Exploring Resiliency, Healing, and Hope through a Trauma-Informed Lens: A Book Review

What Happened to You?

By Nancy Kauffmann, Interim Executive Director

Have you ever said to yourself “Why did I do that?” Or have you ever said to your child or someone else “Why did you do that?” The book What happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, published in 2021 by Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Bruce D. Perry, makes a strong case for that not being the best question to ask anyone. 

"Why did you do that?" is judgmental and harmful to the receiver of the question. It shuts people down, especially children who may not have the language to describe what they are feeling or experiencing or do not trust that they will be heard and believed. It can breed a sense of hopelessness. The title gives a better alternate question: "What happened to you?" Dr. Perry—in his years of clinical research and practice on examining the long-term effects of trauma in children, adolescents, and adults—has found this question to be more helpful to investigate the cause of certain behaviors. The book is a deep conversation between Oprah and Dr. Perry on trauma, especially on the effects in the early years of childhood on development, the brain, and behavior. The book is full of stories from Oprah’s life, from guests who appeared on her show, and stories from Dr. Perry’s work that illustrate their points. Dr. Perry says that pervasive misunderstanding of trauma-related behavior has had a profound effect on our educational, mental health, and juvenile justice systems. With the focus on trauma, Oprah and Dr. Perry also discuss where resiliency, healing, and hope come into the picture.

This book is a good reflection read for anyone (parents, grandparents, teachers, and church leaders) desiring to understand children’s behavior. It is also a good reflection read for one’s own personal life.

Dove's Nest also has trauma-informed resources available to help you and your faith community: 

Understanding Trauma: This recorded Zoom training is an excellent resource for churches wanting to dig deeper into understanding and preventing various types of trauma as well as actively supporting survivors in faith communities. It includes information on the various types of trauma, brain development, trauma triggers, and more. The Institutional Courage principles developed by Jennifer Freyd are also reviewed. There is an analysis of the core values of Anabaptist faith communities with special attention on how to balance peace, reconciliation, and justice when it comes to protecting the vulnerable. Trigger warning: There are photos of offenders included in these slides—people who individuals in Mennonite Church USA congregations may know personally. Contact Nancy Kauffmann at info [at] dovenest.net for the video or more information.