Book Review: Many Faces Of PTSD

Many Faces Of PTSD: Does Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Have A Grip On Your Life, by Susan Rau Stocker

As the author states in the beginning of this book, “In twenty years as a marriage and family therapist, I have learned a great deal about Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, hereafter PTSD. I have learned every bit of it involuntarily, by working with survivors who had themselves involuntarily become victims. No one volunteers for PTSD. This book is organized around case studies and client profiles. All of the profiles have been fictionalized, as I have combined various stories and changed all identifying details. From these courageous people, I have garnered what it means to have survived a trauma which, by definition for PTSD, is a trauma outside the normal realm of everyday life—with all of its inherent wounds and pain (1).” This is as good a summary for this book as I can come up with. If you read a book like this, you know what you are getting, a qualitative approach to a problem that is suffered by perhaps ten percent or so of the population based on the estimates cited in this book. If you read a book like this, you know who you are as well—either you are someone who struggles with PTSD in some fashion based on your own life experiences [1], or you struggle with its secondary effects in people you care about on a personal or professional level, or both.

The vast majority of this book is contained of various case studies of the personas [2] the author has witnessed in her own practice. Although she does not consider herself an expert on PTSD, this book shows considerable expertise in writing from a case study approach, and furthermore it shows expertise as a result of having counseled people, which is how one gains expertise in this unpleasant matter. Although each of the personas discussed in this book is a fictionalization or a composite account, there are some threads that are common throughout most of them. Included among the personas are the following sorts of people: battered wives, eyewitnesses of trauma, survivors of ritualistic abuse and incest, parental neglect and abandonment, overly critical parenting, physical abuse, combat trauma, incest and lack of maternal bonding, adoption and mixed race background, rape after an ordinary upbringing, and secondary PTSD. The end of the book, from the secondary PTSD profile, which discusses the suffering a therapist or counselor deals with by spending their time with people in the grips of terrible personal crises as a result of horrific deeds perpetrated against them by other people who were usually wounded by someone else in generational cycles of abuse, to the short note for therapists that closes the book, is designed for those who are helping people with PTSD in reminding them that they will need help themselves from outside in order to deal with the evils they will hear about from their clients. Those who give therapy will often need therapy themselves.

As is my fashion at times, I had thought to quote some of the best quotes from this short book, which only takes 120 pages and spends over 95% of those pages in its case studies. However, after I had thought to quote at least ten paragraph-length parts of this book, many of them which deal in a searing and deeply unpleasant way with what the people recorded in this book, and many others, have survived, I realized that there was just too much in this book of deeply personal relevance to quote, and that the quotes would overwhelm any attempt to review the book, rather than merely relive the sort of horrors that the book’s subjects and intended audience have endured. That said, over and over again in the stories, the same sorts of issues are discussed over and over again: insomnia, extreme sensitivity to chemicals that hinders medication, extreme anxiety, a mind that never rests, low trust, hypervigilance to one’s surroundings, the tendency to read people as if they were books, and other similar matters that are all too familiar for some of us. More than merely showing what is wrong, and there is plenty that is wrong, the book is also a testament to the resilience of many survivors of abuse, and a testament to the fact that with time and grit, people can live a life of success and accomplishment that is far beyond what any reasonable expectation, and is therefore more encouraging than many counselors who can be found to deal with the horrors discussed in this book’s pages.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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