Bouncing Forward: Transforming Bad Breaks Into Breakthroughs (A Review)

bouncingforwardIt’s not often that I review books that aren’t military or history related (If you love history, wait until I review the next book!), but this one peaked my interest. As many of my longtime readers know, I struggle with PTSD. While I’ve largely found a way to manage the symptoms through a lot of hard work, counseling, and encouragement, there is always room for improvement and there are always little triggers to depression and survivor’s guilt.

Let me get to the meat of the review right off the bat: Bouncing Forward needs to be turned into a lesson plan and made a part of mandatory pre-deployment training for every deploying service member. It might seem like a waste of time at first, but believe me when I say the exercises, lessons, and recommendations that author Dr. Michaela Haas suggests can change your life, build resistance, and ensure growth instead of a downward spiral of fear and depression.

The underlying premise of the book is that a traumatic event doesn’t have to be a life destroyer. She helps the reader take control of these events and turn them into growth as opposed to stress. Oftentimes, Soldiers will internalize their struggles and fall victim to an event that they feel has taken over their lives. She counsels that “any amount of agency we can reclaim that empowers us to restore order in chaos will help, no matter how small.”

Watching a friend die is not an easy thing to fathom or forget. The feeling that you could have done more or that you should of died in his place can ruin your relationships and your life. It seems no one can help because others try to assure you by telling you “everything will be fine” and others say “I know what you’re going through.” It may seem like life couldn’t possible get any worse.

Instead of just making the reader feel better about themselves, she tells the stories of some remarkable people who endured some incredible “misfortunes” (though they won’t tell you that) and found ways to obtain “post traumatic growth.” By the time I finished reading the book, it was like I could have had a V8 moment. It seems so simple, though that doesn’t make it easy. Drawing from a wide array of experts in the field – from noted doctors to Buddhist adherents – Dr. Haas lays out a very easy to understand and implement process: Survive, Grow, Dig Deep, Play, Accept, Thrive, Pray, Evolve, Breathe, Adrenalize, Shine, Forgive, and Love.

It’s not just advice and clinical or biological technicalities that she talks about and she works hard to convey the message that traumatic growth is possible without medicating yourself into oblivion. While I’ve been a Def Leppard fan since the “High & Dry” the story about drummer Rick Allen was especially inspiring. When a man who uses both arms to make a living playing playing drums loses one in a horrible accident and still finds a way to keep doing what he was doing, you can’t help but think to yourself: “what am I afraid of?”

I’m not a big fan of self help books because they are usually dry and try to sell me a one-size-fits-all solution. Just like our toolbox in the garage have different uses for different projects, Haas provides many different tools that can be tailored to an individual’s trauma pain. I left the book a few more tools in my tool belt that I plan to use and apply in my life. Bouncing Forward is a great book about seeing the beauty of life and recognizing that all looking back does and keep from moving forward. If you have a friend or family member suffering from PTSD – whether it be from combat or a car crash or just a disease – read this book. Give them a copy of this book. And to any Generals or Admirals or military leaders are reading this: get some copies for your unit and help your troops BEFORE they experience a traumatic event that they may have to deal with unprepared.

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