An inevitable consequence is that trauma in the classroom often finds its roots in familial contexts. For teachers, trauma is an immensely complicated situation: What exactly can teachers immediately address when we are confounded by trauma, a physiological process, that elicits such powerful emotions? A look at rabbits are a good example for more deeply understanding ourselves.
In the wild, rabbits may face death everyday. Their situation is a good representation of the need for physiological resolution. Levine writes that wild animals have a regular diet of danger (Levine, 1997). “They literally ‘shake off’ the residual energy through trembling, rapid eye movements, shaking, panting, and completing motor movements. As the body is returning to equilibrium, the animal can be observed ‘taking’ deep spontaneous breaths” (Levine & Kline, 2007, p.13). That is a rabbit’s regular mechanism for self-regulation and homeostasis, which humans also have (Levine & Kline, 2007). The funny thing is that, according to Dr. Levine and Kline (2007), we humans with our thinking capabilities, literally overthink things and inhibit our bodies from, metaphorically, riding through the emotional and physiological tunnel. However, our cognitive faculties, despite compromising the nervous system’s processes, can also facilitate it when we are able to rationally process out a situation, as it was in my case with my father.
Nevertheless, I serve as a good example of one who has not fully resolved my own physiological experiences of trauma through shutdown/freeze. When I was buying the Gameboy Advance for my inquiry demonstration, I went on my trusted source: Craigslist. I quickly found the same model that so vividly reminded me of my childhood… including the chopping block ordeal. I did not expect the incoming sensations of dumbfoundedness upon first seeing the device in person. How much of it was my nervous system responding to the past? Perhaps more than I realized at the time. Nevertheless, this was an intentional decision I undertook for my inquiry: to relieve a past trauma by enacting it through role-play… Throughout the entire morning, my body was in a state of angst, and I found it difficult to focus and be intentionally present to my colleagues’ presentations, though they may not have been aware of it. When I had completed the demonstration, I felt my body reaching a state of anxiety and reluctance to move forward that I do not get (for comparison’s sake, I have literally held my life in my hands doing climbs on mountains and have felt no significant discomfort… chopping a Gameboy Advance was different).
My research and reading immediately made sense of my sensations, and I cognitively found closure for my physiological response. However, I am an adult. “Most young mammals, and that of course includes human children, rather than running away from threat will run towards a source of adult protection, usually to the mother (or to other adults)” (Levine & Kline, 2007, p. 14). What we teachers can directly do is be powerful first-aid responders.