'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
This blog is a source for intellectual exploration. It includes a list of alternative resources and a source of free books. The placement of an article does not imply that I agree with it, merely that I found it thought-provoking. There are also poems and book reviews. Texts written by me are labelled. Readers are free to re-post anything they like.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Book review: The Enigma of Survival - the underworld of trauma
The evil hour descended on David Morris in the summer of
2009. The former marine and war reporter was in a theater watching a movie with
his then girlfriend and suddenly found himself pacing the lobby with no memory
of having left his seat.
Later, his girlfriend explained that Morris had
fled after an explosion occurred onscreen. He began having dreams of his buddies being ripped apart.
When awake, he would imagine innocent items—an apple or a container of Chinese
Pathological vigilance took root: “Preparing for bed was
like getting ready for a night patrol.” The dreams persisted. “Part of me,” he
admits, “was ashamed of the dreams, of the realization that I was trapped
inside a cliché: the veteran so obsessed with his own past that even his
unconscious made love to it every night.”
Post-traumatic stress disorder is the subject of two new
books, one by Morris and another by war reporter Mac McClelland. The
symptoms are crippling: relentless nightmares, unbidden waking images,
hyperarousal, sleeplessness, and phobias. As a diagnosis, it has existed
colloquially for generations—“shell shock” is one name that survives in
the modern idiom—and it has particular resonance because of this generation’s
wars. (Most soldiers are spared it, though the public tends to think they are
not. A 2012 poll found that most people believe that most post-9/11 veterans
suffer from PTSD. The actual rate has been estimated at between two and 17
Morris thinks the symptoms—a body and mind reacting in fear
long after the threat to life and limb is gone—hardly encompass the experience
of PTSD. Historically, we might have sought out not only shrinks but also
“poetry, our families, or the clergy for solace post horror.” Profitably,
Morris turns to everyone: the Greeks, the great poets of World War I,
historians, anthropologists, and yes, psychiatrists and psychologists.
From such wide consultation comes a masterful
synthesis. The Evil Hours interweaves memoir with a cultural history
of war’s psychic aftermath. Morris chronicles the development of PTSD as an
official diagnosis and its earlier incarnations in other wars. From Homer’s Odyssey to
the venerated war poets, from the crusade for recognition by organized
psychiatry to the modern science of fear and resilience, Morris gives a
sweeping view of the condition, illuminated by meditation on sacrifice and
danger and, in his words, “the enigma of survival.”
Morris wants to know: Why does the world look so different
since he got back from Iraq? How is the Veterans Administration fighting PTSD?
What does one do with the knowledge gleaned from a near-death experience? How
does one tell the untraumatized majority about the conditions that constitute
the underworld of trauma?.. read more: