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  • Christine

Bessel van der Kolk, MD And Trauma

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

Many people with mental health issues have experienced trauma in their lives which affects not only mood, but the body and brain as well.
Trauma affects brain function.

I spent the last two days at a webinar conducted by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. I have read his book "The Body Keeps The Score" twice and I was very interested to be in his presence, even if through screens, and hear what he had to say about trauma. I will share here a few things I learned from Dr. van der Kolk, who has dedicated his life to studying the effects of trauma on the brain and body.

  • Immobilization is the root of trauma. If you couldn't flee, (flight or fight) your traumatic incident, PTSD may occur.

  • Safety and connection are pillars of a healthy life.

  • The memory of trauma is felt through the sensations of the event. What did you hear, see, smell, or touch?

  • To put it simply - The right side of the brain is for emotions, the left for logic, and trauma affects the right side of your brain, the left, logic side becomes deactivated.

  • When traumatized you become a reptile, using your reptilian brain in fight or flight with a possible danger of death.

  • It is important overall and in therapy to have your mind open up your imagination to new possibilities. This is key to recovery.

  • Extremely effective treatments for PTSD are Acupuncture, Massage, Yoga, Tapping, Art Therapy, and Improv.

  • Some options for treating childhood trauma are; psychodynamic therapy, hypnosis and body work.

  • Desensitization is not of good use in treating trauma. It can retraumatize the person. The trauma needs to be integrated with the individual. Putting past, present, and future together helps trauma.

  • Cultivation of competency, and becoming competent in some areas help trauma. A sense of agency, that one can have the capacity to exert power.

  • The way we breathe and move affects the brain. Deep, mindful breathing is always useful, particularly in moments of distress.

  • A therapy called Neurofeedback is helpful with trauma victims. It rewires the brain so the person can become calm and focused.

These are just a few points I picked up from Dr. van der Kolk's webinar. If you would like to learn more about Dr. Van Der Kolk see his website below.

Take good care,


The roots of resilience.....are to be found in the sense of being understood by and existing in the mind and heart of a loving, attuned, and self-possessed other.

-- Diana Fosha

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