Tag Archives: black lives matter

Healing Trauma Through Political Action

“To hold traumatic reality in consciousness requires a social context that affirms and protects the victim that that joins victim and witness in a common alliance.  For the individual victim, this context is created by relationships with friends, lovers and family.  For the larger society, the social context is created by political movements that give voice to the disempowered.

The systematic study of psychological trauma therefore depends on the support of a political movement.  Indeed, whether such study can be pursued or discussed in public is itself a political question.  The study of war trauma becomes legitimate only in a context that challenges the sacrifice of young men in war.  The study of trauma in sexual and domestic life becomes legitimate only in a context that challenges the subordination of women and children.  Advanced in the field occur only when they are supported by a political movement powerful enough to legitimate an alliance between investigators and patients and to counteract the ordinary social processes of silencing and denial.  In the absence of strong political movements for human rights, the active process of bearing witness is inevitably gives way to the active process of forgetting.  Repression, dissociation, and denial are phenomena of social as well as individual consciousness.

Judith Herman, M.D., wrote these words in 1992 in her seminal work, Trauma and Recovery, and they carry more weight today than they ever have.  We cannot do this alone, people.  We need our policy makers backing the efforts of those bearing witness.