Book Review: The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog
During pregnancy there is an undeniable connection between a mother and her baby. From the moment fertilization takes place a tiny seed (human being) starts to form that will change the life of many forever. Without knowing the mother could be carrying the next Aristotle, mother Teresa, or even the President of The United States. Each milestone during pregnancy builds a foundation that will enable the baby to thrive in this world. In the womb a baby is connected to their mother through an umbilical cord otherwise known as their safe heaven. The developmental journey continues and soon a baby is born unto this world. Little does it know how different from the womb the reality of the outside world truly is. Bruce D. Perry M.D., Ph.D., and Maia Szalavitz eloquently reveal in the book, The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog the unique stories that demonstrate the essential role that development in early childhood plays in shaping a child’s personality.
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Throughout the book there is a certain point in which each child’s personality is seen to transform drastically as events pass. Their life journeys begin to face confusion, mistreatment and endless pain. Although, countless times they cried out for help, there was no one around to rescue them. Due to chance they were rescued, but that could not erase the deep psychological damage had already been done. In different ways each child is seen going through life troubled and struggle constantly in trying to find significance and purpose for their lives.
It seems through these stories that the human eye is blind to all the lifelong scars each child carried within them. Readers see the depth of each child’s trauma through the eyes and knowledge of Dr. Perry a child psychiatrist and neuroscientist. The book shows the ramification of their traumatic experiences impacts a child’s development throughout their life span, and builds a strong defense mechanism. This is a reality for many children around the world according to Dr. Perry and unfortunately, we don’t always acknowledge its existence. There is an unforeseeable wide range of impacts the severity of trauma that can alter the mind and brain chemicals.
Regardless of its degree a perturbed life must find ways to cope with their reality every day. The most relevant point in healing process is the relationship between a patient and their psychiatrist in order to find an effective treatment. When writing this book Dr. Perry foremost protected each child’s identity, and nevertheless powerfully wrote their stories that would impact the world. As a reader I could hear and picture each child’s outcry for help. The rawness of its reality touched me to the core, my body cringed, and my eyes were overwhelmed by tears. Dr. Perry’s humane emotional and mental journey while treating each patient was clearly depicted in this book. Earning his degree and studying textbooks only prepared Dr. Perry for the field work he would encounter on superficial level. He grew in knowledge through personally experiencing hands on clinical work, and finding treatments for the traumatic event that shaped a person.
This book is not ordinary. It is based on a psychiatrist’s journal, and the alarming life journey of his patients. After reading this book I would consider it to be a collection of facts about treatment approaches and a documentary of children’s traumatic life experiences. The seriousness of the traumatic situation is applicable and significant to all audiences. However, it must be noted that not all readers would be able to digest this book due to its intense and graphic enduring situations. Dr. Perry’s writing talent is admirable; it is not one that many authors possess. His exquisite style makes the stories come to life for the reader. His writing gives insight to readers on the neurological features that carry an important role in traumatized children. On a personal note, having taken neuroscience as a college student last semester helped me to better understand the terminology used. However, Dr. Perry does a phenomenal job throughout the book at explaining the terminology to readers with no previous knowledge. I highly encourage aspiring psychologists, neuroscientists, educators, parents, and anyone looking for non-fictional book to take the time to read The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog. It is absolutely eye opening, and gives a spark of hope that the bridge of lucidity can be restored after traumatic events.
All the stories in this book were captivating, but chapter 8, “The Raven,” is powerful. Amber is the young girl that society would instantly categorize as emo and anti-social before actually getting to know her. Dr. Perry points out that if people could look beneath the surface level they would see the bruises and brokenness inside of Amber. From an early age children are vulnerable and susceptible to trauma. Amber was sexually and, to an extent, mentally abused by her mother’s partner for numerous years. As the reader I could vividly picture the child abuser inflict pain on the victim in insidious and disturbing ways. Young Amber in the book had lingering memories and faced her dark past on a day to day basis. She went through the motions of life feeling empty, and she became her own biggest threat. Amber developed a coping mechanism during the early stages of her abuse, where she drifted to her own safe world in her mind. Unfortunately, an unexpected circumstance led her on a downward spiral and the cloud of darkness over powered her state of mind. Amber became Dr. Perry’s patient and began to receive treatment for her lifelong damage. Her story didn’t end all of the sudden, instead towards the end it gave us a small glimpse of her magnificent transformation.
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Throughout the book Dr. Perry explains the different techniques and approaches that he used on his patients to help them find healing. For some of his patients he used the neurosequential treatment approach to reveal the way that the brain develops when facing the adversity of trauma. Dr. Perry used this model to create a timeline that can pinpoint brain areas that are damaged due to neglect and trauma. This approach is not the cure, but assists in organizing the different trauma phases that a child has experienced. Dr. Perry demonstrates a strong connection between brain development and a person’s life experiences that shape their personality. As humans we are quick to judge others. Never do we stop to think about how their childhood was ripped and stripped from underneath their feet. The need for psychology to grow and understand trauma is necessary in order for people to find everlasting healing.
In the end of the book I was completely convinced that the authors did right by telling the story of these children. This book opened my eyes; through the genuine short stories that left a deep impression on me. It is hope through the healing process that makes it possible for people to restore their lives. As a community we need to be more aware of a child’s outcry for help. All it takes is for people to listen in order to change the direction of a child’s life. Sadly it’s not possible for us to erase a child’s past, but it is possible to help them find mental wellness. The road to finding mental wellness is not strictly defined by rule or methods, because each life story is unique. After all no one can experience and see the world in the same way as the individual. Never forget to not judge a book by its cover; after all you never know what maybe going on behind closed doors. Take a stand, stop going through the motions of life blindsided. Go the extra mile and invest in the well-being of those in our society.
Perry, B. D., & Szalavitz, M. (2008). The boy who was raised as a dog: And other stories from a child psychiatrist’s notebook : what traumatized children can teach us about loss, love, and healing. New York: Basic Books