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Shake your worries away

December 18, 2008 |  3:41 pm

Dog shake

Between mortgage meltdowns, financial crises and natural disasters, it seems we are experiencing a level of societal-scale trauma not seen since the Great Depression.

But trauma authority Dr. Peter Levine believes there's a lot we can learn by observing animals in the wild, which have an innate immunity to trauma.

On his website, Dr. Levine says that when a wild animal survives a life-or-death encounter, they simply shake it off -- literally shake -- and return to normal activity. He believes that humans also have this innate ability to shrug off stress but that our highly developed rational brains override the primitive regulatory mechanisms we share with animals. So when trauma occurs, such as losing our homes or retirement funds, we are unable to discharge this excess energy in the proper way. The various symptoms of trauma result from the body's attempt to manage and contain this unused energy, Levine says.

So is simply "shaking it off" the answer to all our worries? Well, the next time you're laid off, try it. When you get in the elevator, set down your brown box full of personal items and shake your body as hard as you can. When the doors open, you'll be on a whole new level (unless, of course, you forgot to press the button).

-- Graham McCann

Photo: Steve Osman / Los Angeles Times

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