Trauma inevitably brings loss. Even those who are lucky enough to escape physically unscathed still lose the internal psychological structures of a self securely attached to others. Those who are physically harmed lose in addition their sense of bodily integrity. And those who lose important people in their lives face a new void in their relationships with friends, family, or community. Traumatic losses rupture the ordinary sequence of generations and defy the ordinary social conventions of bereavement. The telling of the trauma story thus inevitably plunges the survivor into the profound grief. Since so many of the losses are invisible or unrecognized, the customary rituals of mourning provide little consolation.
The descent into mourning is at once the most necessary and the most dreaded task of this stage of recovery. Patients often fear that the task is insurmountable, that once they allow themselves to start grieving they will never stop. Danieli quotes a 74-year-old widow who survived the Nazi Holocaust: “Even if it takes one year to mourn each loss, and even if I live to be 107 [and mourn all members of my family], what do I do about the rest of the six million?”
The survivor frequently resists mourning, not only out of fear but also out of pride. She may consciously refuse to grieve as a way of denying victory to the perpetrator….Reclaiming the ability to feel the full range of emotions, including grief, must be understood as an act of resistance rather than submission to the perpetrator’s intent. Only through mourning everything that she has lost can the patient discover her indestructible inner life….
…Resistance to mourning can take on numerous disguises. Most frequently it appears as a fantasy of magical resolution through revenge, forgiveness, or compensation.
The revenge fantasy is often a mirror image of the traumatic memory, in which the roles of perpetrator and victim are reversed. It often has the same grotesque, frozen, and wordless quality as the traumatic memory itself. The revenge fantasy is one form of the wish for catharsis. The victim imagines that she can get rid of the terror, shame, and pain of the trauma by retaliating against the perpetrator. The desire for revenge also arises out of the experience of complete helplessness. In her humiliated fury, the victim imagines that revenge is the only way to restore her own sense of power. She may also imagine that this is the only way to force the perpetrator to acknowledge the harm he has done to her.
Though the traumatized person imagines that revenge will bring relief, repetitive revenge fantasies actually increase her torment….During the process of mourning, the survivor must come to terms with the impossibility of getting even. As she vents her rage in safety, her helpless fury gradually changes into a more powerful and satisfying form of anger: righteous indignation. …Giving up the fantasy of revenge does not mean giving up the quest for justice; on the contrary, it begins the process of joining with others to hold the perpetrator accountable for his crimes.
Revolted by the fantasy of revenge, some survivors attempt to bypass their outrage altogether through a fantasy of forgiveness. This fantasy, like its polar opposite, is an attempt at empowerment. The survivor imagines that she can transcend her rage and erase the impact of the trauma through a willed, defiant act of love. But it is not possible to exorcise the trauma, through either hatred or love. Like revenge, the fantasy of forgiveness often becomes a cruel torture…true forgiveness cannot be granted until the perpetrator has sought and earned it through confession, repentance, and restitution.
Genuine contrition in a perpetrator is a rare miracle. Fortunately, the survivor does not need to wait for it. Her healing depends on the discovery of restorative love in her own life; it does not require the love be extended to the perpetrator. Once the survivor has mourned the traumatic event, she may be surprised to discover how uninteresting the perpetrator has become to her and how little concern she feels for his fate. She may even feel sorrow and compassion for him, but this disengaged feeling is not the same as forgiveness."
When a white teenager named Steve Lohner was stopped by the police last month and refused to show his ID after carrying a loaded shotgun on the streets of Aurora, Colorado (the same city where a mass murderer killed 12 people and injured 70 others in a packed movie theater in July 2012), the teen walked away with nothing but a citation.
But when a 22-year-old black kid named John Crawford picked up a mere BB gun in a Walmart store in Dayton, Ohio last week, customers called the police, who then shot and killed him.
Here lies a racial disparity that’s difficult for honest people to ignore. How can black people openly carry a real gun when we can’t even pick up a BB gun in a store without arousing suspicion? The answer in America is that the Second Amendment doesn’t really apply to black people."
national moment of silence 2014 (for victims of police brutality)
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