Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, the author of The Body Keeps the Score, has been studying and treating trauma for over thirty years. He is the founder and director of the Trauma Center in Brookline, a professor of psychiatry at Boston University, and has been a leading researcher of traumatic stress. In this exceptional book on neuroscience and psychiatry, Dr. Kolk takes the reader on an intriguing journey of discovering the neuroscience behind trauma and the reality of people suffering from trauma. The book takes the reader into a reality of our world of the mental warzone as Dr. Kolk integrates science, real human stories, and treatment techniques. Throughout the book, he brings up this challenge for our modern society full of traumas and PTSD: “How can people gain control over the residues of past trauma and return to being masters of their own ship?” The book is divided into five sections – 1.The Rediscovery of Trauma, 2. This is Your Brain on Trauma, 3. The Minds of Children, 4. The Imprint of Trauma, and 5. Paths to Recovery invites the readers to “dedicate ourselves to facing the reality of traumas, to explore how best to treat it, and to commit ourselves, as a society, to using every means we have to prevent it.”
On Wednesday morning, the country woke up to another tragic mass shooting incident that took place in the Brooklyn subway. And everyone who saw the news and saw the horrific videos they were asking the same questions that I was asking myself: ‘Oh no! Not Again? Why?’ Even though the traumas are all caused by different incidents, such as Vietnam War, 9/11, drunk driving accidents, domestic violence, Russia-Ukraine War, or Brooklyn mass shooting, it leaves the same marks of life-altering wounds on all victims of the traumas. According to Dr. Kolk, these experiences from traumas “affect our innermost sensations and our relationship to our physical reality – the core of who we are.” This current state of unbalanced, broken, and unhealthy mental and physical realities is revealed through these alarming statistics – “one in five Americans was sexually molested as a child; one in four was beaten by a parent to the point of a mark being life on their body; and one in three couples engages in physical violence. A quarter of us grew up with alcoholic relatives, and one out of eight witnessed their mother being beaten or hit.” These statistics reveal that no one on earth grows up in an ideal, safe, and protected environment.
How does our brain react and respond when we face chaotic, traumatic, and dangerous situations? According to neuroscience, the brain’s oldest part, the alarm system, is turned on – “When the old brain takes over, it partially shuts down the higher brain, our conscious mind, and propels the body to run, hide, fight, or, on occasion, freeze.” That’s exactly what I saw on that video when the doors opened on the subway train and smokes came out along with victims who were shot, bleeding to death. For the most, they were running, hiding, fighting, and freezing up because their internal alarm system was telling them to escape the situation at all costs, but I also saw the compassionate few who were standing by the bleeding victims. What made them stay trying to stop the bleeding? What made them overcome and override their own alarm system that was telling them to run away? Every trauma reveals the true picture of our reality and society. The truth in this reality of life is that messed up things and bloody things will always blow up around us and shock us, and it is very near.
I met Randy when I was volunteering at a mental care home to fulfill volunteer hours for one of my chaplaincy classes for seminary. I had to volunteer one hour a week for ten weeks and I grew close to Randy. This mental unit was near my house and I had no idea that this structure was a mental unit until I started to volunteer. The unit was divided into two sections where on one side, the violent patients were housed and the other non-violent patients were housed. Randy was one of the non-violent but mentally very broken patient. Every time I went to volunteer, I listened to Randy’s story. He told me the same exact stories every single time I met him. I have no idea if he even remembered or recognized who I was every time we had conversations together. For the first three weeks, I encountered a run, hide, flight survival system kicking in and telling me to drop it and go find myself a different facility to volunteer. I felt uncomfortable talking to Randy and I even felt fear whenever he talked about some extreme stories (still not sure if it was real or it was delusional stories he made up) But, somehow I got through all ten weeks and at the end of 10 weeks, Randy and I grew closer to one another. Randy smiled at back me after I prayed my last prayer of blessing as I said my goodbye. I enjoyed my time with Randy because I felt how much God loved Randy even though Randy was so broken to the point that society had to hide him away from the world that the world categorized as normal. Through my time with Randy, I had to accept for the first time that there are many things out in our broken world that simply cannot be fixed. There is nobody that can “treat a war, or abuse, rape, molestation, or any other horrendous event, for that matter; what has happened cannot be undone.” The embodiment of Romans 8:11 requires conscience and self-led choice to stand beside those who are bleeding to death. Trauma in our society runs so deep that it impacts all aspects of our psychological, relational, physical, spiritual, and emotional core of who we are. May the power of Resurrection live through all of us to bring healing to the bleeding.
 Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. Reprint edition (New York, NY: Penguin Publishing Group, 2015), 4.
 Ibid, 4.
 Ibid, 21.
 Ibid, 1.
 Ibid, 54.
 Ibid, 205.