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I Never Wanted to Be a Stereotype

A Sociologist’s Narrative of Healing

Cindy Brooks Dollar

Trauma and its consequences are social phenomena. Coming from a working-class family and raised in a small, rural Southern area, this author's narrative offers a unique style of life history reporting whereby the author uses her academic standpoint to situate her life experiences in broader macro-social and cultural contexts. Weaving scholarship with personal narrative, the author highlights connections between self and social awareness, which is crucial, especially in a modern, Western context where the rhetoric of excessive individualism is prioritized. Discussing various issues, including objectification, violence, isolation, stigma, trauma, shame, integration, healing, peace, and love, she illustrates the application and significance of sociological knowledge to individual life. Many chapters include and conclude with excerpts from the author’s diary entries, which she has maintained for over 30 years. These provide a relatively unfiltered glimpse into her personal and social consciousness throughout various life stages, including adolescence, teens, young and middle adulthood. The book closes with a summary of existing research on trauma and recovery, which often promotes the use of body-based therapies. The author argues that these findings have important implications for sociology given the body’s symbolic socio-cultural status and how it is used to maintain existing inequalities and inequities, which (re)produce shared forms of trauma and differential access to recovery.

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Chapter 2. Memories of Mine

Extract

· 2 · MEMORIES OF MINE

By high school I was consciously aware of my seemingly endless history of sexualized maltreatment. When I was 15 years old, someone – I’m still not sure who – referred me to a therapy group held at the high school I was attending. The group was for teenagers deemed “troubled.” The only similarity I could determine amongst us was that we all used some form of illegal drugs, some of us thought it recreational; others, problematic. The group met during one of our class periods and it was led by Angela, a counselor who traveled between schools doing these group talk sessions.

Our meeting place was in the school’s administrative quarters near the school counselors and principals’ offices. During the meetings, the 5– 10 of us sat a circle, the tall ceiling giving us vertical space but the stark white walls impinging our ability to feel free. There were only three “real” walls to this meeting place because one quarter of the room was bordered with a musty accordion screen. Sure, the make-shift wall provided a smaller, more intimate space, but it also provided a lower sense of protection than the thick plaster walls. I remember the sound of that screen being pulled right before group started, a hummed flutter of thumping as the pleats unfolded. Things are about to change here, I think, giving the walls a voice. In case it isn’t obvious, I found the room suspiciously blunt.

Angela, though,...

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