Bessel Van Der Kolk is the founder and medical director of the Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts. He is also a professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine and director of the National Complex Trauma Treatment Network. He is a compassionate professional who has spent more than 30 years in the trenches with men, women, and children suffering from trauma to the body and the brain. Here are stories of the walking wounded including Vietnam veterans, incest survivors, victims of natural disasters, people who have been assaulted by intimates and strangers.
The number of Americans killed by family members, he notes, is higher than the number of soldiers lost in both wars. He has observed that those suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) relive their nightmares over and over again. Those who have been sexually abused often have trouble sensing what is going on in their bodies. Those who have witnessed or been victims of crimes often turn away from others after being traumatized.
Van Der Kolk states that no one can undo any of these horrible and dehumanizing experiences. The challenge of recovery is to help traumatized individuals to reestablish ownership of their own body and mind. He notes: "We can now develop methods and experiences that utilize the brain's own natural neuroplasticity to help survivors feel fully alive in the present and move on with their lives."
There are cogent chapters on language, letting go of the past, learning to inhabit your body (yoga), and filling in the holes by creating structures. Van Der Kolk ends with some creative therapies including treating trauma through theatre and Urban Improv.