The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. By Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. Penguin Books, New York, NY. (2014)
The most effective coaches are those that have the ability to connect with others, understand the importance of psychology, and value knowledge about human behavior. You cannot have physiology without psychology. There is information out there about coaching tactics for personality and temperament (Brett Bartholomew), neurological profiling for program design (Christian Thibaudeau) , and targeting neurotransmitters for adherence.
These can be important considerations for training and coaching, however humans are extremely complex and there is always a deeper level. When you interact with others, that deeper level may include understanding how trauma can manifest itself in the body.
We all interact with people who are in pain (not just physical). Trauma doesn’t have to be one event, it can be the inability to cope with a perceived threat at a young age, in which coping strategies become ingrained in our physiology and neurology. These strategies can be teeth clenching, breathe holding, curling toes, and tightening of abdominals (More Information).
Our current behavior and our response to stress is created by past experiences. Our behavior is based upon prediction, in which we will revert back to the behavior from past emotional or physical stressors. As coaches, we need to acknowledge feelings, create body awareness, appreciate the impact of our clients past experiences related to their current behaviors (this includes creating a referral network), and changing our own behaviors to best interact with that client.
“As human beings we belong to an extremely resilient species. Since time immemorial we have rebounded from our relentless wars, countless disasters (both natural and man-made), and the violence and betrayal in our own lives. But traumatic experiences do leave traces, whether on a large scale (on our histories and cultures) or close to home, on our families, with dark secrets being imperceptibly passed down through generations. They also leave traces on our minds and emotions, on our capacity for joy and intimacy, and even our biology and immune systems.”
– Dr. Bessel van der Kolk (p.1)
Dr. Bessel van der Kolk is the founder and medical director of the Trauma center in Brookline, Massachusetts. In his book, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk shares his years of clinical practice and scientific literature in relation to how trauma can reshape the body and brain (whole body response). He presents treatments such as meditation, sports, yoga, and self expression for recovery.
Traumatic experiences physically affects the brain and the body, causing anxiety, inability to concentrate, and the inability to feel sensation. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk explores the complexity of the mind, structure and function of the brain’s emotional pathways, the ways in which humans are connected and attached to each other, and how emotions/behavior are reflected in movement.
Trauma (which can be solely unconscious) can literally change the structure and function of the brain, increase stress hormones, create hypervigilance to threat (real or imagined), restrict movement, create sleep disturbances, oversensitivity to touch or sound, and increase the perception of pain. These experiences can occur as a baby and contribute to the emotional and perceptual map of the world in the developing brain.
When you are a coach, you have a responsibility for a position of influence. I often observe the dehumanization of athletes in relation to the avoidance of human connection. Today, we limit social interaction with the use of technology and often breed a superficial environment. Coaches have the ability to positively impact other individuals but there needs to be knowledge of human behavior (including the information presented in the book), communication skills, and acknowledgement.
We are all different. We all perceive the world differently from past experiences and temperaments. Remember this when you are dealing with others (position of influence).
This book is dense and emotional at times, however ever since I read it a few years ago it has been in my list for top 3 favorite books. The information presented is invaluable in appreciating behavior, past experiences, pain, and relationships. It is close to a ’10’ because it’s an exploration of the complexity of the human species, and that’s quality to me.
Related Recommended Resource: Seth Oberst, DPT, SCS, CSCS and his Stress, Movement & Pain course
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