Trauma and Recovery

Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence--from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror

I had a nasty little incident in my share house last Sunday night.

One of my housemates (to cut a long story short) had a loud, drunken party that included a drunken, aggressive idiot. My other housemate asked him to turn the noise down so she could sleep and, as a result, all hell broke loose. It excited the drunken aggressive idiot and he then tried to provoke a fight with me in the kitchen.

I found this a highly traumatic experience. It occurred after I had returned from seeing Snowtown, a film concerned with male violence and the way it conditions social structures, so I was probably extra-distressed. Anyway, when I began to write a critique of Snowtown for my blog, it made me go back and look for a quote from the book Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman.

Essentially, Dr Herman coined the term ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’ in relation to soldiers returned from war, but extended her discussion to include the presence of the disorder amongst women who had been victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse (rape and incest). It was suggested to me by a psychologist I went to see in my early twenties that I was manifesting the symptoms of the disorder as a result of my childhood (bull-goose loony father and boarding house experiences), as well as working as a bouncer.

The quote that always stuck in my head related to her use of the word ‘atrocity’. We generally hear it used in relation to war, but Herman also uses it in a domestic context. She says that an atrocity is something unspeakable; by speaking the name of the crime, you are effectively breaking the social compact.

Trying to find this quote got me googling, and I came across this page:

I’m not exactly sure what it is, but I assume it is a condensing of some of the salient ideas from the book. Although I read it maybe fifteen years ago, it amazed me how much of the text returned with the force of a revelation. In relation to the party-gone-awry last Sunday night, the thing that really struck me is that apparently, one of the things that distinguishes ‘survivor behaviour’ is ‘uncontrollable outbursts of anger and strict intolerance of rage in any form’. 

That sentence could be used to describe both my father and myself. I find I can control my anger much better now; otherwise there would have been a brawl last week-end.

One of the other things described in the linked article are the ‘features of highly resilient people’:
1. Alert, active temperament

2. Unusual sociability

3. Good communicating skills

4. Strong internal locus of control



These things are also true of me, but strangely, not things I would have drawn on in a discussion of the subject.


When looking for an image, I found the following link:

The entire text of Trauma and Recovery can be downloaded there for free!


One Response to “Trauma and Recovery”

  1. You can delete this post after reading it, im sorry to hear you had a rough time with your your folks and boarding school. Im shocked and saddened, I always remember your dad being a charming charismatic kinda guy. Im going to tell you something, your family was the ideal family in my mind whenever I had to think of an ideal family until I started reading this blog. Rich, happy, an amazing house and your whole family was all good looking, fit and healthy. But the main thing I remembered about your mum and dad seemed to be happy and in love with real passion. My folks and every other folks I ever knew were fat slovenly depressives, medicated in one way or another and always bickering, just together because they were too fat and couldnt be bothered to find anyone else. It really messes with my conceptual reality to hear that things werent wonderful for you as I remember, I just cant accept it honestly. I used to love going over to your house, its one of my favorite childhood memories. As you said we dont know each other. Im still going to lurk here though sorry mate, cant help caring about you.

    Another thing was youve mentioned boarding school was rough on you, Im sorry to hear that, after our friendship split I always imagined you were having a great time at boarding shool with heaps of new better mates. About a year or 2 later I telephone called your mum and got your number at the boarding school and called up to say hi, they put me on hold forever while they got you which was big bucks in phone bills at the time and then at the last minute when I heard you come to the phone I chickened out and hung up.. pretty lame.. maybe you could have used a friendly word, well your getting it now 20 years late but not too late.

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