Monday, December 11, 2006

Why You Have PTSD Even Though You Do Not Live in a Trailer

But chillingly, trauma has a second, even more covert mechanism. It can affect children and adults directly, as in primary trauma, or it can function vicariously, make a long, stealthy leap from one person's mind to another person's, across space and time. Secondary trauma, the vicarious sort, is a term used most often by psychotherapists, to refer to the fact that a person (such as a psychotherapist) can begin to show significant symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder merely from hearing repeated stories about the traumatic experiences of other people (such as trauma patients). Secondary trauma quietly and pervasively occurs even in the lives of those who are not psychotherapists and who do not treat trauma patients, for the simple reason that, in a world where too many children have never even slpet on a mattress, extreme human misery is not far removed from any of us.
Stout wrote this in 2001, before post-Katrina/breach New Orleans. She would not have to dig to such far-flung "extremes" for her American audience now. (No mattress? What about no food? No parents? No clean water? No homeland or country?) Americans have been able to ignore suffering abroad but for a few weeks were incensed by the suffering in their own country.

Stout, Martha. The Myth of Sanity: Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness. New York: Penguin, 2001: 62-63.

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