Forged by Trauma

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mark Epstein, a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City and the author of The Trauma of Everyday Life (Penguin Press, 2013), talks about the prevalence of trauma, from crises to loneliness, and its central role in human development. 

Comments [15]

ellen d from Manhattan

Mark Epstein had some remarkable things to say. His time was short but his succinct advice to the man who wished he'd never been born was in fact amazingly on target. Whether in this context the man absorbed it, who can tell, but trauma, shock, sadness, neglect, etc. things that can stay with us all our lives are held in our bodies in a very physical way as well as in our minds. A dual approach of re-educating the body's entrenched neural pathways, similar to EMDR, and the mind using psychology and wisdom such as found in Buddhism, is certainly a very effective way to help people. It did me.

Aug. 15 2013 12:58 PM
Harry Rice from Flushing

Guilt adds a great burden to experienced trauma. The sense of being responsible has roots in the erroneous assumption that the individual is an autonomous entity with power to direct his/her beliefs, feelings and actions.

Aug. 15 2013 12:39 PM
Listener from New York

I find it interesting that meditation and mindfulness training are considered to be a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I had a horrible (emotionally and financially) experience with what I think is classic CBT. It was verbally oriented, consisting of my stating my supposedly mistaken beliefs and then refuting them. (The problem is I was not mistaken. I would explain after my self-disputation that I didn't feel better.)

Meditation is hardly a wonder therapy for me, but it seems to work a bit better that traditional CBT because it goes deeper than the intellect and addresses the underlying emotions.

Aug. 15 2013 12:27 PM
Listener from New York

john from the office:

Forgot another important reason.

The fact that Buddhism is a non-Christian religion that as far as I know has no history of forcibly proselytizing Jews or others is another reason that many Jews are attracted to Buddhism.

Aug. 15 2013 12:19 PM
Karen from Bergen County

There is a very effective 10 day intensive retreat called STAR that helps people work through trauma and suffering. Their techniques are especially useful for folks dealing with childhood trauma(s). I do not work for STAR; I have, however, benefited enormously from their approach. I also know many others who have found the healing they longed for through their work with STAR. More information about the program is available at

Aug. 15 2013 12:08 PM
Listener from New York

john from the office:

I'm not Jewish and also wondered why so many Western adherents of Buddhism seem to be Jews. If you Google the question you'll find several interesting explanations having to do with ambivalence to Judaism after the Holocaust and a feeling of distance from Judaism as typically practiced in 1950s America.

For whatever it's worth, I'm an Atheist/Agnostic who studies Buddhism on a secular basis.

Aug. 15 2013 12:03 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

What the guest is saying now about how bad things happen in life ... I've found an attitude -- at least by middle-aged women -- on dating sites, that seem to say it was your fault -- something you did, or something in your makeup -- that is responsible for you not living up to my standards of success and lifestyle.

The word/euphemism most often used to describe other's misfortunes is "baggage."

This kind of attitude always struck me as somewhat smug and arrogant, as if they were immune from any sort of tragedy striking them. In truth tragedy can be just around the corner and you never know what your day will bring when you leave home in the morning.

Aug. 15 2013 12:01 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

To John

Great question! Because Jews are an abnormal nation, because of 2000 years of dispossession and having to live as a minority amidst other nations. One of the main goals of the secular Zionist movement was to liberate and return Jews to their national soil and thereby hopefully "normalizing" the Jewish people to be like other nations. That is, concerned primarily with themselves and not so much with the problems of others. It's still a work in progress, and hopefully we'll get there eventually. We're nearly half way there.

Aug. 15 2013 12:01 PM
Listener from New York

I waited around for this segment, but haven't been able to sit through the whole thing. I hope it will be streamed later.

As a Westerner, I have many questions about how to reconcile Buddhism with my daily life although I've been doing Insight Meditation on and off for years.

Aug. 15 2013 11:58 AM
john from office

Why do American Jews love picking up these new age religions. They have a 3000 year old belief system that beats all of this non-sense. I will never get it, must be the need to rebel.

Aug. 15 2013 11:56 AM
Listener from New York

The caller who said his life had been so filled with suffering that at times he wished he'd never been born was very moving. I suspect his feeling is not uncommon.

Aug. 15 2013 11:55 AM
genejoke from Brooklyn

I hope this guy doesn't end his life during the call. I appreciate his brutal honesty.

Aug. 15 2013 11:54 AM
Leonore Tiefer from Stuytown

It would be better to read "One Nation under Stress: The Trouble with Stress as an Idea" by Dana Becker. She criticizes this tendency to medicalize and psychologize every little thing. Better to look at larger social context. Poverty is not stress, for example, it's a social problem and can't be solved by individual help which merely drains resources and understanding.

Aug. 15 2013 11:51 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

"Trauma" is just the normal animal instinct in the struggle for physical survival. If you have managed to survive a life-threatening situation, such as combat, the holocaust, or even a harsh divorce, or just getting mugged, or a tragic automobile accident, your sense of security can be shattered. You never feel completely secure again. Security is abnormal, and created by humans who managed to create relatively stable societies. When society becomes destabilized due to war, or economic upheaval, or other tragedies, the psyche of those most immediately affected becomes more "paranoid" and defensive. This is natural. A sense of security is unnatural.

Aug. 15 2013 11:51 AM
John A

That title Does sort of sound like "The Perils of the Extremely Non-Resilient"
Although everyday trauma could be quite profitable for a psychiatrist.

Aug. 15 2013 11:16 AM

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