‘Healing From Trauma: Owning Your Self’ by Bessel van der Kolk

UnknownThe Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk is one of the best books I have read in a very long time. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the healing of trauma. Here’s a short excerpt:

‘Nobody can “treat” a war, or abuse, or rape, molestation, or any other horrendous event, for that matter; what has happened cannot be undone.

But what can be dealt with are the imprints of the trauma on body, mind and soul: the crushing sensations in your chest that you may label as anxiety or depression; the fear of losing control; always being on alert for danger or rejection; the self-loathing; the nightmares and flashbacks; the fog that keeps you from staying on task and engaging fully in what you are doing; being unable to fully open your heart to another human being.

Trauma robs you of the feeling that you are in charge of yourself, of what I will call self-leadership in the chapters to come.

The challenge of recovery is to establish ownership of your body and your mind – of your self. This means feeling free to know what you know and to feel what you feel without becoming overwhelmed, enraged, ashamed, or collapsed. For most people this involves:

(1) finding a way to become calm and focused,

(2) learning to maintain that calm in response to images, thoughts, sounds, physical sensations that remind you of the past,

(3) finding a way of being fully alive in the present and engaged with the people around you,

(4) not having to keep secrets from yourself, including secrets about the ways that you have managed to survive.

These goals are not steps to be achieved, one by one, in some fixed sequence. They overlap, and some may be more difficult than others, depending on individual circumstances.

In each of the chapters that follow, I’ll talk about specific methods or approaches to accomplish them. I have tried to make these chapters useful both to trauma survivors and to the therapists who are treating them. People under stress may also find them useful.

I’ve used every one of these methods extensively to treat my patients, and I have also experienced them myself. Some people get better using one of these methods, but most are helped by different approaches at different stages of their recovery…’