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The Trauma of Everyday Life

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  1,192 ratings  ·  100 reviews
Trauma does not just happen to a few unlucky people; it is the bedrock of our psychology. Death and illness touch us all, but even the everyday sufferings of loneliness and fear are traumatic. In The Trauma of Everyday Life renowned psychiatrist and author of Thoughts Without a Thinker Mark Epstein uncovers the transformational potential of trauma, revealing how it can be ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published August 15th 2013 by Penguin Press
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Sep 30, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Meditation is great, and I've played around with it. Buddhism seems worth learning lots about. But I found myself disagreeing with quite a few things in this book (which is all about Buddhism and the author's use of it to get through life). I simply cannot accept the author's repeated assertion that everyday life is 'full of trauma which in my own understanding of things, I find to be a severe misuse of the word (for instance - in one passage on page 39, he refers to his friends going to the wro ...more
Mar 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
Meh. Not sure why I read this in the first place. It's 'Buddhism 101' with a few little soap bubbles added. I'm sorry, but to assume everyday life (in the minds of most of its readers) to be traumatic is a contradiction in terms, and diminishes the genuine suffering of people with actual PTSD. In other words, this book may only be suitable for people who love Woody Allen and have never visited a third-world country or had anything really bad happen to them. This is not to say there are no insigh ...more
Jan 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a book to be savored--read and reread. Taking off from the event of the Buddha's mother's early death, Mark Epstein expounds on the wisdom of going through the pain of loss instead of defending against it. He gives many examples, both from his own and others' experiences, showing how facing one's pain opens one up to a fuller and richer life experience. His instruction during a retreat he led to allow participants' cell phones to be on, so they might deal with the feelings that arose and ...more
Aug 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: psych-neuro, religion
I assumed this book would be an expansion on this wonderful essay Epstein wrote for the NYT:

Instead it should be called "Buddha and Winnicott", because that is the content. The Buddhist parts sound like a Focus on the Family preacher trying to squeeze as much extrapolation out of a passage as possible to the point where it is no longer credible. The psychoanalytic parts are so outdated. I really was hoping he would talk about traumas we consciously experience in life, but it's
Dec 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: religion, self-help
This book was mistitled. It should have been called The Dukkha of Everyday Life: Buddhist Myth and Psychoanalysis. I picked it up expecting to learn something about trauma, but all I learned about it is that Epstein's idea of it is very trivial. I won't deny that everyday life is full of suffering and things that "don't fit" or are "hard to face"(explanations Epstein offers for what dukkha means), but trauma is that which causes injury, and we are not injured every day.

This book is also very or
Every once in a while, as a reader, you got walloped by a book you're reading on a whim. I've read one of Epstein's earlier books, and I can tell you he has gotten better and better. Don't let the title scare you off, it's really not as dire of a book as it sounds. It has such a nice thoughtful mix of psychotherapy and Buddhist philosophy.

I feel like I should add one side note on all the discussion of the Buddha's mother in this text: could it be that since the stories all say he was 'born from
May 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: buddhism, psychology
My sense of this book is that it's one man's attempt to understand Buddhism and integrate it with his very Western Psychodynamic world view. It was intersting from that standpoint, but didn't resonate with me and didn't feel helpful to my relationship with Buddhism. There were a couple of positive things I took away from the work, but I also found quite a bit to criticize.

The positive bits were that Epstein discusses how Samsara can be better translated as "hard to face" rather than as sufferin
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Through exploration of stories of the Buddha, Epstein allows us to recognize, acknowledge, and accept the inherently traumatic nature of our everyday experience. With these stories of the Buddha's journey to enlightenment, he weaves in philosophy, psychoanalysis (e.g., Winnicott, Stolorow), developmental psychology, and brain science. The result is a lucid explication of the inherently intersubjective nature of existence and the value of implicit relational knowing. The latter has perhaps been r ...more
Oct 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: buddhism
Epstein makes some excellent points about the Buddha's teachings on suffering and enlightenment-- recommending acceptance and metabolism of the ups and downs of life rather than seeking peak meditative experiences. The book had two major foci: a psychoanalytic approach to understanding the Buddha's life and interweaving Winnicott and Eigen (and a few others) into Buddhist teaching. Epstein has explored object relations and Buddhism before--so there didn't seem to be a lot new there for me. (I've ...more
Charles Rubinoff
Jan 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
I read this book on a recommendation. The Buddhism angle took me a bit by surprise and finally after reading a good way into it, I realized that wasn't just an element of the book, but rather the basis of it. I suppose I was conditioned to a Western approach by the title of the book and, well, how about that--judging a book by its cover. The content was a bit dense throughout. I'm capable of understanding it, and I did, but I think it could have been a bit more engaging and effective ready if it ...more
Dec 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sienna by: Hoopla
I did not expect to be so delighted by this book. Exploring trauma & healing through the life of Buddha. Will be reading more of Epstein's work. ...more
May 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
I've had this book on my list to read ever since hearing it praised in 10 % Happier. I've recently been going through quite a personal ordeal, so it seemed a good time to step back into thinking about Buddhism in hopes it could give me insight into my own situation. I figured if it helped Dan Harris so much, it certainly couldn't hurt me.

The Trauma of Everyday Life is a wonderful step into the notion that combines psychiatry and Buddhism. Mark Epstein is a psychiatrist known for using Buddhist p
Aaron D
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great book to get you started on an important journey of thought and questioning.

Most reviews here seem to completely misinterpret what the author refers to as “trauma”. They seem to want to save the word trauma for things like horrific car accidents and severed limbs. The author is referring to trauma in a broader sense. After all, your brain doesn’t know the difference between being humiliated by your boss at work and meeting an angry bear in the woods. Both things generate chemical responses
Judy Frabotta
Mar 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Mark Epstein is one of my favorite writers. I struggle to integrate what I(think I) know about psychology and what I (think I) know about Buddhism, and he is just the right guide for that particular exploration. This work tucks into the Buddha's life, as written in the core texts, and applies some psychoanalytic theory to it. Compared to his previous books, this one is a bit more intellectual and slightly less accessible, self-help-ish, but he's clear and uses lots of compelling examples, often, ...more
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spirituality
Such a disappointing muddle. What was introduced as an exploration of the universal experience and aversion to illness, aging, and dying somehow got stuck in the quicksand of Winnicott’s theories about good enough mothering. Epstein is trying to work something out, very attached to reconciling Buddhism with western psychology, and published before he could resolve his intellectual struggle. Some good reminders about meditation creating a supportive container to deal with difficult feelings but o ...more
Sep 26, 2018 rated it did not like it
Incredibly miss leading book. This was an impulse buy at Chapters and I still regret to this day that I paid for price for it. That's $27 Canadian that I will never get back. The back cover and the beginning of the book are wholly misleading. The entire thing is on Buddhism. The author does not use Buddhism as a guide or as a principal but literally the entire book is on Buddhism. How deceptive. Save your money and time, please don't fall for what the book initially implies. It is all a lesson i ...more
Deborah Neely
Aug 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Interesting use of Buddhist principles to deal with daily difficulties and past pain. A psychiatrist details his use of Buddhism to heal himself and help his patients heal. It was helpful to me personally and well written.
Feb 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 22, 2020 rated it liked it
2.5 stars This book started off really strongly, bringing to light this idea that the Buddha argued life is suffering because of these everyday traumas, particularly around death. We all have to face our own deaths and the possible deaths of loved ones and this puts us in a state of disassociation from the problem. This is what other buddhists refer to as hooks (Pema Chodron), distractions, addictions, etc. or in more lay terms - avoidance. But I appreciated the language of psychology in this di ...more
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: psychology, audiobook
I came to this book after wandering around a local bookstore. I had gone on a long walk because I felt oppressed by a sense of sadness that I could't escape. The blurb on the back made it seem as though Mark Epstein might have some wisdom relevant to my situation, so I went home and downloaded the audio book.

Parts of this book are very good, and parts are very bad. The good parts are straightforward recapitulations of Buddhist teachings. Epstein seems to have grokked the Buddha's messages. He s
Sep 26, 2019 rated it liked it
The premise of this book is great, talking about trauma, psychoanalysis, non duality and how can effectively move through childhood and adult trauma. It is a fascinating topic, which is explored using the story of the trauma in the Buddha’s life.

There are some very good chapters, which I think contribute well to understanding trauma recovery in alignment. I found some of the points about psychoanalysis a little convoluted and tenuous at times. Once into the final third of the book I was ready to
Howard Mansfield
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Mark Epstein is a psychiatrist and a practicing Buddhist who has united the two perspectives in a series of smart books. Applying the Buddha’s teachings and western psychoanalysis, Epstein shows great insight into suffering, trauma and the struggle to make peace with ourselves. His narrative voice is sure and never showy. Epstein’s books, which include Thoughts without a Thinker, and Going to Pieces without Falling Apart, are like a great port city where many influences meet and mix, producing n ...more
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
This went into a level of depth about the history of Buddhism (actually, biographic elements of the life of Buddha himself) that I was not really expecting, nor was I particularly interested in.

The author tended to ramble on rather indulgently and anecdotally. This could have been a much more insightful book if he had been able to stick to a point long enough to explore the psychological aspects more thoroughly.
Suzanne Kelly
Oct 09, 2018 rated it liked it
It's not fair for me to rate this book any lower and it did have its interesting spots for me. My sister highly recommended this book but she is way more cerebral than I am. I really want to be as smart as she is. This book helped me to accept that I am not. I fear that my purchase of H is for Hawk that she also highly recommended might end up with a similar tepid response from me after I force myself to finish it, just as I did this one. It's not the book's fault though. ...more
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book contains important info on how to develop equanimity and embrace difficulties in your life as a way of furthering your spiritual growth. It contains a lot of review of Buddha's life, which will be redundant for most readers already familiar with Buddhism. In general, Mark Epstein is a master of translating Buddhism for the modern practitioner. But this book was too basic for me. My favorite is Going on Being. ...more
Katie Rimer
Oct 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Really liked the beginning, and how Mark Epstein framed the problem. However as a Christian I was less interested in the ways Epstein interpreted the specifics of the life of the Buddha in order to justify his interpretation of the teachings. I would have preferred a book in which he states his thesis and then reflects on ways to apply it in clinical work, rather than doing the "Exegesis" of the life of Buddha. ...more
Katarina K
Nov 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic new insight into Buddhism and the way today's therapists work creating a parallel and easing the harshness of our own traumas that influence us in every relationship we create. It is very clearly written and offers incredible views on the concept of a "good enough mother", as well as the creation of our implicit memory in our early childhood (1-3 years) and the effect of our unmet needs in our adulthood. The book was a beautiful, knowledgable relief for me - full of realisations. ...more
B Conatus
Jun 03, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is pretty much an intro to Buddhism, ran through Winnicott’s approach to psychoanalysis. The discussion of “trauma” is super interesting, and I did enjoy seeing Buddhist thought framed in this way. So the three star rating is a bit low. Even though it didn’t quite reach four stars for me, I do recommend it, and I do think it contains ideas that are worth exploring.
Dec 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
Budh goes to the shrink
Shrink asks...
'what brings you here?'
1. 'well, there is neurosis'
2. 'neurosis has cause'
3. 'you can overcome neurosis'
4. 'this is how you do it...'

that would be my book on Buddha and psychoanalysis.
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Honestly, this book came just at the right time in my current therapeutic progress. Epstein's insight into trauma through storytelling was a great way to thread in research in a refreshing way.

Am now going to go purchase every single book he has written.
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Mark Epstein, M.D. is a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City and the author of a number of books about the interface of Buddhism and psychotherapy, including Thoughts without a Thinker, Going to Pieces without Falling Apart, Going on Being, Open to Desire and Psychotherapy without the Self. His newest work, The Trauma of Everyday Life, will be published in August of 2013 by Penguin Pr ...more

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