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Life after Trauma: What are the possibilities for post-traumatic growth?

September/October 2015


Upside: The New Science of Post-Traumatic Growth
By Jim Rendon

Touchstone / Simon & Schuster. 288 pages.

ISBN: 9781476761633

“How could you stand to live through so much loss and shock?” It’s a question I became used to hearing on too many occasions through the years: most dramatically, when I was 24, after being among the more than 100 hostages held for 39 hours by Hanafi Muslim gunmen at the B’nai B’rith Building in Washington, DC, where I worked. Even though they threatened us with death and inflicted a range of injuries, we all walked out alive. Only after we were freed did we learn that members of this group had simultaneously taken over the city’s Islamic Center and District Building, where they shot and killed a young radio reporter. Two years earlier, my mother had died and Peter, my then 23-year-old fiancé, had suffered face-disfiguring cancer surgery. And more sadness followed, with two grueling pregnancy losses and the challenges of caring for Peter through his losing battle against illnesses contracted from tainted blood transfusions. Despite these grim experiences, I thought about how fortunate I feel to have arrived where I am today as I read Jim Rendon’s new book, Upside: The New Science of Post-Traumatic Growth.

Rendon begins by challenging an all-too-common stereotype: that most trauma survivors remain forever stuck in place, embittered, broken in core ways. As psychotherapists know, the emotional (and sometimes…

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