Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind & Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel van der Kolk, MD (author), Sean Pratt (narrator)

Gildan Media, October 2014

This was in many ways a tough listen for me, but a good one. Van der Kolk is a psychiatrist who has worked extensively with trauma survivors. This book is about the ways traumatic experiences permanently affect us.

Trauma isn't just something that happens to our bodies, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder isn't just something that happens in our brains.

It doesn't take combat, terrifying accidents, or obvious child abuse to cause PTSD. Obviously they all can, and do, and are the most easily recognized causes. But other events, that may not even be recognized as trauma, can also be traumatic, and have lasting effects.

Among these less obvious traumatic experiences are separating a baby or young child from a primary caregiver. Infants and children need security, trust, confidence that they can rely on the adults responsible for their care. Going from one family or set of caretakers to another is scary and deeply unsettling. That doesn't mean it's never justified. Indeed, sometimes it's absolutely essential. 

I just deleted an account of events in my own childhood that I've decided it's not appropriate to post.

A lot of my own issues come from these events in my early childhood, that I'd long been told didn't happen, and which no one involved intended in a bad way. From the viewpoint of the adults, it had been the sensible thing to do at the time. They were keeping me safe. But I grew up with what seemed like objectively true knowledge, that I had better not annoy the adults in charge of me, because they might decide to send me someplace else.

This book let me recognize these fears as not abnormal, not just intellectually (I'd heard the same from therapists prior to the one who said "get this book") but also at least a little bit emotionally, and also feel that maybe I can get past them.

I'm not doing justice to this book. It's clear, accessible, revealing. I learned a lot, and not just about my own issues. But it can be upsetting, precisely because it can be useful.

Highly recommended.

I borrowed this audiobook from my local library.