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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 10. Final Thoughts

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· 1 0 · FINAL THOUGHTS

We are socio-political-psycho-spiritual beings. Emancipatory human action requires appreciating, grasping, understanding, and embodying our complete being. Throughout this book, I try to point out, sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly, the extensive links between various aspects of our social life, including our individual and collective health and healing. Like Mills and Berger’s sociological research, which I briefly describe in Chapter 6, Erich Fromm has written much about the relationship between individual and social predicaments. He suggests that prevalent personal dilemmas are indicative of socio-political values. Taking this relationship seriously blurs the distinction between individual and social problems and reconciliations. Such an argument is succinctly expressed in the feminist consciousness-raising phrase “the personal is political.”

All of us can encourage one another to purposefully participate in the creation and direction of a social life that reflects our own lives. Such an argument is reminiscent of existential sociology. Existential sociology asks culturally informed existential questions about the human condition. Generally speaking, this subdiscipline of sociology suggests that modernity brings more instability and coercion to institutions than previous times because contemporary institutions are less reflective of people’s lived experiences. The resulting detachment produces an increased likelihood of complacently and alienation as people are less likely to see the institutions and their arrangements as relevant to their own lives, especially in any meaningful way. Existential sociology, like peacemaking criminology, which is described in Chapter 6, centralizes our liberation potential. Both perspectives also characterize knowledge and understanding as...

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