As a fiction writer, I end up reading a lot of non-fiction. Some of it is pure research (see my By the Hands of Men series for novels that required a wide variety of source material to make the story feel real and lived-in). Often one text, or even a throwaway line on a single page, will lead me to others.
This book, by Dutch psychiatrist and early PTSD researcher Bessel van der Kolk, is one such happy (and sobering) discovery. A memoir of a woman’s recovery from alcoholism mentioned her experiences with therapeutic massage. The masseuse touched a spot on her back, saying something along the lines of “This is where we store sorrow,” and the writer reported that tears literally squirted out of her eyes, not from the pain of the light contact, but from something deep-within her body finding release at the gentle touch on just the right spot.
I found the idea of literal muscle memory very compelling and so was on the look-out for more objective reporting on the subject. Which led me to Your Body Keeps the Score.
Dr. van der Kolk’s book delves deeply into the ways our lives are stored…recorded…even encoded in our physical beings. Worse, he identifies ways those recordings of trauma can end up being replayed in our lives without our conscious consent or awareness, a scary concept that in some ways makes a mockery of the concept of free-will.
A very interesting and deeply educational book. As grim as some of the stories might be, the good Doctor provides hope by sharing some therapies that have helped people suffering from these un-remembered traumas.
While some of his contentions seem extreme, anyone who has a tension headache would have to admit there is some truth in his basic thesis. Highly recommended, and it could cause you to reexamine the motivations you ascribe to the anti-social or self-destructive behavior you see.