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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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Appendix. Summarizing Trauma-Related Research to Promote Understandings of Social Trauma



Interest in acknowledging and understanding trauma has increased in the last few decades resulting in greater attention among the public, clinicians, and researchers. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines trauma as the emotional response someone has to an extremely negative event. More elaborated definitions of trauma characterize it as a situation wherein one’s amount of stress is overwhelming and exceeds one’s ability to cope or integrate the emotions involved with that experience. This focus on trauma as a personal experience is helpful in its ability to understand physiological responses to trauma and to identify trauma-related symptomology and potential pathways for individual treatment, but relying on a strictly psychological understanding of trauma limits our awareness of its social causes and consequences. Trauma is, no doubt, personally impactful, but it is also socially injurious. Recognizing, reveling, confronting, and transforming our traumatic experiences can also be socially valuable. Below, I provide a brief review of trauma-related research and discuss how our individual life stories and trauma-related experiences are linked to broader socio-cultural issues.

What Do Medical Studies Say About Trauma?

Conclusions from neurobiological studies indicate that the limbic system begins to react without thought when our bodies undergo a traumatic encounter. Van der Kolk argues when the limbic system responds to the threat, it dysregulates the nervous system. The hypothalamus kindles an increased release of hormones, including cortisol, opiates,...

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