Thursday, December 11, 2008

Psychological trauma or unexperienced experience

Excerpt of an article by psychiatrist Ivor Browne

I call this sphere. . . the sphere of "between." Though being realized in very different degrees, it is a primal category of human reality. This is where the genuine third alternative must begin.
Martin Buber (1938)

My thesis is such that it is hard to understand why it is not already part of our everyday knowledge. Simply, when something happens to us, we do not experi­ence all of it at once. Experiencing is a process that takes place over time. It in­volves neurophysiological and somatic work on the part of the person to whom the experience happens. Further, the amount of work that is involved depends on how serious the nature of this external challenge is and several other internal factors that I will go into later.

I have perused much of the voluminous literature that has appeared in recent years in rela­tion to post-traumatic stress disorder as well as the literature on traumatic neurosis written dur­ing the nineteenth century. And yet, this simple awareness that experiencing something is a process that takes place within us over time seems to have been missed. Simply, when some­thing happens to us we do not experience all of it at once. This is all the more strange because if we consider our everyday experience of life, we know that if something disturbing happens to us -- say, for example, an unpleasant argument with someone on a Friday afternoon -- we may find ourselves going over and over it during the weekend and unable to escape the unpleasant feeling attached to it or resolve the problem. But then, having slept on it for a couple of nights, we wake up on Monday morning no longer troubled, even though we may have had no further communication with the person involved. Somehow the problem is now solved. This to me is clear evidence that some work has been going on within us during this couple of days so that the experience is now integrated into ourselves, is becoming memory, and has moved from something in the present, something unsettled and current, into the past.

There appear to be two main reasons why this simple phenomenon of everyday experience has been overlooked. The first reason involves certain historical factors that surrounded the early work of Sigmund Freud, now just a hundred years ago, for it was he who first clearly drew attention to the whole issue of traumatic neurosis. The second reason has to do with the way in which we use language. I would like to deal with each of the reasons for this oversight in more detail.


Watch a documentary about this amazing man http://www.rte.ie/tv/wouldyoubelieve/ivorbrowne.html You will need the free realplayer available from www.realplayer.com

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