The healing process surrounding trauma can be complicated and difficult to understand. However, understanding the connection between the brain, mind, and body is essential in order to effectively treat trauma. The book “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Bessel van der Kolk, MD, is an essential resource for understanding the connection between the body and brain when it comes to trauma. In this article, we’ll take a look at the key points of van der Kolk’s book, and explore how the body remembers trauma, and how the mind and body can be used to treat trauma.
What is Trauma?
Trauma is an emotional response to a distressing event, such as a physical or emotional assault, a natural disaster, or a severe accident. Trauma can be classified into two types: acute and chronic. Acute trauma is a single, intense event that is usually short-lived. Chronic trauma, on the other hand, is usually the result of repeated or prolonged exposure to stressful events, such as child abuse or neglect, intimate partner violence, or prolonged exposure to war.
The Body’s Reaction to Trauma
When a person experiences trauma, their body responds in a variety of ways. The body’s reaction to trauma is known as the ‘fight-or-flight’ response, and it is a survival mechanism that is hard-wired into our brains. During the fight-or-flight response, the body prepares itself for a physical confrontation by releasing a surge of hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. These hormones increase the heart rate and blood pressure and cause the person to be more alert and ready to act.
The fight-or-flight response is a natural and essential part of the body’s response to trauma, but it can be dangerous if it is not managed properly. If the body is in a constant state of fight-or-flight, it can lead to chronic stress, which can have a negative impact on physical and mental health.
How the Body Remembers Trauma
The body remembers trauma in a way that can cause long-term physical and psychological effects. Trauma can be stored in the body in the form of ‘somatic memories’, which can cause physical reactions such as increased heart rate, sweating, and difficulty breathing. These physical symptoms can be triggered by things that remind the person of the traumatic event, even if the person is not consciously aware of the connection.
The body also remembers trauma in the form of psychological memories. These memories can be intrusive and distressing and can cause the person to feel anxious, depressed, or even suicidal.
Treating Trauma: Mind and Body Connections
The key to treating trauma is understanding the connection between the mind and body. Van der Kolk’s book outlines a number of treatments that can help to heal the body and mind from trauma. These treatments include mindfulness-based practices such as meditation and yoga, as well as cognitive-behavioral therapy and talk therapy.
Van der Kolk also emphasizes the importance of body-based treatments such as massage, physical therapy, and somatic experiencing. These treatments help to release the body’s physical memories of trauma and can be effective in reducing the physical symptoms of trauma.
The healing process of trauma is complex, and understanding the connection between the brain, mind, and body is essential in order to effectively treat it. Van der Kolk’s book “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” is a valuable resource for understanding how the body remembers trauma, and how the mind and body can be used to treat it. Treatments such as mindfulness-based practices, cognitive-behavioral therapy, talk therapy, massage, physical therapy, and somatic experiencing can all help to heal the body and mind from trauma.