This book is going to change the way you see your life.
Have you ever wondered “Why did I do that?” or “Why can’t I just control my behavior?” Others may judge our reactions and think, “What’s wrong with that person?” When questioning our emotions, it’s easy to place the blame on ourselves; holding ourselves and those around us to an impossible standard. It’s time we started asking a different question.
Through deeply personal conversations, Oprah Winfrey and renowned brain and trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perry offer a groundbreaking and profound shift from asking “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”
Here, in What Happened To You? Conversations On Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, Winfrey shares stories from her own past, understanding through experience the vulnerability that comes from facing trauma and adversity at a young age. In conversation throughout the book, she and Dr. Perry focus on understanding people, behavior, and ourselves.
The two met 30 years ago, when Perry was on the faculty at the University of Chicago and working as a consultant for a residential home for children who had been abused and neglected. A board member at the home mentioned him to Winfrey, who had just gone public about her own experience with sexual abuse.
“She reached out and we started having conversations,” Perry recalled. “I was not her therapist. But she wanted to solve the problem. She was like, ‘How do we make this better?’ I tried to be real honest about what I thought and sometimes I walked out of meetings and I’d think, I’ll never hear from her again. But over time she came to feel comfortable with the fact that I was going to be honest with her.”
Winfrey invited Perry to be a guest on her show and he eventually worked with her on her school project in South Africa, Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. Their decades-long association is the backbone of “What Happened to You?,” which tackles resilience, trauma and grief from both scientific and emotional vantage points.
The book is a wonderful conversation between Winfrey and Perry and is divided into several sections:
- Painful Memories — Oprah’s desire to please her grandmother and everyone around her got so deeply ingrained in her mind that it defined Oprah’s relationship and actions for the next 40 years of her life.
- Understanding Your Past — People who went through painful experiences, especially those caused by a family member, tend to blame themselves for everything bad happening throughout their lives. They keep asking themselves, “Why did I do this?”, “What is wrong with me?”. But the truth is that emotional turmoil forces us to be harsh with ourselves.
- Burdens of Yesterday — Things we experience as children, especially if they cause deep emotional scars, greatly impact our personality. Having undergone multiple challenges, both emotional and physical ones, Oprah Winfrey isn’t afraid to share her lessons with the readers.
- Road to Happiness — Traumas come in a variety of shapes, magnitudes, and manifestations. The methods of self-comprehension and self-forgiveness they discuss in the book are a sought-after way to recovery.
- Adaptivity Is the Key — Although our traumas shape our personalities and behavioral patterns, there is a way to break the mold. The key is to understand why we do what we do and try to develop different reactions to circumstances.
It’s a subtle but profound shift in our approach to trauma, and it’s one that allows us to understand our pasts in order to clear a path to our future―opening the door to resilience and healing in a proven, powerful way.
Reduce inflammatory process in cells, tissues, and blood vessels, helping to slow aging and reduce risk of long-term disease.
Prevents and repairs oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals.
Support the body’s resistance to infection and strengthen immune vigilance and response.
Improves mood, memory, and focus.
Reduces risk factors for common degenerative and age-related diseases.