Traumatic Memories as Black Holes: A Qualitative-Phenomenological Approach

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Despite impressive scientific advances in the field, it appears that we are still far from achieving a full understanding of traumatic memory. Yet because of the strong link between posttraumatic symptoms and the nature of traumatic memory, improving our understanding of this issue is of great importance. To this end, open-ended interviews were conducted with 36 individuals who had been victims of terror attacks and afterward developed posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The interviews were analyzed using the grounded theory approach, according to which the discussion remains faithful to the initial data itself. The interviews demonstrate how the autobiographical self is sucked into the traumatic memory, as if this were a center of gravity, a black hole. In this process different kinds of memories attach themselves to the traumatic memory, which is characterized by its bodily, implicit, nonsemantic, and fragmented nature. As a result, the sense of self undergoes fundamental changes as the fragmented traumatic memory becomes stronger and more central to one’s identity.

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