Healing from Trauma

A Survivor's Guide to Understanding Your Symptoms and Reclaiming Your Life


By Jasmin Lee Cori

Foreword by Robert Scaer, MD

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Psychotherapist and trauma survivor Jasmin Lee Cori offers new insight into trauma-related difficulties (including PTSD, depression, substance abuse), provides self-care tools, candor about therapy and medications, and addresses spiritual issues.

While there are many different approaches to healing trauma, few offer a wide range of perspectives and options. With innovative insight into trauma-related difficulties, Jasmin Lee Cori helps you: Understand trauma and its devastating impacts; Identify symptoms of trauma (dissociation, numbing, etc.) and common mental health problems that stem from trauma; Manage traumatic reactions and memories; Create a more balanced life that supports your recovery; Choose appropriate interventions (therapies, self-help groups, medications and alternatives); Recognize how far you’ve come in your healing and what you need to keep growing. Complete with exercises, healing stories, points to remember, and resources, this is a perfect companion for anyone seeking to reclaim their life from the devastating impacts of trauma.


"At last, someone wrote the book that trauma survivors want and need! A marvel of intelligence, insight and compassion. . . . Cori seamlessly melds the strength of a survivor/thriver, the skill of a clinician, and the clarity of a gifted writer."
KATHLEEN ADAMS LPC, Director, Center for Journal Therapy and author, The Way of the Journal
"I enthusiastically recommend Jasmin Cori's clear and accessible book to all trauma survivors on the road to recovery. She is a highly qualified tour guide who can gracefully lead you through the challenges and rewards of this critically important journey.
You will benefit from her own in-depth experiences as well as from her extensive research integrating practical healing modalities."
DIANE POOLE HELLER, PHD, international teacher and author specializing in trauma recovery
"Healing from Trauma is a concise, easy-to-read, encompassing guide through the often brutal journey of recovery. If only this superb handbook had been available to me years ago, I would have realized my nightmare was a normal part of the healing process."
MARILYN VAN DERBUR, former Miss America, author of Miss America by Day
"This well-written reader-friendly book provides a clear and compassionate overview of the emotional, physical, spiritual, and societal aspects of trauma, as well as helpful suggestions regarding the recovery process."
APHRODITE MATSAKIS, PHD, author of I Can't Get Over It: A Handbook for Trauma Survivors and Trust after Trauma
"Demystifying and empowering, Healing from Trauma contains a multitude of diverse resources for those in need. In a time when many seem to complicate the healing process, Jasmin Cori makes it accessible to all. I recommend this book, particularly for those in the process of recovery."
STEPHANIE MINES, PHD, founder of the TARA Approach for the Resolution of Shock and Trauma and author of We Are All In Shock
"Healing from Trauma is courageous and user-friendly. It makes the face of trauma less frightening to the sufferers themselves and to those who love them. I plan to recommend this book to patients."
DEMARIS S. WEHR, PHD, psychotherapist, author of Jung and Feminism
"What a gift! Survivors will cherish this book, which is the best I've seen on the subject in years. It is reassuring, practical, thorough, accurate, and beautifully written. But most importantly, it is filled with hope. Healing from Trauma is going to the top of Sidran's recommended reading list."
ESTHER GILLER, M.A., President, Sidran Traumatic Stress Institute
"It takes a special kind of talent to make complex information clear and useable without talking down to a reader, and Jasmin Cori has pulled this off in spades. Her discussion of how to interpret symptoms, find a good therapist, and explore various therapies without inviting reactivation and flooding is a tour de force of sensitivity, insider knowledge, brevity and clarity. This goes on my 'Highly Recommended' list immediately!"
author of Invisible Heroes: Survivors of
Trauma and How They Heal and creator of the
Health Journeys guided imagery audio series
"Compassionate and comforting, Healing from Trauma offers insights into the subtleties of trauma's effects that are overshadowed by the more technical definitions in other resources. Cori humanizes the traditional "trauma speak" and helps the reader to recognize symptoms through examples and her own experience. She describes, for the first time, recognizable milestones in the healing of trauma, giving realistic hope that a better tomorrow really does exist."
DEBRA MIHAL, Healer, Author

JASMIN LEE CORI, MS, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist who has worked in several human service agencies and in private practice. She also taught psychology for ten years in a number of colleges and professional schools. Her current work includes offering educational workshops for trauma survivors, journaling e-courses, and working with writers. An incest survivor herself, Jasmin has had to overcome the symptoms of long-term trauma, which she has done by using trauma therapies along with the self-help methods she describes in this book. Jasmin is the author of The Tarot of Transformation (with Willow Arlenea), The Tao of Contemplation: Re-Sourcing the Inner Life, and numerous essays and articles, as well as a book of mystical poetry. She lives in Boulder, Colorado, where she enjoys hiking, snowshoeing, expressive movement groups, Sufi dancing, communing with nature and Spirit, and creativity and play with friends. For more information, visit www.jasmincori.com.

The Tarot of Transformation (with Willow Arlenea)
The Tao of Contemplation: Re-Sourcing the Inner Life
Freefall to the Beloved: Mystical Poetry for God's Lovers

THE INFORMATION IN this book is intended to help readers make informed decisions about their health and the health of their loved ones. It is not intended to be a substitute for treatment by or the advice and care of a professional healthcare provider. While the author and publisher have endeavored to ensure that the information presented is accurate and up to date, they are not responsible for adverse effects or consequences sustained by any persons using this book

For those who, inch by inch,
pull themselves up out of trauma
—and for those who don't make it.
This book is dedicated to you
for what you've been through.

OUR RESPONSE TO trauma is specifically and precisely determined by whether we can control the event. It doesn't really matter how severe or intense the traumatic experience is. If we can control that experience by effective defense or escape, our brains will process it in a manner that adds it to our accumulated important life experiences that were associated with heightened states of emotional arousal.
If we face a threat to our life in the face of absence of control—a state of perceived helplessness—our brains process the experience in quite another manner. To heal from these effects, we must change the perception of our survival brain from a state of persistent helplessness to stable and ongoing control. We must change trauma memory, and all of its triggers, from representing an ongoing threat to being only an old event in the past—an event admittedly emotional but now harmless, one that may contribute to who we are but no longer has control over us. The body sensations and feelings that accompanied that event may be experienced from time to time but are no longer warnings of impending danger. They only tell us that our current level of life stress has brought up some of our old self-protective reflexes. We are now able to use this recognition of body states as useful messages rather than indications of present threats. And by achieving all of this, we will have achieved wisdom—the integration of emotions, the feelings of the body, and our ongoing conscious awareness and thinking. We will have progressed from the state of being a trauma victim to becoming a trauma survivor.
All of this is a pretty tall order, and authors, writers, and speakers in the field of traumatic stress have produced thousands of books and articles on the topic of overcoming trauma. Only a few, however, have addressed it from the viewpoint of the trauma victim—or survivor. Jasmin Cori has done that with clarity, incisiveness, and deep insight in Healing from Trauma. She has approached this task from the sorely neglected standpoint of the physical (somatic) components of the traumatic experience. Cori addresses the features of trauma physiology just enough to provide a logical basis for her observations and recommendations for the lay reader.
Very few books that discuss trauma address the needs of the client from a client perspective. Cori does so with practical simplicity. How do you choose a therapist? How do you know if the therapist you're seeing is really the right one for you? How do you know when you're finished with therapy—from your standpoint? These are practical matters that the therapist cannot really solve. The sensitivity of the client/therapist mix is never more tenuous or critical than in the case of complex trauma. And only the client can decide whether the unavoidable traumatic memories triggered by a certain therapist can be overcome.
This is a relatively short book—a blessing for the trauma victim, who often has difficulty with complex reading and concentration. But it is remarkably inclusive of a wide range of important considerations in the experience and healing of trauma. Cori emphasizes a generally holistic approach to the understanding of trauma and to available means of healing, including many of the newer and admittedly controversial somatically based trauma therapies. She emphasizes the use of supplements and herbal remedies for those who are intolerant of psychotropic medications. Information is provided not so much to tout specific treatment regimens as to address what's available outside of standard cognitive behavioral approaches.
What is perhaps most important is Cori's message of hope through her courageous use of her own personal trauma experience and her journey from helplessness to mastery. This is a book that victims of complex life trauma can use as a mirror for their own life experience, to understand the meaning of their chaotic inner life without being traumatized by its contents, and to assimilate the message of hope, healing, and transformation.
ROBERT C. SCAER, MD, is the author of The Trauma Spectrum: Hidden Wounds and Human Resiliency and The Body Bears the Burden: Trauma, Dissociation, and Disease.

I SPENT MY childhood in a traumatized state, although I didn't begin to remember any of the traumatizing events or my true feelings until I was nearly forty, and I was not able to heal these wounds until my mid-fifties. In my process of trying to find things that would help, I read a number of books about trauma. Some of these contained useful nuggets of information, but most left me unsatisfied. They may have spoken about my symptoms, but they didn't speak to me.
Being a writer and feeling that trauma survivors need information tailored to their needs, I decided to write a book that sifts through the mounds of information and presents a condensed version fashioned on more of a need-to-know basis. Although I am a licensed psychotherapist, I am writing as much from the other side of the desk, a place from which I can speak more personally. I know what it is like to be vulnerable. I know what it is like to need help. I know something about this journey—not from the safe(r) distance of the therapist role, but from being right there in it.
Healing from Trauma is written primarily for people who have been through significant life trauma and want help in understanding trauma and learning what they can do to further their own healing. Certainly partners and therapists of various kinds will benefit from this book, and I ask for their understanding when I use the word "you" throughout to speak to readers who are trauma survivors.
This holistic guide can help you manage the disruptive impacts of trauma as they arise, as well as create a larger plan for a more complete healing. This book will:
✦ increase your understanding of trauma and why it has the effects that it does
✦ equip you with practical self-care tools
✦ identify the tasks of healing and thereby create a context for understanding why numerous therapies, personal resources, and self-help tools are needed
✦ be a companion to therapy or perhaps a guide into therapy, helping you assess various options and find the best help available
✦ provide hope for healing and some guideposts for what that looks like
✦ discuss various spiritual issues related to trauma, including how spirituality helps us, how it can be misused, and what spiritual challenges and opportunities come with trauma
✦ provide a wide range of perspectives and tools so that you get the best of approaches generally offered one at a time. You'll get a streamlined version of somatic (body-based) and cognitive approaches as well as an understanding of how unmet developmental needs interfered with by early trauma must and can be addressed.
Understanding the mechanisms of trauma is helpful. It helps normalize what a survivor is going through and helps make sense of some of what feels so confusing and destabilizing. I know of survivors who have not yet recovered memories of what happened to them, yet the footprints of trauma are all over their lives. Understanding these footprints and learning about the healing process can help, even if you don't have specifics about the traumatic events you experienced.
Hearing about other people's trauma is particularly difficult if you've experienced a lot of trauma yourself. Your nervous system isn't starting from neutral, and you may not have the hardiness of those for whom hearing about such events seems to slide right off their back. This is the basis for two decisions I made about the content of this book.
First, I will not be telling trauma stories. Many books on trauma are filled with such vignettes, and if you want that, you have plenty to choose from. I believe that just reading about the mechanisms of trauma is challenging enough without flooding you with personal stories. I do include anecdotes in the main text and a few longer profiles of healing, but they do not take you into traumatic events. I also include my own story in a chapter at the end, which you can certainly bypass without detracting from the basic educational approach of this book. My account focuses primarily on my journey of healing rather than recounting graphic details of traumatic events, which is what I find unnecessarily activating.
Even with this "lean" approach, you may find yourself feeling upset or shutting down and may need to pace your reading. You can do this by consciously deciding to take your mind off it for a while and doing something comforting and by processing what you've already taken in through conversation and journaling.
A second decision was to be as concise as possible. If you are recovering from trauma, you've already got a full plate and don't likely have the time and internal space to slog through a hefty theoretical book sifting for what you can apply. My intention is to keep the book practical; I am attempting to streamline the field into a manageable chunk that can support healing. This is a book for those of us who are in the trenches, rather than those in the universities or conference circuit. In keeping with that idea, I have avoided jargon as much as possible. A glossary in the back provides definitions of some of the terms that you might want to have clarified or for quick reference. Terms included in the glossary appear in bold the first time you see them in the manuscript (after this introduction). I also cross-reference material in the text that you may want to refresh yourself on and provide an index.
The first four chapters lay out the territory of trauma before turning to the tasks of healing. Chapter 1 begins with some basic facts about what trauma is and why it affects us so much. Chapter 2 outlines the physiological basis of trauma. Understanding this physiological component helps us understand the symptoms or "footprints" of trauma that are described in chapter 3. The last chapter in this segment gives an overview of trauma-related disorders and talks briefly about the collective costs of trauma.
Chapters 5 describes the journey of healing, what tasks are involved, and what resources are needed. Chapter 6 helps you choose the best people to aid you on your journey, and chapter 7 outlines particular interventions. Regardless of whether you are working with a psychotherapist or on your own, you will need tools for dealing with trauma symptoms and particularly with states of activation and dissociation. Chapter 8 provides these. Chapter 9 is called "Tools for Living" and offers broader strategies for creating a life that helps stabilize you so that you can counterbalance the impacts of trauma and minimize their hold on you.
For trauma survivors, spirituality can be both an unparalleled resource and an area of troubled waters—sometimes at the same time. Chapter 10 is devoted to examining both of these aspects and offers a provisional description of an integrated spirituality that is part of our support system without becoming part of our defense system.
Chapter 11 takes a look at the healed life and what it means to gain mastery over trauma. This is followed by my story (chapter 12), some useful reminders, a list of resources, and an appendix of bodywork therapies.
There are a number of exercises in the book, which you are free to complete or not. There are also pauses throughout the book that invite you to digest the material and reflect on your own situation. These are indicated by a special kind of bullet and most are in question form. I encourage you to take a moment to consider these, listening for what comes to mind as you read them, even if you don't take it on to formally answer each question (perhaps in writing) as you might. If you are on this journey through trauma, you are a student of trauma. It is my fervent belief that the best students are not necessarily those who have plodded through the most information, but rather those who have integrated information and make use of it. These questions can help with that task.
As the book grew from its original core, I included additional information, knowing it would not be pertinent for every reader but that having it available made the book more complete. Feel free to skip over information if it does not seem relevant to you or if it is not a priority for you in this moment. You can always return to it later.
I have had trauma survivors tell me that they needed to read the material more than once for it to register and to recognize the elements that are descriptive of them. This makes perfect sense. We take in our traumatic histories in layers, and the denial and dissociation that helped us originally may still be at work as we learn about trauma. This denial and dissociation try to protect us from painful truths by blocking them out or not staying present to take in what is happening. By reading through sections at different times, you will likely absorb something a little different each time. This gradual process is really at the heart of healing, so don't be down on yourself for not taking it all in during the first pass. This is actually how nature intended us to integrate what is difficult.
Unfortunately, there is no 1-2-3-step process anyone can offer that will work for everyone, because each journey is individual and unique. What this book can do is try to provide every advantage possible for you so that you know what the territory is like, what you need, where you could get lost, and what you might gain if you persevere. This book is your map and compass. Use it well. Blessings on this most sacred journey!

ALL OF US reading this book know what a few still try to deny: shit happens. And it happens to us.
It happens when a loved one dies a sudden and violent death, when a child is molested, when you're sent off to war and learn to kill or watch others be maimed and killed. It happens when an accident changes the shape of your life, in one fell swoop smashing your dreams forever. It happens when vigilantes burn down your church or someone savagely beats you for being queer. When being the wrong color or wrong religion can make you scared for your life. When the levees break. When the plane goes down. Every time someone is raped.
Shit happens not just with evil strangers and natural disasters, but also within our own families. It happens when a parent gets drunk and beats a child. It happens when a caretaker or sibling crosses boundaries, messing with your mind, betraying your trust. It happens in all kinds of ways and under all kinds of cover. Even in the name of love.
I wish I could tell you something different, but you know this is true. You know it from your own experience. It's not what any of us wanted. Oh, how we wish we lived in a safe, cozy world. It's just that we don't.


These bad things that happen have the kind of wallop that they do because of their traumatic nature. It will help you understand these impacts if you learn more about trauma.
First, you need to understand that trauma is by nature terrifying and completely overwhelming. Something is happening that you can't control, and it feels big enough to destroy you. In fact, your awareness that you are endangered is an essential ingredient of trauma. It is the perception of a direct threat to your life, well-being, or sanity that marks trauma. Freud recognized this when he said that in trauma a person feels completely helpless and ineffective in the face of what is perceived to be overwhelming danger.1
This is the basic understanding of most of those studying trauma today and of the mental health community. The author Maggie Scarf provided a useful distinction when she said there are "big-T traumas" and "little-t traumas." Big-T traumas are what I just described. Little-t traumas may not be life threatening (certainly not from the outside) or as horrifying as the usual list of qualifying traumas (such as war, torture, sexual abuse, physical attack, life-threatening accidents, natural disasters), but they can be totally disruptive and destructive. They are the kinds of events that are disqualified when diagnosing Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) because they are more common and not as universally traumatizing, yet they are seriously traumatizing to some people. Examples include divorce, major betrayal, loss of job or business, and accidents that are not life threatening. Because such events may lead to symptoms and needs that are similar to those in the big-T traumas, this book will be relevant to many with this history.
Let's take a closer look at how things unfold in trauma. When something traumatic happens, it is more than you can take in and integrate in the moment. Think for a moment about what happens when you get overwhelmed. You lose your capacity to deal effectively with a situation; you may even lose the sense of yourself as a solid, coherent being. You have to protect yourself from what is too much, and you find some way to cut off, whether through shock, denial, repression, dissociation, or freezing. Afterward, you may or may not remember the event, but by overwhelming you, it has changed your physiology, your experience of yourself, and your world. Rather than this experience of being overwhelmed being temporary, it becomes a more permanent background feature.
The kindest response to having gone through something like this is to accept the fact that you experienced a very disorienting blow.You've been knocked off your feet, and it is not quite as simple as getting up again. Some things have been fractured that need to be healed.


The question of why some people suffer more than others has been around for a very long time and elicits a number of responses. There is not one simple answer to this question. Obviously, what happens to us is different, we're different, and we may have different reasons for being on this planet. This speaks to the three basic explanations of why some people suffer more than others—the differences in traumatic events, in our individual makeup and resources, and in our spiritual and philosophical responses to this question.
First, not all traumas are created equal. Different traumas at different ages and in different circumstances have different effects. Here are some general principles:
✦ If you were able to do something in the moment (such as helping to facilitate an escape or to mobilize others), you will be less shattered than if you could do nothing.
✦ If you were very young, you were more vulnerable and had fewer resources to help you cope or recover. Therefore, you will likely have more scars.
✦ If someone you know, and especially someone you love, was the cause of the trauma, that is even more shattering to your worldview and sense of safety than if loved ones were supporting you after a traumatic event. Because of the element of betrayal and the injury to your sense of trust and self-worth, this type of trauma leaves the most scars. The worst trauma is felt as being deliberately and maliciously inflicted in such a relationship, and the very worst is by a parent.2
✦ Exposure to trauma that is repeated rather than a one-time event is more disabling.
✦ Traumatic events that are unpredictable have a greater impact than those you can anticipate and prepare for.


On Sale
Jan 8, 2008
Page Count
288 pages

Jasmin Lee Cori

About the Author

Jasmin Lee Cori, MS, LPC, is a psychotherapist and former psychology teacher. The author of The Tao of Contemplation and The Tarot of Transformation, she lives in Colorado. http://www.jasmincori.com

Robert Scaer, MD, is the author of The Trauma Spectrum and The Body Bears the Burden: Trauma, Dissociation, and Disease.

Learn more about this author