. . . but if we don’t help patients move beyond these early stages of recovery, they’re at risk of staying stuck in the past, repeatedly re-engaging with their trauma.
So in the video below, Bessel van der Kolk, MD shares what can help patients reclaim their vitality and move beyond experiences of trauma.
Not only that, he’ll reflect on how he approached treatment earlier in his career, and why he thinks this (common) approach kept his patients from feeling fully alive after trauma.
Have a look.
I think you’re interviewing Ruth Lanius also. And Ruth’s lab has done a series of very important studies about a default mode network. And it shows that traumatized people in an ordinary state do not access their default mode network. That means, under ordinary conditions, they don’t feel quite at home with themselves. But when they get re-expose to their trauma, that network gets activated. And so you feel alive when you get exposed to your trauma and you feel not alive when there is no trauma going on. So your brain gets rewired.
The example I like to give is that it taught for several years at the Neiman Foundation at Harvard, a program for advanced journalists. And I met all these war correspondents who felt alive in the Congo and in Syria and in Afghanistan, and when they come to this beautiful building in Cambridge, Massachusetts, they feel dead inside. And several of the people who I met at the journalism program are now the reporters that you hear from in the Ukraine. So they feel alive when they’re exposed to trauma and they feel dead the rest of the time. Huge implications for psychotherapists because psychotherapists say to replay the trauma with people over and over again, which is what I did at the VA. It’s a terrible thing to do because it makes the trauma more and more alive and makes everything else less and less relevant. So the challenge is how to help people to be alive without the trauma.
You do it by helping people to engage in rhythmical, physical activities that helps make connections with people right now. I went to Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires, very traumatized place. And you see the tango, you say, this is not optional. They had to do the tango to get reengaged with each other and to be attuned to each other because trauma makes you so mis-attuned to people. And then you go to China and you see in every park in China in the morning there’s tens of thousands of people practicing Qigong together or dancing together. These people know something that we don’t do. They know how to help people to feel physically in sync with each other and in tune with each other.
For more expert strategies to help patients access feelings of vitality and reclaim their lives from trauma, sign up for the new program on Mastering the Treatment of Trauma.
When you register, you’ll hear insights and interventions from Bessel van der Kolk, MD; Judith Herman, MD; Janina Fisher, PhD; Pat Ogden, PhD; Ruth Lanius, MD, PhD; and more. Just sign up here.
Take a look here.
Now we’d like to hear from you. What strategies have you used to help patients reclaim their lives from trauma? Leave a comment below.