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Conquering Trauma and Anxiety to Find Happiness

Ellen P. McShane

Conquering Trauma and Anxiety to Find Happiness offers trauma victims suffering from anxiety and other disorders freedom from continued emotional suffering. National mental health statistics state 60% of adults, approximately 150,000,000 people, report experiencing trauma. The National Institute of Mental health states 42,000,000 American adults live with an anxiety disorder often resulting from trauma. Through this book’s focus on affect theory and affect labeling, these millions of traumatized and anxious individuals learn to stop living with chronic stress and their reactive, inflexible, and rigid responses to life.

This book offers affect theory as a biological explanation to the consequences of living as a trauma victim by understanding what happened to them and repairing the harm. Affect theory presents nine biologically-coded affects to explain emotion, motivation, behavior, and personality with two positive, one neutral, and six negative affects. Stimulus from our environment activates an affect and its preprogrammed responses within our brain and body. Through facial expressions, along with other physical manifestations, we understand when an affect activates to help us understand our feelings.

Another intervention featured in this book, affect labeling or putting feelings into words, encourages us to focus attention in the present moment to read our body’s sensory information and integrate our brain and mind. Trauma victims understand how therapy provides an important intervention for recovery. An affect management system offers various interventions, such as diet and exercise, to overcome the consequences of trauma and anxiety. We no longer need to suffer if we experience trauma and anxiety.

“I am thrilled that Ellen P. McShane, a former student of mine, has written this truly wonderful book. As I am someone who has advocated for over half-a-century that scholars try to write more personally, Dr. McShane has chosen to do this in her present volume. And she has excelled in producing what I call a ‘Scholarly Personal Narrative’ manuscript. More important, however, she has helped me to understand, both theoretically and personally, my own lifelong struggle with anxiety. Her courageous, personal exploration of what she calls ‘affect theory,’ based on such concepts as affect, feeling, and emotion, along with her use of Positive Psychology throughout, has provided me with personal insights that, even at my advanced age, have fostered a greater sense of health and well-being. The letters to her therapist are vulnerable, authentic, and grounded in science as well as in her incredible life experience. Anyone who has dealt with the consequences of trauma will find this book to be an amazing gift. I know that I have. I also know that thousands of students during my 52 years of teaching could have changed their lives as a result of immersing themselves in this volume.” —Robert J. Nash, Professor. Official University Scholar at the University of Vermont

“In a herculean, successful attempt to integrate theory, research findings and applied strategies, Conquering Trauma and Anxiety to Find Happiness will empower its readers to understand themselves and get unstuck from the tyranny of their traumatic memories and fragmented sense of self. Ellen P. McShane’s unique approach to illustrate how affect theory and affect labeling account for her valiant, life-long journey to overcome child abuse and find happiness is a generous sharing act that reveals the loving teacher within Ellen. Conquering Trauma and Anxiety to Find Happiness may become an indispensable resource in the therapist’s toolbox.” —Antonio Cepeda-Benito, Professor of Psychological Sciences, University of Vermont

“Ellen P. McShane offers the reader a fearless analysis, a personal case study of her experience of trauma, and its effects on her development, life and relationships. Thoroughly researched, the result is a courageous presentation of approaches to healing from trauma, focusing on Sylvan Tomkins’s affect theory. Readers will find in this book deep insights regarding trauma’s effects on our development, the process of therapy, and healing. Dr. McShane describes the variety of tools she used to understand and heal the results of her trauma, encouraging others to consider ways they might also create healing and happiness in their lives. This work is highly recommended for everyone who has experienced trauma and those who work to help them recover.” —Lawrence G. Shelton, Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Vermont

“This is one woman’s brave journey into healing herself, and finding the focus and methodology to flip the experience, creating a tool to help so many others in their personal journey to self -healing from past trauma. Though the focus is overcoming the anxiety through affect work and neuroplasticity conjoined with epigenetics, this is a no nonsense tool for the therapist and for the past victim of trauma. It is also a wonderful teaching and learning program guide for a successful internal life for virtually everyone, as some form of childhood trauma is almost universal in society.” —Dominique Desrochers, Chiropractor, Co-Creator of Bio-Dynamic Resonance®

“When FDR said, ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself,’ he could’ve been referring to Ellen P. McShane’s book, Conquering Trauma and Anxiety to Find Happiness. Fear had been a recurring theme in my life until Dr. McShane showed me that my old negative brain connections could be broken up and rewired into something constructive. Affect theory has helped me become both more productive and happier.” —Linda Lane, Author, Laser Lady Meets the Light Junkies

“I’m so grateful to all of the help and generosity Ellen showed me during my time at the University of Vermont. Learning about the different affects and associated physiological reactions have helped me identify the emotions that come up in my body, as well as the associated scripts that I carried with me from my upbringing. It also helps me shift from a negative affect to neutral and gradually positive through naming the affects and changing my physical activities, while honoring my feelings and developing more empathy for the trauma I have experienced. It has been an invaluable tool to my growth.” —Roxanne Chang, University of Vermont, 2016

“Going above and beyond her duties as my mentor during college, Ellen has been an unwavering source of support and kindness over the last ten years of my life. Affect theory, as outlined by Ellen, has provided me with a framework for recognizing and managing my inner self and emotions. Naming affects out loud is a valuable tool for increasing awareness of the moment, the self, and the mind-body connection and has made me more resilient in the face of hardships throughout my life journey.” —Yao Tan, University of Vermont, 2014