On Trauma

“Trauma is a word used widely these days in the media and elsewhere. The word originally was a medical term meaning a serious wound or injury. A serious wound such as a bad head injury pierces the outer ‘membrane’ that protects the physiological system beneath. An emotional trauma is of a similar order” (Music, 2001, p. 54).

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“Traumatic events, especially if they remain unacknowledged, continue to disempower victims, and intensify the feelings of shame and humiliation that are part of the legacy of trauma and its internalization. This “internal” dimension of trauma is an important one: while the source of trauma may be external, the recurrent effects of trauma, and the impairment of the memory function—the “unfinished business” of trauma—are primarily reflections of an inner breakdown of the self and of an inner emotional conflict. The intrusive memories and the re-experiencing of trauma are the most distressing features of the aftermath of trauma. Victims and perpetrators of trauma feel helpless and at the mercy of the intrusive and fragmentary memories of trauma, unable to control these memories and completely victimize by them. Thus, healing of trauma, that is, the restoration of the self and the reclaiming of one’s sense of control of memory, of the capacity to reflect, understand, and to perceive things as they are or were, requires transformation of traumatic memory into narrative memory” (van der Merwe & Gobodo-Madikizela, 2008, vii).

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“The important thing in overcoming trauma is not to have a coherent story to start with, but to create a coherent story over the course of writing or talking, a story that weaves together all the threads of one’s personal experience” (Planalp, 1999, p. 113).

 

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