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September 18, 2021

What is trauma? The author of “The Body Keeps the Score” explains, with Bessel van der Kolk
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Contrary to popular belief, trauma is extremely common. We all have jobs, life events, and unpleasant situations causing daily stress. But when your body continues to re-live that stress for days, weeks, months, or even years, that stress changes your brain, creating trauma inside your mind, and that trauma can eventually manifest in your physical body.

As you can see, trauma isn’t what happens to you, but how you respond to the traumatic situation. Something that is traumatic to one person may be no big deal to the next. Whether something becomes traumatic or not has a great deal to do with who’s around you while you experience this event. Were you alone and scared, were you comforted by friends and family?

The problem with trauma is that it starts when something happens to us, but that’s not where it stops - it changes your brain. Once your brain changes and you’re in constant fight or flight mode, it can be hard to stay focused, feel joy, or experience pleasure until this trauma is healed. Luckily, modern psychological practices are developing innovative ways to heal from trauma that actually work.

Read the video transcript: bigthink.com/videos/what-is-trauma


About Bessel van der Kolk:
Bessel van der Kolk is a psychiatrist noted for his research in the area of post-traumatic stress since the 1970s. His work focuses on the interaction of attachment, neurobiology, and developmental aspects of trauma’s effects on people. His major publication, Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind, Body, and Society, talks about how the role of trauma in psychiatric illness has changed over the past 20 years.

Dr. van der Kolk is past President of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, Professor of Psychiatry at Boston University Medical School, and Medical Director of the Trauma Center at JRI in Brookline, Massachusetts. He has taught at universities and hospitals across the United States and around the world, including Europe, Africa, Russia, Australia, Israel, and China.

Check out Bessel van der Kolk's latest book, “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” at amazon.com/Body-Keeps-Score-Healing-Trauma/dp/0143127748


Read more of the stories on trauma:
Trauma in childhood leads to empathy in adulthood►► bigthink.com/mind-brain/childhood-trauma-adult-empathy
Been traumatized? Here's how PTSD rewires the brain►► bigthink.com/philip-perry/been-traumatized-here-is-how-ptsd-rewires-the-brain
PTSD Doesn’t Only Reside in the Brain►► bigthink.com/philip-perry/ptsd-doesnt-only-reside-in-the-brain


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