#336 How Trauma Impacts Your Physical Health & How To Heal From It with Dr Bessel van der Kolk
CAUTION: This conversation contains themes of an adult nature and references to sexual assault.
My guest today is someone who I’ve been wanting to speak to for a very long time. Dr Bessel van der Kolk is a professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine and President of the Trauma Research Foundation in Massachusetts. He’s also the author of the wildly popular book, The Body Keeps the Score, a book about trauma, published in 38 languages and read by millions of people worldwide.
The central philosophy behind Bessel’s work is that traumatic, psychological experiences in life leave a physical imprint within us, which can result in physical and mental health problems. We begin by talking about what exactly trauma is, how it differs from stress, and why it is important for all of us to have compassion and empathy for those affected. He explains the factors that lead to some people becoming traumatised by an experience while others aren’t. And we talk about the importance of family, support, and community when it comes to emotional resilience.
We discuss the variety of different medical conditions and symptoms that may have their root in trauma, from misunderstood illnesses like fibromyalgia to mental health disorders and autoimmune disease. Often, these are the conditions where western medicine really struggles to help.
Bessel has carried out years of research into trauma and studied the many modalities that can help us finally heal. Because our bodies quite literally keep the score and store the trauma, it’s often body-oriented therapies that may prove most helpful. We discuss why yoga (the union of body and mind), dancing or singing can be powerful ways to do this. Movement, he says, is the opposite of being ‘stuck’ in trauma. It’s a somatic pleasure response, an expression of life, and can put vulnerable, traumatised people back in touch with their bodies.
Bessel also shares some fascinating evidence on the power of EMDR (eye movement desensitisation reprogramming), neurofeedback, and talks about his involvement in psychedelic therapy. Such is the prevalence of trauma in society that whether we have experienced it ourselves or we know people who have, it’s vital that we all learn about it and the various ways we can heal.
This is a powerful and insightful conversation with one of the world’s leading authorities on trauma. I hope you enjoy listening.
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Show notes https://drchatterjee.com/336
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