The Body Keeps The Score Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: The Body Keeps The Score teaches you how to get through the difficulties that arise from your traumatic past by revealing the psychology behind them and revealing some of the techniques therapists use to help victims recover.

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It’s easy to see the trauma that war causes. Too many veterans come home with PTSD and suffer from a range of difficulties because of it. But more and more people are experiencing their own ordeals that leave scars on their minds that are tough to heal. 

Chances are you’ve had a traumatic event or two in your own life. Whether you realize it or not these do affect you, and in some cases a lot. You’re probably wondering about the impact that these tragic memories have on your mind and body. And why is it so difficult to get free of the pain they cause?

Finding relief from trauma is what Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma is all about. This will help you see the effects of it on your life. But more importantly, you’ll discover a few techniques that can free you of it’s torment. 

Here are the 3 most helpful lessons this book teaches about trauma and recovery:

  1. EMDR is a slightly mysterious technique that the author uses to help trauma patients recover, and with wonderfully positive results.
  2. You can connect your body and mind through yoga to help you deal with your troubling past.
  3. Having a network of supportive people and practicing mindfulness are two more ways that bring healing.

Ready to find out how to recover from your most difficult experiences that still haunt you? Let’s dive right in!

The Body Keeps The Score Summary

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Lesson 1: Trauma patients who go through the EMDR technique have seen incredible results in recovery.

Difficult events can have a long-lasting negative effect. Just remembering them can raise blood pressure and deactivate rational thinking parts of a victim’s brain. Many of these experiences came from childhood and have been around for a long time. But there is hope for even the nastiest of demons you face. 

One technique is as simple as moving a finger across a patient’s vision. As they follow the finger with their eyes, audio cues from the medical professional help them make new associations. EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing might sound crazy, but it’s wildly effective at helping people recover from trauma. 

The reason it’s so helpful is because of the way it allows victims to integrate their traumatic memories. Part of the problem with these events is that their memory can play out as if it’s happening in the present. Integration allows for them to simply add these events to a memory bank instead of thinking they’re real. 

The author used this technique to help a woman named Kathy who had just attempted suicide for the third time. At a young age, she’d been raped, assaulted, and abused by her father. 

Using EMDR, van der Kolk helped Kathy re-imagine these memories in a helpful way. She imagined a bulldozer destroying her childhood home and the memories that came with it. Another visualization had her thinking about locking her dad out of a cafe. She progressed well and 15 years later the author reconnected with her to discover she was happy and healthy.

Lesson 2: Dealing with your troubling past is easier when you practice yoga to help you connect your mind and body.

Your body and mind are more connected than you might think. Figuring out how your emotions work and impact your body is essential for balance and stability in life. 

Trauma makes this really hard because of the way it puts a sort of alarm system in our bodies. A child who was sexually abused, for example, might feel panic when doing something as simple as cuddling with their significant other. 

People usually try to numb these feelings with drug or alcohol abuse, or by overworking themselves. But these temporary fixes only put a bandage on rather than getting to the root of the issue. That’s where unifying the body and mind with yoga comes in handy. 

Yoga allows trauma victims a way to understand emotions and how their body handles them. The author had a patient named Annie who had been raped and suffered from PTSD that decided to give it a try. It was tough at first because just a simple pat on the back triggered her alarm system. 

But refusing to give up, Annie persevered and began to notice how her body was giving her information about her emotional state. Some of the positions made her feel sadness, pain, and vulnerability. Instead of pushing them away, she began to explore and accept them. This let Annie come to terms with these difficult feelings and deal with them instead of trying to bury them.

Lesson 3: Mindfulness and a support network of friends and family who care are also great ways to experience healing.

The aim of mindfulness is to mentally connect with and become aware of your body and emotions instead of just denying them. It’s difficult to do this after adversity because we don’t like to deal with painful emotions like sadness or anger. But suppressing them, as many victims do, just leads to more problems. 

Only by confronting your demons can you begin to heal from them. Meditation techniques help you reconnect with the way you really feel so that you can start this process. 

This unique tool can calm the impacts of trauma on the mind and body. Whether it’s depression or chronic pain, mindfulness can help. It’s also known to strengthen your immune system, help you regulate emotions, and get your hormones in better balance.

Relationships are another vital component of the recovery process. Your network of family, friends, and medical professionals can help you always have someone to turn to for help. You can connect with other helpful people through local AA meetings, religious groups, and veterans’ organizations.

The Body Keeps The Score Review

The Body Keeps The Score is a powerful book especially at a time when too many have to deal with trauma. I’ve got family members who have been through some pretty difficult things that I know the techniques in this book could help. If you’ve been through traumatic events this book will give you hope to recover.

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Who would I recommend The Body Keeps The Score summary to?

The 33-year-old who was abused by her father as a child and is now dealing with mental illness because of it, the 56-year-old who has chronic pain and wants to find ways to deal with it, and anyone who has been through trauma or suffers from depression or anxiety.

Last Updated on August 30, 2022

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Luke Rowley

With over 450 summaries that he contributed to Four Minute Books, first as a part-time writer, then as our full-time Managing Editor until late 2021, Luke is our second-most prolific writer. He's also a professional, licensed engineer, working in the solar industry. Next to his day job, he also runs Goal Engineering, a website dedicated to achieving your goals with a unique, 4-4-4 system. Luke is also a husband, father, 75 Hard finisher, and lover of the outdoors. He lives in Utah with his wife and 3 kids.