The Body keeps the Score

Author: Bessel Van der Kolk

16 Hours

For a deep dive into how our body processes trauma you could read The Body Keeps the Score: brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma by Bessel Van der Kolk, MD.

At first glance this book can be bit depressing. It presents the premise that your body will manifest the stress that you experience in your life. Years after experiencing a traumatic or deeply stressful experience, it might ‘catch up’ with you, and trigger some sort of physical ailment. That traumatic experiences can leave traces on our minds and emotions… and even on our biology and immune systems.
But you can heal from this! And this is where the book gets more positive and is essentially a story of hope. With work, you brain can recover from the stress, and your physical stress response can calm, and your body is freed up to do its magical work of healing.

The way the brain rewires is incredible. Just because you have always been triggered by something, doesn’t mean it always has to be that way. For example, if you had neglectful parents, you can rewire the patterns that you absorbed. You don’t have to turn out the same as them. If your earlier relationship was abusive, it doesn’t mean you have to stay stuck in that cycle. The book goes through countless, intriguing examples of people rewiring their brains and calming themselves.

And this is not about denying the past; instead, it describes different ways to acknowledge historic stress and create a better future. To process it properly and move forward. The book reiterates that “to feel what you feel, and know what you know are the essential foundations of recovery”.

It reminded me that when we stand in our own truth, we can work out who we are today and what we want tomorrow to look like. Tomorrow does not have to look like today.

Dr Van der Kolk is the founder of the Trauma Research Foundation in Massachusetts. He is also professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine and director of the National Complex Trauma Treatment Network. His book outlines how scientists and therapists help people heal from complex trauma using attachment research, advances in brain science and body awareness to rewire the brain. He is no wellness blogger peddling a trendy theory, it is science based, and compelling.

This is a brilliant book, but it is not for the faint-hearted