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on 3 January 2008
Donald Kalsched covers a lot of ground in this terrific text about trauma and its manifestations in his (and other's)clients/ patients. He has a great flair for language and often waxes lyrical, so is hard to reach for my more hard headed colleagues. However, his deeply empathic approach to the clinical difficulties of his clients is clearly manifest throughout the pages. His clinical material is moving and he engages with the symbolism of the clients problems effortlessly. For me, apart from the clinical vignettes and his analyses thereof, which are so readable and quite brilliant, the additional appeal of the book is that he places the interpretation of the material in the context of other psychoanalytic and jungian thinkers and relates these to each other without this being tedious. I found the book resonated at many levels and would highly recommend it both for psychotherapists and the interested reader.
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on 1 February 2017
Book I always meant to buy this book and it did not disappoint. Wonderful insights.
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The Inner World of Trauma is a truly compelling, moving and important book. Kalsched shows that when a child is traumatised, or shamed for its genuine and healthy needs, a psychololgical defence sytem is constellated in the child's psyche, and the job of that system is to protect the child from being further shamed and re-traumatised. The system is commonly personified by a symbolic inner figure that swings from from being protective to being persecutory. What is more the inner protector will do whatever it has to do in order to prevent a repeat of the original, unbearable experience - and if that means turning into a daimonic, destructive and self-destructive inner persecutor, then so be it.

More-often-than-not the strategies of the inner protector-persecutor mean that the person is stuck in a cycle where the 'trauma' is repeated time and time again. Every time the person has a chance of moving beyond the definsive, but imprisioning psycholgical walls, the protector-persecutor deems the risk of retrumatisation to be too high, and so sabotages the path to freedom and emotional health.

Worse, the inner figure fails to take account of changing circumstances, and it fails to recognise that the traumatised child has grown up and now has new, and healthier, ways of defending him or her self. The inner protector gets stuck at the point where the original damage occurred. Kalsched explains that in order to find freedom from protector-persecutor a person has to become conscious of how this inner figure is suffocating life, and then the person has to find the courage to do battle with the protector-persecutor.

All that Kalsched writes about resonates deeply with my own experience. I am not a therapist, and I struggled with some of the more technical object-relations language, but having read (and re-read) The Inner World of Trauma I now have a sense of what drives much of my destructive and self-destructive behaviour. More importantly, the new understanding that I have gained from this book has helped me to drop some of the shame that I have about my destructive and self-destructive behaviour, and it has provoked me into starting to challenge some of the toxic beliefs and strategies employed by my inner protector-persecutor.

For me, The Inner World of Trauma has been a truly provocative, powerful, moving and healing book. I consider myself to be pretty widely read, and The Inner World of Trauma is one of the most important books that I have ever read. In many ways, having read Kalsched's book I feel like I have entered a new world - albeit a world that isn't going to suddenly become easy, happy and neatly sorted out, however, I am enormously grateful for this book.
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on 6 March 2011
Reading can be a transformative act when the book itself is connective, linking material. Just part of the great work of scholarship performed by the author of The Inner World of Trauma is the shaping of complex sources and analytic encounters into an absorbing narrative on the subterranean world of suffering, unlocking the long suppressed dark secret at the heart of trauma survival.

Donald Kalsched shows how contradictory forces within and beneath the self are unleashed in instances of early trauma, and how a primitive rage linked with depression in later life captures the traumatised child in a cataclysmic event.

This is what he calls the miracle and the 'tragedy' of the archetypal 'self-care' system, where a secondary line of defences catches the self tragically falling before it has had the chance of life. It is as if in the transitional state of infancy somewhere between spirit and matter, an older parenting system is at work, but it is a bleak unidifferentiated force which must itself be tamed and transformed in later life. Dangerous work as this book recounts, as the inner self and the introjected caregiver battle for control over the life and death of the spirit.

This isn't just an academic work. In the presence of an unusually gifted psychotherapist, the Inner World of Trauma gives a penetrating insight as to what the transformative process looks like and how it takes place.

This book is for anyone with close familiarity with human suffering. Donald Kalsched shows how early trauma shatters human experience, atomising it into fragments so it cannot again be easily reconnected. And it is instructive that the author has had to travel the world of archetypes, folklore, psychoanalysis and alchemy to reconstruct meaning from its scattered hiding places. It is as if we have buried the reality from ourselves twice, dismembered at the unconscious level, the shards distributed across the physical world. In Kalsched's important journey of reconstruction, he captures the most puzzling and mysterious legacies of trauma and gives them new meaning. And broken humanity some hope.

Kalsched specialises in splits not just in the human sphere, but in the doctrinal realm. The chapter that deals with the Freud-Jung fall out charts the developmental cost to psychotherapy itself. Each creed backed itself into entrenched positions: Freud into defences, Jung into transpersonal symbols. And it was in a moment of penetrating insight that Kalsched discovered a connecting artery, even though at that moment his interest was in a recursive theme, the violent dream of one of his clients.

As a Jungian, he recognised the destructive archetype at work, the killer in the dream, but what he also saw is that it pointed not just to something symbolic, but to something actually happening in the self at that moment in the treatment. He witnessed the point where one part of us destroys the ability of the other parts of us to reintegrate. Dismembered parts were beginning to reunite but the event could not yet be metabolised, and the client's border guards violently prevented assimilation.

This resistance in the form of dream carnage was itself retraumatising - but it gave therapist and client a new opportunity to work through past and present events as a connected up, healing process.

Through powerful enough telescopes, the explosive energies of creation are still visible, and the phenomenon Donald Kalsched uncovers can be compared to advances in cosmology of the late 20th Century. Singularities, dark stars and the Big Bang model were part of a revolution in how we understood the connection between space and time, atoms and gravity. The author's research in inner space is deserving of equal attention. Archaic trauma-remnants are discernible through a channel of archetypal energies, giving us a small window into our own psychological creation, one forged in both violence and compassion. One in need of healing.
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on 11 October 2009
In this book Donald Kalsched explores the role of archetypal defenses in trauma. He regards that such archetypal defenses are part of an inherent organismic self-care system which becomes employed during trauma to create a barrier/wall that safeguards the individual from retraumatisation by shutting a part of the self off from contact with the outside world.

Weaving clinical case material with fairytale and elaborating by drawing upon both Jungian and psychoanalytic theory, Kalsched gives a clear and coherent picture of the unconscious processes that makeup the internal worlds of people who have suffered a trauma.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in this subject. However I would particularly like to encourage psychoanalytic readers sceptical about the Jungian approach to this book, as i believe Kalsched demonstrates some interesting crossovers between Jungian and psychoanalytic theory and shows how modern Jungian theory can enhance our understanding of such clients.
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on 6 April 2014
I've only read 23% of this book but I'm already recommending it to anyone and everyone! It was probably intended for therapists only but, as a victim of trauma, I'm finding it sooooooooooooooo liberating.

I'm currently training as a shaman and needed a psychological explanation for the various shamanic beliefs and practices. This book gave me exactly that, as well as pardoning me for my reactions to emotional and physical abuse. A HUGE, heartfelt thank-you to the author. I've already bought his second book!
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on 9 December 2005
This is one of the most important books that I have ever read. Kalsched describes how the very strategies that we develop to help us survive childhood trauma can turn against us, becoming the psychological equivalent of an auto-immune disease. The inner protector, which emerged to get us through trama, turns into an inner persecutor (and the trauma can simply be a mis-fit between a child and the child's environment, rather than anything more obvious and dramatic).
This book has revolutionised the way that I understand my world, my behaviour and the behaviour of those around me. It has enabled me to realise why I get stuck and why real change is so difficult (in contrast to the promises made by the self-help industry).
This is not an easy book to read. It does not offer simple answers. It does not suggest ten ways to fix your life after suffering trauma. Reading this book in an open and self-reflective way is accutely painful, because it hits deep truths about the self-destructive side of who we all are. And yet Kalsched's observations about what happens to us as a result of trauma does create the possibility of greater freedom. Kalsched explains why it can be so hard to change, and through his explaination he unlocks the door to change. Kalsched's ideas on the protector turned persecutor create an understanding which enables healing to occur.
This is a HUGE book. I cannot reccomend it too highly.
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on 6 June 2014
I have previously reviewed Kalsched’s later book, Trauma and the Soul. I have now read this book, which is its predecessor and where Kalsched starts to develop his ideas of trauma and how the person manages this. There was no disadvantage in reading this after the later book.

There is a certain amount of technical psychotherapeutic language in this book but it becomes understandable in the context. The mind is a complex subject and not definable in pure scientific terms. Hence there will be a valid poetic licence in describing the inner world of trauma in terms of fantasy, dreams and archetypal stories. Kalsched brings out how the psyche responds to external trauma by invoking the self care system which protects the human spirit of the victim. He shows that this self care system can turn against the person in its need to protect the soul in later life.

This book is not purely theoretical and technical but succinctly makes its argument through both clinical examples of trauma in Kalsched’s patients and wonderful accounts and interpretations of some classic fairy tales, which I found very moving. I can understand now why so many of these stories have an archetypal resonance in me when I have read them myself and to my children. We have all lost, we have all found, we have all transformed at times.

I would recommend this book for anyone who is in therapy, especially if this therapy includes dream work. We all carry some trauma and the book is a valuable tool in understanding the process of trauma and its possible resolution.
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on 25 February 2017
I brought this book as I enjoyed Trauma and the Soul so much, this is lees of a resource for me.. if you are choosing between Kalsched's first and second book, go for the first!
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on 10 July 2015
takes a bit of getting into but good all the same
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