Breaking the Silence about Childhood Trauma
“All trauma is preverbal,” the psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk has written.
His statement is true in two senses.
First, the psychic wounds we sustain are often inflicted upon us before our brain is capable of formulating any kind of a verbal narrative, as in my case.
Second, even after we become language-endowed, some wounds are imprinted on regions of our nervous systems having nothing to do with language or concepts; this includes brain areas, of course, but the rest of the body, too. They are stored in parts of us that words and thoughts cannot directly access—we might even call this level of traumatic encoding “subverbal.”
As Peter Levine explains, “Conscious, explicit memory is only the proverbial tip of a very deep and mighty iceberg. It barely hints at the submerged strata of primal implicit experience that moves us in ways the conscious mind can only begin to imagine.”