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The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
“Essential reading for anyone interested in understanding and treating traumatic stress and the scope of its impact on society.” —Alexander McFarlane, Director of the Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies
A pioneering researcher transforms our understanding of trauma and offers a bold new paradigm for healing in this New York Times bestseller
The Body Keeps the Score – 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. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors.
In 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.
Book Review by monsterpixel
Of all the non-fiction books I’ve read, this is by far the best one ever. I grew up in a tough way. Lots went wrong. My brother and I believed we were unwanted and we had plenty of evidence to back up our sentiment. We suffered shared abuse and individual abuses of every kind imaginable. When I became an adult, I subscribe to the concepts of people like Rush Limbaugh and drove around listening to his radio show proclaiming that there is no such thing as post-traumatic stress disorder.
I believed I could gut it out, that the past was the past and that only weak people needed to talk through their problems. I believed only losers behaved badly as adults due to anything in their childhood or past and that claiming you were affected by any past problem was a crutch to allow you to embrace failure. Frankly, for a time, that approach worked for me. I got married, had some great children (still have them thankfully), built a company. But it didn’t take too long until it all came crashing down.
And, when it did, I spent nearly 1.5 decades down. The anxiety that was always in my throat and chest was, to put it mildly, a distraction. It’s very hard to be kind to people, to focus on your work, to love others when all your power is spent trying to pretend you don’t feel like s***. When you can’t sleep because your heart is beating so forcefully that the entire bed is vibrating – at least it feels that way – you not only lose the joy of sleep, but you feel hopeless and miserable and even more so when you’re not able to understand why you feel this way.
When you see everything you have go away and can only occasionally find the strength to take care of yourself and your business and need others in your life to carry you from time to time (much to your embarrassment) and yet you think you’re smart and capable and have no understanding of why you are where you are, life becomes a slog. You trudge through it wishing you were dead or that something would kill you even if, like me, you’d never kill yourself. Literally, when I was a believer, I went to bed every night and my prayers went something like this, “Dear Jesus, please have a bus run over me.
I will never kill myself but I’m miserable. Please let me die so my family won’t hate me for killing myself but so that I can stop hating the sun coming up. In Jesus name, Amen.” If you’re like I was (and it’s hard to tell you how I was and hold the tears down even now), this book will help you change all that. It will describe in detail what you’re going through and it captures so many of those subtleties as to make it absolutely amazing.
For the first time, I don’t have depression (and I don’t take pills). I don’t have anxiety (it still bubbles up on occasion but using mindfulness, it goes nearly as fast as it comes). My life is pointed in the right direction, my business future is hopeful, my love-life is stabilizing, I know I’ll no longer lose friends. I’m finally on track to getting what I want in every area of my life from women to money to friends and deep connections with my family.
While I can’t attribute every part of my success to this book alone as it takes many things to get where you want to go (mostly you), I can absolutely attest to the power of this book. If you’ve suffered any sort of major and/or persistent trauma in your life, please buy (and read) this book. You will one day thank yourself for doing so.
“The trauma caused by childhood neglect, sexual or domestic abuse and war wreaks havoc in our bodies, says Bessel van der Kolk in The Body Keeps the Score. . . . Van der Kolk draws on 30 years of experience to argue powerfully that trauma is one of the West’s most urgent public health issues. . . . Packed with science and human stories, the book is an intense read. . . . [T]he struggle and resilience of his patients is very moving.”
—Shaoni Bhattacharya, New Scientist
“War zones may be nearer than you think, as the 25% of US citizens raised with alcoholic relatives might attest. Psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk argues, moreover, that severe trauma is ‘encoded in the viscera’ and demands tailored approaches that enable people to experience deep relief from rage and helplessness. In a narrative packed with decades of findings and case studies, he traces the evolution of treatments from the ‘chemical coshes’ of the 1970s to neurofeedback, mindfulness and other nuanced techniques.”
About the Author
Bessel van der Kolk, M.D., is the founder and medical director of the Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts. He is also a professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine and director of the National Complex Trauma Treatment Network. When he is not teaching around the world, Dr. van der Kolk works and lives Boston.