Book Review: The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk

Book Review: The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk

Publisher: Penguin

Genre: Non-Fiction, Psychology

Rating: ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

This is a comprehensive guide to trauma. Unlike other guides, it places emphasis on the physical body and how past buried traumas are inextricably connected to the body, or in other words: ‘The Body Keeps the Score’.

Although this book is more of a clinical guide for psychologists, counsellors and people working directly with those affected by trauma, rather than those individuals who have lived through trauma in their lives.

To this extent I found the book’s language to be a bit stilted, formal and distanced from the subject of trauma. This is trauma as seen through the lens of highly intelligent, compassionate, non-judgemental professionals, rather than trauma as an experiential narrative from ‘one who knows about it’.

This is probably why I struggled for a really long time to finish this book.

This is an exceptional book in terms of its content, with many rich insights into various different effective therapies and interventions for people who are seeking to overcome traumatic memories, or who are experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

People can learn to control and change their behaviour, but only if they feel safe enough to experiment with new solutions. The body keeps the score: If trauma is encoded in heartbreaking and gut-wrenching sensations, then our first priority is to help people move out of fight-or-flight states, reorganise their perception of danger and manage relationships.

The Body Keeps the Score

However, this book highlights case studies from a distanced professional viewpoint. In this regard, it is not really a useful tool for healing your own trauma in your own life. Instead (at least what I found for me) was that the various different case studies and diagnostic tools in the book took me way back in time to where the kernel of my own trauma originated from and various buried memories that I had to wrangle with. This made it a rather emotionally confronting read.

Map Porn: The Most Beautiful Geological Maps on Earth

I would say, as a self-help guide for healing your own traumatic memories and their legacy on your current day life, this book leaves a lot to be desired. However for understanding the physiological, psychological underpinnings of trauma and also for understanding different therapies that are available to you, and also to understand different concepts and ideas around these therapies, this is an indispensable book. Here are some key insights for me:

Who can find a proper grave for such damaged mosaics of the mind, where they may rest in peices. Life goes on but in two different temporal directions at once. The future unable to escape the grip of a memory laden with grief.

The essence of trauma is that it is overwhelming, unbelievable and unbearable. Each patient demands that we suspend our sense of what is normal and accept that we are dealing with a dual reality. The reality of a relatively secure and predictable present that lives side-by-side with a ruinous, ever-present past.

The Body Keeps the Score
Comforting Thought: We are in a tight spot girl sitting on beach gif

Overall, The Body Keeps the Score is a classic book for mental health professionals, counsellors and others working with people who are needing help. However, as a book with practical, actionable help for people seeking to overcome trauma in their lives, this book meanders, gets side-tracked and bogged down in clinical detail. Still – I am richer for reading its insights and it was not a waste of time.

Published by Content Catnip

Content Catnip is a quirky internet wunderkammer written by an Intergalactic Space Mฤori named Content Catnip. Join me as I meander through the quirky and curious aspects of history, indigenous spirituality, the natural world, animals, art, storytelling, books, philosophy, travel, Mฤori culture and loads more.

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