The statistics speak for themselves: a high percentage of people, the world over, have suffered from some kind of trauma during their life. In the United States, for example, it is estimated that one in four children have been the victim of severe violence at the hands of one of their parents. In fact, trauma does not only refer to extreme events, such as wars or natural disasters; it can also take place in apparently peaceful circumstances, such as in the family and at school. Thus it is very probable that we know someone who has suffered trauma: acquaintances, friends, relatives, and even ourselves.
The pain caused by first-hand experience of one or more traumatic episodes is often unbearable. This is why there is a general tendency to try to repress the event, remove it, or act as if it never happened. People who experience such traumatic events, however, are inevitably changed by it. Effectively, trauma creates substantial changes to the brain and generates unpleasant, disturbing, and sometimes violent emotions and physical sensations. In short, the traces of trauma do not disappear, but continue to manifest themselves over time, and with particular intensity.
In his early years of treating patients, the author noticed this trend during talks with Vietnam War veterans. These were people who tried, in vain, to rebuild their life, after having witnessed harrowing scenes and performed unspeakable acts. Meanwhile, the ghosts of the War continued to haunt them, making normal life impossible. The book presents the case of Tom, a brilliant lawyer and father of two, who had witnessed terrible atrocities during combat. Behind his new perfect image of a devoted husband and model citizen, Tom hid an abyss of pain that he tried to keep at bay by drinking alcohol and speeding around on his motorbike. Tom, like so many others, was left with tangible wounds caused by the trauma he had suffered, trauma which had left deep scars, despite his desperate attempts to ignore them.