Just read an interesting article from the New Yorker. I’m not sure how to summarize it. The basic thesis is that we tend to assume that traumatic experiences will, and must, have a prolonged negative impact on us – and that this assumption doesn’t always mesh with reality. It’s a thought-provoking counterpoint to the conventional wisdom, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’d be interested in other’s comments – particularly from avivahg.
It’s interesting that you should post that article because I’d been thinking lately about whther it really is or is not pyschologically healthy to try to just ignore and forget about painful events.
I’m wondering if a “middle way” isn’t best – acknowledging and allowing yourself to experience the reactions that come naturally, but not deliberately trying to dig up the hurt.
I think before we even begin to discuss that article we need to discuss how callous people are to each other.
I stand as example of someone who rebounded very well from some traumatic things. I also believe that a lot of people are stronger than they think they are and they can only find that out about themselves with their back is against the wall.
But I hear all the time “You’ve never been through anything like that, that’s why you’re fine.” It’s not true. I may not have been sexually assaulted, but I’ve been physically assaulted by people I love, and I’ve had my mind stripped from me by people I trusted.
Why do we fear conclusions like the one in that article? Because they are an excuse for callousness, and excuse for someone to say “Just get over it!” and minimize the pain of another person.
I suppose that’s the danger, and I wonder if that’s why this article intrigues you. You strike me as the sort of person who might every once in a while want to smack someone and say “stop whining and get over it!” (And I say that because you and I are very much alike)
I, however, am naturally resistant to anything that seeks to invalidate other people’s feelings and reactions. I don’t think it was right to censure the research at all, but I do at least understand why people worried about it.
I think you mistake me.
I’m someone who has leaned hard towards point of view that says traumas need to be dug up, processed, grieved, etc. before they can be considered “dealt with”. I’ve always been one to encourage friends to look for the negative experiences behind their current issues, and to do my best to validate those experiences as legitimate hurts. I think I’ve done this to the point of being considered annoying and/or a downer by some of my friends. In fact, my embracing the “goth thing” was largely a lifestyle reflection of my basic philosophy of “yes, it hurts”.
I’m intrigued by the article because it goes against everything I’ve believed and advocated. And also, to be perfectly honest, because there’s a part of me that’s scared of facing my demons and would like to believe there’s a way to healing without having to do that.
You strike me as the sort of person who might every once in a while want to smack someone and say “stop whining and get over it!” (And I say that because you and I are very much alike)
This breaks my heart. And it’s not your fault at all, I can understand why you would say that. You’re right. But it’s a cold-water-to-the-face reminder of just how far I’ve gone from who I used to be. It’s good to be reminded, but it hurts, too.
I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to be that way, but in a discriminating fashion. There are defintely some people who have problems who milk them for sympathy, refuse to help themselves, and expect other people to do things for them. Teaching Special Ed it is defintiely easy to separate the sheep from the goats, so to speak. Some kids really work to overcome their problems, and others use it as a way to get other people to do the work for them.
That’s the sort of thing I meant.
Eeep. It just now occurred to me (yes, I’m that thick) that the last ‘graph of my reply could be interpreted as terribly insulting. I apologize for that; I didn’t mean to imply that being like you is a bad thing. I was lamenting how much I’ve changed, that’s all. I hope you weren’t too offended.
Ok, so I didn’t RTFA…
I still think the basic thesis is BS.
Personally, I’ve had some very traumatic experiences. There’s some emotional scars/baggage, sure. But there are a huge number of positive effects as well.
Forgive my slack use of english here…alcohol and all that.
For example, my ‘parents’ were never there for me. In one instance, when I was 14, my mother told me to hitchhike 20 miles home…in January…in a blizzard…in sub-zero Wisconsin. Her logic was, “you found your way out there, you find your way back.”
Maybe not the most traumatic of events but it was one of many things that forced me to be self-reliant, autonomous, and confident in myself.
Er… that would serve to confirm the thesis (that traumatic experiences aren’t as debilitating in the long-run as previously believed).
Didn’t read the article + drunken fool = I don’t have a clue
Honestly, I’d have to come somewhere down the middle.
Depending on the trauma and the person, how can you be sure of a result?
Read the article, if you get a chance. It wasn’t making an absolute statement, it was stating an average. An average that defies the conventional wisdom.
Used to be a time when people just accepted life’s bad with its good and went with the flow. Those people raised children who grew up focussing on the bad and its effects, trying to change the world by making it realize all the harm it does. To children, no less.
The first generation would just have a drink, wind down, and get on with life. The next generation looked at that drinking as an illness and an unhealthy escape. The first generation went to AA, then gave up. The second generation went to Alanon and complained, and complained, and complained.
Not really. The ones who went to Alanon were seriously injured by the effects that alcohol (I hate to add “-ism” to that) had on their respective families.
I’m addressing, though, the relative “normal” ones who more or less thrived on drinking. But it wasn’t drinking in excess; it was social and acceptable. And that relative to the Man in the Grey Suit. Hmm…
I’ve been struggling for a long while with this idea that I will always be “sick” because I was sexually abused. Sure, it affected me differently than it did others who were also sexually abused. I can’t really identify the parameters which made it different for me. I know of people who had it far worse than I, and yet they seem to have come out of it comparatively unscathed. Meanwhile I attend therapy and periodically work through sex abuse survivor workbooks.
I start to wonder if all of this “work” I’m doing to “heal” isn’t doing more harm than good.
I didn’t really fully comprehend that I was sexually abused until I was 17 when I told D.B., who then told me to tell my parents and get some counseling. I thought that was absurd. I would have preferred to just let it go and move on with life. And honestly, I didnt’ even start thinking about anything that happened to me before I was 9 until recently. It just didn’t affect me until people started suggesting there might be other incidents and that what they did was wrong and that I can heal and yadda yadda.
Of course “they”‘re right. The abuser was in the wrong and I can heal. But I wonder if I could have healed better and more quickly had I just not brought it up later on, those 8 years after it had happened. Why re-open that can of worms?
Why? Truthfully I can’t tell you why. Why does society want the children who were violated to remember and relive the abuse?
Do you know part of therapy for the sexually or otherwise abused person is role play wherein you actually relive the experience, only as an adult, and as an adult you can tell the then non-existant abuser that what he’s doing is wrong. Tell me, what does that help?
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with psychology/psychiatry. I think in some cases they do a lot of good, but in others the harm they cause is tremendous. Of course they do it inadvertently. They believe that they’re helping because of their great Degrees and Education they must know better.
I dislike that the study was censured, but I understand why. it’s because in this day and age society’s sensibilities are far more hightened and sensitized than they were half a century ago.
How does this make me feel? A little less pressured to dig up the old muck and look at it again. I already feel like that’s not my story anymore, I’ve given it away so many times as it is. I feel like someone is speaking up for those of us who just really would like to move on and be “well” for a change.
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