Bessel van der Kolk Quotes

Who is Bessel van der Kolk?

Bessel van der Kolk is a Dutch psychiatrist, author, researcher and educator based in Boston, USA. He focuses on trauma research and post-traumatic stress.

He is known for his best-selling book 'The Body Keeps the Score'. Other books by Van der Kolk are 'Post-traumatic Stress Disorder', 'Psychological Trauma' and 'Traumatic Stress'.

Born July 08, 1943

Books by Bessel van der Kolk


Best 60 Quotes by Bessel van der Kolk | Page 1 of 2

“Being traumatized is not just an issue of being stuck in the past; it is just as much a problem of not being fully alive in the present.”

Bessel van der Kolk

“Communicating fully is the opposite of being traumatized.”

Bessel van der Kolk

“If the people whom you naturally turn to for care and protection terrify or reject you, you learn to shut down and to ignore what you feel.”

Bessel van der Kolk

“If you criticize others, they don’t dare to hurt you. If you are perfect, nobody can criticize you.”

Bessel van der Kolk

“If you do something to a patient that you would not do to your friends or children, consider whether you are unwittingly replicating a trauma from the patient’s past.”

Bessel van der Kolk

“In the same way that people can drive each other mad, the company of people, and being understood by people, can also heal us.”

Bessel van der Kolk

“Long after the actual event has passed, the brain may keep sending signals to the body to escape a threat that no longer exists.”

Bessel van der Kolk

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“Mindfulness increases activation of the medial prefrontal cortex and decreases activation of structures like the amygdala that trigger our emotional responses. This increases our control over the emotional brain.”

Bessel van der Kolk

“Most seem to have made an unconscious decision that it is better to keep visiting doctors and treating ailments that don’t heal than to do the painful work of facing the demons of the past.”

Bessel van der Kolk

“Terror increases the need for attachment, even if the source of comfort is also the source of terror.”

Bessel van der Kolk

“Therapy won’t work as long as people keep being pulled back into the past.”

Bessel van der Kolk

“There is something very empowering about having the experience of changing your brain’s activity with your mind.”

Bessel van der Kolk

“Trauma breeds further trauma; hurt people hurt other people.”

Bessel van der Kolk

“Trauma is not the story of something that happened back then. It's the current imprint of that pain, horror, and fear living inside people.”

Bessel van der Kolk

Products by Bessel van der Kolk

“When you don’t feel real nothing matters, which makes it impossible to protect yourself from danger.”

Bessel van der Kolk

“Without imagination there is no hope, no chance to envision a better future, no place to go, no goal to reach.”

Bessel van der Kolk

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“I have learned that my total organismic sensing of a situation is more trustworthy than my intellect.”

On Becoming a Person


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The Body Keeps the Score Quotes

“After trauma the world is experienced with a different nervous system. The survivor’s energy now becomes focused on suppressing inner chaos, at the expense of spontaneous involvement in their lives. These attempts to maintain control over unbearable physiological reactions can result in a whole range of physical symptoms, including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and other autoimmune diseases. This explains why it is critical for trauma treatment to engage the entire organism, body, mind, and brain.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“All too often, however, drugs such as Abilify, Zyprexa, and Seroquel, are prescribed instead of teaching people the skills to deal with such distressing physical reactions. Of course, medications only blunt sensations and do nothing to resolve them or transform them from toxic agents into allies.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“As I often tell my students, the two most important phrases in therapy, as in yoga, are 'Notice that' and 'What happens next?' Once you start approaching your body with curiosity rather than with fear, everything shifts.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“As long as we feel safely held in the hearts and minds of the people who love us, we will climb mountains and cross deserts and stay up all night to finish projects.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself. The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know. That takes an enormous amount of courage.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“Because drugs have become so profitable, major medical journals rarely publish studies on non-drug treatments of mental health problems. Practitioners who explore treatments are typically marginalized as “alternative.” Studies of non-drug treatments are rarely funded unless they involve so-called manualized protocols, where patients and therapists go through narrowly prescribed sequences that allow little fine-tuning to individual patients’ needs. Mainstream medicine is firmly committed to a better life through chemistry, and the fact that we can actually change our own physiology and inner equilibrium by means other than drugs is rarely considered.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“Because traumatized people often have trouble sensing what is going on in their bodies, they lack a nuanced response to frustration. They either react to stress by becoming 'spaced out' or with excessive anger. Whatever their response, they often can’t tell what is upsetting them.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“Being traumatized means continuing to organize your life as if the trauma were still going on — unchanged and immutable — as every new encounter or event is contaminated by the past.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“Economists have calculated that every dollar invested in high-quality home visitation, day care, and preschool programs results in seven dollars of savings on welfare payments, health-care costs, substance-abuse treatment, and incarceration, plus higher tax revenues due to better-paying jobs.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“For a hundred years or more, every textbook of psychology and psychotherapy has advised that some method of talking about distressing feelings can resolve them. However, as we’ve seen, the experience of trauma itself gets in the way of being able to do that. No matter how much insight and understanding we develop, the rational brain is basically impotent to talk the emotional brain out of its own reality. I am continually impressed by how difficult it is for people who have gone through the unspeakable to convey the essence of their experience. It is so much easier for them to talk about what has been done to them — to tell a story of victimization and revenge — than to notice, feel, and put into words the reality of their internal experience.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“Healing depends on experiential knowledge: You can be fully in charge of your life only if you can acknowledge the reality of your body, in all its visceral dimensions.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

Products by Bessel van der Kolk

“How many mental health problems, from drug addiction to self-injurious behavior, start as attempts to cope with the unbearable physical pain of our emotions? If Darwin was right, the solution requires finding ways to help people alter the inner sensory landscape of their bodies. Until recently, this bidirectional communication between body and mind was largely ignored by Western science, even as it had long been central to traditional healing practices in many other parts of the world, notably in India and China. Today it is transforming our understanding of trauma and recovery.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“I have met countless patients who told me that they 'are' bipolar or borderline or that they 'have' PTSD, as if they had been sentenced to remain in an underground dungeon for the rest of their lives, like the Count of Monte Cristo. None of these diagnoses takes into account the unusual talents that many of our patients develop or the creative energies they have mustered to survive.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

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