A taste of freedom – Trauma healing in Somatic Education

Bessel van der Kolks’s book The Body Keeps the Score, #1 New York Times bestseller for 27 weeks, long time Amazon bestseller in nonfiction, published in 36 languages, has 124 mentions of the word “school.” Throughout his book Bessel van der Kolk writes of rape and violence happening in schools—and of domestic rape and violence, obviously performed by people who went through compulsory schooling themselves. Yet, he fails to critique compulsory schooling, the bureaucratic system. Quite to the contrary, his book concludes, “The greatest hope for traumatized, abused, and neglected children is to receive a good education in schools.”

The next famous trauma-expert celebrity on main stream media, Peter A. Levine, seems to ignore the trauma-causing system design in compulsory schooling all together. I couldn’t find anything much about it in the following books of his: In An Unspoken Voice, Waking the Tiger, Trauma and Memory, Healing Trauma. In almost all schools children are subject to coercion and indoctrination, by design. On top of that, some schools are so rotten that the danger of actual rape and physical violence is real and ever present. 12 years in such an environment do nothing to a child? Really? And not a single chapter on that by one of the most acknowledged trauma experts in the world?

So much for the work of the famous and much praised psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk and psychotherapist Peter A. Levine. And how many do follow their lead?

However, psycholinguist Frank Smith is not afraid to look at the origins of trauma in compulsory schooling. Psycho-linguist, not psycho-therapist. In his book Understanding Reading he writes, “A final point. It is not necessary for any readers, and especially not for beginners, to understand the meaning of everything they attempt to read [..] children are rarely given credit for their ability to ignore what they can’t understand and to attend only to that from which they will learn. Unfortunately, the right of children to ignore what they can’t understand may be the first of their freedoms to be taken away when they enter school.

Credit where credit is due. How come a psycholinguist can write what the most famous of the trauma-therapy bunch can’t even hint at? But then, of course, Frank Smith’s work has been discredited, debunked, factchecked. Of course. Speak against the machine and see your life’s work being pulled off the shelves. Bad luck for the people who are kept in the dark, by the best of the best of trauma therapy? Or their own fault, for trusting the top selling experts of mainstream medicine?

On top of all that, I don’t even think that “The right to ignore” is the first freedom taken away from children upon entering school. The list of freedoms taken away immediately upon entering school is a long one.

“Each day, schools reinforce how absolute and arbitrary power really is by granting and denying access to fundamental needs for toilets, water, privacy, and movement. In this way, basic human rights which usually require only individual volition, are transformed into privileges not to be taken for granted.” John Taylor-Gatto wrote about it truthfully and without a muzzle in his books, for example in The Underground History of American Education, Weapons of Mass Instructions, Dumbing Us Down. That is after he has quit his job as a school teacher, he wouldn’t have been able to speak up like this and hold his position in the system.

And all this is not mentioned by the great trauma-expert celebrities?

Classes and the environment for Somatic Education must be set-up very differently than classes in compulsory schooling, if humans ought to grow and heal.

For example, when you come to my classes of Somatic Education, be it in person or on video, your freedoms are not taken away from you. This is the first thing that confuses new clients. Where should they lie down? Should they lie down? Or should they sit? Stand? Do they need to participate or can they just watch? Why don’t I stop them from talking, or being silent? Why don’t I tell them which books they have to read? Why don’t I give instructions with a voice of superior authority, why don’t I correct and adjust clients, but make mere suggestions instead? And why don’t I get upset when they fall asleep?

When you come to my class, you may even keep your freedom to ignore me. “You don’t need to see me, but if you would like to participate, I’d suggest you chose a place from where you can hear me well,” I often begin. You don’t have to look into my eyes when I talk to you. “Look at me,” is a command you will never hear in my classes.

And so healing begins. Your freedoms are built into my teachings. The movements are the vehicle, the work is the work, your freedoms are the teaching; for you to remember.