What is Traumatization?

A Critical Psychological Critique and Reformulation

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Abstract

Inspired by critical psychology this article explores and challenges two central issues in psychology: The use of diagnoses and that of trauma. These concepts - and related practices - are not as straight-forward as is often assumed in mainstream psychology. On the contrary, they have complex and far-reaching problematic implications for our understanding of agency, difficulties, dilemmas and suffering of concrete subjects, as well as for our practices. This article discusses the conceptualisation of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is in widespread use in most countries. Using this diagnosis as an example, some problems concerning diagnoses in general are introduced. Drawing on a study of women exposed to sexualised coercion, ‘symptoms’ of PTSD are reinterpreted. Trauma is understood as processes of a personal and overpowering sense of loss of control in specific times and places, and thus as embedded in the conduct of everyday lives. ‘Symptoms’ of PTSD are therefore reinterpreted as aspects of overpowering and violent personal meanings and as situated consequences of loss of control. Violent experiences and their consequences do not simply provoke ‘reactions’, as is assumed in the use of the diagnosis. As a result, its description of recurring thoughts and feelings concerning ‘traumatising events’ may be understood as recurring specific and personal attempts at dealing with, and learning from, violent loss of control.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnual Review of Critical Psychology (Online)
Volume16
Pages (from-to)544-555
ISSN1746-739X
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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