“People need to become aware of their sensations and the way that their bodies interact with the world around them.”

Bessel is a psychiatrist who recognised early on in his career that western medical systems were not considering people’s life experiences in their trauma and illness when making diagnosis and creating treatment plans. When he went on to see his own patients eventually he found that alternative therapies that other practitioners prescribed to his clients were very effective in comparison to conservative talk therapy or prescribing drugs. There was no knowledge of why these therapies worked but it was clear that these therapies needed to be researched and understood better so that mainstream could recognise them as legitimate avenues for healing people who experiences trauma.  Bessel’s work has pioneered the move away from talk-based therapy for people learning to cope with mental illness because he recognised that asking people to recount their trauma is like asking them to relive their trauma again and again. Instead, what he believes is that traumatised people no longer feel safe in their bodies, because it is in their bodies where they experience the trauma whether it is physical, emotional or mental. When people don’t feel safe in their bodies they start to disassociate from their bodies. Alternative therapies such as yoga, massage, EMDR and neurofeedback are therapies that allow people to reconnect with their bodies and start to rebuild a safe body to inhabit without reliving their trauma.

I had many light bulb moments reading this book and have since gained a fuller understanding of why I have been drawn to the modalities that help heal me that I now offer to others. What all of these therapies have in common is movement – moving the mind and body into new rhythms of awareness. Importantly, there is no single curing modality however, being ‘in touch’ and aware of one’s body is crucial to the ‘sense of self’ that allows us to be functional and feel safe in our worlds and in our bodies.

This is a fantastic read for those coming to terms with their own trauma as a visceral, full body experience. It’s also a great book for those seeking to better understand their friends, family members, clients or patients who have had traumatic experiences.If you’re not keen on reading but you’d like to know more, there is plenty of related content on Youtube such as: The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

If Bessel’s work resonates with you and you’d like support in cultivating body awareness and a safe home inside your body I’d love to hear from you. I use a combination of body work, yoga and qigong to create personalised healing aids just for you. You can learn more about trauma awareness and what I do through my website.