Terry Patten dialogues with Dr. Peter Levine about the 3rd and 4th wave of psychotherapy. (Read Terry’s blog and listen to the dialog here.)  They talk about “Creating Health In a Traumatized Society” in a way that links the insights of human brain development and compassion.

This has fascinating implications for the Integral City. Dr. Levine reveals a whole new pathway to generating psychological coherence, integration and evolution in the city, by releasing the blocks and barriers that contract human potential at a somatic level – as individuals and groups. Terry describes it this way:

In studying wild animals, Peter realized that “we must possess the same abilities to rebound from trauma as these animals. So, much of [his] work has been coaching clients to trust those animal instincts.” Rather than denying or suppressing them as Freud would have us do, Peter believes there is something much wiser that can come from opening to the sensations and impulses that arise out of our instincts. We can be with these “creature” reactions of fight, flight and freeze without becoming the rage, the fear, or the shock; this allows us to integrate, discharge tension, and grow.

The way that Terry and Peter frame multiple waves of psychotherapy (1st, 2nd and 3rd) – through working with the somatic levels of lower-mid-and upper brain capacities – suggests a kind of nuanced stratification and layered approach that healing trauma in the city could take. They suggest that trauma needs to be addressed in our somatic being, because in studying wild animals, Peter realized that “we must possess the same abilities to rebound from trauma as these animals”. So, much of [his] work has been coaching clients to trust those animal instincts as an integral process in healing all kinds of trauma – regardless of source or manifestation ( e.g. PTSD, abuse or war).

Rather than denying or suppressing [traumatic experiences] as Freud would have us do, Peter believes there is something much wiser that can come from opening to the sensations and impulses that arise out of our instincts. We can be with these “creature” reactions of fight, flight and freeze without becoming the rage, the fear, or the shock; this allows us to integrate, discharge tension, and grow.

What would happen to the cities in the mid-east (or anywhere) who have found themselves immersed in the traumas of war, if we created a process for citizens to heal themselves and each other? Dr. Levine’s engagement with the somatic realities of trauma suggests how we might alleviate the pain and suffering of today’s generations so that we can create the conditions for wellbeing in future generations. Peter’s somatic healing approach even opens up a possible “4thwave of psychotherapy” where he suggests we could “integrate and engage our resources on all levels, using the cortical, limbic and midbrain regions of our brains”.

Terry points to the importance of compassion in Levine’s approach to psychotherapy. Terry observes:

… that this insight into trauma [offers] a basis for a much more profound and radical kind of self-compassion—not just compassion for ourselves at a mental and emotional level, but compassion for ourselves as creatures, analogous to the compassion we might extend to a suffering pet or wild animal.

This compassionate somatic psychotherapy that has the potential to heal whole cities, affirms our proposition that compassion is embedded in the Master Code as core to our DNA and our evolution and gives us new ways that we can:

  • Take care of ourselves
  • Take care of each other 
  • Take care of this place/planet