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Summary

In Trauma and Memory, best-selling author Dr. Peter Levine (creator of the Somatic Experiencing approach) tackles one of the most difficult and controversial questions of PTSD/trauma therapy: Can we trust our memories? While some argue that traumatic memories are unreliable and not useful, others insist that we absolutely must rely on memory to make sense of past experience. Building on his 45 years of successful treatment of trauma and utilizing case studies from his own practice, Dr. Levine suggests that there are elements of truth in both camps. While acknowledging that memory can be trusted, he argues that the only truly useful memories are those that might initially seem to be the least reliable: memories stored in the body and not necessarily accessible by our conscious mind.

While much work has been done in the field of trauma studies to address "explicit" traumatic memories in the brain (such as intrusive thoughts or flashbacks), much less attention has been paid to how the body itself stores "implicit" memory and how much of what we think of as "memory" actually comes to us through our (often unconsciously accessed) felt sense. By learning how to better understand this complex interplay of past and present, brain and body, we can adjust our relationship to past trauma and move into a more balanced, relaxed state of being. Written for trauma sufferers as well as mental health care practitioners, Trauma and Memory is a groundbreaking look at how memory is constructed and how influential memories are on our present state of being.

©2017 Peter A. Levine (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

"Memory has many layers, and Peter Levine has contributed his own unique and powerful way of thinking about how we can understand these systems and optimize their unfolding after trauma. This book offers clinical wisdom drawn from decades of direct experience, demonstrating how a clinician - with focused attention and essential timing - can move unresolved, non-integrated memories into a resolved, integrated form that enables a coherent narrative to emerge and the individual to become liberated from the prisons of the past." (Daniel J. Siegel, MD, author of Mindsight, The Mindful Therapist, and Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology)
"Only after we become capable of standing back, taking stock of ourselves, reducing the intensity of our sensations and emotions, and activating our inborn physical defensive reactions can we learn to modify our entrenched maladaptive automatic survival responses and, in doing so, put our haunting memories to rest." (Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD, author of The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Healing of Trauma)

What listeners say about Trauma and Memory

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The trauma whisperer

I really enjoyed this book having previously read other books Levine has authored. It is well written with excellently detailed descriptions of: different types of memory; how these memory sources inter-relate; practical applications of his methods from case study material; and has helpful metaphors and stories. I highly recommend this book to counsellors and therapists who are interested in trauma. I wouldn't recommend it for people/clients who have experienced trauma as it uses technical terms which could make it a difficult read. One thing I didn't like was in reading the book advertising and cover it's easy to assume Bessel van der Kolk is a co-author - which he isn't; although his foreword to the book is very good. Bmcm oct 2017

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Very interesting

A lot of technical insight that went over my head but very interesting and I want to listen through it a second time now.

7 people found this helpful

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Fascinating, enlightening book

This book was beautifully narrated. Gentle, measured and warmly spoken.
Peter A Levite’s case studies are woven into the neuroscience to illustrate his theories and learning. He shares this with us in a very accessible way so that it is easy to understand.
I also bought a hard copy so that I can bookmark information I want to return to and was delighted to see photographs and illustrations which really added to my learning.
Peter’s work is enabling me to understand myself and others so much better. I really hope that our politicians, business leaders, police, educators, social workers, health care providers etc find this book because it will make such a difference to how they interact with vulnerable people who have experienced trauma (most of us to be fair). When we know better we can do better.

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Good book

Great book, shame about the narrator, had to have it on 1.25 speed to make it listenable.

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brilliant book, informative and accessible

Brilliant book, very informative and thought provoking. Accessible also - not too dense. Relevant to anyone with an interest in memory and how our bodies and psyches work.

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very technical but very useful

great listen, even better with the actual book to refrance it with, if your a therapist or a trainee I highly recommend it. he gives a clear breakdown of the 4 types of memory we store

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a must-read for trauma therapists

excellent content. well-read. I will return again and again and will recommend to both patients and colleagues in the field of trauma and psychotherapy

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relevant and succinct

Well written and captures the subject precisely on many occasions. This is one of many books I have purchased on this subject, and yet this delivers new transparent concepts that have added to my knowledge.

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powerful and educational

great read, informative and clear... I really loved this book, poweful and educational as a first time reader on trauma

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A memorable book, for sure.

This book will certainly gives valuable insight into how memory works in relation to trauma. I have listened to Levines lectures and read In an Unspoken Voice and Trauma Proofing your Kids. Trauma is such a common but complex subject and this book helps to unravel some of its aspects. I particularly liked the last part, the neuroscience of how we remember, and indeed forget, and the referral to the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which I felt was a very good way to conclude the book.

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  • Jerry L. Cook
  • 07-12-19

What you need to know before buying this book

First, as noted by other reviewers, this book is most suited for clinicians and professionals who are already somewhat familiar with the terms from the book. At the beginning of this book it indicated that the book was also indicated that the pages would also essentially help those who wanted to better understand their own experience with trauma and memory; if the author (whom I greatly admire) ever reads my review, I would strongly recommend removing this assertion from his book.

For those who want the bulk of this information in a self-improvement format, I can recommend a different (if not older) book by the same author, "Healing Trauma." Although the "Healing Trauma" book does not focus primarily on memory, it does provide a chapter on it toward the end. The exercises are also very simple and useful.

Despite having a strong academic background and incredible interest in the trauma and memory connection, this book will need to be exchanged for another book that i feel I can connect to. IF you are not a clinician and you still think you'll like this book, I strongly recommend listening to the introduction and then skipping to chapter 5 (or so). The case studies in this book are great, but again the target audience is the clinician.

20 people found this helpful

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  • Mike
  • 03-11-18

great info about trauma!

I really enjoyed hearing about the clinical perspective and analysis of trauma. mental health is something I have personally struggled with for many years and I have recently started uncovering the traumas that have plagued my life since childhood. this book has helped me understand these traumas a bit more and how traumatic memories can change as the body tries to cope with and process what had happened. I now have an appointment with a therepist who specializes in traumas in the near future.

13 people found this helpful

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  • MNMNBK
  • 20-05-19

Should have said it was intended for clinicians

The overall review of this book was thankfully helpful. I was familiar with clinical or scientific knowledge from college but this is not a self help guide, but it is intended more for clinicians
This was not indicated on the information before I downloaded it

7 people found this helpful

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  • Michele A Kwiatkowski
  • 30-03-19

Not a book for the non-professional

Not a fault of the book, I just expected something for the average individual rather than professionals in the field. It presumes you are familiar with terminology and practices used in the field of trauma.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Moni
  • 20-01-18

Gifted

Dr. Levine has a GIFT and I am so glad he is sharing it with others!!! I hope his techniques become widely used.

In light of the recent elections, I didn’t like the political reference early on. I’m a female working in a male dominated field and I am SO sick of hearing Hillary is a liar. We all lie and studies have shown lies increase when social acceptance is on the line. I don’t think Dr. Levine meant to be sexist. This is my hang up so I kept listening...

The potential for healing is enormous, I suffered greatly as a child and see the huge potential for Dr. Levine’s techniques. But was turned off once again to hear him say most rape can be worded of by a WOMAN firmly saying NO. Yikes! That sounds too close to saying rape is a women’s problem.

I respect Dr. Levine and his work! I hope to learn his techniques so I can help others one day. I obviously have a lot of work to do.

47 people found this helpful

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  • Lawyer
  • 29-03-19

Dr. Levine is amazing

As a therapist that specializes in trauma, this makes so much sense. I’ve seen him work and his gifts are amazing! His interactions resonate genuine empathy and compassion that is felt by an observer.
The book discusses much of what I’ve seen in my work for nearly 20 years and wish I’d had an opportunity to learn more about him earlier. Sadly, it took life experience, clinical observations ans further exposure about somatic therapy for me to appreciate all that it involves. I’ve already ordered his other books and look forward to participating in his further training events.
Laura Lawyer, MSW, LCSW- Fayetteville, NC

6 people found this helpful

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  • Amber
  • 05-10-20

No, you do NOT need to be a clinician!

I almost didn't get this book and I am so glad I ignored the reviews saying it's not really accessible for the general public. Those reviews are wrong.
This book is full of great information about how memory and trauma work. Some of that information includes terms and words specific to psychiatry and neurology but nothing is beyond the layman's ability to learn. Everything in the book can be looked up on the internet, and you may have to exercise some patience and concentration to follow what is discussed, but if you truly want learn about these issues you absolutely can. I'm not a medical specialist either, but I was able understand and appreciate this book. Just take it slow, one bite at a time, and allow your mind time to digest each piece before moving on.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Becca Powell
  • 04-10-19

Enlightening, motivating, clinically useful

Levine's work has transformed the way I practice psychotherapy, and thus far, this book has been the best encapsulation of relevant material related to implicitly held traumatic memory and has added the most useful understanding of how trauma treatment works when it works and why it doesn't when it doesn't. I would imagine that whether or not the reader is a psychotherapist, if they have any degree of scientific interest in the topic of trauma, they would find this book accessible and enlightening. This is a great read for anyone who may be on a journey to obtain greater self-discovery, to reach a deeper understanding of a suffering loved one, or to pursue clinical effectiveness in their work as a helping professional.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Jamie Dolan
  • 27-09-20

Still accessible even if aimed at a professional.

It's very interesting information and it is clearly aimed at a more professional audience but a non-professional is definitely able to make sense of this material . They may have to extrapolate or look up the meaning of a couple specific terms in the context they are used.

He discusses a variety of subjects related to how memories are formed how they're retrieved possible ways we can influence those memory formations and retrievals either through organic techniques with therapy, possible techniques to manipulate those memories with drugs and some of the pitfalls of doing so.

if you're looking at something that is non-technical in more directed towards self-help this is likely not your best bet.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Sandy Cornet
  • 05-01-20

Good

monotone. I struggled at times to pay attention due to being monotone. great information though.

2 people found this helpful