In February I spent a week in sunny Big Sur, California working with Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, the author of NY Times Bestseller, The Body Keeps The Score. Bessel is one of the nation's most experienced physicians in the field of healing emotional trauma. His book moved me deeply, and I jumped on the chance to work with him in a small group. The week I spent with him deepened my understanding of the brain and of myself, and gave me a language for things I never had words for before. Many of you know that I spent my first year in an orphanage, and when I was adopted, I struggled with attachment. Maintaining connection has always been hard work for me, and continues to be. Now I have a better understanding of why it's been hard. Trauma.
“The whole function of our brain is to be in sync with each other.” – The Body Keeps The Score, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk
Trauma, at its core, is about disconnection. It’s the breaking of human bonds - physical, emotional and psychological. Childhood trauma is especially damaging, and when we’re not able to form healthy bonds with our parents or caretakers at an early age we often seek out connection in self destructive ways.
The hurt I felt as a child followed me down the road into adulthood. I was seeking connection but I found addiction. I found more trauma. I didn’t know how to trust my own perceptions. I wasn’t safe. It was a vicious cycle.
"Traumatized people are drawn to traumatizing things. It’s where they feel alive. Adapting to trauma, we learn to not know what we know, feel what we feel."
Bingo. I knew this, but I guess I needed a world famous trauma doctor to validate it. For most of my life, I couldn’t know what I knew, see what I saw, or feel what I felt. In many ways, I was blind. I’ve written song after song about this, trying to make sense of it. Dr. van der Kolk taught me about connection, resonance, identification, and synchronization. He explained why I am my happiest when I am connected to people (it's what mammals are programmed to do), how trauma creates a disconnect, and what is currently known about how to heal this disconnection.
Bessel gave me a magnificent, clear understanding of trauma and its effects, free of blame or shame, free of psychobabble, or confusion. The driving force behind my songwriting, and my teaching is truth-telling, and my work as a songwriter has been a huge part of my own healing, that I might fully see what I see, know what I know and truly love who and what I love. Bessel said it probably saved my life. Looking back now, I think he is right.
If my words here are hitting home, get Bessel's book.
The Body Keeps The Score is destined to become a game changer - a book that will fundamentally change the way we look at the world. It's truly that good.