Reading List: 4 Books For Dealing With Trauma

It’s important to understand that trauma is something that happens, internally, to all of us. Even if we’ve never been in something like a car accident, we’re likely dealing with trauma of some kind. As Gabor Mate says,  “It’s not just the bad things that have happened. But it’s the good and right things that didn’t, but should have.”

In this post-election hangover, there might be a lot of people who are feeling really triggered.

Some things might come up because there might be some undiagnosed trauma in your history. These books really provide a very eye-opening understanding of how trauma affects the body and allows the reader to not feel as responsible, emotionally, for what’s going on with them. 

Below is my recommended reading list for dealing with trauma. 

Unf*uck Your Brain: Using Science to Get Over Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Freak-outs, and Triggers

As someone who struggles with mental health issues, I couldn’t resist this book.  Firstly, because I ‘swear like a sailor’ in my clinical work with teens. Most books on the topic are whitewashed and full of old clinical jargon and leave me bored and disconnected.  Unf*ck Your Brain held more promise for me in the premise that using ‘scatological language’ might bring the concepts down to earth for me, and for my clients. After finishing it, the cussing was a little disingenuous for me. Meaning it felt a bit contrived. But that’s merely my own projection of how much is too much, so decide for yourself.  I will say that if you are offended by swearing, DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK! If you’d like to read my full review of this book, visit this BLOG POST

The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk

This book has been described as quite academic, But don’t let that stop you from reading if you’re trying to deal with past trauma and unresolved stress. Often in our culture, we think of the mind and body as separate. In The Body Keeps The Score, Van Der Kulk says, 

“The mind needs to be reeducated to feel physical sensations, and the body needs to be helped to tolerate and enjoy the comforts of touch. Individuals who lack emotional awareness are able, with practice, to connect their physical sensations with psychological events. Then, they can slowly reconnect with themselves.”

Another one of my favorite quotes from this book is, 

“The brain-disease model overlooks four fundamental truths: (1) our capacity to destroy one another is matched by our capacity to heal one another. Restoring relationships and community is central to restoring well-being. (2) language gives us the power to change ourselves and others by communicating our experiences, helping us to define what we know, and finding a common sense of meaning; (3) we have the ability to regulate our own physiology, including some of the so-called involuntary functions of the body and brain, through such basic activities as breathing, moving, and touching; and (4) we can change social conditions to create environments in which children and adults feel safe and where they can thrive.”

If you are dealing with trauma that has negatively impacted your health, you should check out The Body Keeps The Score

When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress by Gabor Mate

Author Gabor Mate once again has blown my mind. The first time was with In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction. That book really helped shape how I view addiction today. When The Body Says No is similar in theme to The Body Keeps The Score (after all, they have very similar titles). But, this book is a bit more accessible. Gabor Mate once again does a great job of using storytelling to show how stress and trauma can play a role in chronic illness. If you are dealing with trauma of any kind, this book is a great read.

A couple of my favorite quotes from this book include: 

“Settling for the view that illnesses, mental or physical, are primarily genetic allows us to avoid disturbing questions about the nature of the society in which we live. If ‘science’ enables us to ignore poverty or man-made toxins or a frenetic and stressful social culture as contributors to disease, we can look only to simple answers: pharmacological and biological.”

“The body’s hormonal system is inextricably linked with the brain centres where emotions are experienced and interpreted. In turn, the hormonal apparatus and the emotional centres are interconnected with the immune system and the nervous system. These are not four separate systems, but one super-system that functions as a unit to protect the body from external invasion and from disturbances to the internal physiological condition. It is impossible food any stressful stimulus, chronic or acute, to act on only one part of the super-system. What happens to one will affect all.”

The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: Engaging the Rhythm of Regulation by Deb Dana

In case you’re wondering what polyvagal theory is, let’s start with a definition. To be honest, it was tough to find a super simple explanation of what it is. Here is what Wikipedia had to say:

Polyvagal theory is a collection of evolutionary, neuroscientific and psychological claims pertaining to the role of the vagus nerve in emotion regulation, social connection and fear response. 

One of my favorite quotes from this book is, 

“The job of the autonomic nervous system is to ensure we survive in moments of danger and thrive in times of safety. Survival requires threat detection and the activation of a survival response. Thriving demands the opposite—the inhibition of a survival response so that social engagement can happen. Without the capacity for activation, inhibition, and flexibility of response, we suffer.”

The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy is great reading for therapists or anyone who works trauma. Dana provides an accessible interpretation of the theory and how it can influence therapy. 

If there are any other categories of books, podcasts or apps you’d like to hear about, let me know and I can do a future blog post to address it. 

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