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

Topic: Psychology and Personality
Words: 904 Pages: 3

The first chapter is called ‘The Rediscovery of Trauma’ and introduces the reader to the author’s research context. This chapter discusses the author’s experience with PTSD and Vietnam War veterans. The author describes the horrific experiences of the soldiers, who were young men, and how they interacted with their relatives and friends after the war. The author describes the complex process of reintegration into a society where there was no war and people lived usually (der Kolk, 2015). Toward the end of the chapter, the author reveals the details of his approach. He postulates the connection between the brain and the body, mental and corporal in the human body.

In the second chapter, ‘This Is Your Brain on Trauma,’ the author actively shares examples of his patients who work in various fields and suffer from trauma. Such suffering is associated with prolonged depression, but patients often get used to their trauma and only project it onto others. The author describes patients who experimented with various forms of self-harm: scratching, cutting, and biting. There may be shame, anger, and regret behind self-harm, but most patients describe the bodily sensations before self-harming as numbness. They view self-harm as an opportunity to feel something physically that can cover up negative memories.

‘The Minds of the Children’ is a thoughtful and profound chapter that discusses how long a person can bear childhood trauma and get used to it. Analyzing the examples of his patients, who are already adult workers in serious areas (business, medicine), the author constitutes their forgetfulness about the traumatic event. The brain obscures the traumatic situation in memory but leaves the consequences of the trauma. Subsequently, the person may not even experience demonstrative anger or resentment at the participant in the traumatic case or the offender. The chapter postulates a partly Freudian position on the importance of childhood and personality formation during this period. Having experienced rape or beating at an early age cannot but leave a mark on a person.

‘The Imprint of Trauma’ is a logical continuation of the previous chapter, where the author described how adults can be subconsciously suppressed by the horrors experienced in childhood. Memories kept by people become their secrets over the years, which go to the periphery of consciousness. They rarely remember tragic and traumatic events that they are occasionally twisted, even in private. Usually, therapy is recommended for such recollection; the author argues that a new encounter with the events of the past can be a shock for patients. At the same time, the author describes that the hysteria of a young woman when she remembers being raped by a drunken father during a session cause a shock which heals the patient.

The latest chapter, ‘Path of Recovery,’ focuses on ways to heal and reintegrate patients into society. Among these methods, the author singles out yoga, theater, and the development of individual leadership qualities. Such healing methods are suitable because they can be carried out in the company of their friends and relatives. The author describes an example of sessions with a middle-aged entrepreneur who later became involved in yoga with his wife, for whom he could never express feelings before due to injury and disability. Joint practices can significantly improve relations between relatives and spouses. One of the essential techniques described by the author is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). In general, the author postulates the importance of mindful healing and fearlessness to get rid of injuries.

The Book

The Body Keeps the Score is a fantastic book with in-depth case studies from the lives of trauma patients. Using the experience gained in the wars, the author of the book extends it to the traumatic circumstances of the lives of ordinary people who are faced with cruelty. Beaten, raped, and disabled people are often in the shackles of their bodies, doing self-harm and having suicidal tendencies. Having experienced significant stress and trauma, many of these people are forced to live with the stigma of being mentally unstable.

The book’s author analyzes stress and trauma’s biological and neurophysiological aspects, drawing a thin but powerful thread between the body and the mental state. In part with tips, recommendations, and instructions for treatment, the author describes situations in practice when specific actions can significantly improve the mental state. However, such practice guides could benefit from the information in ‘Suffering and the Search for Meaning,’ which develops the idea of ​​trauma and disability care. Unlike the one under discussion, this book focuses on issues of faith and intrinsic motivation. Without faith, people cannot act for the benefit of their recovery because they do not see this point (Rice, 2014). The author of ‘Suffering and the Search for Meaning’ explores the idea of ​​religious faith for much of his research. Belief in God or its surrogate can save the injured patient’s life and help him get out of the traumatic circle of repetitions.

Belief in God implies theodicy and divine design, predestination, with which people can only come to terms. In addition, believers usually imagine the world to be kind and fair since there is a God who would not allow chaos. Thus, unjust events and traumas are presented as hardships that should only increase one’s faith. Such literature combines practice-oriented research and analysis of specific complex cases. Combining these approaches, it is possible to create a humanistic treatment structure that would restore a person’s previous state, which rarely happens.


der Kolk, V. B., MD. (2015). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma (Reprint ed.). Penguin Publishing Group.

Rice, R. (2014). Suffering and the search for meaning. Amsterdam University Press.

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