Book Reviews: Upside
The New Science of Post-Traumatic Growth
By Jim Rendon
If you’re feeling sorry for yourself about something minor—let’s say you’re in the second week of a wicked cold, for example—nothing will snap you out of self-pity mode like reading Jim Rendon’s new book. In Upside: The New Science of Post-Traumatic Growth, the veteran journalist profiles men and women who have undergone truly horrible experiences: being trapped in earthquake rubble; living in a concentration camp; losing limbs to a grenade; the slow death of a beloved child. This is stuff that crumples up a human’s body and soul like a cheap aluminum can. Yet Rendon discovers an interesting phenomenon. Across nations and cultures, traumatized people not only survive, but also find new, more meaningful ways to live, becoming a better version of themselves than they could ever have imagined.
“Trauma is not the debilitating experience that it seems to be,” writes Rendon. “Given that they came so close to death, that they lost so many things they once took for granted, they understand on a much deeper level, in a much more informed way, what it means to be alive.”
Rendon covers the emerging research on post-traumatic growth, a new field of scientific inquiry. The studies are challenging how patients with brain injuries and PTSD are treated, and inspiring entirely new therapeutic approaches. He also shares what seems to make some people more resilient than others, some of the essential keys to recovery. It’s deeply reassuring to know that no matter what one may go through in life, healing and growth—even luminous transformation—are still possible.