A Therapist’s Thoughts on Two Trauma Resources
Bessel van der Kolk
You may have heard that our bodies store traumatic memories and about how our bodies respond to the traumas that we have experienced. Perhaps you want to learn more about the science of trauma and the body, as well as to learn how that knowledge can help you on your healing journey.
Lately, it seems that people have been flocking to the book The Body Keeps the Score in order to learn more about the science of trauma and the body. It was the #3 most popular non-fiction book at Washington, DC libraries in 2022, and it is on display in bookstores across town here in Friendship Heights.
However, that particular book may not be a great resource for those who have experienced trauma. In addition to the ethics of the author having been called into question, the book is not only written for psychiatrists using very academic (i.e. less accessible) language, but the content of the book itself can be very triggering for trauma survivors. For example, early on in the book, the author describes his compassion for the perspectives of those who committed rapes as war crimes.
Those looking for an introduction to trauma and the body from a more compassionate, therapeutic lens, written in everyday language, might benefit from the book The Wisdom of Your Body, by Dr. Hillary L. McBride. Dr. McBride is a therapist who is also a trauma survivor and in recovery for her own eating disorder, so she writes with both compassion and understanding.
Each chapter of The Wisdom of Your Body addresses a different topic related to our bodies. Dr. McBride covers the science of our emotions in an understandable way, but she goes further than that to explain how we can help ourselves feel more connected to our emotions after we have developed a habit of becoming disconnected from them. She also covers topics such as body image (including exploring concepts like body-positivity and body-neutrality), living with chronic pain, or even sensuality and sexuality.
Every chapter ends with a set of questions to ponder, such as exploring how we can compassionately respond to our triggers, or assessing how we talk to ourselves when we are in pain or are sick. She also closes each chapter with a set of exercises that readers can try in order to connect with their bodies in a compassionate, nurturing way.
Some readers may feel the desire to skip the chapter on spirituality (one of the later chapters of the book), due to the author’s relationship with her own religious beliefs and how she describes them. That being said, she does acknowledge her own positionality, and in her own therapeutic practice, Dr. McBride works often with survivors of spiritual trauma.
Overall, The Wisdom of Your Body can empower readers with knowledge, while at the same time give them practical tools for how to begin to feel more embodied and more at peace with their bodies.