This is one of the most important books I have ever read. As a veteran of armed conflict in both Vietnam and Cambodia and a survivor of extreme abuse in childhood, the best that traditional mental health services based on the medical model could offer failed me. To begin with, there was no entry for PTSD in the DSM before 1982, so whatever I suffered from was either misdiagnosed or labelled some kind of malingering. That fact in and of itself points pretty clearly to the hopelessly inadequate and some might say criminally negligent approach of the so called professionals to a major problem then and an increasingly critical problem now. Returning veterans trying to cope with difficulties still poorly understood and inadequately treated.
For myself I reached a point where I simply gave up. That decision led me down a very dark road the destination of that path would inevitably have been for me as it is now for so many in the same position suicide. I was lucky, I eventually realized that the system supposedly there to support me was killing me. Nothing that was being put to me as therapy nor any medication was helping and in fact it was all compounding the issue and making matters worse. In a fit of defiance, I made a commitment to do whatever it took myself, that led me to do the only thing I knew how to do and that was to research. I have spent 10 years reading everything I could find on the condition of what is now called PTSD, from the American Civil War right through to conflicts today, together with all the basic texts I could find on psychotherapy, and the theories of personality development and adjustment; these ranging from the classical theorists, eg. Jung, Freud through to the later thinkers,e.g. Rogers, Epstein. Then there were the revolutionaries e.g. Szaz, Grof, Gendlin. It would probably be reasonable to say that I am at least as well read as anyone who has completed an undergraduate degree in Psychology at any major university. All this reading provided much fodder for tough, some insight and a great deal of perspective that just confirmed my view that whatever the latest fad might be in the treatment of PTSD; Cbt, ACT, whatever it would always fall short in exactly the same ways that my own experience had done.
The inadequacies of the medical model condemned it so. The idea that the person so affected was sick and had to be cured simply rammed home the sense of being broken and helpless that are so much part of the condition. There had to be more.
I was fortunate enough, having done what so many Vietnam Veterans and done and bailed out to SE Asia, shunning the country and the society I grew up in as having nothing to offer me, but further angst, I had started to explore meditation and psychology in the context of Buddhist teaching. Here was the more. No longer regarding the condition of my mind as "abnormal" but simply another aberration of the aberrant human condition. No more no less dysfunctional than any other and so the same approach to an enlightenment of sorts was now on the cards for me. I have never looked back.
Initially my response to having seen the light was to dump anything that was related to western psychology or psychotherapy into the garbage, since it had all served me so poorly. Over recent years however given all the reading and all the lived experience, now leavened with a little more compassion and open mindedness I felt that there had to be a wy forward incorporating the bestow both worlds, never quite able to see how that might be possible. Well here in this book greater minds have also done some thinking. This pulls it all together for me. There is the basis here for a therapeutic approach that would definitely work, it worked for me even though I found my way rather by accident than by design. It would however require a massive shift in philosophy, theory and approach. An uphill battle no doubt given the vested interests and the inbuilt cultural inertia that prevails but definitely worth some exploration.