The Trauma of Everyday Life

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Overview

Renowned psychiatrist and author of Thoughts Without a Thinker Mark Epstein uncovers the transformational potential of trauma, revealing how it can be used for the mind’s own development

Trauma does not just happen to a few unlucky people; it is the bedrock of our psychology. Death and illness impact us all, but even the everyday sufferings of loneliness and fear are traumatic.

Western psychology teaches that if we understand the cause of ...

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The Trauma of Everyday Life: A Guide to Inner Peace

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Overview

Renowned psychiatrist and author of Thoughts Without a Thinker Mark Epstein uncovers the transformational potential of trauma, revealing how it can be used for the mind’s own development

Trauma does not just happen to a few unlucky people; it is the bedrock of our psychology. Death and illness impact us all, but even the everyday sufferings of loneliness and fear are traumatic.

Western psychology teaches that if we understand the cause of trauma, we might move past it, while many drawn to Eastern practices see meditation as a means of rising above, or distancing themselves from, their most difficult emotions. Both, Epstein argues, fail to recognize that trauma is an indivisible part of life. It takes many forms but spares no one. When we regard trauma with this perspective, understanding that suffering is universal and without logic, our pain connects us to the world on a more fundamental level. The way out is through.

Epstein’s discovery begins in his analysis of the life of Buddha, looking to how the death of his mother informed his path and teachings. The Buddha’s spiritual journey can be read as an expression of primitive agony grounded in childhood trauma. Yet the Buddha’s story is only one of many in The Trauma of Everyday Life. Here, Epstein looks to his own experience, that of his patients’, and of the many fellow sojourners and teachers he encounters as a psychiatrist and Buddhist. They are alike only in that they share in trauma, large and small, as all of us do. Epstein finds throughout that trauma, if it doesn’t destroy us, wakes us up to both our minds’ own capacity and to the suffering of others. It makes us more human, caring, and wise. It can be our greatest teacher, our freedom itself, and it is available to all of us.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
2013-08-15
A practicing physician and Buddhism expert examines trauma as a natural part of life. Psychiatrist Epstein (Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis/New York Univ.; Going on Being: Life at the Crossroads of Buddhism and Psychotherapy, 2008, etc.), a prolific author on Buddhism, invites readers to learn from the example of Buddha and deal with trauma through direct engagement and Zen mindfulness rather than distancing or dissociating from negative life experiences. Although the Buddhist wisdom he imparts isn't always necessarily layman-friendly, the connections he makes mostly steer clear of spiritualist mumbo jumbo or, for that matter, clinical psychobabble. However, some readers may get the sense that his main thesis--which could probably be summed up in the line, "If one can treat trauma as a fact and not a failing, one has the chance to learn from the inevitable slings and arrows that come one's way"--is stretched a bit too far and isn't quite enough to effectively carry an entire book. Rather than rely on his own experiences and philosophies, Epstein uses an anecdotal approach to illustrate his points about how regular people have used the teachings of Buddha to come to terms with their trauma, as well as how Buddha educated himself along the so-called "middle path," which was marked by many instances of traumatic events that were unique to him. No matter how many different examples the author provides from the life of Buddha and others, ultimately, everything contained in Epstein's book circles back to more or less the same idea of accepting daily traumas instead of burying them in one's subconscious mind, which can toe the line between obsessively driving home a major point and simple redundancy. Useful and coherent but not as deep a study as it clearly wants to be.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594205132
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 8/15/2013
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 64,539
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.12 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

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 and Psychotherapy Without the Self. He received his undergraduate and medical degrees from Harvard University.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 28, 2013

    I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand w

    I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand why they act the way they do or say the things they say. Mark Epstein has written a book that above all others makes it ok to be me. I never understood why when I first attempted meditation I just cried. Now I know. I also have a deeper understanding of the purpose and importance of meditation. Compassion and acceptance take on all new meaning after reading this book, not just for myself, but for everyone. I cried through the last chapters as Epstein showed me the way out of suffering by explaining how to open to past trauma so that it doesn’t keep running my life. This book is not just for Buddhists. I wish that “The Trauma of Everyday Life” was on the bedside table of all new mothers. 

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