Recommended Reading: “Trauma and Recovery”

by Chaya, House of Hope Supporter

House of Hope is a trauma-informed school and community center for Palestinian children and mothers.  What does this clinical language- “trauma-informed” – mean?  What impact does complex trauma have on the people, and especially the children and families, of occupied Palestine?  

In order to help build a common language amongst House of Hope supporters and promote a deeper understanding of what trauma is and how it can deeply impact an individual child or adult and their family and community, I am offering up a reading suggestion.  If you, House of Hope supporter, would like to share any reading suggestions in response, I believe we can build a trauma-informed community amongst House of Hope supporters.  

My suggestion is Trauma and Recovery:  The Aftermath of Violence:  From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror by Judith Herman, M.D.  This book was first published in 1992, and in the ensuing years and through many editions, it has become the basic text for understanding trauma survivors.

This classic investigation begins with a concise history of the study of trauma.  Herman observes that this history is marked by periods of “episodic amnesia” in which the insights and discoveries of one generation are forgotten, dismissed, or retracted as suits the dominant political, scientific and medical culture.  The need to deny or forget, as a culture, is strong.  

Herman’s work links the lived experience of survivors of incest and domestic abuse with the experience of soldiers in war zones and political refugees. She especially focuses on captives, like prisoners of war and victims of torture, including Holocaust survivors and victims of sex trafficking in her scope.   

In the final third of the book, Dr. Herman demonstrates that there is a path to recovery, and she establishes relevant best practices for understanding how to help trauma survivors in a clinical setting.

In words that are relevant to us as House of Hope supporters, she states that enduring feelings of “faith, decency, courage” in a survivor can be “reawakened by an example of common altruism” within a loving, safe, trauma-informed circle that works to rebuild “the sustaining bonds between individual and community.”  

Inspired by the feminist movement, this book breaks a silence about trauma with insight and authority, shaping the ensuing modern era of trauma study.  Reading the gripping body of evidence, information, and vision, the reader feels that the reality and impact of traumatic disorders cannot or will not be forgotten in our time.  Intense and illuminating, this book is worth your time.  

Traumatic events destroy the sustaining bonds between individual and community. Those who have survived learn that their sense of self, of worth, of humanity, depends upon a feeling of connection with others. The solidarity of a group provides the strongest protection against terror and despair, and the strongest antidote to traumatic experience. Trauma isolates; the group re-creates a sense of belonging. Trauma shames and stigmatizes; the group bears witness and affirms. Trauma degrades the victim; the group exalts her. Trauma dehumanizes the victim; the group restores her humanity.

Repeatedly in the testimony of survivors there comes a moment when a sense of connection is restored by another person’s unaffected display of generosity. Something in herself that the victim believes to be irretrievably destroyed—faith, decency, courage—is reawakened by an example of common altruism. Mirrored in the actions of others, the survivor recognizes and reclaims a lost part of herself. At that moment, the survivor begins to rejoin the human commonality. –  Judith Herman