How to Read ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ as a Trauma Survivor

How to Read ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ as a Trauma Survivor

Over the past few months, you’ve heard me mention The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van der Kolk, M.D..

In brief, the author explains how and why traumatic situations from our past become engrained in our bodies and affect the way our brains function.

Van der Kolk shares multiple case studies and accounts from patient encounters to illustrate how our body keeps a record of things we simply couldn’t handle on an emotional level at the time it happened. Over time, unprocessed emotions associated with adverse event(s) can affect our physical health.

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While reading The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, I realized it wasn’t like consuming other non-fiction materials. It was deeply personal and introspective.

Now whenever I mention it to someone in person, I let them know it’s not a quick, easy read. Instead, slowing down and being a bit more mindful of the information you’re absorbing and how it’s affecting you chapter by chapter can be helpful as you work through the understanding of your trauma.

From an EMDR therapy patient perspective, here are five tips and insights for digging into The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van der Kolk, M.D. so you get the most out of the book and understand what might be happening for you as you read.

Emotions may bubble up.

My therapist explained that it’s not uncommon for you to have unexplained sadness, fear, worries or other emotions pop up as you’re reading and your brain is processing the information that you’re learning.

On a subconscious level, you’re starting to understand just how deeply trauma can affect a person. So, your body responds. You might cry unexpectedly, have vivid dreams or random thoughts.

Talk with a therapist.

I can’t imagine reading this book without having a professional brain doctor to discuss the topics with on a regular basis. For me, it’s been like chatting at a book club where everyone in the room understands the information and the leader can dig deeper and explain how this information relates to your personal situation.

It’s powerful and empowering to finally understand why some things are the way they are, due to the residual effects of trauma.

Have a support system.

In addition to having a therapist available for professional discussions, be open with a close friend, spouse or family member while reading this book. You’re likely to have past memories pop up and having someone to turn to randomly can provide comfort and reduce feelings of isolation.

Create time for this.

As I’ve talked with friends who’ve read this book and my therapist, everyone agrees it’s a good idea to scale down on your daily duties or even take time off work as you read this book.

You’re likely to be flooded with realizations, emotions, clarity and new emotions related to what you’re experiencing. It can create mental turbulence, which may not allow you to be as effective at your day-to-day tasks.

I intentionally put myself in low-power mode.

Read the book in small chunks.

There’s a lot to be learned and absorbed from this book. I found that I retained and understood the information more fully when I only read a few pages per sitting.

I allowed myself to think about the scientific data and case studies as they pertained to my situation and took notes about what I wanted to ask questions about in my EMDR therapy sessions.

I think The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma is an incredibly helpful tool for anyone working through a traumatic situation. I consider it a manual that I’ll refer to over and over again as I make progress and learn more about my personal healing journey and the therapeutic methods being used in conjunction with EMDR.

Have you read this book? Do you have any suggestions for others who might consider picking it up? Feel free to comment below. Let’s help one another heal!

Until next time,
Choose healthy!

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