“The Body Keeps the Score is a book written by Bessel Van der Kolk, M.D., a neuroscientist who influenced our understanding of trauma as the cause of so many mental health issues. The book provides an understandable explanation of the brain and trauma’s impact. Van der Kolk discusses how our brain’s adaptive responses to stress lead to action and how trauma can overwhelm the healthy adaptive response. As a result, traumatized people often get stuck in powerlessness, either by being prevented or unable to take action.” (EMDR and Beyond, 2018).
My therapist recommended that I read this book due to a different trauma that I believed was the cause behind my reaction to certain events. My encounter with a narcissist taught me I was wrong. The encounter left my body in a constant state of tension. I was ready to physically fight to defend myself even though the situation was long over. I then spent many moments thinking about the conversation, told myself I was irrational, and then flipped to feeling righteous and content in the words I wrote, knowing that this will come back to haunt me. So, my body physically stayed ready, my mind constantly reevaluating the conversation for the fallacies in the argument to be prepared to fight with my words.
This was when I discovered that this trauma was more prevalent. This is how I found that the title of the book I am reading is the perfect title because my body has kept the score.
It took four (4) days for my body to loosen up a little finally, but my mind is still racing, thinking of defending myself better, thinking of breaking the narcissist. My body is keeping me in a state of hypervigilance that I thought I would never have to experience again. My body does not care that I am in a safe environment. I have been triggered, my trauma reactivated, and I am terrified deep underneath my mental and physical responses. However, I am completely overwhelmed by my fight response that my flight and freeze responses are being overwritten.
One part of Van der Kolk’s book struck a chord with me. Van der Kolk (2015) stated, “The traumatic event itself, however horrendous, had a beginning, a middle, and an end, but I now saw that flashbacks could be even worse. You never know when you will be assaulted by them again, and you have no way of telling when they will stop.” In my head, I can see flashes of every argument I had with my narcissist and the times things became physical. I remember vividly his dog rushing to my rescue, barking at him, jumping on him, and then my dog, as sweet as he is, would sit frozen for a few moments and then began barking from wherever he was.
I remember his dog comforting me, and as I look back, I understand now why she kept close to me. She would not let me out of her sight. Unfortunately, she passed away, and it broke my heart to hear. She was a year younger than my dog, and she spent a great portion of her life protecting me. I can only hope that after I saw her last in 2017, the woman my narcissist married loved her as much as I did.
I hope that my body fully releases the tension within the next few days, and I can go back to my normal state of hypervigilance. I cannot even begin to describe how exhausting it is to remain physically ready, knowing that I am safe. I cannot even begin to describe how disgusted I am at the sheer disrespect this person displayed.
This mercury retrograde has been fun, huh?
EMDR and Beyond. (2018, April 13). Book Summary: The Body Keeps the Score. https://emdrandbeyond.com/blog/2018/4/13/trauma-book-club-summary-the-body-keeps-the-score
Van der Kolk, B. (2015, September 8). The body keeps the score.