The Body Keeps the Score (Summary & Review + 3 Most Fascinating Lessons)

the body keeps the score

The Body Keeps The Score will show you how to overcome difficulties arising from your traumatic past by uncovering the psychology behind it and learning about some techniques therapists use to help victims recover.

Here’s an interesting fact: The trauma caused by war is easy to see. Unfortunately, too many veterans come home with PTSD and suffer all kinds of problems as a result. But many more people are experiencing their own issues that leave hard-to-heal scars on their minds.

You’ve probably experienced a traumatic event or two in your own life. Whether you know it or not, these concern you, and in some cases, a lot. You are probably wondering how these tragic memories affect your mind and body. And why is it so hard to let go of the pain they cause?

Finding trauma relief is Bessel van der Kolk’s goal in The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. It will help you see the impact on your life. But more importantly, you will discover some techniques that can help you come out of its torments.

Here are three helpful lessons from this trauma and recovery book, The Body Keeps the Score:

  1. EMDR is a somewhat mysterious technique that the author uses to help trauma patients recover, with surprisingly positive results.
  2. You can fuse your mind and body through yoga to help you cope with your troubled past.
  3. Having a network of caring people and practising mindfulness are other effective ways to heal.

Are you ready to find out how to recover from the most difficult experiences that still haunt you?

Let’s dive in!

Apart from this, The Body Keeps the Score Summary: You can pick up a copy from Amazon now.


The Body Keeps the Score is a revolutionary book by psychiatrist and trauma expert, Van der Kolk. We all understand the effects psychological trauma can have on people. Trauma can affect the way people see themselves and the world around them. Psychological trauma can also have a lasting impact on loved ones. In this book, Van der Kolk explores the intricacies of how trauma causes these effects taking into account the neurosciences involved.

Van der Kolk also presents ways in which neuroscience allows us to develop new effective treatments for psychological trauma survivors. Examples of these approaches are desensitization and reprocessing of eye movements, yoga, and systemic limbic therapy. Van der Kolk takes us through these modern therapies reflecting on his career and the patients he has seen. Thus, this book also serves as a history of mental health for the past 30 years.

After learning these story recordings, you will better understand how our brains react and deal with psychological trauma. Van der Kolk recommends helping loved ones recover from psychological trauma.

Antidepressants Destroy Psychological Support

Van der Kolk explains how he and other researchers/therapists were so happy when antidepressants were first introduced. He now concludes that our overuse of these drugs has caused us to treat mental illness as a disease.

Unfortunately, this approach means the following have been taken out of mental health care:

  • The belief that we can heal ourselves the same way we can destroy each other
  • Language which is essential to changing circumstances
  • Master our physiology by using breathing, movement, and touching techniques instead of resorting to drugs
  • A tendency to change social conditions so that people feel more secure and then thrive

Developing Our Understanding Of Trauma

Van der Kolk’s early research played an important role in reviving ideas about trauma.

Pierre Janet first discovered trauma and its link to mental health at the end of the 19th century. Janet is one of the founders of psychology. He was as well one of the first to understand how past life events can lead to contemporary trauma. He defined dissociation and the subconscious concepts, both of which are still used today in conversations about trauma.

Van der Kolk explains his early research on veterans. Rorschach tests have shown that trauma can distort the brain’s perception of reality. These tests were integral to how Van der Kolk would later approach his therapy sessions with incest survivors. Then he began to treat patients through a “traumatic lens.” Working with veterans, he understood the remarkable courage trauma victims need to remember their trauma.

Van der Kolk also used this traumatic lens on more people, showing that trauma was much more common. Trauma can result from any experience of acute stress or pain that makes the person helpless.

How Trauma Affects Relationships

Van der Kolk also acknowledged that the trauma has a significant impact on those around the survivor. Traumatized people often have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which leads to depression and addiction. In addition, traumatized people may have difficulty trusting others. They assume that no one can figure out what happened to them and why they keep reliving it.

Van der Kolk gave this phenomenon by writing about a group therapy session he organized for veterans. The group also helped veterans make new friends with whom to share their experiences. However, those who were not traumatized were considered strangers by those who were. Because of this prejudice, Van der Kolk was also an outsider in the eyes of the traumatized group. Van der Kolk had to listen for weeks, feel empathy, and build trust to overcome this obstacle. This story shows that we must bond with the traumatized person before we can rely on their trust. Often, trauma is mostly caused by trustworthy people. Therefore, it is essential to understand that it is difficult for traumatized people to regain confidence.

How Therapy Can Treat Trauma

Van der Kolk described how brain health and the adaptive response to stressors are the action keys. Think about the “fight or flight” responses. Both require action to end stress. Problems arise when overwhelming stress, such as a traumatic event, can block the Body’s adaptive response and prevent needed action. This shows why eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is essential. This therapy helps the traumatized person process information adaptively.

Brain Scanning, What It Suggests

Brain scanning suggests you need to take action

Dealing with hopelessness or indolence is extremely important. Hopelessness has been described as the deepest part of the trauma. Action is key to healing as it hinders the fight-or-flight survival system and indicates safety. Because trauma can block this survival response, our brains continue to release stress hormones. Van der Kolk sees it to a smoke-detector that consistently goes off.

Even if you are not presently experiencing this stressor, your body will still react like you are. Stress hormones are particularly effective because they limit brain activity in an area called the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is arguably the most essential part of the brain as it is involved in all decisions. As the trauma is retrieved, the amygdala and limbic mechanism spin at maximum speed. This exaggeration means that the part of the brain and the system that handles emotions is still overactive.

This response can be described as bottom-up processing. Van der Kolk explains that we need to develop therapies that stimulate top-down and bottom-up processing recalibration. The frontal cortex should then be able to monitor the reactions in our body better.

Exciting Ways To Strengthen Top-Down Mental Regulation

Ways to strengthen top-down mental regulation are:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Yoga

Ways To Recalibrate Bottom-Up Mental Regulation

The ways to recalibrate bottom-up mental regulation include:

  • To breathe
  • Move
  • To touch

How Therapists Should Approach Treating Trauma

Therapy or treatment for traumatized people should use top-down and bottom-up mental regulation approaches, including mindfulness, yoga, touch, breathing, and movement. Dissociation is at the core of trauma as negative experiences turn our everyday lives upside down.

Below is a quick outline of how therapists should approach trauma treatment:

  • Help clients reactivate a sense of self-worth in the physical body. Mindfulness helps with this.
  • Clear blocked sensory information and help the client make friends with physical responses instead of deleting them.
  • Perform autonomous physical acts that were avoided when the survivor was restrained or immobilized by terror.
  • Help customers with their imagination. Our brain does not distinguish between real life and fantasy, as dreams show. This means that imagination is fundamental in helping the traumatized to heal.

How Early Trauma Alters Neuroanatomy

Self-regulation is learned from early care givers through mirror neurons, empathy, and imitation. Early trauma switches the way the brain is networked, and neither drugs nor conventional therapies can correct these changes in the brain. Van der Kolk says his research to show that most children’s mental health problems are trauma-related.

Unfortunately, despite this fact, Van der Kolk lost his fight to include the diagnosis of a child’s developmental trauma in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). He wanted it to be included as a replacement for most childhood diagnoses. Van der Kolk ascribes the rejection to the considerable monetary value of the DSM.

The diagnosis must lead to an operation. Van der Kolk says our current childhood diagnoses describe behavioral and emotional symptoms following trauma.

Traumatic Memories Are Disorganized

Healthy and traumatic brains both store experiences in neural networks. The main difference between them, meanwhile, is their voltage level. Pierre Janet and Charcot were the foremost to discuss about PTSD, highlighted by severe emotional arousal. Freud also gave spells that focused on an energetic response associated with memory, and the solution is to break or sever that connection. Van der Kolk revealed that this dissociation implies isolating oneself from this memory and its emotional agent.

Van der Kolk teaches that research shows that positive and traumatic memories vary in structure. Positive memories have an initial which is the beginning, a middle, and an end. Traumatic memories are disordered, shattered, and thereby come off as images, physical sensations, and serious emotions.

American psychologist Francine Shapiro believed that untreated memories are the basis of pathologies. These memories prevent our brains from adaptively updating our neural pathways. But our brains are neuroplastic, so advancements in neuroscience and the knowledge of how our brains can change offers great hope for our ability to help others with mental health and well-being.

Ways To Restore The Equilibrium Between Emotional And Rational Brain

Van der Kolk’s guidelines for effective trauma therapy include the following tips:

  • Find a way to be calm all the time. Learn to stay calm and focused, even if previous thoughts or feelings trigger it.
  • Learn to live fully in the present. Stay engaged with others and in the present.
  • Try to be honest with yourself. Being honest involves how you survived the trauma.

In short, overcoming trauma is about restoring the balance between the rational (prefrontal cortex) and emotional (amygdala) part of the brain. You should use breathing techniques (also called breathwork) to manage overexcitement “hyperarousal”, mindfulness to build self-esteem and strong relationships, and to support networks designed to help you on the road to recovery.

In addition to this basic foundation, Van der Kolk offers many suggested treatment options, including:

  • Yoga
  • EMDR
  • Schwartz internal family system
  • Pesso PBSP psychomotor therapy
  • Neurofeedback
  • Movement
  • Theater
  • Dance

Why Yoga For Treating Of Trauma

One of the valid effective treatments for trauma is yoga. Van der Kolk describes that your body and your soul are closely linked. So, living a balanced life depends on understanding how your emotions work and how those emotions affect your body. Unfortunately, trauma can make this relationship between your mind and body especially difficult to understand. Traumatized people, for example, have a hypersensitive alarm system.

To deal with this connection between body and soul, people with trauma turn to things that numb their emotions. But it does more harm than good. One way to get in touch with your emotions is through yoga. Van der Kolk explains that with the help of yoga, he was able to induce many patients to promote signals about their emotional state. In addition, yoga allows traumatized people to adopt vulnerable stereotypical positions in a safe environment.

Why Mindfulness For Treating Of Trauma

Mindfulness has a similar effectiveness for allowing traumatized people to come into contact with their emotions. The main aim of mindfulness is to help people maintain a conscious awareness of their bodies and their emotions rather than denying them. Trauma is often associated with the denial of emotions to suppress difficult memories. This denial averts traumatized people from igniting the healing process.

Mindfulness has always been able to alleviate some of the psychological and physiological effects of trauma. Research also suggests that mindfulness can enhance biological immune responses and activate areas of the brain that regulate emotions.

Overcoming Trauma

Try to treat traumatic experiences like other experiences.

There are marked differences between the way we recall traumatic memories and non-traumatic memories. Traumatic memories depend heavily on sensory and emotional fragments. This is because our brains are inundated with the shock of traumatic events, and therefore we find it challenging to process all the information. Thus, an important part of overcoming trauma is remembering the details of those experiences. Once a person can process this information, they will be better equipped to create the structures necessary to begin to overcome the trauma.

3 Most Fascinating Lessons from The Body Keeps the Score

Lesson One

Trauma patients undergoing the EMDR technique have had incredible results in terms of recovery.

Serious events can have long-term adverse effects. Just remembering it can raise blood pressure and turn off rational parts of the victim’s brain. Many of these experiences go back to childhood and have been around for a long time. But even for the most vicious demon, you meet, there is hope.

One technique is as simple as sliding a finger over the patient’s line of sight. As they follow their fingers, the doctor’s audio cues help them form new associations. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), may sound crazy, but it’s incredibly effective in helping people recover from trauma.

The reason it’s so good is the way victims can integrate their traumatic memories. Part of the issue with these events is that their memory can unfold as if it happened in the present. The integration allows them to simply add these events to a memory bank instead of believing they are real.

The author used this technique to assist a woman named Kathy, who had just committed suicide for the third time. Very young, she was raped, beaten, and mistreated by her father.

With the help of EMDR, Van der Kolk helped Kathy helpfully visualize these memories. She envisioned a bulldozer destroying her childhood home and her memories. Another visualization made her think of shutting his father out of a cafe. She was making good progress, and 15 years later, the author found her happy and healthy.

Lesson Two

It’s easier to deal with your troubled past when practicing yoga to connect your mind and body.

Mind and body are very closely related than you might think. So, finding out how your emotions work and affect your body is essential for balance and stability in life.

Trauma makes this very difficult because it sets off some kind of alarm system in our bodies. For example, a child who has been sexually assaulted may panic if he does something as simple as cuddling his partner.

People usually try to alleviate these feelings through drug or alcohol abuse or by overwork. But these solutions just connect rather than getting to the root of the problem. So here, it is convenient to combine body and mind with yoga.

Yoga offers trauma victims a way to understand emotions and how their bodies deal with them. The author, Bessel van der Kolk had a patient named Annie who had been raped and was suffering from PTSD who decided to give it a try. It was difficult at first because a simple tap on the shoulder activated his alarm system.

But Annie refused to give up, continued, and began to notice how her body was giving her information about her emotional state. Certain poses caused her distress, pain, and vulnerability. Rather than pushing them away, she began to examine and accept them. This allowed Annie to deal with these complicated feelings rather than trying to bury them.

Lesson Three

Mindfulness and a supportive network of caring friends and family are also great ways to experience healing.

We have written summaries of many books on mindfulness and meditation. It is clear that these methods are prevalent. But beyond that, they work well for a lot of things. It also includes helping people recover from trauma.

The purpose of mindfulness is to mentally connect with and become aware of your body and emotions, rather than just denying them. It is difficult after adversity because we don’t like to deal with painful emotions like sadness or anger. But removing it, as many victims do, only creates more problems.

It is only when you face your demons that you can begin to heal them. Meditation techniques will help you reconnect with your true feelings so that you can start this process.

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

Conditions are another essential part of the recovery process. Your network of family, friends and doctors can help you always have someone to turn to. In addition, you can connect with other helpful people through local AA meetings, church groups, and veterans’ organizations.


The body Keeps the Score is a rundown of the relationship between our body and our mind. Van Der Kolk uses his many years of experience in researching, diagnosing, and treating PTSD to advise on the close connection between trauma and our body. It challenges the general idea that drugs are cures for traumatic experiences. The alternative is to understand better how trauma affects our senses and bodies and how we can change the way we process this information.

Overall, this is a fascinating book, especially at a time when too many people are dealing with trauma. I have loved ones who have been through some pretty difficult things, and I know the techniques in this book can help. If you’ve been through traumatic events, this book gives you hope for recovery.

Who Should Read The Body Keeps the Score?

The 33-year-old man/woman who was abused as a child by their father or someone else and now struggles with a mental illness, the 56-year-old man who suffers from chronic pain and wants to find ways dealing with it and anyone who has been traumatized or suffers from depression or anxiety.

We’re just scratching the surface here. If you don’t already have the original book, “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Bessel van der Kolk, order it here on Amazon to learn the juicy details.

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