….. is actually a happy book.
Much of the mental health literature is, as you would expect, sobering. But as I tested more and more patients for histories of childhood abuse or neglect, I discovered that I could not anticipate a patient’s trauma score, even though I knew him or her well. Some of the nicest, happiest, most successful, most grateful patients had some of the worst scores. In other words, having a happy life does not depend on having had a happy childhood.
Why not? The answer is resilience, to which Chapter 10 is devoted. In the current mental health literature, resilience is looked upon as a trait that some people are lucky to have, like blue eyes. I do not believe that is true. Resilience cannot only be inherited or neurochemical. It is at least partly, perhaps primarily, the result of opening out, of being relational. When we are exposed, we are not walled; we are free to connect. From that expansion of personality and spirit comes life philosophy, perspective, humor, optimism, and the capacity to receive support — impossible personal characteristics for those stuck in any addiction or self-harming behavior. They are turned in on themselves. They cannot be resilient.
Unraveling trauma opens us toward each other. All the attributes of resilience are also the antidotes to trauma. Life becomes reciprocal — an inspiring possibility for us all.