“We are all traumatized by life,” writes Buddhist, psychiatrist, and author Mark Epstein. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In his new book, “The Trauma of Everyday Life,” Epstein says trauma, from death of a loved one to everyday suffering like fear, has its benefits, and that understanding and accepting trauma can lead to personal growth and change. He joins us in the studio.

Mark Epstein M.D., psychiatrist; author of "The Trauma of Everyday Life;" and clinical assistant professor in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis at New York University

  • thucy

    Epstein’s book posits: “trauma is an indivisible part of life and can be used as a lever for growth and an ever deeper understanding of change….. understanding that suffering is universal and without logic, our pain connects us…”

    Why is Epstein not recognizing that this “theory” was first articulated by Aeschylus, Sophocles and other Athenian tragedians? Why is this somehow “Buddhist” and not universal? Separately: Why are so many upper middle class Jews fleeing to American touchy-feely Buddhism instead of looking within Judaism for possibly deeper truths? If Buddhist tradition is so absolutely fabulous, how do we explain the abysmal human rights record and literally murderous misogyny in Buddhist countries, while American Jews contributed so much more to civil rights in the US than did Buddhists? Lastly, to what extent is a minority of pie-in-the-sky Americans (Jewish and otherwise) misinterpreting (and misdirecting) the study of Buddhism?

    • Al Gamow

      I haven’t listened to this interview because it hasn’t been posted yet, but your comments are interesting. I would say look to the Buddhist and Jewish teachings themselves. They both offer wisdom. As for Buddhists committing bad acts in various places around the world, don’t blame the teachings of Buddhism itself. This applies to all religions and all purported followers of those religions.

      • thucy

        Respectfully, I disagree. I think the passivity demanded by Buddhist practice is at odds with demand for basic human rights.

    • Tony Rocco

      Odd to posit the moral superiority of Jews in light of their abysmal human rights record vis a vis their treatment of Palestinians.

      • thucy

        I did not posit anyone’s moral superiority. I merely observed a trend which I, as a non-Jewish descendant of actual traditional Buddhists, find slightly absurd.

        • Tony Rocco

          I quote: “American Jews contributed so much more to civil rights in the US than did Buddhists.’

          • thucy

            And that is true. It does not, however, “posit moral superiority”, it is merely a statement of fact.

            It does beg the question of whether the passivity demanded by Buddhism isn’t intrinsically at odds with the demand for human rights.

    • Debra Fazio

      Because Buddhism means Universal love without barriers .Buddhism doesn’t see sin in the same eyes as most religions it see it as Yen and Yang. . I found alot of Jewish people have switched over to Buddhism. And Judaism has also changed alot of the Rabbi are woman and which stay very strong in

      Woman issues,

  • Bob Fry

    I’m unconvinced this idea is novel or especially insightful. Surely most people realize this as they grow older…though most of us don’t have a platform to articulate it, or dare I say, make a buck from it.

    • chrisnfolsom

      If the litmus test to talking about things is that they have to be “novel, or especially insightful” then there would be nothing to talk about. The issue is that we all process things different ways and perhaps a slightly different presentation can help one person over another – diversity is important in just about everything.

      • miriam

        Also, one’s perspective changes over time, according to one’s age and life experience. It never hurts to revisit or reconsider one’s viewpoint, and there is always something new to learn.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Please do not undervalue the trauma of living and making a buck just to keep the lights on in this crazy world…

  • Penny

    will this audio be available later?
    ok, he didn’t invent the wheel.
    he’s still brought it out for us to use, or not.

  • chrisnfolsom

    I have a hard time with people who think trauma is abnormal – life has trauma, problems and such. Now the issue is that no solutions fits all, and we all want a one-size fits all solution – which is impossible. As the problems are complex and the canvas (each of us) are complex – the solutions are complex and take time, and if not one therapist, friend, or family support group, perhaps another…

  • trite

    The pursuit of happiness is a particularly American self-absorption and does not really relate to the every day concerns of most of the world. It is also often the prerogative of the educated well-to-do in this country. Have we become a nation of victims?

  • chrisnfolsom

    Regarding monotheistic religions – when you are raised with one God, a rigid right vs wrong where one solution or behavior is the only way – perhaps you are not as open to multiple solutions, or complexity that is often needed in life – especially the complex lives we live today.

  • Sherri Burris

    I’m 48. When I was 21 my live in boyfriend called me into the bathroom, pulled me to him, put our heads together and shot himself in the head. I don’t think vie forgiven myself and it is manifesting its self in my life after all these yrs

    • ZenFox

      I’m so sorry that happened. That certainly qualifies as trauma on any scale. I doubt I could ever get beyond something like that, although I hope there’s some solace that there is also good and beauty in the world, and hopefully we can be mindful of that present and future potential as well.

      • Sherri Burris

        Thank you for acknowledging my hurt

  • ZenFox

    I acknowledge and recognize what Dr. Epstein talks about, although I feel trauma is a stong and freighted term. Regarding coping with death, one thing I find very interesting is how different cultures have created rituals to help the individual navigate this journey (I’m thinking of how widows in the Middle East ululate their grief visibly and vocally, or how in Asia family, friends, and colleagues will gather woth a portrait od the deceased to honor and celebrate them. I feel like we lose a lot in the West by trying to suppress and ignore grief, as if it never happened.

  • disqus_iMBhxSqovO

    So much cynicism and criticism! As one person noted, we and our circumstances are complex and there is no one solution. I am appreciating being reminded of tools that are around to cope with the trauma of every day life. These lessons are always more appreciated when trying to cope with some event in ones life.

  • Jon Gold

    How does a belief in God translate into these ideals?

  • James Vogel

    having practiced yoga for many years I have learned the importance of embracing pain. Pain is pain wheather physical, emotional or mental. It is important to learn to incorporate it our daily lives, on our own terms when possible.

  • Charles T. Falk

    Hi Micheal
    This book will give different view of how to work with your dreams .
    Betty was my therapist in the 70’s . I read book and it shapes your view unconsciously there is more objective way to look at your life energies.
    Betty L. Thompson, Ed.D., has had more than forty years of clinical practice in New York City as a psychoanalyst and psychological specialist in the field of dreams. Developing the use of the Five Element Chart to help her clients, she became known for unraveling dreams at their deepest level. She has been using, teaching, and researching this method which features color and its related elements in her practice since 1979. She retired at the age of ninety, and is currently writing two books, one of memorable dreams that will help people deepen their understanding of the dream chart, and another using the Taoist approach to understand new worldviews. She died In November 2012.
    By the Light of Your Dreams by Betty L. Thompson
    teaches a revolutionary new way to analyze and understand your dreams using the same system as Chinese acupuncture. The method can help clear up confusion about what may seem like unrelated elements using other methods. Using the Chinese Five Element Chart, you will be able to discern the relationship between the elements of your dreams, the colors, sounds, and feelings, both positive and negative, that interplay with each other. By the Light of Your Dreams provides basic instruction on how to use the Chinese Five Element chart to give you more insight into your dreaming. With this simple chart of elements, you will be able to: – get a quick handle on the nature of the issues you are dealing with which will help you interpret a dream quickly and efficiently – appreciate how your dreams support you and address your deficiencies in body, mind, or spirit – increase your feeling of being centered and in balance, and help you to tune in to the whisperings of your spirit. The book includes sections and chapters on: A Universal Language The Chart of Five Elements Five Dreams Reading the Color Language of Dreams Personal

  • Gaurav Chawla

    Loved this program. I have gone through trauma of being stuck in a bad situation job wise and having to deal with the death of my mother from cancer at the same time. At the time, I dealt with it by exercising, doing yoga and pranayama and just thinking that dark clouds cannot last forever. And what I was going through was just a mental chemical imbalance that will heal itself. Well, thankfully it did when I changed my job and went into a very supportive environment. But I was still looking for something. I still wanted to know about life and myself. So I went for a 10 day silent meditation retreat (Vipassana). It was the hardest thing I have done but it gave me the tools to be a little more peaceful, a little more courageous and gave me a lot of perspective. The technique is simple.

    Observe all your feelings without judging them. Really observe them as an observer and not as a victim and you will learn to deal with them.
    Know that all the feelings (good and bad) are temporary. By extension everything in the universe is temporary. Just the time scales are different.
    There is no better knowledge than learning through experiencing this rather than just listening.

  • Guy DeRome

    I listened to this on podcast today. And I just got to say: psychobabble. Really. You could go ’round and ’round with this stuff: “Buddha said this, Freud said that,” ad infinitum. You really don’t get anywhere.

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