The Body Keeps the Score : mind, brain and body in the transformation of trauma is a thought-provoking book about the ongoing effects of trauma. The book is written by Bessel van der Kolk who has spent 30 years researching, studying and speaking with people who have been deeply affected by trauma.
The subject matter is complex as trauma comes in many different forms – child abuse, domestic violence, suffering as the result of war, natural disasters and traffic accidents. In his book, Bessel focuses on the ongoing effects of trauma on the mind, brain and body. He begins by explaining the benefits and disadvantages of the oldest known therapies which are talk therapy (psychotherapy) and drugs. He then moves on to discuss the many newer therapies that are available to modern psychiatrists.
Bessel explains how the brain works to store memories and what goes wrong when trauma happens. The book could have been highly academic but Bessel makes it comprehensible by using examples and illustrations from actual cases as well as the results of research projects. I appreciated Bessel’s persistence and compassion which is apparent as he describes his methods of helping people. He isn’t afraid to try unconventional methods such as massage, exercise, dance, theatre and yoga. Sometimes the unconventional approach has brought great benefit to some patients while having no impact on others, which must have been frustrating at times. Nevertheless, Bessel’s determination to find a therapy that will help a traumatised person is admirable. Bessel concludes by calling on government departments, medical clinics and private enterprise to do more for people who have suffered significant trauma and to be more open to unconventional therapies that have been helpful to other patients.
Overall, although being a scholarly book, the material was presented in an accessible manner so laypeople could understand the main thrust of Bessel’s arguments.