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Book Review: The Body Keeps the Score

by Raquel d’Escoto | December 2021

Trauma victims cannot recover until they become familiar with and befriend the sensations in their bodies. Being frightened means that you live in a body that is always on guard.

Bessel Van Der Kolk 

The Body Keeps the Score has taken society by storm because it exposed the connections of trauma experiences between our minds and our bodies. It showed us an in-depth picture of how our traumas are stored in the body and are remembered viscerally even if our minds do not. 

Trauma can show up as triggers such as walking into a room, noticing that our body tenses, and beginning to feel anxious but not being sure exactly why we are feeling the sensations we are feeling. Bessel Van Der Kolk explains that such triggers happen because the makeup of our brain attempts to protect us from reliving or re-experiencing trauma even if we do recall the underlying traumatic events from our past. Although such triggers may be extremely debilitating at times, recognizing our bodies’ physical responses can help us begin the mental healing process. We can then access those underlying memories to heal from our traumas. 

One of the most informative things that I learned from this book is how the brain is able to keep us alive such as a baby crying to let her caregiver know she needs something or an adult suppressing memories to keep on living. As a psychotherapist, The Body Keeps the Score has helped me form my trauma informed approach with my clients and improve my noticing skills. 

Although this book is a great first step at understanding trauma, it is important to disclose that it can be very triggering and harmful to do it alone if you experienced trauma in the past or if you are currently experiencing triggers. We strongly recommend you to not try to self-heal your trauma. A trained professional can help you identify past traumas, the connection between your traumas and your bodily sensations, and begin the healing process in a safe and nurturing space. 

The challenge is not so much learning to accept the terrible things that have happened but learning how to gain mastery over one’s internal sensations and emotions. Sensing, naming, and identifying what is going on inside is the first step to recovery.

Bessel Van Der Kolk 

While our physical offices are located in South Loop and Lakeview neighborhoods in Chicago, Illinois for in-person sessions, we also welcome and serve clients for online therapy from anywhere in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Clients from the Chicagoland area may choose in-office or online therapy and usually commute from surrounding areas such as River North, West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Little Village, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Wicker Park, Bucktown and many more.