Home Health and Nutrition The Body Keeps the Score

The Body Keeps the Score
Read in 17 min.
Listen in 21 min.
Learn the key ideas of the book by Bessel van der Kolk

The Body Keeps the Score

Healing past trauma begins with the body

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.

The Body Keeps the Score
Read in 17 min.
Listen in 21 min.

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

The statistics speak for themselves: a high percentage of people, the world over, have suffered from some kind of trauma during their life. In the United States, for example, it is estimated that one in four children have been the victim of severe violence at the hands of one of their parents. In fact, trauma does not only refer to extreme events, such as wars or natural disasters; it can also take place in apparently peaceful circumstances, such as in the family and at school. Thus it is very probable that we know someone who has suffered trauma: acquaintances, friends, relatives, and even ourselves. 

The pain caused by first-hand experience of one or more traumatic episodes is often unbearable. This is why there is a general tendency to try to repress the event, remove it, or act as if it never happened. People who experience such traumatic events, however, are inevitably changed by it. Effectively, trauma creates substantial changes to the brain and generates unpleasant, disturbing, and sometimes violent emotions and physical sensations. In short, the traces of trauma do not disappear, but continue to manifest themselves over time, and with particular intensity. 

In his early years of treating patients, the author noticed this trend during talks with Vietnam War veterans. These were people who tried, in vain, to rebuild their life, after having witnessed harrowing scenes and performed unspeakable acts. Meanwhile, the ghosts of the War continued to haunt them, making normal life impossible. The book presents the case of Tom, a brilliant lawyer and father of two, who had witnessed terrible atrocities during combat. Behind his new perfect image of a devoted husband and model citizen, Tom hid an abyss of pain that he tried to keep at bay by drinking alcohol and speeding around on his motorbike. Tom, like so many others, was left with tangible wounds caused by the trauma he had suffered, trauma which had left deep scars, despite his desperate attempts to ignore them.


The key ideas of "The Body Keeps the Score"

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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