What Happened to You? -By Dr Bruce Perry & Oprah Winfrey

Title: What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing
Authors: Dr Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey
Year: 2021
Publisher: Bluebird

“What happened to you?” is so important in understanding what’s going on with you now.” -Dr Perry

We are living in the best moment in history, technological and scientific advances have created so many resources and opportunities for us, yet depression, anxiety, and a sense of loneliness are overcoming our society.

“What Happened to You?” explains how disconnected we are from our communities and ourselves and how our medical system is not prepared to confront this problem.

In this book review, I will share 5 key points from the book about what we need to understand about trauma, and how it affects our daily lives, to what we can do to create a better community and reconnect ourselves to our roots. So, let’s get into it!

Find the Balance

“Patterned, repetitive, rhythmic activity makes the overactive and overly reactive core regulatory networks get back “in balance.” -Dr Perry

Balance is key in our lives. We need to draw lines to know when to work, and when to rest and when to play. Otherwise, we will create unhealthy ways to control ourselves (an example can be self-harm in extreme cases).

Our body seeks this balance – it is a biologically ancient need of our bodies. What I would suggest to you is to think about all the areas in your life; family, friends, work, hobbies, rest, food, etc. and reflect on how much time and effort you put into each one of them.

About Trauma

“You can’t give what you don’t get. If no one ever spoke to you, you can’t speak; if you have never been loved, you can’t be loving.” Dr Perry

When a kid is raised in a chaotic environment, it will be hard for them to socialise and play with other kids. It will be a challenge for him to pay attention in class and to be respectful to the teachers. This might sound obvious, but we do the opposite.

The book presents stories of kids who had a really hard time growing up (Oprah Winfrey remember, was no exception) and how every person (and the system) expected them to act as if their traumas did not exist. What is even worse is that we label them with ADHD (one of many labels).

This makes them unable to develop the tools to regulate themselves and to act in society, so when they are adults, they end up committing suicide, or they become addicts, and we never stop to wonder why this happened.

Despite the Pain, Be Grateful

“Our life experiences shape the way key systems in our brain organize and function. So, each of us sees and understands the world in a unique way.”
-Oprah Winfrey

In the book, Oprah Winfrey tells us how hard her childhood was, and all the traumas she went through, but regardless of how hard it was, she is grateful it happened because that made her the person she is today. Dr Perry mentioned that this wisdom has its cost. We must go through a lot of pain and then be able to learn and not close ourselves to the world.

So, think about all the challenges you went through and be grateful. It might sound hard, but what happened, already happened, and we cannot change that fact. At least we can learn from it and help others in the same situations.

Our Medical System

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.” -Dr Bruce Perry

Our medical system is not the best, we all know it, Oprah Winfrey knows it. But let’s reflect on the following: Medical centres and professionals use the word trauma a lot, but they all have different concepts and definitions. This is because, to understand trauma, we need to be open to many factors affecting each individual, something that we are not used to doing.

In addition, people take advantage of this, and they make money doing a 3-hour course, where they use their definition of trauma and they make you think you will leave as an expert with 50 years plus of experience which, of course, is a lie.

What We Need

“Your connectedness to other people is so key to buffering any current stressor—and to healing from past trauma. Being with people who are present, supportive, and nurturing. Belonging.” -Dr Perry

To conclude this review, the final key point is that what we need is straightforward.

  • Be surrounded by loving and caring people.
  • Be in contact with nature. 
  • Be active, do sports, and dance. 
  • Less screen time and more face-to-face conversations.
  • Reflect on your past, learn from your story, and learn how to express it.
  • Eat good food, read good books, and laugh often.

I hope you liked this book review of: What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing and I encourage you to learn more from Dr Perry’s work and how it can help you and the people around you!

Agustin Cardone

Agustin Cardone, from Argentina, currently lives in Ireland, and studies psychology in Mexico. He fell in love with sports when he started playing rugby at 14, soon becoming team captain. He now lifts weights and practices boxing as a way to release stress. He is highly interested in the relationship between body and mind, and is curious about how the brain works and why people do what they do. He would like to help people with addiction, depression, and personality disorders. He believes we all have a story to tell and that we should express it.

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