Trauma does not just happen to a few unlucky people, it happens to everyone. If we are not suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder, we suffer from a pre-traumatic one. Death, illness and loss eventually impact us all, but even the everyday sufferings of loneliness and fear are difficult to face. Psychotherapists have described the traumas of early life. Buddhism has emphasized the inherent precariousness of impermanence. But both disciplines agree that trauma is a fact of life. Rather than trying to ‘get over’ our traumas, there is another approach, one that the Buddhist perspective makes possible. While emotional memory may be forever, trauma seeks a relational home in which it can be metabolized. The way out is through.
Mark Epstein, MD, 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, Psychotherapy without the Self, and The Trauma of Everyday Life. His most recent book is Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself. He received his undergraduate and medical degrees from Harvard University and is currently Clinical Assistant Professor in the Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis at New York University.
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