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The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma

2014, Penguin Books

"...most human suffering is related to love and loss..."(p 30)

In spite of its scientific bent, this book had me on the edge of my seat. I'm fascinated by how we as humans deal with trauma, and especially with the astonishing healing methods that continue to be discovered. Most of the case studies in the book deal with extreme cases of trauma resulting in severe PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), but the healing methods apply to all kinds of trauma; most of us have experienced some, be it physical or emotional.

"Nobody wants to remember trauma. In that regard society is no different from the victims themselves." (p 234)

There has been an overall hesitancy to address issues of trauma in society, especially evidence of the high incidence of trauma created in childhood. Focus and thus research dollars have been centered on drug-related cures, while other solutions which have shown great promise have been largely ignored. That is beginning to change but we still have a long way to go.

"People can never get better without knowing what they know and feeling what they feel...That takes an enormous amount of courage." (pp 30, 279)

Treatment methods which involve action other than talking and/or drug therapy have been shown to decrease and even heal the effects of trauma. These include EMDR, neurofeedback, IFS (Internal Family Systems model), PBSP (psychomotor therapy) Feldenkreis, yoga, and theatre. Some of these methods help patients use their own imagination to aid in the healing process.

I was fascinated by the use of neurofeedback therapy (acting upon images of one's own brain scans to modify certain behaviors or sensitivities.) In a 1971 study*, a young woman suffering from grand mal epileptic seizures two or more times per month used neurofeedback techniques for two hours per week; after three months, she was seizure free. This study led to authorization for further neurofeedback studies. However, right around this time, drug therapy for healing mental illness became the main focus instead, which significantly slowed down advances in neurofeedback research and use. Studies have also shown neurofeedback to be successful in the treatment of ADHD symptoms. (p 388)

Trauma and Society: a few words from the author (who practices in the USA)

We are on the verge of becoming a trauma-conscious society...I wish I could separate trauma from politics, but as long as we continue to live in denial and treat only trauma while ignoring its origins, we are bound to fail. In today's world your ZIP code, even more than your genetic code, determines whether you will lead a safe and healthy life...Poverty, unemployment, inferior schools, social isolation, widespread availability of guns, and substandard housing all are breeding grounds for trauma.

Trauma breeds further trauma; hurt people hurt other people...

Trauma is now our most urgent public health issue, and we have the knowledge necessary to respond effectively. The choice is ours to act on what we know. (417-428)

Watch: The Hurt Locker (soldier experiences in Iraq War)

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Julia R
Julia R
Nov 26, 2023

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while but haven’t gotten around to it, thanks for sharing!

Nov 26, 2023
Replying to

I was going to resell it, but I'll keep it for you! I thought it could be interesting in your line of work, among other things.

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