A foundational book on Mental Health as described by Dr. Bruce D. Perry M.D., Ph. D. (a renowned brain development and trauma expert with three decades of study/research on childhood trauma, the role it plays in structuring people's lives & how to heal from it).
If you've ever wondered where to start when choosing a book on self help, this would be the book! It is mental health explained at its very foundation--childhood trauma. It is the root to every other self improvement book on the shelf. Once you can digest the information provided in this book, you can expand your understanding with any other self help literature available. So here's to understanding the brain, how it functions and why it processes information and experiences the way it does. Warning: some of the information will hit you between the eyes, but the insight and growth is invaluable.
"[This book explores]…a subtle but profound shift in our approach to trauma that allows each of us to understand our past so that we may clear a path to our future--opening the door to resilience and healing in a proven, powerful way." -#1 New York Times Best Seller, What Happened to you?
You may think that childhood trauma is only for those who have suffered severe child abuse. However, even those who deem themselves as having a healthy or "normal" childhood can benefit from learning about trauma and how it effects the development of the human brain. We are all different and therefore process situations and experiences differently. So even in a "normal" childhood experience there's most likely some level of, albeit unintentional, trauma. It could be family related (extended or immediate), school related, peer related, and/or any other thousands of factors. If nothing else, it is a great guide on how to approach raising children by sharing tools on how to best nourish their developing brains.
Self Help meets Science
Chapters 1-3: How our Brains Process Information
The first few chapters focus on how each person strives to "make sense of the world" beginning from the day we're born. Our brain has a sequence in which it filters the constant information that is taken in through our five senses and our emotions. It is hard wired to scan for life-threatening danger. While this process is essential for our physical survival, it is often counterintuitive for our emotional and mental well-being. Understanding how and why our brain processes information in order to survive is the first step to understanding trauma and the behaviors that result from it.
Chapters 4-6: Neuroplasticity & Childhood Trauma
The good news is our brain is capable of neuroplasticity. In these chapters, Dr. Bruce explains how neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to rewire neural networks. This ability allows the brain to respond to trauma in new way rather than spiraling the mind into a tornado of overwhelming, even paralyzing, emotions. He further explains that neuroplasticity requires new skills to be learned and implemented when our brain goes into a trauma induced stress. The more skills we have (and the more we practice them) the more successful we become in responding to emotional stress.
Chapters 7-10: Trauma Awareness and Moving Forward
Throughout the book you will find there is a consistent theme. Unhealthy behaviors are a result from unresolved trauma. When we or someone else exhibits a distressing behavior the common response is, "What's wrong with you?" This book focuses on evolving that often asked question to a more insightful, "What happened to you?" By altering this one question, we move from blame to investigation. From shame to understanding. This small shift in wording helps instill compassion for ourselves and for others promoting solutions and self growth.
It could be argued that not everyone needs this book for self growth. But everyone could use a better understanding of the people around them. We all have to interact with the world. Understanding "what happened to you (or someone else)?" benefits us in our everyday interactions. Whether it be at home, work, church, the store, school or elsewhere. So visit a book store or your local library and let's build a more compassionate world together!