I created this reading list for those who want to know more about trauma, as well as self-help in general. If you are looking for resources to help you in your own or someone else’s healing journey, this is a great starting place.
Peter Levine: Waking The Tiger and In an Unspoken Voice
Peter Levine was a certified Rolfer who developed Somatic Experiencing and went on to become a PhD. He is regarded as a leader in the field of trauma resolution. All of his books are excellent, easily accessible primers on trauma and somatic resolution. He describes not only the physiological basis of trauma but how to release it on your own or with the help of a skilled practitioner.
Steven Porges: The Polyvagal Theory
This book is very informative, but not written for the lay reader. Porges’ polyvagal theory revolutionized somatic therapy (Peter Levine’s work is highly informed by it), because it not only explained the evolutionary value of the freeze response, but also provided a framework for thawing and releasing stuck survival energy from the nervous system. For a more user-friendly polyvagal theory resource, I highly recommend Twig Wheeler’s site.
Gabor Maté: In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts and When the Body Says No
Gabor Maté is a Canadian physician who challenges the predominating view of addiction and disease with a bio-psycho-social model. He explores how addiction stems from early trauma, and how chronic diseases develop as a result of emotional imbalances. His approach is non-pathologizing and extremely compassionate.
Alanis Morissette: Conversations with Alanis Podcast
Some of you may remember Alanis Morissette as the pop singer from the 90’s. However, she has evolved into a spiritual leader and teacher of all things personal growth. Her podcast invites expert guests (many of whom are on this list) to offer insights and information. It’s more of a conversational style than an interview — she often talks at least as much as her guest — but it’s still quite informative.
Candace Pert, Ph.D: Your Body Is Your Subconscious Mind
In this audio series, Candace Pert describes her clinical studies into the molecules of emotion. Her revolutionary discovery was that every organ in the body has receptors for neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and other peptide molecules that organize our emotional experiences and mediate cell functioning. These become pathways for disease when the molecular vibrations of the cells and the transmitters don’t match. The mind-body split dissolves in this fabulous series.
Mark Wolynn: It Didn’t Start with You
This book is an excellent resource for inter-generational trauma. Many of us may be carrying patterns passed down by our recent ancestors and not even realize it. My favorite thing about the book is that he spends more than half of it on exercises and self-healing resources that you can do to heal the inter-generational trauma you may carry.
Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability
An audio book that includes Brown’s TED talk. She is a qualitative researcher who studies how people become healthy and whole. Her perspective on shame and vulnerability influenced a generation.
Charles Eisenstein: The Ascent of Humanity
On the surface, this book is only tangentially related to trauma, but for me, it informs the main reasons most of our society is out of balance. He talks about the age of industrialization, capitalism, indigenous wisdom, separation and interbeing, and how to bring about the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.
Jon Kabat-Zinn: The Mindful Way through Depression and Full Catastrophe Living
Jon Kabat-Zinn almost single-handedly brought Mindfulness to the US. He led 30 years worth of clinical studies that prove the benefits of mindfulness when practiced in small amounts by everyday people. His work started a movement. His accompanying audio materials are hugely beneficial for those wanting to learn and practice mindfulness. I still use his guided meditations on a regular basis.
Pema Chodron: When Things Fall Apart
This book has been tremendous help to myself and friends of mine. Coming from a Buddhist perspective, Pema Chodron offers practical tools and techniques to still the mind, release negative beliefs, and work with harmful psychological patterns.
Roshi Joan Halifax: Being with Dying
This book was foundational in my approach to grief. Joan Halifax was a hospice worker and chaplain who spent years at the bedside of the dying. She offers a no-nonsense, practical approach to dealing with suffering. It’s an essential guide not just for those facing death as patients or caregivers, but for anyone facing loss of any kind.
George Everly and Jeffrey Lating: A Clinical Guide to the Treatment of the Human Stress Response
Comprehensive in every way, this extensive guide covers the stress response cycle, trauma, and pathways of disease and disorder that result from stress. It details the biological processes at every stage of the cycle and covers treatment strategies. Newer editions include special chapters on spirituality/religion, nutrition, grief/loss, sleep, and crisis intervention. It is accessible to lay readers and recommended if you want to learn the biology of stress and trauma.
Bessel Van der Kolk: The Body Keeps the Score
Van der Kolk is widely regarded as a trauma expert. I recommend this book with a disclaimer that it may be triggering for some people. He describes traumatic situations in detail. Other than that, it is very informative and stuffed with helpful information from the author’s many years of clinical practice. He is well-versed in the treatment of trauma of all kinds.
Susan Jeffers: Feel the Fear And Do It Anyway
This classic self-help text is a quick read, practical, and easy to get through. The writing style can feel a bit corny at times, but it really does contain life-changing advice. She doesn’t really cover the root causes of fear and anxiety, but she describes practical ways to manage and overcome them so they no longer limit your life.
Marshall Rosenberg: Non-Violent Communication
A classic. NVC is a revolutionary technique that shifts conflicts from blame and shame into curiosity and connectedness. It is the basis of all my communication with clients and is informed by the fundamental question: what is alive in us? This question can also be used for self-inquiry and to shift your internal dialogue from one of self-blame to self-compassion.
Stan Tatkin, Ph.D: Wired for Love and Wired for Dating
Stan Tatkin pioneered PACT, the psychobiological approach to couple’s therapy. His books provide a primer on modern day attachment theory, how to recognize attachment styles in your relationships, and how to consciously shift your attachment style towards secure. His tools for building a lasting love relationship are relevant both for those already in long-term relationships as well as those who are not yet seeking a commitment.
This is by no means a complete list, and I’ll be updating it as needed. Comment below – have you enjoyed any of these works?