Saturday, December 20, 2008

Trauma and Recovery: Read It Now On Questia

Questia is the first online library that provides 24/7 access to the world's largest online collection of books and journal articles in the humanities and social sciences, plus magazine and newspaper articles. You can search each and every word of all of the books and journal articles in the collection. You can read every title cover to cover.

Now you can read Judith Herman's landmark book, "Trauma and Recovery" in it's entirety on Questia. First published in 1992, this book has become a classic in the field of trauma recovery. An excerpt from this groundbreaking book is reproduced here:

"THE ORDINARY RESPONSE TO ATROCITIES is to banish them from consciousness.
Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this
is the meaning of the word unspeakable. Atrocities, however, refuse to be
buried. Equally as powerful as the desire to deny atrocities is the conviction
that denial does not work. Folk wisdom is filled with ghosts who refuse to
rest in their graves until their stories are told. Murder will out. Remembering
and telling the truth about terrible events are prerequisites both for the
restoration of the social order and for the healing of individual victims. The
conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim
them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma. People who have
survived atrocities often tell their stories in a highly emotional,
contradictory, and fragmented manner which undermines their credibility and thereby
serves the twin imperatives of truth-telling and secrecy. When the truth is
finally recognized, survivors can begin their recovery. But far too often secrecy
prevails, and the story of the traumatic event surfaces not as a verbal
narrative but as a symptom." (p.1)

"To study psychological trauma is to come face to face both with human
vulnerability in the natural world and with the capacity for evil in human nature.
To study psychological trauma means bearing witness to horrible events. When
the events are natural disasters or "acts of God," those who bear witness
sympathize readily with the victim. But when the traumatic events are of human
design, those who bear witness are caught in the conflict between victim and
perpetrator. It is morally impossible to remain neutral in this conflict. The
bystander is forced to take sides. It is very tempting to take the side of the
perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He
appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim,
on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim
demands action, engagement, and remembering." (p. 7 - 8)

"In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does
everything in his power to promote forgetting. Secrecy and silence are the
perpetrator' s first line of defense. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the
credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to
make sure that no one listens. To this end, he marshals an impressive array of
arguments, from the most blatant denial to the most sophisticated and elegant
rationalization. After every atrocity one can expect to hear the same
predictable apologies: it never happened; the victim lies; the victim exaggerates;
the victim brought it upon herself; and in any case it is time to forget the
past and move on. The more powerful the perpetrator, the greater is his
prerogative to name and define reality, and the more completely his arguments
prevail....The study of psychological trauma must constantly contend with this
tendency to discredit the victim or to render her invisible. Throughout the
history of the field, dispute has raged over whether patients with post-
traumatic conditions are entitled to care and respect or deserving of
contempt, whether they are genuinely suffering or malingering, whether their
histories are true or false and, if false, whether imagined or maliciously
fabricated. In spite of a vast literature documenting the phenomena of psychological
trauma, debate still centers on the basic question of whether these phenomena
are credible and real." (p. 8)

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