Tag: denial of trauma

Dreaming of a Safe America

The United States, perhaps like all nations and all people, is caught in unconscious, conflicting drives and denied vulnerabilities. In Dreaming Up America, historical novelist Russell Banks identified three dreams at the heart of America’s unconscious conflicts, dreams that originally drew people to America: “There was El Dorado, the City of Gold that Cortez and …

The secrets in our silences

I began reading the book History Beyond Trauma by Françoise Davoine and Jean-Max Gaudillière during a turbulent time in my life — when deaths, losses, and uncertainties continually piled up. Despite my best efforts to remain optimistic and push forward with life as planned, traumatic stress was threatening to be more than a subject I …

Want to reduce mental illness? Address trauma. Want to save the world? Address trauma.

Different explanations have been given for the increased number of people suffering from mental illness. Some have claimed the increase is the result of ever-expanding diagnostic criteria and syndromes that risk medicalizing normal emotional reactions. Others argue the increase is the result of the pharmaceutical industry financially courting the medical establishment as well as using …

Trauma nation?

Medicine is where hope is alive and well in America. During the past fifty years, due to rapid advances in microbiology, many persons who once might have died prematurely, or suffered debilitating diseases or disorders, instead enjoy productive lives, albeit often with chronic illnesses to manage. Through its near-miracle successes, the field has engendered the …

Shopping our way to extinction

We humans have been destroying environments and eradicating species throughout our history. When some of our ancestors arrived in the Americas over 10,000 years ago, they wiped out at least 70 genera of large mammals and literally millions of animals — including ground sloths, camels, wild pigs, and several species of horses. Not much seems to …

The mental health field has a branding problem

For over two centuries, the mental health field, and psychiatry in particular, has actively cultivated a “brand,” distinguishing itself as a remedy for societal ills, largely by adapting its philosophy and methods to the dominant social agenda. In 1793, when Dr. Philippe Pinel initiated reforms in the Salpêtriere and Bicêtre Hospitals in Paris where the …

“The Why Factor”: Cultural memory and PTSD

Screen Shot of BBCs "The Why Factor."

BBC’s The Why Factor posted two short podcasts (18 minutes each) on trauma — one on cultural memories of traumatic events and the other on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “Cultural Memory” explores how societies respond collectively to traumatic memories, such as war and extreme human rights violations, which often involves silencing memories of the past as …

The impact of trauma on protecting and preserving Earth

Photo: Oak tree in grassy field.

Do you worry about the nuclear waste and bombs squirreled away in underground bunkers? And wonder what would happen if there weren’t humans constantly monitoring these stockpiles? Such questions once led me to read Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us (2007), which explores what would happen to the planet if humans suddenly disappeared. His book answers the …

ADHD: When meds (and genes) become a failure to act

Photo of mural in San Francisco's Mission District.

While reading a 2007 press release from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), I became unusually hopeful for youths diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A study performed jointly by the NIMH and the National Institute of Health revealed the brains of youths with ADHD develop normally but at different rates. In the prefrontal …

Love and the split self

The other night, I watched the movie, Take This Waltz (2011). (I try not to give the ending away, but if it’s in your movie queue, you might want to pass on reading the rest of this paragraph.) The protagonist, a young Canadian woman, is happily married, although not excited about her life.  She writes …

Dioramic visions of a forgotten past

Do you remember childhood field trips to science museums, gazing into dioramas of our distant ancestors? Perhaps you saw artistic renditions of Homo erectus huddled around a fire, or sitting near a faux cave carving stone tools, a nod to our ancestors’ fledgling cognitive capacities and more human-like traits. Saber-tooth cats or woolly mammoths were …

Shopping for families

After decades as an American consumer, I have finally developed the acumen necessary for surviving the holiday shopping season. With the exception of a few hectic hours, I have so far successfully avoided malls and online shopping. Truly, I feel blessed this holiday season. Unfortunately, I have not escaped saturation with advertisements for the makings …

Born to be raised

I often wonder what it would take to heal centuries of violence, oppression, complicated grief, and emotional neglect. And yet the impulse to heal, social engineer, and reform often seems symptomatic of what is traumatizing about the US and the West in general — that perpetual need to fix a broken system. We know things aren’t right with the …

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

I typically ignore national awareness initiatives saddled to particular months. There are simply too many of them. For example, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month; Crime Prevention Month; Health Literacy Month; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender History Month; National Breast Cancer Awareness Month; National Cyber Security Awareness Month; National Disability Employment Awareness Month; National Family Sexuality …

Trauma’s imaginal worlds

Few people pass from birth to death without intimate knowledge of trauma’s capacity to alter the landscape of the psyche. So many experiences are traumatizing: war, rape, death, car accidents, hurricanes, earthquakes, bullying, scapegoating, incest, family violence, racism, homophobia—and this, a cursory list at best. Even if you are fortunate enough to dodge trauma, its …

Research on traumatic stress supports paradigm shift

In the mental health system, the biomedical model is the dominant paradigm. It depicts mental disorders as chronic diseases requiring lifelong treatment with medication (like diabetes or high blood pressure). This model of mental illness has been under attack in the US, where an estimated 20 percent of the population regularly takes psychiatric medications. Arguments …

What good is there in remembering trauma?

Would you erase devastating memories if given the chance? By blocking a memory-sustaining enzyme, scientists in America and Israel have successfully eliminated long-term memories in rats. Until now, long-term memories were thought to develop with structural changes in the synaptic connections between neurons, making it difficult to imagine removing painful memories without damaging the brain. …

Foretelling extinction?

Mental illness has reached epidemic proportions. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates eighteen percent of American adults suffer from a mental disorder each year. The World Health Organization (WHO) claims depression is the leading cause of disability in the world. These numbers, however, do not do justice to the burden of mental illness in our …