The Body Keeps the Score

By Bessel Van Der Kolk,

Book cover of The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

Book description

#1 New York Times bestseller

"Essential reading for anyone interested in understanding and treating traumatic stress and the scope of its impact on society." -Alexander McFarlane, Director of the Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies

A pioneering researcher transforms our understanding of trauma and offers a bold new paradigm for healing…

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Why read it?

10 authors picked The Body Keeps the Score as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I absolutely love books that combine intellectual rigor, genuine compassion, and an engaging writing style—and van der Kolk’s book ticks all three boxes.

Not only is it a helpful guide for understanding how trauma works and how it can be healed, it also helped me understand the significance of having a body.

Many of us tend to take this for granted, but our flesh and blood is what makes us uniquely human. Once we embrace this reality, it can benefit us in so many ways.

From Nick's list on leaders in uncertain times.

In The Body Keeps the Score, van der Kolk explains the lifelong impact of trauma on the mind and body, then introduces various therapeutic approaches to help survivors carry the crushing weight of their past. This book is a lifeline for survivors, validating their fragmented memories and reassuring them that their trauma responses are biological necessities rather than personal failures. As a writer, I love that many of the therapeutic approaches described in the book harness the power of imagination to reprocess traumatic memories—a transformative process of healing that’s nothing short of magical.

This widely popular book is paving the way for a revolution in awareness of how emotional energy manifests in the physical body. Finally, a medical doctor with traditional authority presents research that analytically substantiates this connection that we all have personal experience with.  I am grateful that this message is reaching so many people and helping them ask questions about how they can make connections in their own bodies to get their own healing answers. The next step is to do the work directly. ;-)

The Body Keeps the Score is well worth reading. I like how the book presented many cases to show how the brain processes information in traumas, or how it sometimes fails to process traumatic experiences. The author details in an easy-to-understand explanation how this failure can lead to PTSD. The book isn’t only about soldiers suffering from PTSD, but goes deeper into many real cases to show different reasons someone may have PTSD. I used the book for my research and learned about PTSD resulting from assault, adverse childhood traumas, and adult ordeals.

As someone who has been interested in the skin-brain connection, and the mind-body connection, and has written about how placebos can improve health, I found this book interesting. Bessel suggests that medications cannot 'cure' trauma; they can at best mediate the disruptive behavior of those affected. One of the foremost experts on post-traumatic stress disorders, Bessel has treated many military men. He shows how trauma and the associated stress literally rearrange a person’s brain’s wiring—specifically areas dedicated to pleasure, engagement, control, and trust—and offers us innovative new treatments to reactivate these neurons. This book is less about drugs, and more…

There isn’t a human who lives in this life without accruing some trauma. Small t trauma or Big T Trauma, it doesn’t really matter. The body, like a container, does not distinguish or have a preference for what is being held inside. This book is a wildly important read for everyone. It teaches what those who have been made aware of their trauma already know—emotional pain is inside the body, and in order to process what’s trapped there, we need to go inside. Trauma occurs when the past remains present; the memory of the trauma doesn’t get absorbed or processed,…

Again, not focussed specifically on burnout but related to it, this book was first published in 2014 and embodies over 30 years of research and psychotherapeutic work done by the author on the impact of trauma (and burnout is a form of psychological trauma) on body and mind. It’s a meaty read but one of its many pluses is providing an understanding of how the body’s physiological response can hijack the mind, and vice versa. An individual’s predisposition may lie deeper than a response to work-related stress and for many, this book is pure gold in helping to understand the…

From Harriet's list on burnout and how to fight it.

This book is full of fascinating science, research, and specific experiences about how the way we think impacts the way we feel. But it is so much more than a clinical textbook. Bessel van der Kolk provides a deeper understanding of trauma, as well as practical ideas for how to work through the effects of the trauma we have experienced.

Not only does this book help trauma survivors understand their experience (therefore also validating their experience of their trauma symptoms), but it provides hope to survivors of trauma through discussion of different treatments to help them move toward healing. For clinicians like myself working with survivors of trauma, Van Der Kolk’s work helps us understand the rationale for the strategies we’re teaching our clients, helping us be better informed in order to help our clients recover.

From Sheri's list on mental health that won’t bore you.

This is a readable and comprehensive book on trauma. Bessel van der Kolk writes from the perspective of a practitioner and trauma specialist, describing how the body mind and brain record, react to and ultimately heal from trauma. Not for everyone, I recommend this book to clients who want to learn more about PTSD and how to heal it, and about the survival strategies which kick in to protect the body mind and brain after trauma.

From Aryanne's list on workplace bullying.

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