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

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When Trauma and Recovery was first published in 1992, it was hailed as a groundbreaking work. In the intervening years, Herman’s volume has changed the way we think about and treat traumatic events and trauma victims.

In a new afterword, Herman chronicles the incredible response the book has elicited and explains how the issues surrounding the topic have shifted within the clinical community and the culture at large. Trauma and Recovery brings a new level of understanding to a set of problems usually considered individually. Herman draws on her own cutting-edge research in domestic violence as well as on the vast literature of combat veterans and victims of political terror, to show the parallels between private terrors such as rape and public traumas such as terrorism. The book puts individual experience in a broader political frame, arguing that psychological trauma can be understood only in a social context.

Meticulously documented and frequently using the victims’ own words as well as those from classic literary works and prison diaries, Trauma and Recovery is a powerful work that will continue to profoundly impact our thinking.

247 pages, Paperback

First published June 11, 1992

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About the author

Judith Lewis Herman

23 books316 followers
Judith Lewis Herman is an author, psychiatrist, researcher, and teacher whose work has dealt with understanding and treating the effects of traumatic stress and incest.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 565 reviews
Profile Image for jo.
613 reviews487 followers
April 25, 2014
i just taught this for the first time. for some reason, this time around the book had a tremendously disruptive impact on me. it was, simply put, like going through a trauma experience. the last part, about the three stages of recovery, gave me palpable relief, as if i were going through recovery myself as i read the book with the class.

reading it with a group made a huge difference. at least some of the students experienced some level of traumatization. it was important to debrief at the end. some felt compelled to share stories. all reported discussing the book outside of class. the level of attentiveness during discussion was so high you could tell who had done the reading and who hadn't.

this book is not about a generically traumatizing world; it's about regularly misdiagnosed mental pain. the number of mental health professionals who are willing to journey with a patient to the roots of trauma is minimal. the number of those who have the competence, training, and wisdom to do so safely and successfully is so tiny, if you find one it's a miracle. most mental health professionals will misdiagnose post-traumatic syndromes. most mental health professionals will slap demeaning and belittling diagnoses on you and declare you sick for life and doomed to a lifetime of maintenance-drug use. most won't even feel the need to talk to you. it's amazing the way trauma imposes its stealth on the world of healers. the refusal to recognize it and deal with it is as persistent in healers as it is in sufferers.

a student was brave enough -- and healed enough -- to discuss a traumatic experience of their own in class. gently, we asked questions. gently, we helped them see how they were reproducing in their narrative the telltale symptoms of the traumatized person ("it was nothing;" "people have it much worse;" "i am ashamed of my reaction;" "i am trying not to give in to weakness and fear"). it was pretty intense, and i hope healing, for all of us. the student's openness helped us see that they are okay. one can experience trauma and be okay. after reading the horrors depicted in this book -- what a relief.

there are mental health professionals who know how to deal with trauma and if you have a traumatized past you should look for them. at the very least, you should look for a survivor group (the internet will do in a pinch). trauma doesn't heal in isolation. trauma is a dramatic break in relationship (with the world, with others, with the self, with god) and can only heal in relationship.

there are aspects in which this book is dated. its feminism is a bit black and white, and ignores the myriad ways in which gender-related trauma cross-pollinates across gender boundaries (such as they are; they constantly reshape themselves anyway). men get beaten, threatened, and raped too. women go to war. violent men are often themselves trauma victims. the low-level traumatization in which all women are steeped qua women has a low-level traumatic correspondent in guys. if 1 in x women will be raped in their lifetimes, 1 in x guys will be raping a woman in their lifetimes. as JH demonstrates when she talks of war, the perpetration of violence leaves the perpetrator scarred. yet, she does not extend this observation to civilian life. this is a mistake. we try to understand and forgive the horrors soldiers perpetrate under orders on the battlefield (whatever that is; that specific spacial designation no longer exists), but we are loath to understand the pressures that push men to take their rage out on women, children, other men, and, increasingly, strange bystanders in our civilian communities.

what lies behind school shootings and other civilian rampages? diagnosing and medicating mental pain away, clearly, is not working. we have to restructure our culture of psychic healing from the ground up. it has to be based on deep listening, deep investigation, and a genuine, long-term commitment to the well-being of the patient. too few graduate programs in psychology train therapists in the arts of deep listening and deep therapy. this is a crisis we can no longer afford to ignore.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,426 reviews8,336 followers
May 1, 2014
I first fanboy squealed on page 11, when Judith Lewis Herman created a connection between mental illness and feminism, two of my favorite topics. In the first third of Trauma and Recovery, Herman discusses the history of trauma and how trauma relates to many other concepts, such as politics and warfare. In contemporary society people insulate and isolate the topic of mental illness with alarming speed, so delving into its pervasiveness in all areas of life brought its magnitude back into focus. Depression, for example, is not just an illness that affects people because they might feel sad out of the blue: depression and its symptoms have a rich history and an unfortunate stake in several domains.

Herman also writes in-depth about trauma itself, which made me love Trauma and Recovery, even as it tore me apart. With fluid and poignant prose, she sets forth a tripartite recovery model: establishing a safe environment for the victim, unearthing the trauma and working through its emotional wounds, and moving forward to maintain a new post-trauma life that expands upon the experiences of the victim. As someone who has dealt with trauma and wants to one day work as a therapist, this book resonated with me more than any textbook or piece of nonfiction I've ever read. Herman explains concepts with confidence and clarity, and her guiding tone shows that she empathizes with victims and wishes to support them throughout the recovery process.

So many little things added to my affection for Herman's most well-known work. As an English and Psychology double major, I felt joy every time she used books written by authors like Woolf and O'Brien to provide examples for psychological ideas. She drives home the idea that mental health and politics remain connected because mental health intrinsically relates to oppressed people and the blows they suffer. Herman ends the book by commenting on the influential role of therapists: not only do they help victims regain control of their lives, but they also act as witnesses to victims' stories. They testify to the truth, and they fight for the clients they work it, no matter what the cost.

Overall, an inspiring and enlightening read. Trauma and Recovery was published quite awhile ago, which shows through its use of gender pronouns (men are also abused, and women serve in the armed forces as well) but the book still raises a wealth of information and understanding. It has revitalized my passion for psychology and the field of mental illness, and I'm certain I will revisit it in the future.

*review cross-posted on my blog, the quiet voice.
Profile Image for Shira.
Author 3 books164 followers
September 15, 2017
update on this review: 15 Sept, 12017 HE, about 2 years or so after first read: at the bottom...

So I guess I'm in Stage 3, now !!! :-)

Original review, circa. 2010:5
This book, for me, was a horrible read. Horribly accurate. Yet hopeful as well.

Horrible to see that I am not so different after all -I see myself in every comment she makes on adults who survived long-term trauma as children.
Horrible to see that my experience is not so different.
Yet hopeful to see that there are ways of solving the problem, living 'normally' -just that ignoring it is not one of those ways.
Most irritating.
Especially after burn-out has twice stopped me from working enough to distract myself from my distracting memories.

She mentions The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma in her 2015 epilogue, and that book seems to recommend both movement and writing -both of which helped me until I had to get back to sitting in a chair looking for a job all day long.

I seem to be stuck in Stage 2, and worst of all, I read over and over again that either in writing or in talking therapy, I must now stop "living in my head" and move back into my body. I have always found it easier to forget to eat then to bother about my body. Work has always been a useful form of escape, until now. Ok, not so much -once I get to about the intermediate level of just about anything, it seems no longer to hold my interest, and I find myself assaulted by unwanted memories that refuse to go back into their Blankety-Blank-Blank!!! boxes.
Irritatingly enough, this is the first place I have seen such a thing predicted.
She even has the gall to predict and counter my 'unique' perspective on my right to choose when to die, and how. Apparently this too is normal for folks like me. Huh. So much for being misunderstood. I guess she has us pegged, finally, Thank the non-existent God!! Finally someone actually documents what we go through, and tells us it is a normal response to a hideous start in life. Ok, now, on to how to fix the problem: start with saftey (years of martial arts did help some), get a good therapist, talk, write, and move your body. And remember that faking functionality will not work forever.

27.10.12015 HE

... update, 15.9.12017 HE
I see what a difference a perceptive, attentive and flexible therapist can make: first of all, one does not have to sit and purposely relive the entire series of traumatic events, which in any case is impossible to do on a conscious level for dealing with childhood abuse, as there are just too many events.

Perceptiveness: What my newest therapist told me that made a difference was that there was no need to go back through all of those events, because I was already reliving my traumas every day, each time I am triggered: it remained, however, to follow those triggers back to the originating event(s) and deal with those.

Naturally, I tried to squirm out of it by skipping past whenever possible, and that is where the attentiveness comes in: she always redirects me where other therapists let or even encourage me to avoid sitting with that trigger, and following it back to the source event(s) to figure out what is happening to the child-me, and then

Flexibility: this therapist had to dispense with Affirmations, as I pointed out that they are very counter-productive for me. So instead, she had me develop an 'imagination' I had years ago of myself as several people, one very young (4 yr old), one about 15, another about 17, and another older, maybe 23 or so years old. She added a Parental figure, and told me to look for the frightened 4 year old, and find out where she was, and what she wanted, and then have my own Inner Parent explain to my wounded 4-year old that she/I would take care of it, and keep her/me safe.

After some time, this works. Now, I know that when fireworks/loud noises/shouting happens, it is not just me there and then, but my inner 4-yr old hiding while hearing my mom being beaten, and my adult-me can say 'I got this, you are safe.' and excuse myself to keep from being further triggered.

Finally, after months of work, and then being told that mourning the loss of childhoon, protection by parents, etc, is in fact necessary, I began a long web search (which seems to confirm), and found this website as a nice To Do List to check off (because I like to know when I'm done!):

Hope this helps others,
Profile Image for Tinea.
561 reviews252 followers
November 23, 2010
I can't do this book justice with a review. Feminist, short, and packed with information about what PTSD is, how it comes about, and how to heal it. Applied philosophy resulting in the sort of "holy shit!" moments that had me dragging friends out on long walks around lakes and organizing two-person slumber parties just so I'd have a chance to share some of these lessons learned. To adequately summarize this info, I'd basically need to copy the whole book here, so just go out and read it. This book is hella old and revolutionized the diagnosis of "women's problems" (hysteria/borderline personality disorder) as world problems. Thank you Judith Herman, I recognize a debt of gratitude! This world is super fucked, and it's really important that we have some skillz to understand that and deal with how it manifests in our bodies!

See also Aftershock: Confronting Trauma in a Violent World: A Guide for Activists and Their Allies for a more practical manual.
Profile Image for Lightreads.
641 reviews523 followers
December 29, 2008
Ah-ha, there it is. I've been looking for this book for about five years now. Not this book, I mean, but a book that frames a discussion of post trauma pathologies with feminist discourse without being . . . what's the word I'm looking for? Annoying. This book does that. It's fascinating, actually, starting in with the history of trauma's emergence into public consciousness in connection with successive political movements (secular humanism, postwar relief, feminism). Then on through symptomology, case histories, and treatments. There are two central arguments. The one about trauma research and treatment as politically charged acts isn't particularly new to me, but it's one of those things that doesn't so much need repeating as shouting from the rooftops. And the argument that the complex post traumatic response to prolonged violence is pathologically distinct from classic single-trauma PTSD is also familiar, but nicely presented.

The whole thing is solid, deftly told, agonizing in places. And she talks about soldiers and battered women in ways that are illuminating, rather than pat or oppositional. This is one of those books about gender that spends all it's time talking about people, if you know what I mean. The only flaw isn't actually one – this was written in the mid-90's, so it's missing both a boatload of pharmacological and neurological data and insights on the most recent developments in the political aspects of trauma.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship.
1,108 reviews1,168 followers
August 31, 2015
I read this for work purposes and found it a helpful and thought-provoking resource, a book I’ll likely want to refer to again in the future. First published in 1992, this was apparently a ground-breaking work, but while there’s been plenty of research into trauma since then (if you can recommend a good follow-up to this one, please let me know!), it has stood the test of time so far. Certainly it rings true to my experience.

As you would expect from the title, the primary focus of the book is on describing the effects and symptoms of psychological trauma, and the stages of a successful recovery. It can at times be tough reading emotionally, even though it’s not a book focused on case studies or anecdotes (indeed, my only quibble with the book is that I would’ve liked to see the specific cases, set off in short blockquotes, expanded and integrated more into the book). But the educated reader will find it accessible; this is an academic book, but of the best kind, written in clear and engaging language. It would make worthwhile reading not just for therapists and students, but also for trauma survivors, their loved ones, and other professionals. The author sees the big picture – only a small part of the book is geared specifically to therapists – and I found that very helpful in providing a framework for understanding things I have seen and heard from various people.

Another aspect of this book that bears mentioning, and which I appreciate, is Dr. Herman’s unabashedly feminist perspective. The book addresses and draws on research from many sources of trauma, from combat to concentration camps, but the author’s experience seems to be primarily with survivors of sexual abuse in childhood, and it is the unfortunately more everyday sorts of trauma that the book comes back to. She makes no bones about the fact that recognizing trauma brought on by rape, domestic violence, or child sex abuse is political; admitting that these things happen, primarily to women and girls and in large numbers, and that those experiences matter, that it is serious, is political. And that affects everyone involved.

At any rate, this is an excellent book, very informative and thorough. Reading it gave me a better understanding of people I work with and made me think about areas where I might do better. Now, off to apply this knowledge without overstepping and pretending to be a therapist (which I definitely am not!).
Profile Image for Oleska Tys.
120 reviews23 followers
April 30, 2022
Це найкраща книга про психологічну травму, яку я коли-небудь читала! Зберусь з думками і напишу розлогий відгук згодом.
Profile Image for Susan.
117 reviews
February 23, 2009
This was assigned reading in my first year of graduate school, and eight years later, I still refer to it. It's my professional bible. Judith Herman has written the quintessential book on trauma. She somehow has managed to convey all the complex elements of this phenomenon in less than 250 pages. She also (as far as I know) was one of the first to differentiate between single incident trauma and ongoing trauma. She writes in a style that is simple enough for anyone to read but does not sound simplistic. She illustrates her points with poignant examples drawn from diverse sources, from Elie Wiesel to Winston Smith. I love this book.
Profile Image for Eleanor Cowan.
Author 1 book40 followers
April 5, 2020
Early in her career, Dr. Judith Herman, an American psychiatrist, author, teacher, and researcher, began to make a link between political and individual violence. While she also studied the overwhelming feelings of terror and helplessness resulting from traumatic accidents, natural disasters, and more, Herman also began to link political trauma to personal trauma.

Herman contends that in a patriarchal world - which means an unequal world - some causes of PTSD, such as violent, unhampered aggressiveness, will continue until equality exists for everyone. She and her team examined PTSD stemming from cumulative acts of terror forced upon innocent, unsuspecting people. For example, Herman and her team studied Vietnam war veterans, soldiers who slowly came to realize that the war they were fighting was wrong, and could have ended far, far sooner than it did. Yet, under orders to obey their superiors, they became complicit in political crime. Betrayed by those who profited from the prolonged war, yet locked into subservience, their lives got complicated. Shackled to their fate, and long after ‘Nam, war vets were scorned for fighting an unjust war.

At the same time, Herman studied the children of pedophiles, a victim group also tethered to the adults in charge, and dependent on their abusers for a home, food, and family. In further twists of complex PTSD, abused children often enshrine, buy gifts for, and cover-up for their abusers. Both the war vets and incest victims learned that their repeated trauma was irrelevant to those in authority.

Herman’s work emphasizes that what happens in the wider world of politics and society is always paralleled in the personal lives of its citizens. A giant part of the problem of on-going terrorism is the silent complicity of those who are aware of the abuse – and do nothing. (This does not include those frozen in terror.) For example, while famous and wealthy moguls alone stand trial for their crimes, all those who knew all about it - and were paid to cover it up - remain unpunished. Their conscious collusion allowed evil to persist unchecked.

Recently, a powerful sports icon died tragically. Facebook posts pointing out that this married man and father had raped and choked an innocent woman, were met with indignation. Even though he’d vehemently denied his crime - until his DNA was found - huge outcries shamed those who mentioned the rape. How dare anyone allude to the crime of an icon whose fame far surpassed his abuse of a teenager - a nobody?

Herman states that through shaming and silencing, victims of trauma are often re-traumatized when they dare to tell their stories. On the other hand, chronic suppression of terror can cause dissociation, freezing of the full personality, disconnection, constant low-grade depression, or more profound depression.
Actress Rose McGowan, who accused a notorious sexual predator, is among today’s “silence breakers.” She disclosed the rape despite her dread of backlash. Fully aware that truth-telling is a dangerous business in our society, McGowan defied patriarchy’s permission to abuse without consequence.

For years, Herman and her psychiatric team listened to the stories of appalling human evil – from thousands of molested children in city shelters, and refugees from all over the world.
And healing themes emerged.

Herman learned that recovery from trauma could happen - but with one condition: The traumatized individual must be able to enter a recovery zone. Many are so flattened by shock; they end their lives. Others endure severe physical complications that stall recovery.
Healing is a gift not every traumatized individual can receive. Herman’s team learned that rebuilding entails three critical conditions.

The first is safety. Reliable, secure, fortification is vital. There are outstanding organizations and shelters for, among others, families of murdered children, refugees from dictatorships, trafficked slaves, the homeless, abused elders, war vets, and animal/pet groups.
A recent CBC news article headline reads, “Women and children turned away from shelters in Canada almost 19,000 times a month.”

Another essential condition is remembrance and mourning. Telling the trauma to someone who cares, believes the speaker, and understands that the blood-red threads of grief take time to weave into the tartan of a revised life.
Concealing trauma keeps it alive and fermenting within, a psychosis waiting to be triggered. When ready, each survivor tells in a preferred way, some by writing, others through activism, song, or art. One famous art piece, Guernica, was painted by Picasso after the innocent civilians of Basque were aerial bombed in 1937.

The third imperative to recovery is that traumatized individuals connect with like-minded others for comfort and encouragement. Those who can, do even more. Together, they galvanize the energy of their pain to establish new policies and laws to advance an imbalanced society. One example is that the Saskatchewan police now alert former victims of stalkers weeks before the stalkers are released from jail. The police contend that jail time doesn’t mean healing time. Physical incarceration doesn’t guarantee changed behavior.

In November 2015, Maria Fitzpatrick, a former Canadian Track and Field sprinter, a trustee on the Lethbridge Labour Council, VP of the Canadian Federation of University Women, and Chair of the Regional Women's Committee of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, addressed the Alberta legislature about her former husband’s terrible abuse of her.
She earned a standing ovation, and the bill to improve supports to victims of in-home violence unanimously passed its second reading. Fitzpatrick, like McGowan, broke the silence taboo, connected with like-minded others, and supported the traumatized in her community.

Sometimes overwhelmed in her line of work, Dr. Herman nevertheless continues because of the inspiration of PTSD individuals who succeed in reclaiming their lives.
Herman urges the broad base of society to confront injustice in our immediate neighborhoods as well as politically. In this way, we help to starve the enemy, deflate the bully, and collapse dictatorships both inside the home and in society. A simple hello, a cup of tea together, signing a petition, attending a course, donations, or volunteering in groups of our choice are vital.
In this way, we are conscientious objectors to systemic, entrenched terrorism.
We, the citizens on the ground, can hold the standards bar high and invest our goodwill – not as pawns for the manipulative, but as activists for humanity.
Eleanor Cowan, Author of A History of a Pedophile's Wife: Memoir of a Canadian Teacher and Writer
Profile Image for Giedre Kazlauskaite.
7 reviews6 followers
March 24, 2022
Daugelis pažįstamų socialiniuose tinkluose išpažino, kad šiuo metu negali skaityti nieko, išskyrus karo naujienas. Sirguliavau, todėl galėjau: pasirodė labai aktualu. Ne vien dėl to, kad dabar pasipils karo traumos ir PTSS (Herman kaip tik ir analizuoja karo veteranų/išprievartautų moterų atvejus). D. Gailienė jau yra daug kartų apibrėžusi, kas bendrąja prasme yra trauma: pandemija nebuvo trauma, karas yra trauma. Kariškių ir prievartautų moterų patirtys susijusios, nes pats karas grubiai „įlytina“ vyrų ir moterų vaidmenis. Trauma, pasak Herman, yra fundamentalus neteisingumas - žmogaus piktadarystė (todėl gamtos stichijų sukeltos katastrofos nepalieka tokių baisių pasekmių). Prasmingas paties prievartos mechanizmo narstymas: stadijos, santykis su agresoriumi, gijimo etapai ir galimybės. Svarbi mintis, kad agresorius prikuria daug taisyklių, kurių visų laikytis neįmanoma, ir nukentėti galima vien dėl to, kad „pažiūrėjai kvailu žvilgsniu“. Agresorius bijo tiesos, kitaip tariant - atvejo viešinimo. Herman pateikia pavyzdį, kaip visuomenės reagavo į „Me Too“ bangą ir kunigų pedofilijos skandalus.
Profile Image for plainzt .
491 reviews50 followers
January 7, 2022
"Tecavüz mağdurları için hiçbir kamusal anıt yoktur."

"Bastırma, çözülme ve inkar, bireysel bilinç fenomeni olduğu kadar sosyal bir fenomendir de."

"Hukuk sistemi erkekleri devletin üstün gücünden korumak için dizayn edilmiştir; kadın ve çocukları erkeğin üstün gücünden korumak için değil."

Şimdiye kadar okuduğum en iyi psikoloji kitabı. Neredeyse 30 yıl önce yazılmış olmasına rağmen hala başucu rehberi yapılmayı hak edecek kadar değerli. Literatürü derinden etkilemiş bir eser.

"Psikolojik travmayı çalışmak, hem doğal dünyadaki insanların yaralanabilirliği hem de insan doğasındaki kötülük kapasitesiyle yüz yüze gelmektir. Psikoloji travmayı çalışmanın anlamı dehşetengiz olaylara tanık olmaktır."

Kitap, yazarın çalışma alanı olan cinsel ve ev içindeki travmalardan ve buna bağlı olarak feminist bir perspektiften doğsa da savaş gazileri, soykırımdan sağ kalanlar, ensest mağdurları gibi örnekleri de işin içine katarak travma konusunu enine boyuna tartışıyor. Konunun tarihsel sürecini anlatmakla işe başlayan yazar herkesin anlayabileceği akıcı bir dille birey - toplum ilişkisini, travmanın kamusal alanla ilgisini göz ardı etmeyerek siyasi alana dair çıkarımlardan da kaçınmıyor. Özellikle çocuk istismarı bölümünde anlatılanlar adeta bir tokat gibi çarpıyor yüzünüze.

İyileşme ve travma söz konusu olduğunda uygulanan tedavilerle ilgili bölüm benim için çok aydınlatıcıydı. Örneğin, kimi zaman medyada alay konusu edilen terapide hastanın sadece yaşadığı olayları değil hissettiği duyguları da ifade etmesinin önemini bu kitapla kavramış oldum.

Travma konusunun tamamen ayrı bir başlık olarak gereği gibi ele alınmasının bu kadar geç gerçekleştiğine inanamıyorum. Vietnam gazileri kendilerine gerekli desteğin sağlanması için dava açmak zorunda kalmışlar. Öncesi peki? Bomboş bir karanlık mağdurlar için.

2015 baskısı için yazılan önsöz konuyu günümüze bağlıyor. Burada özellikle bilimsel alanda elde edilen yeni bulgular, travma uzmanlarını bekleyen sorunlar gibi hususlara yine siyasi ve toplumsal bağlam ihmal edilmeden değinilmiş.

Çok ama çok sevdim. Psikoloji okumalarına bu kitapta da ismi geçen Beden Kayıt Tutar isimli eserle devam ediyorum.
5 reviews
March 21, 2010
It is easy to see why Judith Herman’s visionary book Trauma and Recovery is considered a classic in the field of psychology. In her work, Herman describes the conditions that create posttraumatic stress and then details a path of recovery. She explores the many manifestations of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder within the human mind, body and spirit then identifies the interwoven and overlapping stages of trauma recovery with clarity and purpose. Most notably, Herman describes the difficulty of telling the truth of suffering and the complementary difficulty of hearing the truth and helping those in pain to tell their stories. She understands that human beings naturally recoil from pain of any kind and cautiously emphasizes the importance of community in healing traumatic grief.
In the second half of this book, the author suggests that recovery typically follows a process during which the survivor attains safety, goes through a period of remembrance and mourning, and reconnects with himself or herself and the world around him or her. Herman continuously emphasizes that these stages are not fixed and predictable, but rather individual in nature, significantly influenced by one’s environment, and can occur simultaneously. She also reasons that since the effect of the trauma is to disempower and disconnect the victims from others, healing from the effects of the trauma means that the victim becomes empowered and is able to form new, healthy attachments. In considering the role of community in the recovery process, Herman suggests that group psychotherapy can provide survivors with a needed sense of commonality. She is, however, very careful to point out that survivor group composition and focus be based largely on the client’s present stage of recovery. I found this warning difficult to fully accept as I wondered – if recovery is so multi-faceted and its stages are so intermingled, who could determine just where a person is “at” in their recovery? And wouldn’t the benefit of belonging to a community of others with similar experiences outweigh the psychological risk of being re-traumatized by a person in an earlier stage of recovery? I still don’t have an answer for this one but overall, Judith Herman’s work presents fresh new ideas about trauma, survival, and healing with a bold and fearless voice. This book is an intelligent resource for people who work with trauma survivors though some chapters may be too academic to be used as a self-help tool.

Profile Image for Elle.
89 reviews
November 12, 2010
Don't let the rating lead you to believe that this book is not essential and extremely helpful reading on trauma and the challenges it poses to individuals in healing. The reasons I did not rate it higher was the pathologizing use of diagnostic categories, an emphasis on the healing relationship that tended to the therapist 4x more than the survivor (16 pages to 4 respectively, but arguably because of the intended audience and the expertise of the author), and the distorting separation of the stages of recovery. I suspect that, like the stages of grief, or any other psychological/emotional/spiritual process, these stages overlap and spiral and are not distinct. Although I don't remember reading her saying so, perhaps she meant the emphasis shifts among the main tasks in the progression she describes.

The text does not stray as far from dominant narratives about the nature of those traumatized as I would personally prefer, but it provides a fabulous resource to those who wish to understand the nature of trauma and to glimpse possibilities of what healing may look like. In a time when still many would claim that those who have experienced trauma are irrevocably damaged and seek to separate them off from "sane" society, this text stands in defiance to that view and testifies to the terrible widespread nature of trauma, the courage and determination of survivors and the commitment of therapists in seeking to provide help and hope.
Profile Image for Joseph Harriott.
39 reviews8 followers
March 9, 2010
Excellent. If you just read one book on the rise of the psychoanalytic world view, just read this one. The first chapter is a devastating critique of how Freud, understandably, abandoned the women that taught him the talking cure, and invented the Oedipus complex to explain away their disturbing stories of sexual abuse. Herman also explains how 1950s American women, freed from domestic drudgery to have time to discuss and question some of their abusive experiences, and then the returning Vietnam Vets with their desperate need to process their gruesome experiences together drew out from American society what we now think of as psychotherapy and counselling. Of course Freud's groundwork was essential.
Profile Image for Netta.
611 reviews37 followers
June 28, 2020
זהו הספר שהגדיר לראשונה את המונח פוסט טראומה מורכבת, ולכן נחשב ובצדק לאבן דרך של המטפלים בתחום. עם זאת, למי שמבקש ללמוד לעומק על טראומה מורכבת ושיטות הטיפול בה, אשר פותחו ויושמו בשנים שחלפו מאז ספרה החלוצי של הרמן, ישנם ספרים רבים אחרים מתאימים יותר.
Profile Image for Therese.
Author 2 books149 followers
December 24, 2020
As some friends know, to help keep me occupied during the pandemic, I've been doing a year-long reading project to try to understand more about authoritarianism. Some subtopics within the project that particularly interest me are: connections between the mindset of domestic abusers and authoritarianism; how intimacy relates to authoritarianism; and the kinds of damage that authoritarianism does - that is, the question of why authoritarianism is a bad thing.

This book on trauma, by an expert in the field, explores a set of closely related questions. The author spends a lot of time exploring the commonalities between trauma experienced by victims of oppressive political regimes, military combat veterans, and victims of domestic abuse. These types of trauma involve settings where people are subjected to control and coercion through means such as fear, pain, bodily violations, and coerced participation in doing harm to others. These abusive settings essentially break down people's sense of their own identity and humanity, and often the only way for victims to cope is to engage in dissociation or "doublethink," where they learn to detach themselves from reality. Survivors often struggle with the aftermath for many years, and may have enduring difficulties with trust, intimacy, self-esteem, and with regaining a sense of moral order and meaningful autonomy.

Recovering from trauma, in the author's experience working with survivors, involves three broad stages - recovering a sense of safety and empowerment, forming healthy and healing relationships with others, and processing traumatic experiences through mourning and remembrance.

In terms of my own questions, there is definitely a lot of evidence to support the idea of a close relationship between the mindsets of domestic abusers and political oppressors, particularly in the obsession with controlling others in exploitative and dehumanizing ways. It also supports my theory that authoritarianism is bound up with intimacy through the medium of control and coercion - its psychological effects are profoundly invasive and jealously disruptive of healthy forms of intimacy as well as of a healthy relationship of the self to the self through privacy and autonomy. And this book bolsters my conviction that the main reason authoritarianism is a bad thing is because it tends to be dehumanizing, no matter how much it may begin with the noblest of intentions and the loftiest of ideals, and even when it is relatively small-scale or mild.

This book is definitely a tough read emotionally (it felt like it took me forever to get through), and may certainly be triggering for some - but it has become a classic for good reasons and I think has many important insights for political theory and philosophy, psychology, and sociology.
19 reviews
May 26, 2016
This book was a challenging read. I had so many thoughts and reactions to it. After reading the first few pages, I immediately wanted there to be a connection made to the history of enslaving Africans in America. I found myself constantly webbing that narrative into this text. I was disappointed at the end of the text because I realized that the only thought given to chattel slavery and it's lasting impact was a reference to police brutality in California. Chattel slavery was the most traumatizing human experience inflicted in the world to date, and the most horrific event to occur on American soil. To speak of the history of violence, trauma and recovery and completely dismiss that experience is shameful, hypocritical and intentional.
Profile Image for Robin &the Frogs 🐸.
59 reviews5 followers
September 1, 2022
Years ago I started this book and I immediately felt: this is it. Herman is right in all aspects. Unfortunately I wasn’t unable to finish the whole book. Being an survivor of CSA myself and not ready for the third fase in treatment, I couldn’t read the last chapters.

Now, years later I picked up this book again to reread the whole and read the unread sections. It’s funny to discover that I’ll always will be fluctuate through stage 1, 2 and 3 of recovery and every aspect has things that hits close to home.

One of the best things I appreciate about this book is that Herman describes the effect of trauma at a interpersonal level and on a social level and how these resonate with each other.
In modern psychiatry it seems that we all want to treat trauma as quick as possible. Get quick results and move on. But especially when we work with complex trauma there isn’t a quick fix, and however trauma care can be looked at scientifically- it’s more likely a craftship.

Trauma & Recovery is for me an all time classic in trauma literature. Even while it’s outdated and still uses the term multiple personality disorder (which is now dissociative identity disorder) the content is all the more current to this day.

5 ⭐️
Profile Image for Melissa Stacy.
Author 5 books196 followers
January 11, 2023
First published in June 1992, the nonfiction book, "Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence -- From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror," by Judith Lewis Herman, is a seminal work in the field of trauma study, and this book remains every bit as spectacular to read thirty years after it was first published.

This is the book that first introduced Complex PTSD into the medical lexicon, and thank god for that.

"Trauma and Recovery" is a brilliant, concise, and infinitely compassionate book.

Five million stars. Recommended to all.
Profile Image for Dr. K.
356 reviews30 followers
September 30, 2021
So it took me about a year and a half to read this book. Not because it's bad - it's excellent. Not because it's technical - it's extremely accessible. But this book is immensely painful and I sometimes needed several days to recover from 3 pages.

This is an incredibly detailed, compassionate, and raw deep-dive into trauma. Dr Herman was the first to propose the existence of complex ptsd as separate from "regular" ptsd, and in the book narrows in particularly on the vulnerability of children and women to violence and its enduring effects.

This book has two sections, as the title indicates: trauma and recovery. Both are harrowing in their own way. Dr Herman doesn't shy away from using the big words or from quoting honest patient testimonies. There's a sorrow that reverberates in each page of this book along with a defiant hope.

Ultimately, this is an emotionally taxing comprehensive book on the enduring effects of chronic and/or interpersonal trauma, be it childhood abuse, sexual violence, intimate partner violence, political terrorism, long term captivity, etc... it reminds the reader continuously of how devastating the aftermath of these crimes are and how much work remains to be done in supporting survivors. But the take-home message is one of hope: not hope of a quick fix all erasing cure, but hope of a rewarding journey of recovery.
Profile Image for SubterraneanCatalyst.
127 reviews47 followers
November 18, 2011
I read this a LONG time ago during the 90's when my therapist gave it to me. She was the best therapist ever- I probably suffered from I love my therapist can she please be my mommy syndrome with her. She always gave me excellent material to read and mull over. This was one of those books and I forgot the title of this. I only just now was able to find it after inputting a ton of random searches on google looking for it. I'm so glad because I want to do a re reading of this! I will also give these to all of my bff's who also happen to be as dysfunctional as I am..
Profile Image for Ray.
92 reviews3 followers
August 28, 2013
This is a classic. I don't dispute that. But it read as outdated, and had a very male perpetrator/female survivor narrative about it. Some of it was fabulous, but most of it wasn't. I give it a meh and a glad I read it anyway.
Profile Image for Natalia Davidenko.
49 reviews21 followers
March 24, 2017
Маст рід для всіх, хто так чи інакше працює з людьми - для сімейних консультантів, для тих, хто працює з чоловіками, що прийшли з війни, повернулись з полону.
Profile Image for Uma Dwivedi.
230 reviews52 followers
March 18, 2021
this book was really good! insightful about the structures of trauma and recovery. there wasn’t anything particularly groundbreaking or mind blowing here, but it was a good solid primer
Profile Image for Ray.
176 reviews3 followers
September 14, 2022
One of the definitive tomes relating to trauma. It is a difficult read in the first half, which deals with trauma as indicated by the title, with other challenging, though more encouraging, passages in the second half, recovery. Herman details the history of trauma diagnoses from hysteria to shell shock to what we now see as PTSD, and then goes on to describe the conditions under which one develops a trauma-related disorder as well as accompanying symptoms. She writes with a lot of care and sympathy, and rightful indignation as well, but there's also a predictably clinical tone, as she is a psychologist.

I'd have to say my main hangup with this book is how it lacks an intersectional lens and doesn't actually challenge the status quo as a result. She claims that the only way we will be able to grant legitimacy to trauma and accountability to perpetrators is with a social movement, yet oddly enough she makes sweeping generalizations about women, who are all certainly not in the same boat depending on their race and socioeconomic status, for example. She mentions the feminist movement which gave face to women in abusive relationships and who were raped/sexually assaulted, but we also have to remember how that same feminist movement has caused so much harm to trans women and contributed to their own trauma within that movement.

There's also the fact that certain groups of people are pretty much guaranteed to undergo trauma simply due to who they are and what they look like: LGBT people, Black people, other people of color... It is true that a social movement is needed to address trauma and how it affects these people's livelihoods and outcomes but she kind of falls short of that mark.

And then of course... we have to consider how many people are unable to access a lot of the treatment options detailed in the recovery section. How many decent trauma-focused therapists are there, and then how are they accessible in terms of location and price? With trauma as a social movement, it also needs to include accessibility, as well as sensitive care especially for Black and other people of color. The movement needs to address racism, homophobia, transphobia, capitalism, etc. if it is to truly succeed in taking a stand against trauma.
January 24, 2020
Excellently organized, this is THE BEST book on trauma that I have ever read. Filled with spicy meatballs of truth, Butler holds no punches to connect the society we live in, including those in her own profession, as part of the inherent problem of why so many find themselves subjugated, abused, and disenfranchised. I loved her focus on the abuse of women and children as a functioning part of the current world order. My only critique is that its written clearly from a white feminist gaze, and does little to really connect the massive violence of the capitalist patriarchy machine to the racist violence of imperialist settler colonialism. Other than that- I would say this is a great book to help people in the mud see that there is in fact a light at the end of the tunnel, and how to get there. Also a great book for any mental health professional- hell this should just be required reading for everyone. Would 100000% recommend to a friend, in fact I have read aloud from it at hangouts to make sure that my friends get how fucking good it is.
Profile Image for Beyza Alımcı.
52 reviews7 followers
April 2, 2021
Uzun süren bir yolculuk oldu bu kitapla ilişkimiz, zira yükü çok ağır olduğundan sık sık molaya ihtiyacım oldu. Travmanın her türlüsünün etkisini anlatan bir şaheser. Şiddete ve tacize maruz kalan insanların psikolojik ve fizyolojik etkilerini çok başarılı bir şekilde ele alıyor. Travmayı derinden anlamaya ihtiyaç duyan herkese mutlaka önerimdir. Okuması çok zor bir kitap, anlatımı veya içeriği kötü olduğundan değil konu çok ağır olduğundan.

Judith Herman’ın travma alanında en önemli insanlardan biri olduğunu düşünüyorum. Travmayı anlamak ve anlatmanın yanı sıra travma mağdurları için takındığı aktivist tutum bugün literatürden yasalara travmaya verilen bu önemin etkisini artırdı, iyi ki yaşamış iyi ki bu çalışmaları onca engele rağmen yapmış.
December 24, 2020
Дуже цікава книга про психологічні наслідки насилля. Стане у нагоді кожному, і ось чому: всі ми знаходимось в полі даної теми, оскільки не будучи жертвами чи кривдниками, ми свідомо чи несвідомо всеодно беремо участь у процесах відновлення постраждалих, покарання винних та розголошенні важливих тем.
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