Saturday, April 29, 2017

Survivor Resource: Intro to THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.

THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE: BRAIN, MIND, AND BODY IN THE HEALING OF TRAUMA by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. is a seminal work in the study of trauma and its grueling, relentless effects upon the body. Having just reviewed the preface, I am already hooked and cannot wait to read and post about my findings for the survivor community. If you have experienced any kind of trauma, you know it does havoc on multiple areas of your body. As the title suggests, these areas include:
  • The Brain: trauma does not store itself in Long Term Memory (begins in the hippocampus and stores in various places in the cortex), instead it bangs around inside the brain as it pleases. Engagement in activity that is similar to the trauma can elicit unwanted flashbacks which feel like it is happening right now.
  • The Mind: can be impacted by the intrusion effects of trauma which include: spontaneous or cued distressing memories of the traumatic event, recurrent distressing dreams in which the content or emotions are related to the event, dissociative reactions in which the individual feels or acts as if the traumatic event(s) are happening again, psychological distress when confronted with internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble the traumatic event, or marked psychological reactions to reminders of the traumatic event(s) (Barlow, Clinical Handbook of Psychological Disorders, 5th Edition). The Dual-Representation Theory proposed by Brewin, Dalgleish, and Joseph (1996), suggests memories are made up of Verbally Accessible Memories (VAMs), which "contain some sensory information about emotional and physical reactions, and the personal meaning of the event," while "Situationally Accessed Memories (SAMs), "cannot be accessed deliberately and is not easily altered or edited as more explicitly accessed VAMs," but "SAMs compromise sensory (e.g. auditory, visual, tactile), physiological, and motoric information that may be accessed automatically when a person is exposed to a stimulus situation similar in some fashion to the trauma, or when that person consciously thinks about the trauma, which are experienced as intrusive sensory images or flashbacks accompanied by physiological arousal" (Barlow, Clinical Handbook of Psychological Disorders, 5th Edition).
  • The Body: "We can now develop methods and experiences that utilize the brain's own neuroplasticity to help survivors feel fully alive in the present and move on with their lives." The three avenues are: 1. top down, by talking, (re-) connecting with others, and allowing ourselves to know and understand what is going on with us, while processing the memories of the trauma; 2. by taking medicines that shut down inappropriate alarm reactions, or by utilizing other technologies that change the way the brain organizes information, and 3. bottom up: by allowing the body to have experiences tha deeply and viscerally contradict the helplessness, rage, or collapse tha result from trauma." (Bessel Van Der Kolk)

Prologue: Facing Trauma

The following are some of the more profound quotes I found while reading through the prologue of THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE:

"Traumatic experiences do leave traces, whether on a large scare (on our histories and cultures) or close to home, on our families, with dark secrets being imperceptibly passed down through generations." (Bessel Van Der Kolk)

"It takes tremendous energy to keep functioning while carrying the memory of terror, and the shame of utter weakness and vulnerability." (Bessel Van Der Kolk)

"Feeling out of control, survivors of trauma often begin to fear that they are damaged to the core and beyond redemption." (Bessel Van Der Kolk)

"The key to healing was understanding how the human organism works." (Bessel Van Der Kolk)

"Research from these disciplines (neuroscience, developmental psychopathology, and interpersonal neurobiology) has revealed that trauma produces actual physiological changes, including a recalibration of the brain's alarm system, an increase in stress hormone activity, and alterations in the system that filters relevant information from irrelevant. We now know that trauma compromises the brain area that communicates the physical, embodied feeling of being alive." (Bessel Van Der Kolk)

Preview of upcoming review for the remainder of THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE:
The following are a series of slides which enumerate the main themes explored in THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE.





Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study:
Much of trauma can be attributed to three main areas of exposure: abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction, as explored in the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study.
To take the quiz yourself, click here.
While you're at it, check out this powerful TedTalk on the ACEs Study:
*Please note: Your score does not define you or your ability to recover or exhibit resilience. I should know. I scored a 10/10 on the ACEs. Yet, I have somehow survived those traumas. The following are the common risk factors and areas where survivors may struggle to manage their traumas:
I welcome your comments below. What has your experience been like? How is it similar or different than what has been described here? Now what? Now that you have read this post, what is your next step?