possible. I've seen it, felt it, witnessed it.
Do I hear an Amen?