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  • Javier Coronel

What happened to you?

One of my favorite aspects about my therapist is how we are able to bounce off of each other so well. My main focus during my sessions at the moment is centered around my relationships as I've noticed that I'm exhibiting some self-sabotaging behavior. I brought this up to my therapist who gave me two books to read: Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller and What happened to you? by Bruce Perry and Oprah.

Her ideal progression in regard to these books is for me to read What Happened to You? before reading Attached and preferably both before our next session. She claimed this would be a good starting point for us as we start to work together on the relationship aspect of my life and after finishing the book I can see why she thought that.

What happened to you is written in an interesting format as it is essentially a transcript of a conversation Oprah and Bruce are having. The conversation itself covers the mistakes society has in asking questions such as "what's wrong with you" and misdiagnosing individuals instead of asking them, "what happened to you". Both Oprah and Bruce are aligned in the belief that beginning with the question of what happened to you is a better starting point than the current avenues people go down when addressing issues. For example, if you stumbled upon a man who was easily spooked by fireworks and they caused his heart rate to quickly accelerate, it makes more sense to ask him about what happened to him in order to identify what past experience has formed this internal reaction.

As a book that revolves around child development and psychology, I appreciated the casualness that was applied to the making of this book as it makes the information much easier to digest. I don't think I've ever read or looked at anything produced by Oprah so I was surprised to find out that we have very similar thoughts. I couldn't agree more that the current digital landscape has provided us with some benefits along with some unintentional negative effects with one of them being our lack of genuine communication.

Who would have thought that humans being social creatures would be what advances us beyond all other species but also be our downfall? Communication is the root of many problems as well as solutions. Ironic isn't it?

I also appreciated how Oprah showed empathy in her statements in relation to cancel culture as society has shifted toward a perspective where you make one slip up and society wants the absolute worst to happen to you. In my opinion, that's inhumane. The best way to learn is through mistakes and if we are ostracized whenever we make them, how can we expect to grow? We've unintentionally put ourselves in a mental jail. When people make mistakes regardless of magnitude, why not ask them what happened to them in order to figure out why they did what they did? That's what Oprah and Bruce are trying to get at in this book.

While I was originally against reading this book, I have to give recognition to my therapist for making me do things on occasion for my own benefit that don't align with my current way of thinking. What this book has taught me more than anything is to continue working on being as empathetic of a person as I can be. We all come from different upbringings and we need to be better about being understanding of that. A student who's a trouble maker doesn't want to prevent others from learning; they have simply experienced something others have not and we should work on addressing how to manage that rather than shun them for their actions.

As a species, describing us as complicated would be an understatement. While we go through the journey that is life, we should all practice empathy and be as kind to one another as our mind allows us to at that moment. By being as understanding and loving as possible, I believe we can truly improve the health of our society.

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