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The Unspeakable: Narratives of Trauma

Magda Stroinska, Vikki Cecchetto and Kate Szymanski

How does a trauma survivor communicate «what can’t be said out loud» to others? In what form? How can we – readers, listeners, viewers – recognize the pain and suffering hidden behind words, pictures, or other artifacts produced by trauma survivors? This volume presents a possible response by bringing together the «expressions of the unspeakable» by trauma survivors and the interpretation of researchers in various fields, i.e. clinical psychologists, linguists, anthropologists, literary and film scholars, historians, and visual artists, some of whom are survivors of trauma. By describing or analyzing different strategies for finding a narrative form for expressing the survivor’s trauma, the contributors offer not only insights into how the survivors dealt with the pain of traumatic memories but also how they were able to find hope for healing by telling their stories, in literature, graphic novels, visual art or simply by creating a personal narrative in their own voice.
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Having a Relative with Mental Illness: Beyond the Traditional Definition of Trauma


Avi Sanders & Kate Szymanski


The goal of this chapter is to propose that the experience of having a relative with mental illness qualifies as a form of trauma. We will examine two different definitions of trauma that seem to capture the traumatic nature of this event: the traditional definition of a traumatic event as it is defined by the American Psychiatric Association, and secondary trauma. Approaching this task with alternative definitions is warranted since narratives of trauma are rich and unique by nature; thus calling for a flexible theoretical framework that can capture the subtleties and nuances of each individual story. We propose that altered beliefs about the self and others, sense of isolation, shame, guilt, and hopelessness, all support our hypothesis that mental illness is a traumatic event not only for those diagnosed with it but also for their relatives.

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