Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving



To all survivors of childhood trauma everywhere, I highly recommend the book by Pete Walker, Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving.


Pete is a therapist in Berkeley, California, who specializes in treating cptsd and is himself a survivor of childhood abuse. One of the things that make this book special is that he knows cptsd from the inside out, bringing a profound inner understanding to the subject. This book is both deeply personal and an extremely useful guide to the journey of recovery.


It is also very compassionate. There is a simple, relaxing kindness throughout the book as Pete describes the many difficult effects of trauma, and insightful ways of understanding and healing them.


He writes in detail about the trauma’s emotional states, and about ways to heal them. He addresses toxic shame, self-criticism, anger, fear, grief and abandonment depression, among others. He also addresses the effects that trauma leaves in its wake, especially the relationship difficulties that can cause so much pain, misunderstanding and loneliness.


He introduces the extremely useful and descriptive concept of ‘emotional flashbacks’. These are flashbacks to the overwhelming emotional states that we experienced during our childhood. Because there is often no accompanying memory, they can be difficult to identify as such, and we are left wondering why we have such extreme responses to a relatively ordinary life situations. This book explains why.


Another unique concept is the addition of ‘fawn’ to the familiar ‘fight-flight-freeze’ responses to trauma. It describes how we can become very compliant with whatever the abuser wants as a way of trying to reduce the abuse. This can then show up as codependence later in life, but understood more accurately as a reaction to trauma.


The book is very practical, with various lists, including one that identifies the many signs of an emotional flashback, and another that lists coping strategies for panic attacks.


Pete’s book is packed full of useful insights and practical help, and there is much more that I could say about it. But I will end here with the recommendation that if you know or suspect that you or someone you love has cptsd, then it’s well worth putting this book on your ‘must read’ list. Even after many years of working with trauma, both my own and others, I have found much insight and healing in Pete’s words.

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