Dr. Bessel van der Kolk is one of the world’s foremost experts in trauma, and there is no doubt about that upon cracking into this book. He combines decades’ worth of personal and professional research, current scientific advances, and really gut-wrenching stories of trauma survivors to explain the complexities of trauma and what it does to our brains and bodies. This book took a long time for me to work through – sometimes I couldn’t get through a full chapter without feeling exhausted from the stories he was telling to provide context and examples. It was all worth it, and done extremely well – but this stuff is heavy.
The book can be textbook-y at times, but that’s unavoidable. The author does well putting things largely in layman’s terms and being extremely detailed in explanations. I highlighted so many sentences and sections that I thought would bring value to my life and to those around me. He mentions at the end of this book that by now having read it you are automatically a part of a community trying to fight for the resources, research, and general public interest in trauma and how it threatens our society at its core. When our people are traumatized and traumatize others, the results are so intense they can no longer be ignored.
The book is put together well, with his explanation of what trauma is and what it does to our brains/bodies being at the beginning. Then he gets into how it affects you long after the event or events have taken place – and especially what it does to children. Then he explains the various paths to recovery one can take. There are many different ways one can combat the effects of trauma – but we all need to open our minds to it so we can better help those around us who are struggling. I recommend this book for everyone, but especially those working in mental health fields. Keep in mind though the content can be quite triggering. Love you.