The Body Keeps The Score
“Trauma has shut down their inner compass and robbed them of the
imagination they need to create something better.” Pg 98
I’ve been through a lot of trauma. You’ve been through a lot of trauma. That’s why we should all read the book The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk. It’s a game changer my friends.
I can’t even begin to count all of the little nuggets of wisdom I have gleaned from this book.
A few of my favorites are:
“Traumatized people become stuck, stopped in their growth because they can’t integrate new experiences into their lives” pg 53
“Most seem to have made an unconscious decision that it is better to keep visiting doctors and
treating ailments that don’t heal than to do the painful work of facing the demons of the past.” Pg 101
“Rage that has nowhere to go is redirected against the self, in the form of depression, self-hatred, and self-destructive actions.” Pg 136
“Social support is a biological necessity, not an option, and this reality should be the backbone of all prevention and treatment.” Pg 169
“The mind cannot help but make meaning out of what it knows, and the meaning we make of our lives changes how and what we remember.” Pg 193
“The challenge of recovery is to reestablish ownership of your body and your mind- of yourself.” Pg 205
“Being traumatized is not just an issue of being stuck in the past; it is just as much of a problem of not being fully alive in the present.” Pg 223
“Silence about trauma also leads to death - the death of the soul.” Pg 234
“While numbing (or compensatory sensation seeking) may make life tolerable, the price you pay is that you lose awareness of what is going on inside your body and, with that, the sense of being fully, sensually alive.” Pg 274
So. Much Truth.
In the search for health and wellness, I recently paid to have a MethylDetox genetic profile run. Methylation is where a molecule called a ‘methyl group’ is added to another substance, such as DNA or a protein. Hence, the substance receiving the methyl group can function. These groups contribute to the ‘methylation cycle,’ which helps us to operate physically and mentally. I had five genes tested, and out of the five, only one was normal. So you now know why I’m so weird (just kidding… sort of). Three of those genes had abnormal variants that I inherited from one parent only, and the final one I inherited abnormal variants from both parents (thanks a lot, Mom and Dad… although you both know I love you dearly). When these genes are imbalanced, it can affect anything from mood, allergies, nervous system disorders, aging processes, and how our bodies can digest their nutrients. I bring this up to point out that even among generations, our bodies keep the score.
The traumas inflicted upon us physically and mentally are recorded within our cellular DNA. They impact us in ways we don’t even know and will never fully comprehend. Science never ceases to amaze me in the unfolding knowledge brought to light with every discovery. If anything, this increases my faith tremendously. Science and faith do not need to live apart from one another: the two go hand in hand as God reveals His mastery through the minds of brilliant scientists each day. If you like this kind of thing, I highly recommend checking out some of the Socrates in the City’s videos on their website. Those videos have challenged my thinking and changed how I perceive the world as a science-loving Christian. Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Deep thinkers unite!
Back to the Body Keeps the Score. This book is helping me confront my PTSD head-on. I’m a sexual assault survivor, as well as a domestic abuse survivor. I’m also a recovering addict (I'll have you know I’m still a lot of fun at parties). Yet even in sobriety, the suppressed wounds from the past come to a head like an abscessed boil and need to be lanced from time to time. I can’t bury my wounds or pretend that they don’t exist. Satan would like nothing more than for me to try to focus on the anger and pain I’ve endured. He often tries to get us to focus on things we should forget (all of the lies he has whispered in our ears, for example) and forget things we should remember (like all of the ways God has proven He is faithful). This book contains many suggestions on how to start that lancing process. It breaks down how the brain works and the body’s reaction to trauma from a cellular level in an interesting way that is easy for the layman to understand. It doesn’t just leave you hanging; it offers suggestions and solutions so that one may find healing.
To embark on this journey of inner healing, you must first get out of autopilot and admit there has been damage done. Harm has been inflicted upon you, and you have often inflicted harm on others. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt folks… ta dum tss. You can't fix what you won’t admit is broken. Why cope with life when you can fully learn to thrive in the present? Why live with feelings of isolation (even when surrounded by people) when you can have meaningful, authentic relationships? Why stay a slave to our past when you can find joy in freedom?
I don’t know about you, but I want to learn to reestablish ownership of my mind, body, soul, and spirit. In Matthew 22:37 “Jesus declared, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” It seems that if I want to love God (and others) more fully, then I must learn to love myself. All the parts. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I mean, Jesus did mention that in Mark 12:31… but I digress. I refuse to stay silent about the traumas of the past for three reasons: 1) It was slowly killing my soul, and 2) Social support is a biological necessity, and there is healing in talking about shared pain with others who have gone through similar experiences and 3) Most importantly, I want to love Jesus more.
There is meaning in the misery. I will continue to face the demons of the past. I will imagine and strive towards a better future tomorrow. I will preserve to break the generational traumas handed down from both sides of my family and will continue to pray for the health and prosperity of my sons (and their children). My inner compass is set on Christ, and while I might get lost at times, He always has a way of pointing me back towards Himself. He is the True North, and if you look towards Him, He will show you the way.
The body might have kept the score, but with God, new things are possible.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17