The Body Keeps the Score

Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

by Bessel A. Van der Kolk

Number of pages: 464

Publisher: Penguin

BBB Library: Booklets

ISBN: 978-0143127741

About the Author

Bessel van der Kolk is a psychiatrist, author, researcher and educator based in Boston, United States. Since the 1970s his research has been in the area of post-traumatic stress.


Editorial Review

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 Reviews

“The body keeps the score” attempts to address how PTSD patients experience trauma over the years following a traumatic exposure. From the stories of different victims introduced by the author, Bessel used both scientific and philosophical approaches to explain the complex neurobiology and connection of the human brain-mind-body, and provided useful guides for specialists and the public.

Why a long, dense, and demanding book on the psychology and neurobiology of trauma should occupy so bright a spotlight for so long is not immediately obvious. Post-traumatic stress disorder is old news, a staple of psychological chatter for over four decades, and the book doesn’t offer any quick fix solutions for self-helpers.

Drawing on 30 plus years of working with trauma survivors, he offers insight into how the body changes in response to trauma and a roadmap of paths to navigate how to move beyond it.

The Body Keeps the Score is written from thirty years of real-life experience and research giving it a solid grounding. This book paints a comprehensive picture of the different types of trauma as well as how it might affect the mind, brain and body. Examples include attachment trauma, abuse and big T trauma.

It is a rare for a book about trauma and its recovery to become a sort of instant classic that speaks effectively to those with firsthand experience, professionals, and broader interested audiences.

Books on Related Topics

Wisdom to Share

Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves

As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself…The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know. That takes an enormous amount of courage.

Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.

As I often tell my students, the two most important phrases in therapy, as in yoga, are “Notice that” and “What happens next?” Once you start approaching your body with curiosity rather than with fear, everything shifts

Neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going inside ourselves.

The greatest sources of our suffering are the lies we tell ourselves.

If an organism is stuck in survival mode, its energies are focused on fighting off unseen enemies, which leaves no room for nurture, care, and love. For us humans, it means that as long as the mind is defending itself against invisible assaults, our closest bonds are threatened, along with our ability to imagine, plan, play, learn, and pay attention to other people’s needs.

More than anything else, being able to feel safe with other people defines mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.

Trauma, whether it is the result of something done to you or something you yourself have done, almost always makes it difficult to engage in intimate relationships. After you have experienced something so unspeakable, how do you learn to trust yourself or anyone else again? Or, conversely, how can you surrender to an intimate relationship after you have been brutally violated?

We can hardly bear to look. The shadow may carry the best of the life we have not lived. Go into the basement, the attic, the refuse bin. Find gold there. Find an animal who has not been fed or watered. It is you!! This neglected, exiled animal, hungry for attention, is a part of your self. —Marion Woodman (as quoted by Stephen Cope in The Great Work of Your Life)