Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts
on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors.
In his book The Body Keeps the Score, he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. He explores innovative treatments—from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga—that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal—and offers new hope for reclaiming lives.
What Does Trauma Do to Us?
- Trauma changes the brain and nervous system and can keep both children and adults in a never-ending cycle of fight or flight.
- The stress hormones of traumatized people take much longer to return to baseline. These hormones also contribute to many long-term health issues and contribute to memory and attention problems, irritability, and sleep disorders.
How to Restore Balance in Our Brain
- The goal of resolving traumatic stress is to restore the proper balance between the rational and emotional brains so that you can be in control of how you respond and how you conduct your life.
- We can train our arousal system by the way we breathe, how we speak to ourselves and how we move our body.
- Studies show 10 weeks of yoga practice greatly 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 physical relaxation, even while accessing painful memories, can be a key tool for recovery.
- Aikido, Judo, Tae Kwon Do, Kendo, and Jiujitsu are examples of techniques that involve movement, breathing, and meditation – the three things that can help release the physical effects of trauma.
Mindfulness Has Benefits Too
- Mindfulness can be defined as maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. This can be another tool that has shown to have a positive effect on many psychiatric, psychosomatic and stress-related symptoms, including depression and chronic pain.
- A survey was conducted on 225 survivors of the attack on 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 to explores include writing, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), desensitization, art, music, dance, EDMR, yoga and neurofeedback.
- If you are looking to begin a journey on trauma and the science behind it, How the Body Keeps the Score is an approachable read, and a wonderful resource. “The choice is ours to act on what we know.”
Van Der Kolk, Bessel. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. September 8, 2015
Anderson, Kendy. Book Review: The Body Keeps The Score – Healing of Trauma.