Top 10 highly recommended childhood trauma recovery books

Within the book I am writing currently I provide a healing map to navigate through the complex maze of trauma induced in childhood. Given that to at least to small degrees, most people have some form of maladaptive tendencies gained from their family of origin unit which don’t particularly serve them within their current adult state which were used to protect them from physical harm, emotional shaming or total abandonment (physical desertion). Their many individuals who have no idea why they have extreme social anxiety, pervasive toxic shame (what I call ‘metashame’), a violent inner-critic & ultra frequent emotional flashbacks, just to name some of the symptoms of c-ptsd.

A lot of times these symptoms are masked through addictions & through a person consciously or sometimes unconsciously developing a ‘false self’ which is seen as a ‘artificial persona’ one uses to prevent themselves slipping into the pain of their traumas and also to appear more capable without others acknowledging what the individual might see as a ‘perceived weakness’. Often times sadness / sorrow, kindness / empathy /compassion may be avoided for the reason of that it breaks the illusion of the persons self or public image, in terms of appearing invulnerable, all-powerful, heroic etc. However crying is  massively healing and is part of the grieving process and helps us cultivate healthy instincts for authentic self-compassion & anger is used to cultivate healthy instincts for self-protection. All emotions & character traits serve in some way.

Part of healing is learning to become a more whole human being with all your character traits integrated & accepted as part of you to establish a fully functional personality & strong self-esteem. So we can have our power fully available to us to develop a healthy ‘intrapersonal relationship’ aka a healthy, empowering, self-compassionate, self-protecting, self-accepting, self to self relationship with ourselves, which then increases the probability of having healthy friendships and intimate relationships. Which then sets the platform for a more functional family unit and so the children can model healthier behaviour. The mental health of parents states the health of the family system. So here are some of my favourite books which have helped me within my own recovery process which without them and the incredible work of certain psychologists and psychotherapists would have left me a lost.

Within my own book I describe what I call the ‘levels of healing’ and describe reading / researching as ‘level 0’. Can be little easier to convince ourselves reading is actually ‘doing’ recovery work. Don’t get me wrong, even reading trauma recovery books can be extremely difficult for most people because it exposes their biggest fears and pain. However, its not to be confused with the physical / active work regarding seeking help from a counsellor, doing a support group, doing daily self-healing work etc. Reading around childhood trauma is extremely hard yet incredible because you begin to break the patterns of denial and minimisation (denial being an unconscious / conscious way to block out pain). You begin to address your specific symptoms and understanding what healthy parenting looks like and what constitutes having a more healthy / balanced personality, selfhood and serenity.

Saying this, intellectualising and reading can be a coping mechanism to get out of your feelings in your body & into your head. Reading is ‘part’ of trauma recovery but is by no means the only part of c-ptsd recovery work. The majority of my own recovery has come from the daily self-healing work such as grieving (angering / crying out my childhood losses), journal therapy, self-reparenting audio affirmations, inner-dialogue work (anger-empowered thought stopping) and group meetings to ventilate my feelings & alleviate shame, fear & feelings of abandonment (through establishing healthy & secure attachments with others in similar situations).

My reccomend reading goes as follows in order of importance & personal helpfulness:

  1. Complex PTSD: from surviving to thriving By Pete Walker MA, MFT
  2. The Tao of fully feeling: Harvesting forgiveness out of blame by Pete Walker MA, MFT
  3. Codependency for dumbies by Darlene Lancer MFT
  4. Homecoming by John Bradshaw
  5. Healing the shame that binds you by John Bradshaw
  6. The completion process by Teal Swan
  7. Shadows before dawn by Teal Swan
  8. Waking the tiger by Peter A. Levine
  9. Game over by John Cooper
  10. Inner bonding by Margaret Paul PH.D

1) Complex ptsd: from surviving to thriving Pete Walker M.A., MFT 

Pete Walker M.A., MFT (licensed marriage & family therapist for nearly 30+ years) profoundly describes the multifaceted components of c-ptsd like no other author I have read. His ultra high level of emotional intelligence, experience with working with other traumatised individuals (including himself most importantly) and having a deep understanding of the science behind trauma, truly is demonstrated in his writing. He has an amazing wordsmith ability and has creative wordplay throughout the book. Which makes for an extremely enjoyable read despite the topic area being so difficult & heavy to process in regards in terms of trauma & emotional pain. This has opened my eyes to the dysfunctional fixed roles played out within the family unit, distorted attachment styles, specific trauma responses (the four F’s), grieving modalities and one of the first books I found what discussed ‘self-reparenting’. This book really inspired to really explore my own traumas and have read it 3 times now looking to read it again. Can’t reccomend this book highly enough.

2) The Tao of fully feeling: Harvesting forgiveness out of blame by Pete Walker M.A., MFT 

The second installment from Pete Walker. The main concept Pete Walker discusses in this book is the idea of Tao-centred outlook towards fully feeling every feeling + cultivating healthy blame (which is something traumatised children are typically punished for). The main quotation Pete Walker basis the book off of is “shame is blame turned towards the self.” The idea here being to redirect the shame put on yourself when you were too young to protect yourself and develop ‘healthy blame’ & putting that shame back to where it belongs. A main feature of the book is that Pete Walker discusses how forgiving others too soon can lead to carrying childhood hurts for longer and can increase denial of abuse itself. Instead Pete Walker discusses the aspect of ‘forgiveness beginning with self’ & really to forgiving ourselves for things we were never taught or aspects of our childhoods we had no control over is really the first steps of forgiveness & that forgiving others is more a natural byproduct of self-forgiveness and grieving work. I love the ‘grey areas’ in the book when Pete Walker talks about the subtle elements of compulsiveness. The only downside of this book is how long it took me to read it because the text is so small.

3) Codependency for dummies by Darlene Lancer MFT

Love the layout of ‘for dummies’ books. Very clear to read and understand, outlines facts, exercises and reminders and in a step by step fashion without overwhelming the reader. Darlene Lancer is a great synthesizer of knowledge. Combining aspects of addiction recovery, healing modalities and is really excellent at describing the unconscious motives behind the aspects of codependency. This book was a very big help to me because it truly hones in on the ‘disease behind the disease’ that really codependency is core symptom behind all addictions.  Very well researched in terms of background knowledge and specific studies in certain areas of the book. Will be reading this at some point again to truly internalise the principles of the book. Also a very visual book with helpful diagrams which really explain the text well.

4) Homecoming: Reclaiming & championing your inner-child by John Bradshaw

John Bradshaw has been a massive inspiration to me & a father figure to me on my recovery journey. He is an incredible teacher. Has a profound intellectual capacity for linking science, philosophy, psychology and the practical applications of childhood trauma recovery in synergy within his writing. He has been a massive role model to me and inspired knowing he overcame his alcoholism, rage addiction and was the typical straight A student ‘human doing’ not ‘human being’. He managed to overcome so much & help so many people on their own recovery journey as well. ‘Homecoming’ though a little dated in some regard, still yields so much truth. I really enjoy the layout of the book as Bradshaw goes incrementally in sequence through all the development stages and the practical techniques to aid recovery at each level.

5)Healing the shame that binds you by John Bradshaw 

This is a John Bradshaw recovery classic and is often in most Bibliographies of the other trauma recovery writers. Though again a little dated & hard to read in places because this discusses a lot of sexual abuse, addictions and physical violence. So has a lot of very serious elements to the book & a lot of real but very dark overtones. John Bradshaw discusses the implications of shame & its purpose and how really there is a ‘healthy shame’ but once toxic, produces ‘shameless’ behaviour and feelings of being ‘ashamed’. Which can cause massive ego defences and self-destructive habits to prevent the shame being triggered or accessed to heal. Think some of the techniques in the back of the book are a little dated in places and not very effective but the background of knowledge within the book is very helpful in bringing understanding to toxic shame, which is a core symptom of c-ptsd.

6) The completion process by Teal Swan

This was the second book I read from Teal Swan. She has excellent emotional intelligence and has harnessed a very unique process for healing traumatic memories described within the book developed from multiple therapist she had seen. I have used this repeatedly on certain traumatising memories. ***DISCLAIMER*** Now for some who may have undergone highly sexual or physical abuse I would say that would be more something a licensed psychologist would deal with because revisiting the memories could cause retraumatisation.  Quite a short book compared to her other books but sticks to the point which is simply to provide a call to action to the process to heal shaming / abusive memories.

7) Shadows before Dawn by Teal Swan

Teal Swan is one of the leading authorities on spiritual development and trauma recovery. She has great youtube channel which is very informative. Being raised in a highly traumatising environment growing up (as Teal discusses within the first chapter of the book) Teal has really done an incredible job in her own recovery journey. Though the book discusses childhood trauma, the centrepiece element of the book discusses all aspects & exercises of ‘self-love’. One of the core symptoms of c-ptsd is what some people within the recovery movement call ‘self-love deficit disorder’. Essentially the book provides a roadmap for ‘self-love recovery’. Teal has a great wordsmith ability and I really like the title of the book as it very symbolic to recovery. Our ‘shadow side’ is something Carl Jung described as the aspects of ourselves we don’t want to face which haven’t been fully integrated yet which has been typically shamed, or we have been made afraid or simply was not taught how to express.

8) Waking the tiger by Peter A.Levine PHD

Though this book discusses more traditional shock trauma and the aftermath of ptsd, a lot of the symptomatology of adverse childhood conditions can draw a lot of parallels to the effects of ptsd. Peter Levine PHD Has a great writing style and truly understands this domain. However the reason I have placed this lower is because it doesn’t really address the cognitive healing elements that Pete Walker does which are specifically needed for c-ptsd. Instead explains greatly the symptoms of trauma & more the ‘somatic elements of healing’ in relation to physical body. Though somatic / body related exercises play a part to an overall childhood trauma recovery programme it plays a smaller role that the aspects regarding cognitive healing.

9) Game over: from pick-up artist to social heartist by John Cooper 

John Cooper truly infiltrates the pick-up seduction community which was first made famous by Neil Strauss’s book ‘the game’ in 2007 which sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide. However, John Cooper explains why pick-up artistry it is a toxic system and is held in place by gurus who have actually very deep rooted abandonment issues stemming from childhood trauma. ‘Social heartisty’ is a excellent more holistic form of social dynamics which is mainly geared towards men (but can easily be applied to women too) in terms of living from a place of purposefulness and autonomy.  Love the exercises in this book where with most books I find the exercises are just used to fill more space in the book and seem a waste of time. The exercises in this book are thought provoking and practical. John tells his story in the beginning and discusses how pick-up is based on a ‘acquisition frame’ & ‘work frame’ being from a place of ‘taking’ & ‘giving only to get’. Where as John’s social heartistry model is based of a ‘unconditionally giving’ & ‘play frame’. Highly well put together book with excellent question & answers from one of John’s friends who is a neuroscientist, great creative practical analogies / quotes & excellent word play. What also grabbed by attention was at the end of the book John discusses certain healing modalities & mental outlooks regarding ‘sacred father work’ & ‘sacred mother work’. The book provides a revolutionary (in my opinion) approach to social interaction and coming from a place of ‘healedness’ and ‘non-toxicity’. Really sets the tone to live a healed & purpose-driven life balanced with play. More of a book to bridge the gap between personal wholeness & relationships.

10) Inner bonding: becoming a more loving adult to your inner child by Margaret Paul Ph.D

The main premise of this book the practice ‘wounded inner-child work’. I like the diagrams in the book and uses the metaphor of an ‘inner-child’ to describe our gut-level feelings & needs. The metaphor allows people to imagine the themselves as a small child or containing a small child within them. It helps them imagine & remind themselves “what would a healthy adult do to look after this child to ensure love, protection, health & guidance?” etc. The book strives to help people become ‘their very own healthy parent’ to take of their ‘wounded self’ rather than letting the impulsive aspect of their personality lead them and be governed by their more inner-adult who is more abandoning or authoritarian. The book does waffle in places quite a bit instead of going straight to the reactor core of the book but is a great introduction to self-reparenting but I reccomend the other books if your problems surrounding c-ptsd are quite advanced if you’re looking for more rapid pain alleviation. This book is more geared towards reconnecting with self.

Hope these books help you on your heroes journey of inner-healing & becoming the very best authentic you there is.

Go forth & may your power be legendary

From your neighborhood friendly coach & messenger

Joshua Leo Stuart

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