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The Body Keeps the Score: How Trauma Resides in Your Body



"Trauma victims cannot recover until they become familiar with and befriend the sensations in their bodies. Being frightened means living in a body that is always on guard. Angry people live in angry bodies. The bodies of child abuse victims are tense and defensive until they find a way to relax and feel safe. To change, people must become aware of their sensations and how their bodies interact with the world around them."  

- Bessel A. van der Kolk 

 

 

The quote above reminds me of the first time I met Bessel van der Kolk in his workshop in 2022.

Meeting van der Kolk was an incredible and enlightening experience, particularly in understanding the profound impact trauma can have on our bodies. His work has shed light on the connection between mind and body, especially in the context of trauma.

 

As a trauma survivor myself, my intuition about the concept of "the body keeps the score" resonates deeply. It's a testament to the power of our bodies to hold on to memories, emotions, and experiences that we may not always be able to articulate. This understanding can be both validating and empowering for survivors, as it acknowledges the multidimensional nature of trauma and paves the way for more holistic healing approaches.

 

Recognising that "the body keeps the score" encourages us to view healing as a comprehensive journey encompassing both mind and body.

 

Our bodies are storytellers, chronicling the events of our lives within our cells, muscles, and memories. While we often focus on the emotional and psychological impacts of trauma, it's crucial to recognise the role our bodies play in processing and retaining these experiences. The notion of "the body keeps the score" highlights the somatic imprint of trauma and invites us to explore how trauma resides within our physical selves.

 

Trauma, in its various forms, can create lasting changes in our brain structure and alter how we perceive and interact with the world around us.

 

These changes can manifest in our bodies in multiple ways:

  1. Sensory processing: Trauma can disrupt how our brains process sensory input, resulting in hypersensitivity, numbing, or dissociation. Our bodies may respond to seemingly innocuous stimuli as if facing danger, causing emotional dysregulation and physical discomfort.  

  2. Physical ailments: Survivors of trauma often experience chronic pain, migraines, digestive issues, and immune system dysfunction. These physical symptoms may be our bodies' way of expressing unresolved trauma.

 

  1. Stored emotional tension: Trauma can create a persistent state of hypervigilance and muscle tension, leading to physical discomfort and unease. This tension may be exacerbated by avoidance behaviours or maladaptive coping strategies.  

  2. Hormonal imbalances: The stress response induced by trauma can disrupt our hormonal systems, impacting sleep patterns, mood regulation, and appetite. Over time, these imbalances can contribute to chronic health issues and reduced quality of life.  

 

In addition to therapy, self-care practices that promote mind-body integration can support healing and recovery. These may include:

  • Gentle exercise: Yoga, tai chi, or other mindful movement practices can help survivors reconnect with their bodies and foster a sense of safety and empowerment.

  • Relaxation techniques: Deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce muscle tension and encourage a sense of calm.

  • Creative expression: Art, music, or dance therapy can provide alternative means of processing and releasing stored emotional tension.

  • Restorative sleep: Regular sleep can promote healing and support overall well-being.  


In recognising that "the body keeps the score," we can better understand the complex ways trauma affects our lives and develop compassionate recovery strategies. By embracing somatic approaches and fostering mind-body integration, as survivors, we can begin to heal and rewrite our body's narrative from one of pain to one of resilience and growth.

 

 

 Lots of hugs until next time.

 

Faith xoxo

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