How The Body Keeps The Score
Discussing trauma can be a very difficult subject for some, so if you think this subject may trigger you, please skip this story.
“The Body Keeps The Score” is an exploration of trauma and healing. Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. explains that trauma is unbearable and intolerable and affects those who are directly exposed to it as well as those around them. Trauma can range from psychological to abuse and neglect. Some people experience adult-onset trauma, while others experience childhood trauma.
Is it Possible to Heal Trauma?
Moving beyond trauma is made nearly impossible by the area of our brain that is devoted to ensuring our survival. This is true even for those who try to push the traumatic experience out and act as if nothing happened in order to move on. But even the slightest hint of danger can reactivate a traumatic experience and cause the body to secrete large amounts of stress hormones. This is basically like living the traumatic experience all over again. One of many examples is a war veteran who has PTSD.
Dr. van der Kolk has made it his life’s work to treat those who have experienced trauma and research which treatments work for different individuals. He has treated thousands of victims of child abuse, wars, accidents, natural disasters, and people who have suffered assaults. His work spans 30 years and includes founding the Trauma Center in Massachusetts.
Levels of Safety
When a person experiences something traumatic, there are three levels of safety that they may experience.
The first level is social engagement, where a person will seek help, support, or comfort from those nearby. If no one comes to assist, the flight or fight level is activated. If we cannot flee the situation or fight the attacker, a state of freeze or collapse will ensue, which is when a person will shut down.
The brain-body connection shows us how traumatic events get locked in. Whenever our brain thinks it recognizes a dangerous situation that it has seen before, the body will react.
Paths to Recovery
But Dr. van der Kolk offers several paths to recovery. Trauma can be healed through modalities such as language, EMDR, yoga, and even theater. Traumatic experiences cannot be undone, so recovery includes reestablishing ownership of the body and the mind, the true self.
This book was a very eye-opening experience for me, and I learned a great deal about myself and many others. The stories are intense yet very insightful.
Feel free to leave a comment below if you’ve read the book or want to add your thoughts.