Trauma is a fact of life. Distressing and disturbing events happen everyday, affecting an individual or group’s way of functioning. If you have been navigating or working in the wellness world, then you may have noticed an increase in conversations around trauma. If the word trauma makes you feel like you need a doctorate to understand it, like it did me, then you are in luck! Leading researchers and psychologists have written brilliant and accessible books to share their discoveries about how trauma affects the brain, body and emotional systems.
So why become trauma-informed? When we can understand the effects of trauma we can deepen our empathy and ability to care for others. This work is important for individuals who do healing work with patients or clients. But, it is also important for teachers, facilitators, parents and especially individuals who have experienced trauma. By expanding our knowledge we can show up in meaningful ways and remember that we are all deserving humans who want to feel better and do well in the world.
As we prepare for our 2020 True Body Project cross-cultural training in Cambodia, we want to share our recommended reading that has inspired and informed the work that we do. From practitioners to psychologists these books answer the questions, what is trauma? How does trauma affect the mind and body? And how can one heal from trauma?
Somatics by Thomas Hanna
It feels important to start with the individual lived experience known as Somatics. In western medicine, healing happens objectively, meaning a doctor assesses symptoms from the outside based on their own metrics. Somatics by Thomas Hanna urges for a collaborative approach between objective assessment and somatic experiencing, i.e. that the patient’s experience of their own body is just as important to consider. Addressing the preconceived notions of physical decline, Somatics offers a counter narrative that suggests physical decline happens due to Sensorimotor Amnesia. Meaning that one forgets of how to control nerves and muscles, thus they remain contracted and begin to decline. This book is so apparent in every day life I found myself verbally gasping “well duh!” Hanna rounds out Somatics with simple and effective exercises to reverse sensory motor amnesia, making this a book that could supplement any wellness practice.
The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk
The Body Keeps the Score is on every must read list for understanding trauma’s effects on the mind and body. Having spent over three decades working with trauma survivors, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk uses his own research along with other leading specialists to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain. By exposing the remarkable power of our relationships to both hurt and heal, van der Kolk offers new hope for reclaiming life after trauma.
Side note: Bessel van der Kolk recently was interviewed by Krista Tippet for the OnBeing podcast, listen to the full episode on How Trauma Lodges in the Body.
Trauma and the Body: A Sensorimotor Approach to Psychotherapy by Clare Pain, Kekuni Minton and Pat Ogden
Trauma and the Body is a more clinical approach to understanding trauma in the body. Written for psychotherapists who have been trained in models of psychodynamic, psychoanalytic, or cognitive therapeutic approaches to take their talking model deeper. This book can be a companion for people not trained in these disciplines to understand their own and others journey through the therapy system. With a detailed review of leading research along with clear and compelling clinical examples, Trauma and the Body point to the need for an integrative mind-body approach to trauma.
Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma by Peter Levine
Why are animals in the wild, though threatened routinely, rarely traumatized? Waking the Tiger asks and answers this intriguing question as a way to explore the mystery of human trauma. Levine normalizes symptoms of trauma by taking the reader on a tour of the subtle yet authoritative impulses that govern our responses to overwhelming life events. Through a series of exercises that focus on a heightened awareness of bodily sensations (i.e. somatics) trauma can be healed.
Note: These books help us to understand trauma but are not a stand in for DIY therapy. If you feel that you need to work through unresolved trauma please reach out to a therapist, counselor or healer to consult.