I immersed myself in my relationship with my husband, in little ways at first. Dutch would come home from his morning workout and I’d bring him coffee as he stepped out of the shower. He’d slip into a crisp white shirt and dark slacks and run a little goop through his hair, and I’d eye him in the mirror with desire and a sultry smile that he couldn’t miss. He’d head to work and I’d put a love note in his bag—just a line about how proud I was of him. How beautiful he was. How happy I was as his wife.He’d come home and cook dinner and instead of camping out in front of the TV while he fussed in the kitchen, I’d keep him company at the kitchen table and we’d talk about our days, about our future, about whatever came to mind. After dinner, he’d clear the table and I’d do the dishes, making sure to compliment him on the meal. On those weekends when he’d head outside to mow the lawn, I’d bring him an ice-cold beer. And, in those times when Dutch was in the mood and maybe I wasn’t, well, I got in the mood and we had fun.As the weeks passed and I kept discovering little ways to open myself up to him, the most amazing thing happened. I found myself falling madly, deeply, passionately, head-over-heels in love with my husband. I’d loved him as much as I thought I could love anybody before I’d married him, but in treating him like my own personal Superman, I discovered how much of a superhero he actually was. How giving he was. How generous. How kind, caring, and considerate. How passionate. How loving. How genuinely good. And whatever wounds had never fully healed from my childhood finally, at long last, formed scar tissue. It was like being able to take a full breath of air for the first time in my life. It was transformative. And it likely would save our marriage, because, at some point, all that withholding would’ve turned a loving man bitter. On some level I think I’d known that and yet I’d needed my sister to point it out to me and help me change.Sometimes it’s good to have people in your life that know you better than you know yourself.
While in principle groups for survivors are a good idea, in practice it soon becomes apparent that to organize a successful group is no simple matter. Groups that start out with hope and promise can dissolve acrimoniously, causing pain and disappointment to all involved. The destructive potential of groups is equal to their therapeutic promise. The role of the group leader carries with it a risk of the irresponsible exercise of authority.Conflicts that erupt among group members can all too easily re-create the dynamics of the traumatic event, with group members assuming the roles of perpetrator, accomplice, bystander, victim, and rescuer. Such conflicts can be hurtful to individual participants and can lead to the group’s demise. In order to be successful, a group must have a clear and focused understanding of its therapeutic task and a structure that protects all participants adequately against the dangers of traumatic reenactment. Though groups may vary widely in composition and structure, these basic conditions must be fulfilled without exception.Commonality with other people carries with it all the meanings of the word common. It means belonging to a society, having a public role, being part of that which is universal. It means having a feeling of familiarity, of being known, of communion. It means taking part in the customary, the commonplace, the ordinary, and the everyday. It also carries with it a feeling of smallness, or insignificance, a sense that one’s own troubles are ‘as a drop of rain in the sea.’ The survivor who has achieved commonality with others can rest from her labors. Her recovery is accomplished; all that remains before her is her life.
Underlying the attack on psychotherapy, I believe, is a recognition of the potential power of any relationship of witnessing. The consulting room is a privileged space dedicated to memory. Within that space, survivors gain the freedom to know and tell their stories. Even the most private and confidential disclosure of past abuses increases the likelihood of eventual public disclosure. And public disclosure is something that perpetrators are determined to prevent. As in the case of more overtly political crimes, perpetrators will fight tenaciously to ensure that their abuses remain unseen, unacknowledged, and consigned to oblivion.The dialectic of trauma is playing itself out once again. It is worth remembering that this is not the first time in history that those who have listened closely to trauma survivors have been subject to challenge. Nor will it be the last. In the past few years, many clinicians have had to learn to deal with the same tactics of harassment and intimidation that grassroots advocates for women, children and other oppressed groups have long endured. We, the bystanders, have had to look within ourselves to find some small portion of the courage that victims of violence must muster every day.Some attacks have been downright silly; many have been quite ugly. Though frightening, these attacks are an implicit tribute to the power of the healing relationship. They remind us that creating a protected space where survivors can speak their truth is an act of liberation. They remind us that bearing witness, even within the confines of that sanctuary, is an act of solidarity. They remind us also that moral neutrality in the conflict between victim and perpetrator is not an option. Like all other bystanders, therapists are sometimes forced to take sides. Those who stand with the victim will inevitably have to face the perpetrator's unmasked fury. For many of us, there can be no greater honor. p.246 - 247Judith Lewis Herman, M.D. February, 1997
After a while Mary said, “Zsadist?”“Yeah?”“What are those markings?”His frowned and flicked his eyes over to her, thinking, as if she didn’t know? But then . . . well, she had been a human. Maybe she didn’t. “They’re slave bands. I was . . . a slave.”“Did it hurt when they were put on you?”“Yes.”“Did the same person who cut your face give them to you?”“No, my owner’s hellren did that. My owner . . . she put the bands on me. He was the one who cut my face.”“How long were you a slave?”“A hundred years.”“How did you get free?”“Phury. Phury got me out. That’s how he lost his leg.”“Were you hurt while you were a slave?”Z swallowed hard. “Yes.”“Do you still think about it?”“Yes.” He looked down at his hands, which suddenly were in pain for some reason. Oh, right. He’d made twofists and was squeezing them so tightly his fingers were about to snap off at the knuckles.“Does slavery still happen?”“No. Wrath outlawed it. As a mating gift to me and Bella.”“What kind of slave were you?”Zsadist shut his eyes. Ah, yes, the question he didn’t want to answer. For a while it was all he could do to force himself to stay in the chair. But then, in a falsely level voice, he said,“I was a blood slave. I was used by a female for blood.”The quiet after he spoke bore down on him, a tangible weight.“Zsadist? Can I put my hand on your back?”His head did something that was evidently a nod, because Mary’s gentle palm came down lightly on hisshoulder blade. She moved it in a slow, easy circle.“Those are the right answers,” she said. “All of them.”He had to blink fast as the fire in the furnace’s window became blurry. “You think?” he said hoarsely.“No. I know.
When we are told what is healthy we are being told what is right to think and feel. When we are told what is mentally ill we are being told what ideas, behaviour, and fantasies are wrong. [...] The avenues of escape are blocked by the professioal abuse of pathologizing. To refuse the mental health approach confirms one's 'sickness'. One needs 'therapy', [...] How can we take back therapy [...] from a system which must find illness in order to promote health and which, in order to increase the range of its helping, is obliged to extend the area of sickness. Ever deeper pockets of pathology to be analyzed, ever earlier traumata: primal, prenatal, into my astral body; ever more people into the ritual: the family, the office force, community mental health, analysis for everyone. [...] Its practice may differ [...] but the premise is the same. The work of making soul requires professional help. Soul-making has become restricted by therapy and to therapy. And psychopathology has become restricted to therapy's negative definition of it, reduced to its role in the therapy game.
A vast amount of psychiatric effort has been, and continues to be, devoted to legal and quasi-legal activities. In my opinion, the only certain result has been the aggrandizement of psychiatry. The value to the legal profession and to society as a whole of psychiatric help in administering the criminal law, is, to say the least, uncertain. Perhaps society has been injured, rather than helped, by the furor psychodiagnosticus and psychotherapeuticus in criminology which it invited, fostered, and tolerated.