Book Review: The Body Keeps The Score – Healing of Trauma
This month, our book review covers: The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
From the book’s prologue, the author writes: “While we all want to move beyond trauma, the part of our brain that is devoted to ensuring our survival (deep below our rational brain) is not very good at denial. Long after a traumatic experience is over, it may be reactivated at the slightest hint of danger and mobilize disturbed brain circuits and secrete massive amounts of stress hormones.” According to Dr. van der Kolk, this can trigger unpleasant emotions, intense physical sensations, and impulsive and aggressive actions. He says, this can leave survivors of trauma feeling out of control and they can begin to fear that they are damaged to the core and beyond redemption.
Trauma is a fact of life, says Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. Drawing on 30 plus years of working with trauma survivors, he offers insight into how the body changes in response to trauma and a roadmap of paths to navigate how to move beyond it.
Book Review: The Body Keeps the Score
This is not light reading for anyone wanting to work through trauma, but it does offer hope. Backed by science, Dr. van der Kolk shows just how trauma changes the brain and nervous system and can keep both children and adults in a never-ending cycle of fight or flight.
Speaking of adrenalin, the author talks about how “The stress hormones of traumatized people take much longer to return to baseline and spike quickly and disproportionately in response to mildly stressful stimuli.” These hormones also contribute to many long-term health issues, depending on which body system is most vulnerable, and contribute to memory and attention problems, irritability, and sleep disorders.
Restoring Proper Balance in the Brain
The fundamental issue in resolving traumatic stress is to restore the proper balance between the rational and emotional brains so that you can feel in charge of how you respond and how you conduct your life.
He says we can directly train our arousal system by the way we breathe, chant and move.
10 weeks of yoga practice markedly reduced PTSD symptoms of patients who had failed to respond to any medication or other treatments.
Methods to Help You Move, Breathe, and Relax
Learning how to breathe calmly and remaining in a state of relative physical relaxation, even while accessing painful memories is an essential tool for recovery.
Aikido, Judo, Tae Kwon Do, Kendo, and Jiujitsu are examples of techniques that involve movement, breathing, and meditation, the three things the author states are your way out of being stuck in trauma.
Mindfulness Has Benefits Too
Mindfulness, another tool, puts you in touch with your feelings and perceptions and has shown to have a positive effect on numerous psychiatric, psychosomatic and stress-related symptoms, including depression and chronic pain.
A survey was conducted on 225 survivors of the twin towers and they rated acupuncture, massage, yoga, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), in that order, as most helpful in overcoming that trauma.
Alternative Methods To Explore
Other methods the author explores include writing, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), desensitization, art, music, dance, EDMR, yoga, neurofeedback as well as others.
This is a well-documented book on navigating through trauma if you are ready to begin that journey. Not an easy book by any means but ready when you are. I’ll let the author conclude with his words, “The choice is ours to act on what we know.”
Conclusion of our book review: The Body Keeps the Score
Thank you for reading our book review: The Body Keeps the Score. Get your copy of The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
Ready for more? Read Kendy’s book review: 4 Building Blocks of Motivational Interviewing.
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