Back to Life: Getting Past Your Past with Resilience, Strength, and Optimism

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Back to Life is a feel-good approach to overcoming that lets you try on the skills of the heroes you most admire. From icons of survival like Rosa Parks and Nelson Mandela to contemporary heroes like Michael J. Fox and Elizabeth Edwards, this book allows you to see what resilient survivors actually do when they feel lousy.

This is a revolutionary approach to feeling better, rooted in the science of positive psychology and resilience theory, and would help anyone get a dose of ...

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Back to Life: Getting Past Your Past with Resilience, Strength, and Optimism

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Overview

Back to Life is a feel-good approach to overcoming that lets you try on the skills of the heroes you most admire. From icons of survival like Rosa Parks and Nelson Mandela to contemporary heroes like Michael J. Fox and Elizabeth Edwards, this book allows you to see what resilient survivors actually do when they feel lousy.

This is a revolutionary approach to feeling better, rooted in the science of positive psychology and resilience theory, and would help anyone get a dose of soul food into their emotional diet; but these techniques are specially tailored to those trying to overcome traumas big and small—from Big-T Traumas, such as combat, abuse, and bereavement, to challenges one might think of as little-t traumas, like breakups, betrayals, job loss, health problems, and financial hardships.

After years of working in the trenches of psychiatry, it became clear to Dr. Alicia Salzer that we needed some new methods to help people overcome, since the old methods often proved too painful for many to bear. It's all about being in the present and focusing on the future—no retelling and revisiting the past, no opening Pandora's box, no picking at old scabs.

Back to Life is a creative and empowering way to learn the habits of resilient survivors while getting to know what you stand for, what makes you happy, and what emotions you need in your diet in order to thrive. In this book you will create a "holistic pillbox" of ten stones—each symbolizing a healthy new way of coping—that you can utilize when your past rears its head.

The truth is, there have always been people in our midst who remain positive and passionate despite enormous challenges while others just get stuck. This is the secret playbook of those people, and it's full of accessible and fun exercises to help you try on the rose-colored glasses of those survivors we so admire.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Popular Psychiatrist Salzer has worked with people affected by 9/11 and extensively with RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) and aims with this spot-on book to help survivors of both "big-T" and "little-t" traumas. Rejecting the notion that rehashing one's trauma leads to healing, Salzer focuses on positive psychology and employs the metaphor of a vase of stones to explain her technique: the stones (positive emotions) displace the water (negative emotions resulting from trauma). She illustrates how to refute trauma-preserving assumptions and regain a full bandwidth of emotions; her resilience skills will benefit any reader, whether dealing with trauma or not. Refreshingly, she acknowledges the trauma survivor's pain without further victimizing them, is upbeat without being cloying, and is full of humanity, humor, and respect. Well paced, the book's three sections guide readers to change how they think, what they do, and how they feel. Included are the requisite exercises (helpful) and recommended reading list (useful). With a Medical Degree from Cornell and over a decade spent working in psychiatry, Salzer explains clinical concepts in a straightforward yet interesting way, which should help her first book become a primer in the increasingly important field of positive psychology. (Jan.)
Library Journal
According to world-renowned neuropsychiatrist and psychologist Cyrulnick, history is not destiny. He uses his own experience and his work with orphaned and abused children to demonstrate how people can triumph over adversity. Each of the four chapters includes examples of those who have coped by using a variety of techniques—e.g., integrating their stories into the collective history of the environments in which they lived, using their memories to spur creative ventures, or reworking horrific actions, commitments, and narratives. He essentially offers hope through documenting the stories of individuals who have overcome incredible adversity. Salzer, member of the Rape Abuse Incest National Network's Speakers Bureau, takes on the same subject with more of a how-to than an explanatory approach. She asserts that one does not have to revisit the pain to work through it but instead needs to visualize oneself as a survivor instead of a victim. Some of the tools for strengthening resilience include flexibility, accountability, self-efficacy, and community. Salzer discusses each concept at length, provides case studies, and explains how to develop each attribute. Both books are written from the heart and with sound psychology to provide help to readers. Cyrulnik presents inspiring reading about those who have triumphed, and Salzer gives a road map for how to get there.
Kirkus Reviews

Psychiatrist and Montel Williams show Director of Aftercare Salzer offers an instruction guide to overcoming the deleterious effects of emotionally wrenching experiences.

"How does a person live through a life-altering challenge yet emerge still self-possessed, still hopeful, still empowered," asks the author at the beginning of this practical guide to beating the often crippling aftershock of trauma—be it uppercase Trauma, such as rape or death, or lowercase trauma, as in any situation that has robbed you of self-esteem and left you fearful and helpless (a health issue, job loss, betrayal, etc.). When trauma becomes "permatrauma"—maladaptive behavior in which the lessons of the worst day become the guideposts of the everyday—then, Salzer writes, it is time to recalibrate your mindset. In addition to affirmation and cheerleading, the author tenders some serious tools. She doesn't simply ask readers to ad lib their way through various evaluative templates; she provides extensive lists of possible answers to either use or to jump-start your replies. When she suggests finding a greater meaning in the experience, she gives numerous examples, from the teachings of Viktor Frankl to tactics to reframe your boss' daily insults. If you identify with the passive-victim mode, Salzer serves up specific exercises in awareness, assertiveness and harvesting positive associations. She provides a crash course in survivorship, abetted by a positive psychology that draws from resilience theory, cognitive therapy and learned optimism, with cues taken from people who display resilient talents like flexibility, accountability, the perception of success and developing some form of social network. A few of Salzer's strategies may seem a stretch at this difficult juncture—reaching for the flow state, for example—but in her hands, something as simple as a worry stone can help find you "navigating a path through traumaville."

A sensible escort to identifying and deploying signature strengths buried by traumatic emotional paralysis.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061771064
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/18/2011
  • Pages: 278
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Alicia Salzer, M.D., completed her B.A. at the University of Pennsylvania and obtained her M.D. from Cornell University. She has held posts at UCLA, Columbia University, and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. An advocate for victims of psychological trauma, she has served on the Speaker's Bureau of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) and has volunteered for Disaster Psychiatry Outreach, an organization that provides free mental health staffing and treatment following disasters such as 9/11. After volunteering at Ground Zero and at the family assistance center after the 9/11 attacks, Dr. Salzer worked for three years at a clinic that exclusively served Ground Zero rescue workers and volunteers.

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