The Body Keeps The Score looks at the history of traumatic stress, its diagnosis and treatment, and alternative approaches such as yoga, theatre and EMDR that move away from pharmacology but have proven far more effective in clinical practice.
The Body Keeps The Score Summary
The Body Keeps The Score is a comprehensive summary of trauma, its impact on all of us and approaches to treatment.
Drawing on over thirty years of practice working with Vietnam war veterans, domestic violence cases and victims of child abuse, Van Der Kolk explains how the impact of trauma impacts the body, mind and nervous system with devastating results.
He also notes the limitations of the DSM diagnostic manual, therapy and pharmacology and explains how alternative approaches are better suited for treating trauma victims.
Below are some of the key insights from the book.
- Trauma results in a fundamental change to the way the brain organises its reality prompting hypervigilance, desensitization and fight-or-flight survival response.
- Consequently, for the patient to recover from trauma, the body needs to learn that the danger has passed.
- Conventional approaches fail as they encourage the victim to be a passive limited patient rather than an active wholesome participant in their own recovery.
- Talking cures can be effective in normal circumstances but for trauma victims the problems are often rooted in emotion rather than conscious linguistics.
- It’s impossible to deal with flashbacks or behaviours in isolation by talking about the past. Rather we need to encourage the patient to live in the present moment with their body’s current response.
- Neuroimaging scans demonstrate how brain activity can either switch off or fire up following trauma which persists with results for normal life.
- In developmental psychology, traumatic events are often rooted in early stage relationships between parent/child where normal responses are never learned.
- Trauma is rarely stored as a narrative but rather a complex network of associations held together by different parts of the brain.
- Consequently, accounts of trauma are often difficult to present and verify in court making prosecution troublesome.
- Like dreams, traumatic memories are held in symbolic form and can be triggered by innocent sentences in an otherwise everyday functioning experience.
- Adverse childhood experience (ACE) is an epidemic that creates huge social costs but is largely swept under the carpet in comparison to simple public health campaigns such as smoking.
- Trauma robs people of the feeling of self control, that we have a basic level of control over our own reality.
- For many people, trauma causes a basic body-mind disconnect where they feel like they don’t inhabit their own body. This in itself is an important route to treatment
- EMDR is an approach that mimics the eye movements of REM sleep in a therapeutic setting to allow a patient to safely process their traumatic memories as if it were in a dreamstate.
- The practice of Yoga is also highly effective as it encourages us to authentically inhabit our body and consciously control our breath.
- Improv theatre is a further surprisingly effective treatment as it allows us to rescript our lives and inhabit new characters in a safe but authentic space.
- Neurofeedback is another highly effective approach which involves consciously watching our brain waves on a monitor and encouraging them to work in unison with each other – creating focus, peace and warmth.
- As a society, we have choices to make about how we call our traumatic stress and provide effective treatment within the wider community.