The Trauma of Everyday Life by Mark Epstein
Don’t you love that feeling of transformation that comes from reading the right book at the right moment? I’ve read Mark Epstein’s ‘The Trauma of Everyday Life’ at two different times in my life, and each time I’ve felt a spark of inspiration. The book is a general overview of the intersection between psychotherapy and Buddhism. As a newcomer to Buddhism, I was intrigued by how these two areas overlap and curious about how this may, or may not, be clinically relevant.
Highlights: I enjoy learning through story-telling and this book is chalk full of examples of this type of teaching. It makes me curious about the role of storytelling in healing and if this is an approach that can be more mindfully utilized. One of the pieces that is sticking with me from this book is the idea of reframing our outlook on things that impact us in everyday life. Epstein gives an example of hearing the sounds of the city, for example a car horn, and feeling aggravated. The suggestion is to reframe and to think about the car horn as just doing what it’s meant to do, and to think of our reaction as the thing to be curious about. I've been trying this and I'm finding it practical, easy to do, and a great stress-reducer.
Questions that linger: I found that the focus in this book is on healing within, however, I wonder how the relational aspect of healing is addressed in Buddhism. There are many examples in this book of Buddha offering healing words to others. I’m curious about the impact of others on Buddha and how interpersonal relationships helped both to form and sustain his enlightenment. Epstein does talk about the possible impact of the death of Buddha's mother and how this may have informed his journey which is very interesting and resonates clinically.
Clinical gem: a good reminder of the value and necessity of non-judgmental curiosity in trauma work.