The Body Keeps the Score Review

In Bessel van der Kolk’s acclaimed book “The Body Keeps the Score”, readers are provided with an inspirational look at how they too can heal and transform their own lives after experiencing traumatic episodes. Trauma can cause us to feel wounded, but we have the capacity for recovery. Through Van Der Kolk’s expert research as well as moving personal stories, this groundbreaking work offers a revolutionary approach towards understanding trauma on bodies and minds – proving that no matter what has been endured in life there is always hope of renewal.

I. The Nature of Trauma

A. Definition and Impact

Trauma can be more than meets the eye. In “The Body Keeps the Score,” renowned psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk reveals that many of us carry unseen traumas from difficult life experiences, such as emotional neglect or childhood adversity – and these wounds are much deeper than we think. The repercussions of trauma can extend beyond simple distress to long-term physical and psychological issues like anxiety, depression, and PTSD; it is critical for all individuals to recognize how this invisible baggage may influence their lives in order to seek an effective path towards healing.

B. The Role of Childhood Experiences

Childhood experiences can have far-reaching impacts on our lives – Van der Kolk notes that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), such as physical and emotional abuse, neglect, or witnessing violence, may damage an individual’s ability to form secure attachments with others. This lack of attachment could later result in a heightened risk for developing trauma-related disorders throughout one’s life.

“Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort.”
Bessel van der Kolk

II. Trauma and the Brain

A. Disruption of Normal Functioning

One of the key insights presented in the book is the understanding of how trauma disrupts the normal functioning of the brain. Van der Kolk explains that when an individual experiences trauma, their brain’s fight-or-flight response is activated, leading to the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Prolonged exposure to stress hormones can damage the brain’s structure and function, impairing memory, emotional regulation, and cognitive processing.

B. The Nervous System’s Role

The nervous system also plays a crucial role in processing traumatic experiences. Van der Kolk discusses how trauma can cause dysregulation in the autonomic nervous system, which controls essential functions such as heart rate, digestion, and respiration. This dysregulation can manifest in symptoms like dissociation, flashbacks, and emotional numbness.

“Trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in the past; it is also the imprint left by that experience on mind, brain, and body.”
Bessel van der Kolk

III. Coping Mechanisms and Limitations of Traditional Therapy

A. Dissociation and Self-destructive Behaviors

Individuals who have experienced trauma often develop various coping mechanisms to deal with the overwhelming emotions and memories. Van der Kolk explores how trauma survivors may dissociate, which involves disconnecting from their emotions, memories, or sense of self. Additionally, trauma survivors might engage in self-destructive behaviors, such as substance abuse, self-harm, or risky sexual behavior, to numb their pain or regain a sense of control.

B. The Need for a Holistic Approach

“The Body Keeps the Score” argues that traditional talk therapy might not be sufficient for treating trauma. While it can be helpful for some individuals, talk therapy often fails to address the physiological and neurological aspects of trauma. Van der Kolk advocates for a more holistic approach to healing, incorporating both psychological and somatic therapies.

The Body Keeps the Score Review / Canva
The Body Keeps the Score Review

“In order to change, people need to become aware of their sensations and the way that their bodies interact with the world around them.”
Bessel van der Kolk

IV. Innovative Treatments for Trauma

A. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a therapy that involves stimulating the brain’s information processing system through bilateral eye movements. This can help trauma survivors reprocess and integrate traumatic memories, reducing their emotional impact.

B. Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback is a non-invasive treatment that involves monitoring the brain’s electrical activity and providing real-time feedback to the patient. This feedback can help individuals regulate their brainwave patterns, improving symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

C. Somatic Therapies

Reflecting the unity between body and mind, somatic therapies like yoga and somatic experiencing offer a powerful means to address deep-seated trauma. Through these methods, individuals can experience profound transformation as they connect with their physicality in order to tap into feelings of safety, self-awareness, and emotional stability.

D. The Importance of Integration

Trauma is a complex experience that affects us on both physiological and psychological levels. Van der Kolk encourages the use of innovative treatments in combination with more traditional methods, aiming to provide an all-encompassing approach for trauma survivors as they strive for healing and long-term recovery.

“Restoring relationships and community is central to restoring well-being.”
Bessel van der Kolk

V. Broader Implications of Trauma on Society

A. Trauma-Informed Healthcare, Education, and Social Services

In the closing of “The Body Keeps the Score,” van der Kolk examines how trauma can affect individuals and societies as a whole, urging for an integrative approach to improve healthcare, education and social services. He stresses on creating safe spaces that are understanding of its impact along with providing essential support systems in order to help those suffering from traumas find their path towards recovery.

B. Promoting Resilience, Empathy, and Well-being

Trauma can have a lasting impact on our lives, but providing support and understanding through trauma-informed practices helps us develop resilience, cultivate empathy, and improve overall health. By offering access to appropriate treatments that address traumatic experiences we can help individuals overcome challenges while working towards greater wellness in society as a whole.

“The challenge of recovery is to reestablish ownership of your body and your mind – of your self.”
Bessel van der Kolk


“The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk dives deep into the intricate world of trauma and its consequences on physical, mental, and emotional health. Through this book we learn that understanding each individual’s suffering is paramount; it encourages us to recognize how widespread these effects are while providing innovative strategies for aiding healing through therapy techniques targeting body, mind, and spirit. By embracing a trauma-informed society with more empathy towards those affected by tragedy, we can strive toward nourishing resilience in order to improve overall wellness throughout our communities.