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Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence--from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror

4.7 out of 5 stars 246 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0465087303
ISBN-10: 0465087302
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Herman links the public traumas of society to those of domestic life in this provocative work of psychiatric theory.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Herman links the public traumas of society to those of domestic life in this provocative work of psychiatric theory." ---Publishers Weekly --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (May 30, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465087302
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465087303
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (246 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By P. J. Rowan on June 8, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Just read ch. 5 and you will be sold. As a person who has worked as a therapist with a variety of people and a variety of problems, I was stunned by the way that this book explains the impact of trauma. You need to read the concept of "complex ptsd," presented in ch. 6. Chs 5 and 6 elegantly present a framework for understanding people who have grown up in the fear of a terroristic household, whether with sexual abuse or not, whether with notable physical abuse or not. This framework acounts for the various problems suffered that are often described by clinicians as "borderline personality disorder," "somatization disorder," and other difficult/lets-ignore-them diagnoses. My feeling is that if you grew up in a scary, terroristic home, if you read chapter five you will believe this author was observing the whole time, and you may gain some insight into your own adult life and personality.
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Was Judith watching us at home? Did she hide in the closet and take notes? You'll wonder if Judith Herman has the ability to see inside your thoughts after reading Chapter 5. As a survivor of child abuse and trauma, I was amazed by her ability to clearly define my thoughts, reactions and general "take" on life. If you are a survivor of ANY kind of trauma, READ THIS BOOK. My therapist, Dr. Zitlin in San Antonio, asked me to please read this book after one visit with him. Trauma and Recovery proves to me that recovery is actually possible. And in a way that just might work. This is like no other book I've ever read on trauma, child abuse or PTSD. I've read enough self help books to fill three hefty bags and finally I'm reading something that mirrors my own experience. It's compassion filled without losing credibility. Simply amazing. Please take the time to read this.
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This is not your usual trauma recovery book. Most books on healing explain symptoms, offer exercises, and provide illuminating case histories. Judith Herman does all this, but she goes beyond just focusing on healing oneself in isolation. We are social animals, and must live within our culture. Thus, how our culture regards trauma and traumatized people is very important to those trying to become reintegrated into society after massive psychic shock. Dr. Herman explains our modern Western culture's attitudes toward trauma and the traumatized, gives a fascinating and pertinent history of how those attitudes have changed throughout the past century, and shows how those attitudes affect how survivors recover.

Dr. Herman sets forth most of this broader cultural history in Part 1, Chapter 1, "A Forgotten History." She begins with the female hysteria patients of 19th Century Europe, and ends up with the Vietnam veterans' movement to demand treatment for battle induced post-traumatic stress. The veterans' work bore fruit. In 1980 the American Psychiatric Association included "post-traumatic stress disorder" in its official manual of mental disorders. This paved the way in the 1980s for victims of rape, childhood abuse, and domestic violence to be treated for post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

Part of the history Herman sets forth explores why people tend to shun and try to silence trauma survivors. She writes, "It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.
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I wrote a glowing review on this book four years ago, but now that I have more formal education in trauma psychology I wanted to provide a more nuanced perspective.

Dr. Judith Herman is one of the most important voices in the field, and she was in fact a member of the committee that defined PTSD as it is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual - IV. Her contribution to the understanding of trauma psychology has been essential to understanding how trauma becomes PTSD and how that is manifested in the sufferer. She brings an incredible depth of compassion to her writing, making this book seem less like a compilation of research material and more like a courageous willingness to be a witness to unspeakable horror.

Dr. Herman specializes in sexual abuse and incest, but the book is meant to draw all sufferers of repeated trauma, from prisoners of war to victims of domestic violence, together under a single umbrella. She identifies what she believes to be a form of Complex-PTSD that is more pervasive and personality-oriented as a result of repeat trauma and captivity. Symptoms of this condition include an unstable sense of self, profound changes in system of meaning (such as loss of faith in God or basic goodness of humanity), sudden and unexpected changes in mood, fears of abandonment, fears of catostrophic world devastation, feelings of inherent badness, etc. In the book, Herman suggests that symptomatic overlap with Borderline Personality Disorder may indicate BPD is, in many cases, actually a form of complex trauma. While I believe there is some evidence to support this argument (such as the fact that the vast majority of those diagnosed with BPD suffer from childhood sexual trauma), her case is hardly universally accepted by the psychiatric community.
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