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The Politics of Trauma: Somatics, Healing, and Social Justice

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A restorative justice approach to somatic therapy, integrating mind-body healing with social activism Somatic therapy is a holistic approach to wellness. A combination of talk therapy and bodywork, it is used to treat a wide range of psychological and physiological conditions, ranging from stress and anxiety to depression and PTSD. Nowhere has somatics proven more effective A restorative justice approach to somatic therapy, integrating mind-body healing with social activism Somatic therapy is a holistic approach to wellness. A combination of talk therapy and bodywork, it is used to treat a wide range of psychological and physiological conditions, ranging from stress and anxiety to depression and PTSD. Nowhere has somatics proven more effective than in the treatment of trauma. This book invites readers to look beyond the body and mind to consider the social, political and economic roots of trauma. Conditions such as racism, environmental degradation, sexism, and poverty are more than illnesses of society, they are also the source of physical, mental, and emotional disease. Author and practitioner Staci Haines offers a new politicized somatics for therapists and social activists who share a common goal of alleviating suffering and improving life. Individual and societal well-being go hand-in-hand; just as health practitioners need to consider the societal factors underlying trauma, so too must activists understand trauma's physical and mental impact on the lives of those for whom they advocate. Politicized somatics builds power, deepens capacity, and creates embodied skills required for lasting health and meaningful social transformation. This book will be an important tool for healers, therapists, political activists, community organizers, and for the survivors of trauma.


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A restorative justice approach to somatic therapy, integrating mind-body healing with social activism Somatic therapy is a holistic approach to wellness. A combination of talk therapy and bodywork, it is used to treat a wide range of psychological and physiological conditions, ranging from stress and anxiety to depression and PTSD. Nowhere has somatics proven more effective A restorative justice approach to somatic therapy, integrating mind-body healing with social activism Somatic therapy is a holistic approach to wellness. A combination of talk therapy and bodywork, it is used to treat a wide range of psychological and physiological conditions, ranging from stress and anxiety to depression and PTSD. Nowhere has somatics proven more effective than in the treatment of trauma. This book invites readers to look beyond the body and mind to consider the social, political and economic roots of trauma. Conditions such as racism, environmental degradation, sexism, and poverty are more than illnesses of society, they are also the source of physical, mental, and emotional disease. Author and practitioner Staci Haines offers a new politicized somatics for therapists and social activists who share a common goal of alleviating suffering and improving life. Individual and societal well-being go hand-in-hand; just as health practitioners need to consider the societal factors underlying trauma, so too must activists understand trauma's physical and mental impact on the lives of those for whom they advocate. Politicized somatics builds power, deepens capacity, and creates embodied skills required for lasting health and meaningful social transformation. This book will be an important tool for healers, therapists, political activists, community organizers, and for the survivors of trauma.

30 review for The Politics of Trauma: Somatics, Healing, and Social Justice

  1. 4 out of 5

    Leila

    3.5 - I'm really glad that I read this book when I did, just before I start working with a somatic practitioner, because I feel more equipped to go into my first session with intentions, commitments, and a clearer sense of how this work can impact me. This book isn't really about offering strategies to use at home, but it is an introductory text to politicized somatics. That means it takes into account the need for systems change and the traumatic impact of oppression. Every book on trauma and h 3.5 - I'm really glad that I read this book when I did, just before I start working with a somatic practitioner, because I feel more equipped to go into my first session with intentions, commitments, and a clearer sense of how this work can impact me. This book isn't really about offering strategies to use at home, but it is an introductory text to politicized somatics. That means it takes into account the need for systems change and the traumatic impact of oppression. Every book on trauma and healing should have this lens, but most don't. Like other reviewers, I had concerns about language Haines used to describe trans people (e.g. "transgendered," "women and trans women") and felt like the chapter at the end of the book on "an intersectional analysis" was both insufficient and all over the place. It may have been better to just include a reading list at the end, or to recruit organizers/academics with more expertise to write these sections. As someone who has worked to address sexual violence through community-based solutions for many years, I take particular issue with the data used in the section on patriarchy: I would have liked to see these stats broken down by race and data on police sexual violence and intimate partner violence included, but more concerning: the data on "commercial child sexual exploitation" has been disproven repeatedly (12-14 is NOT the average age of entry into the sex trades, and the 325,000 "children at risk" number is literally made up). I can't begin to express how upset I was to see the phrase "victims of prostitution." If there's ever a second edition of this book, I'd suggest replacing this chapter with a set of reading lists compiled by those with more expertise in each issue area. Still, I really deeply appreciate Haines' intervention, calling for organizers and healers to integrate each others' analysis into our work. I appreciate her question, which I read as throwing shade at The Body Keeps the Score and all the other popular trauma books/practitioners that lack an analysis of systemic oppression: "Will our growing understanding of embodied practice, trauma healing, and neuroplasticity be used to serve equity and sustainability, or be left to individualism, a 'mindful' military, and moneymaking?" I also appreciated the definitions Haines offered of trauma and systemic trauma. The section on centered accountability, over-accountability, and under-accountability is also incredibly useful for my work and my healing. Two more things I found really valuable in this book were the personal stories from practitioners and the concept of "somatic opening." The latter helped me understand why my first 1,000 attempts at meditation led nowhere; we really do need a certain set of conditions before healing and transformation work can begin, and our social conditions are constantly working against us.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    This is the first book I've read that has a strong focus exclusively on somatics, and in fact while I've read many other books about trauma this is the first thing I've read that had a strong focus on somatics. I was hoping to find something that is more concrete, practical, and useful - either for myself as a person who has survived trauma - or for me to use in my practice as a therapist - or in the very least to have in my library to refer to others down the line. But somatics seems to be quite This is the first book I've read that has a strong focus exclusively on somatics, and in fact while I've read many other books about trauma this is the first thing I've read that had a strong focus on somatics. I was hoping to find something that is more concrete, practical, and useful - either for myself as a person who has survived trauma - or for me to use in my practice as a therapist - or in the very least to have in my library to refer to others down the line. But somatics seems to be quite the opposite of a concrete, functional approach and instead relies strongly on metaphorical language - something I am not interested in because this type of language lends itself so strongly to misunderstanding and miscommunication. This material and framework for addressing trauma definitely does not describe or address my own personal experiences of trauma, nor does it describe methods that would be useful for me in my process. Because it relies so heavily on metaphor, I would not feel comfortable using the approaches described in the book with my clients because it would be too much of a risk of misunderstanding, miscommunication, and misinterpretation that could lead to a client being harmed. This might be for someone else, but it's not for me. One positive thing is that even though it's a 400+ page book, it's a very quick read. I plan to finish this book and hopefully by the end I will change my mind and discover that my initial impression has been wrong. Because I very much wanted to love this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I was so excited by the premise and so disappointed by the execution. Poor formatting choices that annoyed me on a personal level, but more importantly -- inadvertently ended up misgendering all trans people on at least one page. I read an advanced review copy so hopefully some of those formatting concerns will be addressed before the final version is released. Unfortunately, that wasn't the only problem. Poor understanding of certain concepts led to the author misrepresenting them when she tried I was so excited by the premise and so disappointed by the execution. Poor formatting choices that annoyed me on a personal level, but more importantly -- inadvertently ended up misgendering all trans people on at least one page. I read an advanced review copy so hopefully some of those formatting concerns will be addressed before the final version is released. Unfortunately, that wasn't the only problem. Poor understanding of certain concepts led to the author misrepresenting them when she tried to explain them in non-academic terms (the history of white supremacy; a male supremacy section that ignores the existence of trans men). I'm still not totally certain about what somatics means, but at this point I'd prefer trying to learn more about all of these ideas somewhere else. DNF after about 60 pages.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eliza

    Incredible wisdom on how to heal from individual trauma and that caused and upheld by the historical and current oppressive systems. Anyone would benefit from reading this book - for personal healing and understanding/participating in healing of community members - but more importantly, this wisdom needs to be held by therapists, teachers, leaders, and healers! Can only imagine how much more sustainably, peacefully, and joyfully we'd each be living if we were helped through our pain with this in Incredible wisdom on how to heal from individual trauma and that caused and upheld by the historical and current oppressive systems. Anyone would benefit from reading this book - for personal healing and understanding/participating in healing of community members - but more importantly, this wisdom needs to be held by therapists, teachers, leaders, and healers! Can only imagine how much more sustainably, peacefully, and joyfully we'd each be living if we were helped through our pain with this intersectional, trauma-informed, and body-based lens.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mary Beth

    What an immensely valuable and important book! At a time when the traumatizing effects of the oppressive uses of power cry out daily for deeper understanding and response, this book could not be more vital. Staci Haines, a leading teacher and organizer in the area of Somatics and trauma, poses and addresses crucial questions related to the politics of trauma: What are the social and political forces operating in the U.S. that keep producing trauma and that are left unchanged by a focus only on i What an immensely valuable and important book! At a time when the traumatizing effects of the oppressive uses of power cry out daily for deeper understanding and response, this book could not be more vital. Staci Haines, a leading teacher and organizer in the area of Somatics and trauma, poses and addresses crucial questions related to the politics of trauma: What are the social and political forces operating in the U.S. that keep producing trauma and that are left unchanged by a focus only on individual healing? How can activists organize, confront, and transform these societal forces if the impact of trauma in their own personal lives has not been acknowledged and healed? The Politics of Trauma underscores the urgent need to address trauma holistically, through individual healing, but also through systemic transformation to uproot fundamental causes of trauma, such as racial, economic, (hetero)sexist, and environmental exploitation and injustice. But it goes much further. It provides a pragmatic, detailed guide for embodied transformation that is both personal and systemic. The book is full of practices and processes that support movement through cycles of individual and organizational healing. And the effectiveness of these processes is powerfully demonstrated in moving personal stories of transformation that follow each chapter and that the author, herself, tells throughout. In all, this book maps a practical direction toward achievable personal and systemic embodiment that is ever more aligned with integrity, resilience, vision, and longing. It is a rare and essential offering to survivors of trauma, activists, those in healing and teaching professions, and all who care deeply about a more just and vibrant society and world.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Liz Lem

    3 1/2 stars. Great subject matter but I was hoping for more personal practical tips for n how to somatically heal. The first part of the book started strong but it started to feel like a way to sell consultant services. That said, I feel like I got a better understanding of power over vs. power with. I do a lot of outreach to small business owners and I really believe that the only way for a small business to survive is to seek community support from various sources. I have to be honest that mos 3 1/2 stars. Great subject matter but I was hoping for more personal practical tips for n how to somatically heal. The first part of the book started strong but it started to feel like a way to sell consultant services. That said, I feel like I got a better understanding of power over vs. power with. I do a lot of outreach to small business owners and I really believe that the only way for a small business to survive is to seek community support from various sources. I have to be honest that most people I meet aren’t going to be emotionally vulnerable. And until people can feel safe to reveal some trauma it is unlikely to heal. I plan on being more mindful of what goes on in my body, particularly breathing so I know how to manage my own soma. I figure that is the best place to start.

  7. 5 out of 5

    (a)lyss(a)

    I received a copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. It's likely that I'm just not the demographic for this book. The author spends a lot of time defining words, but not giving concrete examples of what to do with this information or how to use this approach for healing and change. Both of those words appear a lot, but I kept thinking 'but what does that look like in action?' or 'how do you do that?' as I read. Some ideas feel simplified or compressed to b I received a copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. It's likely that I'm just not the demographic for this book. The author spends a lot of time defining words, but not giving concrete examples of what to do with this information or how to use this approach for healing and change. Both of those words appear a lot, but I kept thinking 'but what does that look like in action?' or 'how do you do that?' as I read. Some ideas feel simplified or compressed to be more understandable. Sometimes I felt like I didn't quite understand what I was reading, but that could be on me for not being more familiar with somatics, or soma as the author refers to it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Shelby Mack

    I came to The Politics of Trauma having done a few somatics sessions with an amazing practitioner, and curious to learn more about the theory behind it. This book is one I'll keep coming back to again and again, knowing that it will speak different things to me at different moments of my life. The work Staci Haines, generative somatics, and communities beyond have done to bring this body of work into the world is a remarkable gift. Credible, accessible healing practice grounded in understandings I came to The Politics of Trauma having done a few somatics sessions with an amazing practitioner, and curious to learn more about the theory behind it. This book is one I'll keep coming back to again and again, knowing that it will speak different things to me at different moments of my life. The work Staci Haines, generative somatics, and communities beyond have done to bring this body of work into the world is a remarkable gift. Credible, accessible healing practice grounded in understandings of the connection between systemic oppression, struggles for justice, and healing, and centered on the bodymind (soma) - I've been looking for this ever since I learned what trauma was and realized I had experienced it. This book is so complete. Of course there is always more to be done, said, lived - but the theory and practice laid out in the book are unto themselves. The stories of somatics practitioners woven throughout are powerful and illustrative.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    I loved this book. It’s the content I’ve been craving for at least a decade. As I’ve done my own work, it’s illuminating to me how much of it matches up with this modality- my intuitive self was finding this way even without a generative somatics practitioner available to me. To me, this means the gs framework is indeed “on to something.” I’m particularly inspired by the connections to larger social systems and what this book, these tools, these frameworks could mean for marginalized communities I loved this book. It’s the content I’ve been craving for at least a decade. As I’ve done my own work, it’s illuminating to me how much of it matches up with this modality- my intuitive self was finding this way even without a generative somatics practitioner available to me. To me, this means the gs framework is indeed “on to something.” I’m particularly inspired by the connections to larger social systems and what this book, these tools, these frameworks could mean for marginalized communities and social change. This felt to me like a taste- and I’m looking forward to learning more in what ways I can. I urge anyone with a foundation of trauma awareness to read this book and integrate these practices and theories, and particularly those who are working for social change.

  10. 5 out of 5

    David Treleaven

    This book was a powerful read for me--both personally and professionally. I'm trained as a psychotherapist and the healing modalities I learned commonly talked about trauma as an individual tragedy disconnected from the world at large. It was all very individualistic. While that's true, it always felt like something was missing. And with this book I found what that was. Haines offers a vision of healing that's rooted in systems change, which was novel, refreshing, and clearly well thought out. I This book was a powerful read for me--both personally and professionally. I'm trained as a psychotherapist and the healing modalities I learned commonly talked about trauma as an individual tragedy disconnected from the world at large. It was all very individualistic. While that's true, it always felt like something was missing. And with this book I found what that was. Haines offers a vision of healing that's rooted in systems change, which was novel, refreshing, and clearly well thought out. It helped me connect dots that's going to make me a more powerful healer and practitioner, and I'm really glad she took time to write it. The stories and voices she includes are really powerful and essential for this historical moment.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Torie White

    The Politics of Trauma synthesizes the ways that we are shaped by many forces - from the personal to the spiritual and everything in between (family, communities, institutions, social and political structures, landscape). So often when talking about healing, social inequity and oppression get left out. We're supposed to heal as individuals with individual problems, rather than seeing the ways that we are part of collectives and are "shaped" by forces greater than us, like white supremacy, patria The Politics of Trauma synthesizes the ways that we are shaped by many forces - from the personal to the spiritual and everything in between (family, communities, institutions, social and political structures, landscape). So often when talking about healing, social inequity and oppression get left out. We're supposed to heal as individuals with individual problems, rather than seeing the ways that we are part of collectives and are "shaped" by forces greater than us, like white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism. I consider this book an essential and timely read for anyone interested in deep-rooted collective transformation.

  12. 4 out of 5

    The Queen of Wands

    Some of the language around trans people was not fantastic (eg "women and trans women"???), the disability justice analysis was surprisingly lacking for the topic at hand, and wow this could use a good edit. That being said, its a relatively easy read, and it seems like a good faith attempt was made to be intersectional and politically aware, which is more than can be said about the vast majority of trauma literature out there. Some of the language around trans people was not fantastic (eg "women and trans women"???), the disability justice analysis was surprisingly lacking for the topic at hand, and wow this could use a good edit. That being said, its a relatively easy read, and it seems like a good faith attempt was made to be intersectional and politically aware, which is more than can be said about the vast majority of trauma literature out there.

  13. 5 out of 5

    esmat ahmadian

    how to restore safety, belonging and dignity in the body, collectively, in movements and groups, in ways that go beyond those of the mainstram 1on1 somatic practitioner! this book gives a great insight into generative somatics, with personal stories from practitioners/teacher in between theory, making things tangible. great frame! Staci is such a role model for me, and i hope there will be an institute in europe at some point....

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dara

    This book is a great distillation of somatics or embodied leadership with a progressive political analysis. It includes lots of examples both of practices to try and stories from people who have been in this work around how it impacted them at the end of every chapter.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    Good content, but the writing style made it a bit bogged down.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jon Wlasiuk

    After you strip away 100s of pages worth of word salad you have little more than a Wikipedia entry.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    I found this book to be fairly easy to read and follow. It is laid out in a methodical manner that is easy to navigate. I did find some of the information useful and insightful, other times I thought the author was mislead by her own preconceived ideas. It’s a book that is worth reading and you take what you want from it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    wendy

  19. 4 out of 5

    Shay Manerikar

  20. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  21. 4 out of 5

    River

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlan

  23. 5 out of 5

    Grayson Thate

  24. 5 out of 5

    Susanna Wagner

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kay Tinnon

  26. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

  27. 5 out of 5

    Zoe

  28. 5 out of 5

    J

  29. 4 out of 5

    Justine

  30. 4 out of 5

    Anna Grant

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