Healing Invisible Wounds: Paths to Hope and Recovery in a Violent World


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Healing Invisible Wounds: Paths to Hope and Recovery in a Violent WorldMollica, Richard F. (2006) New York: Harcourt. ISBN 0-151-01036-6. 288 pp. $26.00.Society's designated healers are regularly confronted with the multiple impacts of traumatic experience. Individual and group consequences of such experience are found in every region of the world, in all ethnic groups, and at every socioeconomic level. Their name is legion. The nature of trauma is also variable, with the casualties of mass violence most visible in the accounts of international media.Among the victims of trauma are refugees from persecution who have suffered the loss of home, loved ones, and supports to identity and self-esteem.There are economic casualties who despair as their capacities to care for themselves and their families have been eroded. Survivors of natural and man-made disasters including earthquakes, fires, floods, droughts, and tsunamis, demand material as well as psychological help. Even in technologically advanced civilizations torture victims are still being produced and their treatment has become a specialty of its own. Discharged soldiers are increasingly diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder. Their capacities to relate to the world and rebuild their lives are shattered. Children bear the scars of having been forced to become killers. Sadly in the 20th and 21st centuries, victims of genocidal aggression appear to be increasing.Among the survivors are countless individuals with apparently intact bodies who struggle to cope with psychological wounds. These can be as disabling, or more so, than the visible impairments which let even casual observers know what victims have lived through. And the often-unidentified damage to the visibly wounded extends as well into their psychic depths.In recent years professional healers have become sensitized to the global occurrence and societal repercussions of traumatic events. Among them have been such major catastrophes as the human destruction in Darfur, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York, and the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina with its neglected human debris on the Gulf Coast of North America. The attention of clinicians as well as social scientists and planners has been directed beyond the familial and interpersonal bases of trauma to the healing possibilities inherent in the interactions between victims and the larger societies and cultures of which they are a part. Richard Mollica, while focusing on the narratives of individual survivors, notes that “more and more the individual trauma stories of ordinary citizens are being reconfigured into a collective victims' voice.” This perception, developed and elaborated throughout his book, leads to the inevitable conclusion that individual self-healing capacity is facilitated by if not dependent upon posttraumatic societal recovery.This volume is not a detached scientific examination of these issues. Its clinical observations are imbedded in an intensely personal account of the author's own spiritual and professional journey. He reveals the intimate personal roots of his passion for caring and his emphasis on the individual trauma story as it relates to the larger context. His account is his own narrative, an organization of experience made coherent through its writing. It is dedicated to his parents who, as he put it, “remain to me heroes for overcoming unbelievable violence to raise a family in the United States.” Resonating throughout is his father's statement: “Don't worry, it's going to get worse.” At the same time he maintains his status as a trained professional.

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