Matt23

Book on trauma: The Body Keeps the Score

17 posts in this topic

Recently finished this book.

Well worth it in my POV.

Author:  Bessel van der Kolk.

It talks about trauma, mostly developmental, emotional, abuse, war, and childhood traumas rather than specific shock traumas (like car accidents).

Covers the neuroscience and brain quite a bit, but not overly (mostly as adjuncts to case studies and therapeutic modalities).

He also cover attachment.

I found the start to be a bit slow.  But towards the end he goes into some depth in regards to several therapeutic approaches that seem to have tremendous positive results with trauma (even childhood trauma which he states is far more difficult to treat than traumas that occur later in life since one doesn't have an underlying basis of safety and security to draw upon).

With all of these methods, he provides some stunning research he himself has done, along with research done by others.

  • Yoga
  • IFS (internal family systems)
    • The idea here is that each person has an entire internal family or community of selves within, and that they can have conflicts among each other.
    • Working with your imagination, you can speak to, lead, heal, and communicate with these separate selves and even help various selves interact with each other in more positive ways.
    • Just before learning about this, I had seen in myself the same thing and come to basically the same idea independently.  When I read this, it felt like it was using the exact same language I used to describe what I was experiencing.
  • Psychomotor
    • Al Pesso's work
      • This one really intrigued me.  The essence of it is to take the relationships you have inside of yourself and transpose them into external reality via objects or other people.  Then you can see them more clearly and play around with them.  Even swapping your parents who may have abused or neglected you, with your ideal parent.
      • Ex:  You pick someone to play your father.  You then position them at the distance and location from you that feels most appropriate.  You can do this for everyone in your life.  Then, you can interact with him, ask him things, tell him things.  You can even swap him for the ideal father you wanted and interact with that person.
      • In the book, he claims that this can heal and alter very early and fundamental feelings of insecurity by replacing those older memories (and the feelings associate with them) with newer and more helpful feelings.
  • Theater
  • Neurofeedback
  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
    • Seems to be able to integrate and heal many traumatic memories without the need for A) much talking B) feeling safe with your therapist. 
    • There were some other benefits as well which I forget.

 

He also discusses the psychiatric side of things.  He started of in psychiatry, but throughout the book he seems to lean towards favoring other approaches besides psychiatry and medications (at least for most people.  He does suggest that some people do benefit from medications).  I think his main critic of Western psychiatry is how we over-prescribe, and how often medications don't solve the core issues and often have negative side effects.

Points

  • Trauma disconnects
    • Trauma and mental illness, at their core, are about feeling unsafe and disconnected from others and oneself.  
  • Trauma is fight-flight and freeze responses that don't shut off
    • Trauma is not the event, but how one responds to events.  Though fight-flight and freeze responses can be healthy and crucial survival responses, in trauma they become chronic and don't shut off.  This leads to overflooding of stress hormones, which then can lead to all sorts of mental, attentional, developmental, and physical ailments and problems.
  • Feeling safe is king
    • The first step in healing trauma and changing one's nervous system is safety.  You can't help someone, even yourself, if you don't first feel safe. 
    • Once you feel safe, then you'll be open and able to help yourself and others.
  • Bottom-up & top-down approaches
    • Top-down approaches are when people use their will, mind, and conscious energies of mind to change, analyze, and observe their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.  Mindfulness and CBT are examples of this.
    • Though, when people are too overwhelmed, top-down approaches can be difficult.  This is where bottom-up approaches can help.  This means, instead of using your mind to change your physiology, you use your physiology and biology to change your mind.  Breathwork, yoga, cold showers and movement are examples of these.
  • Dissociation
    • Depression, being "space out" or "out of it", not feeling your body, all of these are dissociative experiences.  
    • Contrary to how someone might seem on the outside (shut down, lethargic, depressed, too calm and unexcited), their inner world and physiology is actually pumping stress hormones.  
    • This is when the freeze response becomes chronic.  All mammals (maybe even animals) have this response.  If an animal feels it cannot escape its prey or danger, it will freeze.  Evolutionarily, the prey may come to see this limp animal as sick and disease, thus leave it alone.  But, even though it's limp and motionless, internally it's heartbeat is heightened and stress hormones are coursing through its veins.  

 

My main takeaways

  • A renewed sense of excitement and curiosity to explore different techniques and modalities.  I think the thing that really impressed and excited my the most was how many different approaches he covered, and included studies, evidence, stories to back them up.  I really felt excited and empowered since I have been dealing with a lot of severe mental health issues over the years, and this really opened my world and hopes to try more and see what happens.
  • One size doesn't fit all & use a handful of approaches.  Even though this book gave a lot of information, he still mentioned that humans and trauma is complex and one thing may not work for everyone.  I also like the idea of being able to draw upon many modalities to heal traumas and deal with daily hiccups and life.

 

 

I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone dealing with mental issues and trauma.  It's a great way to introduce yourself to many areas of thought on mental health, as well as an introduction to several types of therapies and solutions.

It comes from someone who started out in the traditional and culturally accepted systems within psychiatry and mental health, but seems to now be moving towards alternatives.  If you want something that falls somewhere between mainstream psychology and alternative psychology, this is probably it.  Though, he does seem to poo-poo the mainstream more or less, he still is a scientist and comes from that background, so he's not "wayyyyy out there".

Practical

Insightful 

Theoretical

Maybe leans towards the neuroscience, physiological, and biological side a bit.  But not overly.

Good introduction or book to read if you want many sources and avenues to explore.

8.5/10


"Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down"   --   Marry Poppins

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I think I forgot to mention a key piece of the book: the/a key to overcoming trauma isn't in reliving or remembering the past (this can actually re-traumatize people), it's in being able to deal with the painful feelings and sensations you have (in your body) in the present, as well as creating and re-establishing positive feelings and sensations that may be "lost".


"Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down"   --   Marry Poppins

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@Matt23

Check out also "Healing The Shame That Binds You" by John Bradshaw, a stage yellow with peaks in turqoise book on trauma/shame. There's not a single page I haven't underlined. However it's a bit analytical, it doesn't cover fully how to navigate emotions, how to work with them. It's geared towards a mental/psychological work, not emotional/body work.

Also "The Completion Process" and "Anatomy Of Loneliness" both by Teal Swan. Extremely powerful exercises that combine the best of several psychotheraputic/clinical approaches. The theory is not extensive, but they're some of the most impactful books I read on trauma recovery and IFS (I haven't read many books, I'm not an expert in the field, but I can sense that they are some of the best).

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@Superfluo Cheers!  Thanks a bunch.  I've been wanting to delve more into trauma and mental illness at deeper levels in order to overcome some personal issues/stuff.  

 


"Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down"   --   Marry Poppins

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@Matt23

The rabbit hole awaits you... If you're serious, healing will become a journey, one of a kind. Brace yourself, a new path begins. When you'll be in deep waters, you'll realize there's hardly anything more valuable, noble or meaningful than healing/love/acceptance. You'll be tested. By yourself and by Universe/God/destiny/whatever. Don't give up. 

Remember, feelings are the key. You have to be brave to feel. Everything.

Hope you'll find what you're looking for.

(I'm being a bit overly dramatic ahahah, good luck)

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@Superfluo Haha thanks.  I just hope I don't end up looking like this guy by the end of it... 

 

tumblr_mmh5pm23mE1qmanvuo1_500.gif

Edited by Matt23

"Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down"   --   Marry Poppins

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Nope, you'll feel better and better on average, but you'll see the dreary lack of creativity/values/love/wisdom in society, people and basically everything that surrounds you because you'll be more sensitive to emotions, intuition and noble aims. So you'll have to be strong and grounded in your own principles and wisdom to not be swayed and feel like you are the wrong one.

You'll have to deal with loneliness maybe.

As a side note: if you are healing from a very dysfunctional home, and you still live with your parents, it will be extremely hard to heal fully. I'm not quite sure if you can heal completely still living with the same people that hurt you.

Edited by Superfluo

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@Matt23 hello Matt. Great review of the book. I have nearly finished it.

Have you started to do any of the work suggested in the book? Which parts of it do you think you will consider?

I'm very interested in pretty much all of it. EMDR in particular. I have spent some time in talk therapy but feel that there is still much work for me to do in order to heal and have better functioning mental health.

Good luck.

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@studentofthegame

I'm not Matt but I definitely recommend inner child work and/or parts work (gestalt, two-chairs exercise). Healing occurs mentally and emotionally/physically. You have to feel deeply the emotion to integrate it. You have to stay with it. Be unconditionally present and loving, even when it hurts, because it's resistance that hurts, not the trauma.

Talk therapy is very useful because it organizes and makes sense of events, but in the end it makes you aware. Nothing more. Then you have to feel fully the underlining emotions to heal, and talk therapy usually doesn't deal with this. So, sometimes you need to rielaborate mentally what happened, and talk therapy is the answer. Sometimes you need to elaborate somatically the emotions, and talk therapy is not powerful enough.

I've tried a little bit of EMDR on my own, it seems promising. It seems that the eye movement makes traumas surface, so that you can deal with them physically, feeling them.

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@Superfluo thanks mate. That seems a good overview of the process.

Aside from the talk therapy, which finished last year, i am moving out of my comfort zones and pushing past resistance towards being the functioning person i want to be. It's scary and painful.

I am confronting childhood trauma and am learning the importance of feeling, grieving, and self-compassion. I am reading, journaling and spending time in solitude. 

Aside from things like EMDR which I would like to experience, I would like to manifest a mindfulness practise. Meditation has always been difficult for me, but I won't give up. IFS is something i intend to study.

Where are you in your healing journey? What have you found to be most helpful and what else do you want to explore?

Thanks again for the excellent feedback above.

 

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@studentofthegame

5 hours ago, studentofthegame said:

i am moving out of my comfort zones and pushing past resistance towards being the functioning person i want to be.

Great! Remember that every action is bidirectional (third newtonian law): for every movement there is a part/more parts of you that want to go in that direction and a part/more parts of you that don't want to go in that direction. And that the desire to change, in various degrees, is always a desire to escape something (it's not bad to escape per se, but be mindful of this, because it can interfere with healing).

For example, I had plenty of times when I rushed the healing session to arrive at a point, without realizing this way of doing things was a waste of time: if you rush you're not unconditionally loving, and you don't heal.

 

5 hours ago, studentofthegame said:

I am confronting childhood trauma and am learning the importance of feeling, grieving, and self-compassion. I am reading, journaling and spending time in solitude. 

There's no better way to heal IMO, good job! However give yourself permission to enjoy social life (without bulldozing bulldozing yourself). Tip: use social interaction to test and map your healing journey, to see what needs to be dealt with and what you overcame. 

 

5 hours ago, studentofthegame said:

I would like to manifest a mindfulness practise

Great! Emotional vipassana is mindfulness for emotions/sensations, give it a try.

 

5 hours ago, studentofthegame said:

Where are you in your healing journey?

I've been healing for 3 years now (talk therapy + emotion integration with various methods), and before that I used to introspect a lot every day, like at school, or in the free-time because it was a defense mechanism.

Now I don't really know, I'm going forward on automatic pilot. I've not finished yet. But I had to deal with other priorities, so my journey has slowed down in the last months. I'm not so focused as in the beginning. Also, my capacity to visualize mentally has been impaired by my sixth chakra blocking it.

 

5 hours ago, studentofthegame said:

What have you found to be most helpful and what else do you want to explore?

The most powerful technique I found is the Completion Process by Teal Swan. It is a mix of emotional vipassana/IFS/inner child work/freudian psychotherapy/somathic experiencing (SE) geared towards all type of traumas.

The second most powerful technique is parts work as described here. It requires less time than other methods and your subconscious does the work. However it requires a pretty high level of awareness of your fragmented parts.

Now I'm exploring TRE (Trauma Release Exercises), they don't involve visualization, and they seem powerful, but like Shamanic Breathing, they require a lot of time.

The most efficient system is to:

  • First, dig out the things you want to deal with (emotions), using talk therapy, journaling, inner child work, visualization, NLP, shamanic breathing, EMDR, kriya yoga, using crystals, ecc.
  • Second, integrate the emotions feeling them, using emotional vipassana, inner child work, TRE, parts work (gestalt), psychedelics, ecc.

Fun fact: during night your subconscious tries to heal the emotions that you dig out during day. So you work even when you sleep (it's normal), but don't expect miracles.

Tip: if you want to speed the process in a healthy way, try Teal Swan's paintings. I made a review of them in the Self-Help products review section.

Edited by Superfluo

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