Dr. Judith Herman’s book Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror, as The New York Times wrote, is “one of the most important psychiatric works published since Freud.” It is the foundational text, along with The Body Keeps Score, written by Dr. Herman’s close collaborator Bessel van der Kolk, for understanding trauma and how to treat it. Trauma is widespread in American society, not only among veterans that fought in our forever wars, but in millions of homes across the country beset by domestic and sexual violence. One in five Americans was sexually molested as a child. One in four was beaten by a parent to the point of a mark being left on their body. One in three couples engages in physical violence. A quarter of us grew up with alcoholic relatives. One out of eight witnessed their mother being beaten or hit. The consequence of this trauma is personal and social. It impels people, Dr. Herman writes, both to withdraw from close relationships and to seek them desperately. It results in a profound disruption in basic trust. It induces feelings of shame, guilt and inferiority, as well as the need to avoid reminders of the trauma that occur in daily life. Trauma compromises the capacity for intimacy. Trauma can dramatically reduce focus to extremely limited goals, often a matter of hours or days. It often engenders the survivor triad of insomnia, nightmares and psychosomatic illnesses. Chronic trauma can result in a paralysis of initiative, feelings of apathy, helplessness and depression. And it can see survivors, to blunt the pain of the trauma, engage in a variety of self-destructive behaviors, a retreat into drugs, alcohol and self-harm, including suicide. In short, repeated trauma forms and deforms the personality, especially when this trauma occurs in childhood. Trauma is of epidemic proportions in the U.S. The failure to address our trauma has grave individual, social and political consequences. In the first of two-parts Dr. Herman, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and cofounder of the Victims of Violence Program, discusses her book Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. Next week we will discuss her new book Truth and Repair: How Trauma Survivors Envision Justice.
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The Chris Hedges Report Podcast
Covering US foreign policy, economic realities, and civil liberties in American society.