Series 38: For the Love of You | Episode 07
YOUR Body Keeps the Score: Unwinding Trauma with Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk
As we come to a close on our For the Love of You series, we wanted to take some time to reflect on all that we have learned. We saw how food impacts our lives in more ways than just providing calories. We learned how self-care exists in all facets of life, from mental health and therapy to leaning on others during your journey to motherhood. And to wrap it all up, we wanted to take a look at what it means to be embodied and how to work with our bodies to overcome trauma and find peace and healing. These are some deep waters to tread through, and to help us with it all, we are thrilled to welcome Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk to the conversation. Dr. Van Der Kolk is a psychiatrist, author, researcher and author of the book The Body Keeps The Score. Dr. Van Der Kolk has spent most of his career researching the causes of post traumatic stress, and is continuing to come away with groundbreaking discoveries about the power of our bodies to protect and shield us. But sometimes that good function of the body can thwart us if we’ve been hurt or abused—walling us off from being able to fully experience life to the fullest. Dr. Van Der Kolk brings us to the intersection of embodiment, mental well-being, and neuroscience and examines how we can understand our bodies’ response to trauma so we can embrace our healing.
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Hey everybody, Jen Hatmaker here, your host of the For The Love Podcast. Welcome to the show. Today’s a biggie. We’re in a series right now called For The Love Of You. And we wanted to have a series where we were able to find our way back to ourselves. Very grounded in healing, very grounded in recovery, self awareness, authenticity, that’s what I mean.
Because I think there’s just no way to pretend like this suffering and trauma is not going on right now. I mentioned on social media not too long ago that I had left the world of Christianese and sort of trite platitudes way behind, in the rear view mirror. And the reasons were numerous. But one of them is that this sense of faith words being used in a way, like, well, just let go and let God. Or God won’t give you anything you can’t handle. The most unhelpful ways to respond to somebody else’s suffering. And they’re not comforting, they’re isolating, they make you feel lonely, they make you feel lost and hopeless. And they’re not true. So right now, like I said, we’re in this For The Love Of You series, and we are exploring all the ways that we can and should take care of ourselves mentally, physically, spiritually.
And that includes giving ourselves and other people the space to process their trauma, and to not feel compelled to tidy it up with pat answers. Or this notion, in any way, that if we just prayed a little harder, or if we just did a little better, if we just tried a little harder, we could just get over it. Because as our incredible guest today so wisely put it, which has now become communal vernacular, our body keeps the score. And no matter how we sugarcoat whatever it is we’re facing, no matter how much harder we work to forget it, how much we stuff it down, how much we numb it, hoping it will just go away, until we face it, and we walk through it, our bodies will remind us that there’s still a reckoning to be had. That’s just true. That’s just facts. This is just science.
So that brilliant soul, who gave us the insight that the body does indeed keep the score is on the show with us this week. And he has written the book, literally and figuratively, on working through suffering and healing from trauma. So The Body Keeps the Score, by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk has topped every book list for years now. New York Times bestseller times a million. It was released in 2015. It’s still considered one of the best books on how to understand and treat PTSD by learning the science and then connecting your mind and your body. We have what we need to heal; you have it, I have it. Nobody can give it to me from outside of me. It is inside of us, which is incredibly hopeful, isn’t it?
We have the tools inside of us to heal. He has spent 30 years studying trauma in the body, and researching what is actually effective here, what actually helps us recover. Back in 1984, he set up one of the very first research centers in the US to study traumatic stress in ordinary people like you and me. And so of course, now, he speaks and lectures worldwide and helps the general public understand how our bodies process trauma. And all of that has resulted in establishing the Trauma Research Foundation, which keeps a clinical staff researching best practices and sharing those findings with leaders in our society; educators, policymakers, law enforcement. His work is profound.
And I mean, I tell him this, but it has meant so much to me. I read The Body Keeps the Score shortly after it came out. And I had never heard anything like that before. I hadn’t heard anybody teach that before. Now, as you know, if you’ve been in my world for a while, embodiment practices, I have learned so much in the last five years about those. But Dr. van der Kolk was probably the first one that I heard, suggest that trauma is stored in our bodies, and thus our bodies are the avenue to heal. His book has meant so much to the whole world, to be honest with you. To not just acknowledge our own suffering, but to find ways through it. He’s special, and as he tells us, we do not have to hustle ourselves through suffering. We have the tools and they are free. I’m so grateful for him. He is interesting and curious and brilliant and gentle, you’ll see, he’s a gentle, generous soul.
I was so excited to interview him. I couldn’t sleep last night. I could not sleep. I was so overwhelmed to meet him and to hear from him, because he’s meant so much to me. So you’re going to love this, you guys. Whatever trauma you have ever experienced, this is your episode. I’m so happy to share my conversation with the brilliant, wonderful and kind, Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk.
Books & Resources Mentioned in This Episode
The Body Keeps The Score – Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk
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XO – Team Jen