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Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Bruce Perry team up to talk trauma, resilience, healing in new book


A little more than three years ago, Oprah Winfrey did a segment about childhood trauma  on 60 Minutes. One of the people she interviewed was child psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr. Bruce Perry.

"It is my hope that our story about trauma-informed care will not just be impactful, but will also be revolutionary," Winfrey said at the time the segment was aired. "Doing the segment It certainly has caused a revolution in my own life."

I think all of us who learn about the science of positive and adverse childhood experiences believe that it will cause a revolution in people's lives, and it can. I echo Winfrey's words: The knowledge certainly caused a revolution in my life and led me to launch ACEs Connection, which became PACEs Connection. I'm sure that the knowledge has had a similar effect on the more than 51,000 members (and growing) of PACEs Connection.

But it hasn't caused a revolution for all people as quickly as we would like. It takes time and repetition to break through the boundaries of fear and disbelief, individually and in organizations, as well as in a culture that's hampered by a system of racism whose layers of complexity are still largely invisible to those who benefit from it. Healing requires that the knowledge seep through the layers of the trauma in each of our own lives to where we can understand it, accept it and talk freely about it with others. And that takes building trust in ourselves, each other, our families, communities and work environments.

AOprah1So kudos to Winfrey and Perry for taking the time and effort to write "What Happened To You? — Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing". This book, published today and  produced by a very able team at Melcher Media, will have a big impact on many, many lives. I hope it will lead people who are new to this amazing knowledge to figure out how to inspire their organizations, communities and systems to integrate practices based on the science of positive and adverse childhood experiences. There are plenty of examples, many that members of PACEs Connection have written about in blog posts in this network.

The book is formatted as a conversation between Winfrey and Perry. It delves into what was so remarkable about the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, as well as its limitations that have led countless researchers and pioneers, including Perry, to push the frontiers of our knowledge further. There's an obvious emphasis on Perry's neurosequential model, how he's applied it in his work, and how he's guided hundreds of thousands of people to integrate it into their efforts to help children and families heal themselves. And, befitting the genius of Winfrey, careful attention is paid to the stories of how the science plays out in people's lives, including her own.

The book comprises 10 chapters: Making Sense of the World; Seeking Balance; How We Were Loved; The Spectrum of Trauma; Connecting the Dots; From Coping To Healing; Post-Traumatic Wisdom; Our Brains, Our Biases, Our Systems; Relational Hunger in The Modern World; and What We Need Now.

Here's the description of the book from Flatiron Books (a division of MacMillan Publishers):

Our earliest experiences shape our lives far down the road, and What Happened to You? provides powerful scientific and emotional insights into the behavioral patterns so many of us struggle to understand.

“Through this lens we can build a renewed sense of personal self-worth and ultimately recalibrate our responses to circumstances, situations, and relationships. It is, in other words, the key to reshaping our very lives.”—Oprah Winfrey

This book is going to change the way you see your life.

Have you ever wondered "Why did I do that?" or "Why can't I just control my behavior?" Others may judge our reactions and think, "What's wrong with that person?" When questioning our emotions, it's easy to place the blame on ourselves; holding ourselves and those around us to an impossible standard. It's time we started asking a different question.

Through deeply personal conversations, Oprah Winfrey and renowned brain and trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perry offer a groundbreaking and profound shift from asking “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”

Here, Winfrey shares stories from her own past, understanding through experience the vulnerability that comes from facing trauma and adversity at a young age. In conversation throughout the book, she and Dr. Perry focus on understanding people, behavior, and ourselves. It’s a subtle but profound shift in our approach to trauma, and it’s one that allows us to understand our pasts in order to clear a path to our future—opening the door to resilience and healing in a proven, powerful way.


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Yes! I hope this book gets the attention of the many who could benefit from it. Healing most certainly takes time; and awareness of trauma and the massive influence of our childhood experiences is a very crucial part of it. And for awareness to grow, we need more collective effort of communities like this group coming together! I look forward to reading this book.

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