“The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk

book cover

Subtitle: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

This book is intense to read. I dipped in and out, wanting to read it, but not wanting to get overwhelmed with the dramatic abuse stories that are included. There is a lot of great research on trauma here, lucidly and understandably presented. I was happy to notice that I already knew about most of it, partly because I took a two day seminar with Bessel van der Kolk a few years ago.

The one treatment that was new to me was Albert Pesso’s and Diane Boyden-Pesso’s psychomotor therapy with “structures”, where one person, the protagonist, places other people from the group in a 3-D representation of their internal landscape. It’s reparative, including ideal parents as well as parents as they actually were. The therapist makes witnessing statements and carefully tracks the physical and emotional reactions of the protagonist, helping them feel safe and seen. Pesso Boyden System Psychomotor Therapy

This book talks about the most extreme effects of trauma. Adults who can’t feel their bodies at all. Kids who act out and get treatment rather than quietly going to school. It also talks about intensive interventions by skilled practitioners. It feels both daunting and tantalizing.

At the same time, it’s reassuring in a sense. If I don’t have all those dramatic symptoms, maybe I’m doing something right all this time.

I had Opinions about some of van der Kolk’s statements. His organization focuses on treating traumatized children, because that gives them the most leverage. On the one hand, yes, that makes sense. On the other hand, way to tell a whole lot of traumatized adults that we don’t matter – again. My sense is that both are equally important, even from a leverage point of view. Those healing children need healing adults around them.

He also thinks research is more important than “deep, subjective resonance.” Yes, research is important, and I’m glad he’s doing it. At the same time, my body says deep subjective resonance is more important for healing.

Recommended as an overview of current scientific thinking on trauma mechanisms and healing.

Available at Powell’s Books.

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