Trauma (Dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Trauma invokes so many emotions in us from shock and denial, to sadness, anger, shame and helplessness. Trauma takes time and expression. The following recommended books will offer consolation, hope and most importantly some practical techniques to process and manage your feelings, including key coping mechanisms for when you are at work.
(a) The Boy Who Was Raised A Dog (Non-fiction) by Dr Bruce D Perry
This is a classic of developmental psychology. Dr Perry begins with exploring the effects of trauma on children, particularly as they develop, which allows us to consolidate our own memories of trauma as children. He ends by outlining a comprehensive path to recovery and reclaiming our lives.
Dr Perry has dealt with all kinds of trauma victims from genocide survivors, children who’ve witnessed murder and those who have faced domestic abuse. She tells their stories in this book, and reinforces a very hopeful message that the brain has an immense capacity for healing. This is by far one of the best books on trauma out there, shifting 2000+ copies a year.
(b) It Didn't Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle (Non-fiction) by Mark Wolynn
Mark Wolynn has a very specific approach to treating trauma – particularly the trauma that has survived and transferred from generations. He offers a different perspective of looking at trauma that’s not necessarily the result of a painful life event or a chemical imbalance but instead passed through generations.
It Didn’t Start with You evidences with depth and clarity that whilst the person who initially experienced trauma might have died or their story forgotten, the associated memories, and feelings, might still be adopted by future generations – embedded in our genetic makeup and cognitive abilities - playing a far greater role than previously thought.
Mark Wolynn prescribes the Core Language Approach – linking words and language to emotions, behaviours and physical symptoms to understand where the trauma actually resides and releasing it. It’s a novel approach, that’s proven to be extremely effective, particularly when other treatments and therapies have failed.
(c) The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity (Non-fiction) by Nadine Burke Harris
A young boy stopped growing after a sexual assault. This was the starting point of Dr. Harris’s lifelong work on child trauma management linking the effects of toxic stress and chronic illness. Childhood adversity (neglect, abuse, parental shame, divorce) can quite literally change our biological makeup for life.
In this book she offers scientific tools on how we may heal from the trauma that’s already happened and holding us hostage. Another great resource for trauma sufferers, I would highly recommend this book.
(d) Journey Through Trauma: A Trail Guide to the 5-Phase Cycle of Healing Repeated Trauma (Non-fiction) by Gretchen L. Schmelzer PhD
Gretchen Schmelzer’s biggest bee in the bonnet was that people would quit their trauma recovery therapy – it was just too difficult to continue or that they did not feel supported sufficiently to continue.
As a trauma survivor herself, Dr. Schmelzer clarifies that when people have a setback in their therapy, it might actually be a step forward. In order to get trauma survivors to complete their treatment, she developed a 5-step approach to ensure victims complete the therapy and reached recovery. Healing is possible. It requires courage.
Journey Through Trauma offers a helpful guide through this relational healing process, which is by no means a linear therapy – rather there will be setbacks and then progress and then setbacks again until the survivor has fully healed. She argues, this non-linear process is essential for healing.
(e) The Body Keeps the Score (Non-fiction) by Bessel Van Der Kolk
This is one of the most recent books on trauma healing and one of my favourites. Van Der Kolk, one of the world’s leading experts on trauma, acknowledges that trauma is a fact of life and everyone has to deal with some form of it in their lives.
After three decades of working with survivors this book offers a different take on trauma illustrating how trauma influences the brain and the body – negatively impacting every aspect of cognitive functioning from self-control to trust to permitting pleasure.
The best part of the book is his exploration of alternative treatments such as yoga and mediation to sports and drama — to literarily change the neuroplasticity of the brain so that recovery is achieved and survivors may fully reclaim their lives.
Trauma in Fiction
Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things is a powerful book on exploring family trauma through fiction offering some cathartic respite as you read it.
(a) The God of Small Things (Literary Fiction) by Arundhati Roy
A modern classic, The God of Small Things emerges as a powerful family saga set against a backdrop of fast-paced political changes taking place in India.
Seven-year-old twins Estha and Rahel see their world shaken when their beautiful young cousin, Sophie arrives. Filled with family battles, forbidden love and sex, violent spousal abuse, child sexual abuse and incest, Roy does an excellent job of capturing the domestic issues at the heart of so many families in India and the world.
Jumping between different periods of time, the book blends together memory, hope, feelings and the social injustices of the time. This precise time play is in effect the experiential reality of trauma victims, for whom time is disordered and who are still making sense of what has happened to them – through recollections, reliving painful moments of time and trying to reconcile their present with the past and the possible future.
A big hello and thank you for reading! Passionate about literature, psychology, and life I launched Book Therapy as an alternative form of therapy using the power of literature. I train mental health professionals, librarians, teachers as well as readers on using bibliotherapy in their own work through our online Bibliotherapy, Literature and Mental Health course. We also curate reading lists/personalised book prescriptions for clients based on their individual needs. This is our signature personalised reading service.
You can also check out Book Therapy’s other free reading lists and A- Z of book prescriptions (covering both fiction and non-fiction). These suggest books based on your existing life situation (e.g. anxiety, job change, relationship heartache) as well as interests (e.g memoir, historical fiction, non-fiction, crime etc). There’s also a Children’s A — Z of Book Prescriptions. Feel free to check out the blog for more literary gems. There’s also a post on my personal story of how I entered the world of bibliotherapy and book curation.
In this role, I have had the opportunity to publish a book called The Happiness Mindset, and write various literary essays and pieces for newspapers and magazines. I have undertaken bibliotherapy workshops for The United Nations, various libraries in New York and corporate organisations in the UK and US. My book recommendations have featured in the Guardian, Marie Claire, NBC News, Asian Voice, New York Observer, Sydney Telegraph and various other publications. If you are a parent you might enjoy a podcast I’ve recorded with speech and language therapist Sunita Shah on Raising A Reader & Storyteller. And if you’d like to connect, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.booktherapy.io.
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