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“The Body Keeps the Score” Talks About the Impacts of PTSD

If there is anything that has evoked from the pandemic, it is the rise and acknowledgement of mental health. Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score shares experiences and thoughts on overcoming a traumatic experience and techniques that are used to recover from those scars. Everyone has had at least one traumatic experience, but they either have little impact or large impact.

What’s powerful about our bodies is after the traumatic experience, the words and our physical movement can change the way we think about ourselves. Kolk shares on page 26 that, “Most human suffering relates to love and loss so the therapist’s job is to help people acknowledge, experience, and bear the reality of life, with all its pleasures and heartbreak.” He stresses that people struggle to improve until they acknowledge how they feel and what they understand about their situation.

Those who are traumatized are often prevented or unable to move on from the past. Kolk explains that, “PTSD is the body continuing to defend against a threat that belongs in the past…Knowing the difference between top down and bottom up regulation is central for understanding and treating traumatic stress.” There are four key paths to recovering from traumatic experiences, which includes (1) finding a way to be calm, (2) maintaining calmness when being triggered through similar experiences of trauma, (3) finding ways to communicate with others, and (4) opening up not just to others but yourself too.

One of the ways that was suggested to deal with a troubling past is doing yoga. People sometimes escape from their past experiences through alcohol or drugs. This is only temporary to bring good stimulation to the body, but yoga can prove to have long-lasting results. Yoga allows those who experienced trauma to understand how their body handles their emotional state. Different yoga positions help people understand what motions cause that traumatic experience and how to accept and move on from them.

Trauma is a rather universal experience that is presented in different ways. The impact of trauma is that “in response to their trauma, and in coping with the dread that persisted long afterward, these patients had learned to shut down the brain areas that transmit the visceral feelings and emotions that accompany and define terror.”

A specific quote amplifies the understanding of trauma that “All of us, but especially children, need such confidence—confidence that others will know, affirm, and cherish us. Without that we can’t develop a sense of agency that will enable us to assert: “This is what I believe in; this is what I stand for; this is what I will devote myself to.” As long as we feel safely held in the hearts and minds of the people who love us, we will climb mountains and cross deserts and stay up all night to finish projects. Children and adults will do anything for people they trust and whose opinion they value.”

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