"We have learned that trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in the past: it is also the imprint left by that experience on mind, body and brain. This imprint has ongoing consequences for how the human organism manages to survive in the present." Bessel van der Kolk
Trauma Changes the Brain
'Research from these new disciplines [neuroscience, developmental psychopathology, 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.
These changes explain why traumatized individuals become hypervigilant to threat at the expense of spontaneously engaging in their day-to-day lives.
They also help us understand why traumatized people so often keep repeating the same problems and have such trouble learning from experience.
We now that their behaviours are not the result of moral failings or signs of willpower or bad character - they are caused by actual changes in the brain.' Bessel van der Kolk
Acclaimed psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk explores his field's long, complex, and stubborn history with trauma. Dr. van der Kolk explains how psychiatry as a whole avoided progress, often misdiagnosing trauma as hysteria or, in the case of shell-shocked soldiers, malingering.
The experiences of abused women and children were more or less ignored for a century. They're still being ignored in ways, he says. Psychiatry is still too focused on abstract diagnoses and not cognizant enough of the traumatic experiences that lead to them.
A New Understanding of Trauma
‘We have also begun to understand how overwhelming experiences affect our innermost sensations and our relationship to our physical reality - the core of who we are.
We have learned that trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in the past: it is also the imprint left by that experience on mind, body and brain. This imprint has ongoing consequences for how the human organism manages to survive in the present.
Trauma results in a fundamental reorganization of the way mind and brain manage perceptions. It changes not only how we think and what we think about, but also our capacity to think.
We have discovered that helping victims of trauma find the words to describe what has happened to them is profoundly meaningful, but usually is not enough.
The act of telling the story doesn’t necessarily alter the automatic physical and hormonal responses of bodies that remain hypervigilant, prepared to be assaulted or violated at any time.
For real change to take place, the body needs to learn that danger has passed and to live in the reality of the present.
Our search to understand trauma has led us to think differently not only about the structure of the mind but also the processes by which it heals.’ Bessel van der Kolk
Behind The Pages host Diane Goshgarian interviews author Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD about his new book The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.'
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