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What Doesn't Kill Us: The New Psychology of Posttraumatic Growthby Stephen Joseph
Synopses & Reviews
For the past twenty years, pioneering psychologist Stephen Joseph has worked with survivors of trauma. His studies have yielded a startling discovery: that a wide range of traumatic events—from illness, divorce, separation, assault, and bereavement to accidents, natural disasters, and terrorism—can act as catalysts for positive change. Boldly challenging the conventional wisdom about trauma and its aftermath, Joseph demonstrates that rather than ruining ones life, a traumatic event can actually improve it.
Drawing on the wisdom of ancient philosophers, the insights of evolutionary biologists, and the optimism of positive psychologists, What Doesnt Kill Us reveals how all of us can navigate change and adversity— traumatic or otherwise—to find new meaning, purpose, and direction in life.
"'Trauma,' with its connotation of experiential shock and protracted emotional pain, has become one of the bywords of modern culture. Yet, maintains British psychologist Joseph, trauma can lead to personal growth and a richer life, including a 'reprioritization of values' and a greater appreciation of the gift of life. While part of the still relatively new movement of positive psychology, Joseph is not pollyannaish; he acknowledges that the stress that follows trauma can be intense and extensive. The most helpful part of Joseph's book is a postscript in which he offers guidance for readers trying to manage their emotions, including six markers of growth, beginning with taking stock and expressing change in action. The book fails to differentiate between types of trauma — surely someone who has witnessed a murder, suffered rape, or been tortured undergoes a different recovery process than someone who has been in a serious car accident — and offers only cursory descriptions of such therapeutic treatments as 'compassionate mind training.' As traditional views of the consequences of trauma have been too dour, Joseph's claim, in this otherwise informative and thoughtful book, that trauma can lead to an 'existential journey to a richer life' may be a touch too upbeat." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book News Annotation:
Stephen (psychology, health and social care, U. of Nottingham) aims to correct an imbalence in how we appreciate trauma, usually seen in purely negative terms and an obstacle to growth, by showing how post-traumatic stress is part of how we adapt and grow. He argues that a "trauma industry" of counselors, psychiatrists, social workers and psycho-therapists have capitalized on adversity. In doing so, they have emphasized treatment frameworks that focus on the negative, creating self-fulfilling prophecies and a cultural expectation of non-recovery. He offers a counter-perspective that draws on research into post-traumatic stress and a counter-theory of post-traumatic growth that stresses flexibility and creativity. Though written for a general audience with particular relevance for therapists, this latter perspective resonates with neoliberal rhetoric about "creative destruction" and "disaster capitalism," making the book potentially of interest for those researching the roots of that cultural narrative. Included in the back are three appendices on post-traumatic stress, a questionnaire and seeking professional help. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
Stephen Joseph is Professor of Psychology, Health, and Social Care at the University of Nottingham, UK, where he codirects the Center for Trauma, Resilience, and Growth. He lives in Nottingham, United Kingdom.
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