PTSD Book Review: TRAUMA and RECOVERY, by Judith Herman

PTSD Judith Herman's BookI had such an emotional response to the idea of the book TRAUMA AND RECOVERY, by Judith Herman, that when I first bought the book shortly after my diagnosis, I was too afraid to read it. I had a feeling, just an intuition, that it was going to be an important book to me.

Of course, the reviews haling it as a ‘stunning achievement,’ ‘brilliant’, ‘a landmark’, and ‘one of the most important psychiatric works to be published since Freud’, didn’t help alleviate my feeling that the book would rock my world.

For a long time then, it sat on my book shelf sending out a little pulses as I passed by it day after day. Mostly, I think I was afraid that the evidence in the book would overwhelm me with emotion. I was right.

When I finally read the book (which I just now have reread) I was flattened by the sheer weight of the acknowledgement and validation I found in its pages. I felt released by the facts of posttraumatic stress syndrome. I felt relieved to know the how and why I’d ended up with the experiences and behaviors I did. I felt grief for the struggling girl I had been who might have found help (and hated herself a little less) sooner if someone had given me the book in the year it was published: 1992.

The book is written in two parts: the first about trauma, the second about recovery. If you don’t know the history of posttraumatic stress disorders, or the reactions trauma causes, you’ll find a fabulous understanding in Part I. If you don’t know the stages of recovery (a healing relationship, safety, remembrance and mourning, reconnection and commonality) by the end of Part II you’ll have a clearer view of where you are in the process, plus what’s missing and where you need to go.

To write a review of this book would be redundant, there have been so many already. Instead, I’m just going to say: READ THIS BOOK. (And pass it on to every survivor and PTSD caregiver you know!) No matter where you are in your healing journey you will find facts, details and ideas you can use. No matter what the sources of your trauma you will see yourself – and maybe even find yourself, too.


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