The Body Keeps The Score By Bessel Van Der Kolk (Book Summary & Review)

Personal DevelopmentPsychology

What’s in it? Quick Summary

The Body Keeps Score discusses the challenges faced by those who have faced traumas in their lives. And also explores why traumas are so challenging to overcome and how to deal with them.

YouTube player

You can buy the book in your preferable format below.

Get the Audiobook: Listen free with Audible trial

Get the Paperback version: View price on Amazon

Get the Hardcover version: View price on Amazon

The Body Keeps The Score Summary

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
74,281 Reviews
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
  • Penguin Books
  • Ideal for a bookworm
  • It’s a great choice for a book person
  • van der Kolk M.D., Bessel (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update on 2024-05-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon

War. Accident. Disaster. Abuse.

Picture going through one of these.

It’d give chills to even the strongest people.

Imagine the emotional and physical distress that such experiences would cause.

What happens to people who have had trauma in the past?

Why are traumas so difficult to overcome, even with counseling?

Is overcoming them an option?

In this book summary, we’ll find out answers to some of these questions.

Alrighty, so without further ado, let’s dive right in.

Lesson #1: Traumas can shake a person to the core, and one might never recover from it.

Yes, that’s how serious traumas can be.

But don’t mistakenly think that only war veterans or unlucky people who were at the wrong place at the wrong time experience traumas.

Anybody can experience trauma.

Traumas can be strong or mild depending on the experience.

An overwhelming stress in the brain or body can lead to trauma.

Whatever you experience is stored in your memory and affects your mind.

Some experiences are so overwhelmingly negative that they are impossible to forget.

When you experience a traumatic event, your outlook on life changes significantly.

People with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) struggle to trust people, as they think that nobody will understand them.

A big trauma can change a person’s life forever.

People who suffer trauma often become depressed in their day-to-day lives.

Happiness seems impossible to them.

Those images or experiences keep coming back to them in their dreams.

They don’t think they can overcome it. 

You cannot grasp what a traumatic experience feels like without having gone through one.

Best Tools for Bibliophiles

Lesson #2: The body remembers and can trigger a fight or flight response, causing the person to relive the memories.

Trauma alters the bodies alarm system, which is activated during a fight or flight situation.

During the research, the author found that it changes a person physiologically and thus interferes with the normal functioning of the body.

For instance, the body might create the same experience if there is a real threat and re-imagine those same mental movies.

Normally, fear helps us avoid dangers and alerts us from any serious threats.

But for people with PTSD, even simple things in life can be a big deal.

Even when there is no real danger, the body starts to show signs of stress and fear.

Those who go through this experience often feel helpless.

They feel like their life won’t be normal again.

It feels as if they have lost all control and are doomed.

They lose their purpose.

Their relationships are also adversely affected.

They feel isolated and pessimistic.

Most of their energy is used to deal with it.

Imagine fighting with enemies that don’t exist. Will it be worth fighting for?

There’s no point in fighting if there’s nobody to win over.

Unfortunately, traumatic patients often find themselves in an endless struggle.

Instead of using their energy to grow, they have to use it to deal with their bodies, which keeps them in survival mode for no reason.

The harsh reality is: There is no DELETE button to delete all the bad memories.

Remember, traumas can happen to anyone. 

Therefore, we must explore how our bodies and minds function in these situations.

Lesson #3: Feeling love and safety is important for good mental health.

PTSD is bad for our mental health.

It’s obvious.

But what does it tell about our minds and bodies?

PTSD patients suffer because their sense of safety and love is affected.

Safety is one of our basic needs. Once we feel safe, we seek love and comfort.

The patients feel threatened because of the memories.

When your body doesn’t feel safe, you have a hard time thinking about love.

In short: Love is hard without feeling safe. Or at least our body must feel safe so that it can give room to love.

Without both of them, mental health issues are bound to develop.

This is why people who have had traumatic experiences are more likely to have mental problems.

It’s even worse when you have a trauma when you’re young.

As we discussed, trauma makes significant changes to a person’s mental body. 

When you are young, you constantly absorb a lot of new information.

One could even feel like giving up on life.

Strange disorders may last even in the adulthood years after the trauma happened.

Again, keep in mind that trauma isn’t exclusive to a few people.

Traumas can happen to anyone.

It could be any bad, overwhelming experience that triggering strong emotions.

So if you are someone who is concerned about his or her mental health, learn about traumas as much as you can.

The more you know about your body and mind, the better your mental health will be.

Your body has to feel safe, and you must build healthy relationships so that you can keep your mental health optimum.

Lesson #4: Traumatic life events are easier to recall than ordinary experiences.

We create memories every single second.

But not all memories stick for a long time.

In fact, often, you have to put effort to remember things.

For example:

You have to remember a deal of concepts and formulas when preparing for an exam.

Even after repetition and practice, it can be challenging to recall them during the exam.

The more old and boring the memories, the harder it is to recall them.

However, this isn’t the case with traumatic experiences.

Many people who have gone through child abuse or an accident remember it vividly, as if it happened yesterday.

Those experiences are permanently imprinted in their memory.

Are you curious as to why our bodies function in this manner?

It’s actually our bodies’ way of protecting us from future threats.

The body wants to preserve itself. 

The nature has built into us a mechanism that makes the mind and body react when there is danger.

Our body goes into fight or flight mode when it senses a threat.

The body remembers those life-threatening experiences vividly to ensure our survival.

While mundane experiences aren’t life-threatening, they don’t require much attention. So, we tend to forget them. 

You can also say that the body (mind) has its own intelligence and prioritizes what it wants to remember.

Survival is number one in its priority list.

Lesson #5: There is no better way to deal with traumas than understanding the relationship between body and mind.

Many anti-depression or stress cures today focus on taking chemical drugs.

But if you do some research, you’ll find that they aren’t useful as we think.

The reason is:

They focus more on curing the symptoms, but hardly focus on the cause.

Often, PTSD patients find themselves taking psychiatric drugs to cure their suffering.

The question is:

Is this the right approach?

Those drugs might provide some relief, but since they don’t address the cause of the problem, the suffering isn’t permanently resolved.

The real problem is:

We don’t know how to deal with overwhelming situations.

Many people don’t understand how their bodies and minds work.

The more you know about yourself, the less likely you are to be affected by trauma.

Traumatic patients often become confused and helpless, which only exacerbates the suffering.

You could try incorporating yoga into your routine and becoming more mindful.

The best part? It’s free.

The author believes that medications are profitable to sellers and hence they are promoted more instead of using cost-effective techniques like yoga. 

It is questionable how effective those medicines are.

The argument against them is that if they were effective, we wouldn’t have so many depressed people in society.

Does this mean you abandon them completely?

No, always consult a Psychiatrist before making such a decision. 

There are many other techniques like EMDR to treat PTSD. But if you pay attention, they all circle back to your mind.

Hopefully, we can rewire our brains with practice and learning.

The meaning we give to our experiences affects how much impact trauma has on our lives.

It’s simple: learn about your mind.

The more you know about it, the better.

The Body Keeps The Score Review

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
74,281 Reviews
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
  • Penguin Books
  • Ideal for a bookworm
  • It’s a great choice for a book person
  • van der Kolk M.D., Bessel (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update on 2024-05-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon

Who should read this book?

  • Anyone trying to recover from PTSD.
  • Psychiatrists researching about traumas.
  • Anyone who wants to learn more about the stress-coping mechanism within the mind.


  • The book shares numerous stories explaining how traumas impact the everyday lives of people.


  • Some people find this book a bit boring as it discusses many technical concepts with diagrams.
  • Discusses problems more than solutions. But that’s justified, considering how complicated traumas can be.

Buy the book on Amazon: Hardcover | Paperback | Audiobook

Special Offer: Try Audible Premium Plus and Get Up To Two Free Audiobooks

Interested in Reading more about Traumas?

Check out these books that cover similar topics:

Last update on 2024-05-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon

FAQs about The Body Keeps The Score

Who is the author of The Body Keeps The Score?

Bessel Van Der Kolk

Is The Body Keeps The Score a good book?

Yes, it’s a great book if you want to learn about PTSD. But it can be a bit technical.

How much time does it take to finish This book?

It’d take an average person 5-6 hours to finish, as there is so much theory to cover.

Now It’s Your Turn

There you have it.

I hope you learned plenty of things about trauma in this book summary.

If you liked it, please share it with your friends as well.

Thanks for reading.

Shami Manohar

The Brain Behind

I am Shami Manohar, the founder of WizBuskOut. My obsession with non-fiction books has fueled me with the energy to create this website. I read at least one book every week on topics such as business, critical thinking, mindset, psychology, and more.

My mission is to educate and empower individuals with the knowledge that works in real life.

Connect with me on LinkedIn

Consider supporting me in my mission:

I invest a lot of time, energy, and money in things like softwares, books, design, videos, artists, designers, etc., to provide you with this level of quality content at zero cost. If you love consuming my work and appreciate it, support me. This would help me provide even more value and help humanity grow. Every little penny counts.

Donate here

Become a channel member on YouTube