Peter Levine, author of the bestselling Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, which has sold over a million copies, offers his own story of trauma and healing in his latest book, An Autobiography of Trauma: A Healing Journey, recently published by Park Street Press. PW caught up with Levine to talk about the new book and his own healing journey.

What prompted you to write this book now?

I’m 82, and it occurred to me that I probably have less time in the future than I have in the past. So I was doing some personal excavation but had no intention of publishing [that work] until a dear friend suggested I write my observations in a book. That it could make a big difference in people’s lives.

I was ambivalent at best. Until I had a dream. I was facing a large field and had a big ream of paper in each hand. I looked to the left and right, then all of a sudden, a strong breeze blew around me and blew the papers into the field. I woke up and said yes to the book.

How do you view your own trauma?

I’ve had some amazingly traumatic events, and trauma is an injury we carry with us. We all have our wounds. How we meet those wounds helps how we’ll meet with others. I want to use my trauma to take peoples’ hands and lead them through their own healing journey.

Can you tell us a little about your own healing journey?

I realized it was time for me to take a dose of my own medicine, so I asked a student to help me find a way to touch the periphery of the trauma. The student took me to good experiences involving my body, including my exuberance at finding a train running in my room that had been set up by my parents the night before for my birthday. In that moment, I knew I was cared for and loved and if you’ve been loved once, you’ll be OK. I could then touch on the trauma.

Trauma transformed is a spiritual experience.

What surprised you as you wrote this book?

There were no surprises, yet everything was a surprise. As the memories unfolded, they brought me back to different times of my life. For example, the pediatrician T. Barry Brazelton demonstrated how infants and parents fall in love with each other. I realized how important he was to me as he helped me love my infant self.

How did recounting your trauma and healing point you to the divine?

It’s not a matter of erasing or reliving the trauma, but about coming to the part of ourselves that is deeply spiritual. Trauma transformed is a spiritual experience. For some people it’s God, or the Goddess. The who isn’t what is important. What’s important is the spiritual connection and how that plays out in people’s lives. My biggest dream is to help people with their own healing and to write their own story as a way of excavating their lives. I encourage readers to find their own rhythm and story.

There’s new work being done with psychedelics to help those with severe trauma. What do you think of that?

I attended Berkeley in the 1960s and have had psychedelic experiences, which I talk about in the book. We can work with the drugs and integrate them into the healing process. But I think every therapy session using a psychedelic should be followed by 20 sessions without it. But psychedelics can help people be cured and get out of the hospital.