Bessel van der Kolk Quotes

Why should I know Bessel van der Kolk?

Bessel van der Kolk is a Dutch psychiatrist, author, researcher and educator based in Boston, USA. He is known for his best seller 'The Body Keeps the Score'.

Born July 08, 1943

Books by Bessel van der Kolk


Best 37 Quotes by Bessel van der Kolk

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

“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

“If your parents’ faces never lit up when they looked at you, it’s hard to know what it feels like to be loved and cherished. If you come from an incomprehensible world filled with secrecy and fear, it’s almost impossible to find the words to express what you have endured. If you grew up unwanted and ignored, it is a major challenge to develop a visceral sense of agency and self-worth.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“In my practice I begin the process by helping my patients to first notice and then describe the feelings in their bodies—not emotions such as anger or anxiety or fear but the physical sensations beneath the emotions: pressure, heat, muscular tension, tingling, caving in, feeling hollow, and so on. I also work on identifying the sensations associated with relaxation or pleasure. I help them become aware of their breath, their gestures and movements.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“In order to change, people need to become aware of their sensations and the way that their bodies interact with the world around them. Physical self-awareness is the first step in releasing the tyranny of the past.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“It takes enormous trust and courage to allow yourself to remember.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“Many of our patients are barely aware of their breath, so learning to focus on the in and out breath, to notice whether the breath was fast or slow, and to count breaths in some poses can be a significant accomplishment.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“Mindfulness not only makes it possible to survey our internal landscape with compassion and curiosity but can also actively steer us in the right direction for self-care.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“Neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going inside ourselves.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

Products by Bessel van der Kolk

“Over the years our research team has repeatedly found that chronic emotional abuse and neglect can be just as devastating as physical abuse and sexual molestation.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“Psychiatry, as a subspecialty of medicine, aspires to define mental illness as precisely as, let’s say, cancer of the pancreas, or streptococcal infection of the lungs. However, given the complexity of mind, brain, and human attachment systems, we have not come even close to achieving that sort of precision. Understanding what is 'wrong' with people currently is more a question of the mind-set of the practitioner (and of what insurance companies will pay for) than of verifiable, objective facts.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“Psychologists usually try to help people use insight and understanding to manage their behavior. However, neuroscience research shows that very few psychological problems are the result of defects in understanding; most originate in pressures from deeper regions in the brain that drive our perception and attention. When the alarm bell of the emotional brain keeps signaling that you are in danger, no amount of insight will silence it.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“Scared animals return home, regardless of whether home is safe or frightening.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“The brain-disease model overlooks four fundamental truths:
(1) our capacity to destroy one another is matched by our capacity to heal one another. Restoring relationships and community is central to restoring well-being;
(2) language gives us the power to change ourselves and others by communicating our experiences, helping us to define what we know, and finding a common sense of meaning;
(3) we have the ability to regulate our own physiology, including some of the so-called involuntary functions of the body and brain, through such basic activities as breathing, moving, and touching; and
(4) we can change social conditions to create environments in which children and adults can feel safe and where they can thrive.

When we ignore these quintessential dimensions of humanity, we deprive people of ways to heal from trauma and restore their autonomy. Being a patient, rather than a participant in one’s healing process, separates suffering people from their community and alienates them from an inner sense of self.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“The greatest sources of our suffering are the lies we tell ourselves.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“The mind needs to be reeducated to feel physical sensations, and the body needs to be helped to tolerate and enjoy the comforts of touch. Individuals who lack emotional awareness are able, with practice, to connect their physical sensations to psychological events. Then they can slowly reconnect with themselves.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“The more you stay focused on your breathing, the more you will benefit, particularly if you pay attention until the very end of the out breath and then wait a moment before you inhale again. As you continue to breathe and notice the air moving in and out of your lungs you may think about the role that oxygen plays in nourishing your body and bathing your tissues with the energy you need to feel alive and engaged.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“Trauma victims cannot recover until they become familiar with and befriend the sensations in their bodies. Being frightened means that you live in a body that is always on guard. Angry people live in angry bodies. The bodies of child-abuse victims are tense and defensive until they find a way to relax and feel safe. In order to change, people need to become aware of their sensations and the way that their bodies interact with the world around them. Physical self-awareness is the first step in releasing the tyranny of the past.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

“We have learned that trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in the past; it is also the imprint left by that experience on mind, brain, and body. This imprint has ongoing consequences for how the human organism manages to survive in the present. Trauma results in a fundamental reorganization of the way mind and brain manage perceptions. It changes not only how we think and what we think about, but also our very capacity to think.”

Bessel van der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score

Traumatic Stress Quotes

“In important ways, an experience does not really exist until it can be named and placed into larger categories.”

Bessel van der Kolk
Traumatic Stress

“The introduction of the PTSD diagnosis has opened a door to the scientific investigation of the nature of human suffering. Although much of human art and religion has always focused on expressing and understanding man’s afflictions, science has paid scant attention to suffering as an object of study. Hitherto, science has generally categorized people’s problems as discrete psychological or biological disorders — diseases without context, largely independent of the personal histories of the patients, their temperaments, or their environments.

PTSD, then, serves as a model for correcting the decontextualized aspects of today’s psychiatric nomenclature. It refocuses attention back on the living person instead of our overly concrete definitions of mental 'disorders' as 'things' in and of themselves, bringing us back to people’s own experiences and the meaning which they assign to it.”

Bessel van der Kolk
Traumatic Stress

“The scientific study of suffering inevitably raises questions of causation, and with these, issues of blame and responsibility.”

Bessel van der Kolk
Traumatic Stress

“Unlike other forms of psychological disorders, the core issue in trauma is reality.”

Bessel van der Kolk
Traumatic Stress

“Victims are members of society whose problems represent the memory of suffering, rage, and pain in a world that longs to forget.”

Bessel van der Kolk
Traumatic Stress