When people are compulsively and constantly pulled back into the past, to the last time they felt intense involvement and deep emotions, they suffer from a failure of imagination, a loss of the mental flexibility. Without imagination there is no hope, no chance to envision a better future, no place to go, no goal to reach.– The Body Keeps Score
Summary and Thoughts
Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Such experiences inevitably leave traces on minds, emotions, and even on biology. Sadly, trauma sufferers frequently pass on their stress to their partners and children.
Renowned trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he transforms our understanding of traumatic stress, revealing how it literally rearranges the brain’s wiring—specifically areas dedicated to pleasure, engagement, control, and trust. He shows how these areas can be reactivated through innovative treatments including neurofeedback, mindfulness techniques, play, yoga, and other therapies. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score offers proven alternatives to drugs and talk therapy—and a way to reclaim lives.
Van Der Kolk creates a stunning exploration of trauma in The Body Keeps Score, clearly outlining the ways in which trauma affects people psychologically and physiologically in the moment and in its long-term consequences. Reading his work was insightful and stirring, his writing comprehensive and moving. The earlier chapters were especially indicative of this, as I felt I followed Van Der Kolk’s analysis with each paragraph, his portraits of people’s experiences illuminating in their examined totality.
Though later chapters had me a bit bored with its hyperfocus on unfamiliar scientific practices, this is an overall incredibly strong introduction to trauma studies and would benefit anyone to read. I highly recommend this text and feel my perspective and understanding of people has bettered through reading this.
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