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Trauma and Literature: Process Log 03
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- Chirag Mehta
- Trauma and Literature
- Prof. Martin J. Gliserman
- 18 Feb. 2003
Trauma and Literature: Process Log 03
This is a process log of a different sort. Rather than simply explain what I think Toni Morrison or Judith Herman meant to say, I feel compelled to write how they make me think. As I sit here in the Student Center (and for once I am writing with pen and paper, instead of typing directly into a word processor), I look around, at people. I hear no thoughts, only see movements; college students talking, gossiping, laughing, eating, and studying in groups. Any other day I would be just one of them. But not as I complete the final twenty pages of Beloved. I am thinking right now; thinking more, doing less.
How might one read a piece of writing without trying to associate every character and incident with himself and his life? As I read about Denver's loneliness, I immediately realize I sit all alone in the Student Center, ten thousand miles away from every person I knew for the first twenty years of my life. And yet just two days ago I was in this same place with a friend, laughing over how ignorant the President is. Though my situation is nothing like Denver, Sethe, Paul D, or Stamp Paid, for some reason, I inevitably try to find similarities - if we have the same story to tell, if we feel the same, do we think the same? Rather than depressing or traumatizing me, the reader, the story disturbs me, quite possibly what the author intended.
And yet I feel equally disturbed reading the chapter 'A healing relationship' by Herman, and I am only hoping she did not purposely intend to disturb her readers too. What is disturbing is that despite having no text-book definition 'trauma' (Holocaust, PTSD, death in family, childhood abuse, captivity or imprisonment, physical abuse, accidents etc.), I somehow find myself feeling exactly how the Vietnam Veteran felt or what a rape victim might feel just an hour after the incident. The mental anguish of others does not seem alien to me, though in fact it should, for I have fortunately never had to suffer anything sufficiently traumatic. And this isn't a form of compassion either, for I feel no sorrow for them, rather I find myself wanting to take their place and get into the dark spotlight of grief. Reading about trauma, somehow arouses feeling deep within me that I never knew existed, of longing, of sharing, of touching. Could trauma be as much an innate feeling as love and desire is? Does realizing the trauma of others excavate some sort of ancient trauma, inherent to the human species?
Of course, within two hours, I will be at the movies with my roommate, metamorphosed into a very different person than the author of this log. However what is evident from the writings of these authors, is that the human mind is very complex, not just physiologically, but emotionally too - the more one tries to get into it, the more entangled and complex it gets. And unfortunately that is exactly the reason why it is so very difficult to recover from trauma and function 'normally' in the society thereafter. If I, having never been through any of the severe traumatic incidents, am feeling so disturbed and confused, then I can only imagine what the real victim goes through. Moreover, if merely reading few lines about the victim makes me think so much, I cannot even imagine how Psychologists and Psychoanalysts manage to maintain the delicate relationship that their patient so desperately needs and seeks. Maybe that is something they teach at Med-school, how to disassociate from a patient's trauma, but Toni Morrison's average reader certainly knows not much about it, and guided by the author's voice, rows forth through the ups and downs of the story's currents.
In all of my other classes, too much importance is placed on linear thought processes, organized design, and simplified systems. Writing a one page paper takes at least an hour. These two pages took me less than 25 minutes, simply because I wanted to see whether I can still thinking 'naturally' (i.e. spontaneously without chronologizing and sorting out everything), and still make sense, at least enough sense to elicit a few thoughts from whoever reads this.