On the Nature of Persons, Trauma & Healing

I hate the concept of an “issue book.”

I hate the language, as there is something about the notion of ‘issue’ that makes the question discussed seem intrinsically negative, evil, or problematic, as if being wounded was something that made one who has this ‘issue’ (say, novels about domestic or sexual violence) seem less-human, less-worthy, or so essentially different from others that there needs to be an entirely independent category for speaking about those who stand as victims.

I would say that this is a completely disproportionate, or ultimately unhelpful and incorrect, understanding of the nature of abuse, of addiction; of “issues,” whatever those issues might be. I stray away from speaking about novels that discuss hard questions as “issue books,” given that this rhetoric misses the process by which someone becomes an abuser and, then, the process by which one comes to be abused; before then, this question misses what has to happen in a life for someone to be fully healthy and therefore “not an issue.”

I learned a long time ago, and clinical psychology advances continue to affirm this, that we have to be given who we are, and that, if we are (in a general sense) born into families without affective and emotional wholeness, we will suffer the ‘consequences’ (in other words, not receive everything we need to just be and to be whole), and this might impair our entire lives.

For some reading on this question, as I’m just going to toss this out as a reflection for now, I’d say you can read Christian Smith’s What is a Person?, Alasdair MacIntyre’s Dependent, Rational Animals, and modern reviews of studies about marasmus babies and Romanian orphans. I’ve also quoted J. Brennan Mullaney’s Authentic Love before, and consider this book essential reading, especially for those who are given the gift of being parents.

Studies also continue to insist on the possibility of receiving huge emotional healing, and without breaking details here, I know it’s possible–in a way that I could not have possibly imagined when, years ago, someone proposed to me the possibility and I moved on it.

To this day, I owe that person my entire life.

I’ve ministered to persons with wounds like this, and they’ve shaken my entire understanding of the human person, of human dependency, of human needs, and I’ve compiled lists of books and resources stemming from this experience in ministry over many years.

2 thoughts on “On the Nature of Persons, Trauma & Healing

  1. Naomi Craig (@theslyeagle) says:

    I think it’s more the culture and the stigmas around “issues” than the word itself. On the one hand, marking a book as such helps people who are impacted by the issue find the book and benefit from it. But then it also helps the public at large avoid engaging with it. Keep someone else’s reality out of my fiction, and all. I’m skeptical that rebranding them to something like “Healing Cycle Stories” would convince such readers to engage and cease othering survivors of various issues. But if it helps trauma survivors overcome the shame of being stigmatized and engage with healing, obviously do it! Recognizing that what’s happening isn’t normal and that it can get better is such a common hurdle when the cultural attitude is so negative and uninformed. It took me most of my adult life to get a diagnosis, in no small part because the doctors themselves were dismissive.

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  2. Norman Dean says:

    I love this: “I learned a long time ago, and clinical psychology advances continue to affirm this, that we have to be given who we are, and that, if we are (in a general sense) born into families without affective and emotional wholeness, we will suffer the ‘consequences’ (in other words, not receive everything we need to just be and to be whole), and this might impair our entire lives.” Being born into a dysfunctional family myself, I was hard, cold, prone to violence and not a nice person. Incarcerated in a maximum security prison at 16, I was caught in a self-inflicted whirlwind of misery and despair. After 35 years I was released. Self-educated and confident, good husband (rough edges and all), a proud member of society, and a dad who tries to be the kind of dad I wished I’d had. Yes, healing is possible. I, too, have experienced it.

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