chapter  6
21 Pages

Trauma and dissociation

The idea of trauma and being traumatised has become increasingly employed in everyday language and also in clinical practice. Many people describe that they feel that they have been ‘traumatised’ by an event, or that certain events are traumatic. This is often equivalent to a statement that the experience was frightening and upsetting and that it continues to play on their mind – that they cannot stop thinking about it or alternatively that thoughts about the events break through or interrupt their thinking processes in unpleasant and uncontrollable ways. An aspect of such statements is that although the event may not be consciously in our awareness, painful memories of it can be unexpectedly and uncontrollably triggered by some chance reminders, such as the smell of the floor polish in a hospital or the sound of a car door closing reminding us of an illness or an attack. Embedded in such statements can be an idea that there are some qualities of events that in themselves are inherently traumatic, that they will invariably produce a traumatic state. It is important to draw out of this a distinction that events in themselves may not in fact be trauma inducing, rather there is some process whereby they come to be so. This is in contrast to explanations that feature individual vulnerability, for example that some people are prone to be traumatised, that they are somehow vulnerable or in some way ‘weak’. Arguably, it was such thinking that suggested that only some soldiers were prone to shellshock in conditions of battle in wars.