The Body Keeps the Score

Bessel van der Kolk

The Body Keeps the Score



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Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event, such as an accident, violence or natural disaster, which leaves a mark on a person’s life, forever. The effects of this physical and emotional upheaval are well documented in The Body Keeps the Score, a book that provides in-depth analyses of this very subtle, life-changing dynamic. In his book, Dr Bessel Van der Kolk uses field research and direct patient feedback to demonstrate various techniques we can use to help overcome the effects of trauma and regain some balance in our lives.

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Analysis and key concepts


Many people have suffered varying degrees of trauma, and, despite all efforts to bury it in the past, it leaves marks on our body and soul


People who have been traumatised live in a state of constant panic, and lack the ability to clearly assess external danger


Trauma causes a sort of disconnection from the body and the sensations it emits


The memory of someone who has experienced a traumatic event is not linear, but fragmented and confused


In order to heal, the person must re-establish contact with themselves, and recognise the scars that the pain has left on their body and in their spirit


For anyone who experiences any kind of traumatic event, it is important to find comfort in other people, and build a solid network of relationships


Even if it is painful and difficult, we must learn to put our internal trauma into words


EMDR is a therapeutic approach used by psychologists to deal with trauma and is based on eye-movement


Practising yoga is useful to help untangle the knots of physical tension linked to trauma


If you seek to overcome great pain, you cannot ignore the signals the body sends you




Take-home message

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Many useful tips to:

  • Understand how trauma affects our physical and emotional state.
  • Understand the defence mechanisms that are created by traumatic events.
  • Learn some effective practices to help overcome painful past experiences.

Psychiatrist, author and lecturer, Dr Bessel van der Kolk has dedicated his career to the study of post-traumatic stress disorder. Born in the Netherlands, he was educated in the United States, and currently works in Boston. In 1984, he founded the first American clinical and research centre dedicated to the treatment of post-traumatic stress. He has written various publications and scientific articles on the impact of trauma on human development: putting his research into practice, he has treated people with problems of dissociation, borderline personalities and people who self-harm. He is also a professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine.

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