Speaking the Unspeakable

  • April 24, 2010
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From Dr. Judith Lewis Herman’s Trauma and Recovery, a definitive work on this subject:

Dr. Judith Herman, author of "Trauma and Recovery"

“The ordinary response to atrocities is to banish them from consciousness. Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this is the meaning of the word unspeakable.

“Atrocities, however, refuse to be buried. Equally as powerful as the desire to deny atrocities is the conviction that denial does not work…Remembering and telling the truth about terrible events are prerequisites both for the restoration of the social order and the healing of individual victims.

“The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma…When the truth is finally recognized, survivors can begin their recovery. But far too often secrecy prevails, and the story of the traumatic event surfaces not as a verbal narrative but as a symptom.”

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