Good trauma telling?

In preparation for the start of our introductory Global Trauma Recovery course here at Biblical I re-read Richard Mollica’s Healing Invisible Wounds book (see previous posts about the book here and here). Mollica reminds us that there is a healing way to tell one’s trauma story…and there are destructive forms of telling the story.

Destructive forms of storytelling?

Trauma victims do need to tell their story. They need to be heard. But some forms of telling do more damage than good. Signs that the telling may not be helpful?

  • Puts victim/teller into high emotions (reliving the experience versus telling about it)
  • Overwhelms the hearer (who then disconnects thereby leaving the victim feeling more alone)
  • Focuses solely on the trauma or trauma symptoms (e.g., the degradation, shame, etc. thus maximizing paralysis and minimizing survival skills, resiliencies, and other important parts of the person’s life)

Facets of healthy trauma telling?

Mollica suggests 4 facets of good story telling

  • Factual re-telling of trauma (however not every graphic detail)
  • Identifying the cultural significance of the trauma experience
  • Gaining existential or spiritual perspective (reframe from larger perspective on self and world)
  • Identifying the teller/listener relationship forming

Notice that the storytelling is not just about what happened. It is also about the significance, looking from God’s perspective (on self, other, world, etc.) and identifying new connections, skills, resiliencies, etc.

Mollica gives these questions for counselors, family, and pastors to help guide a better story. I find them very helpful if one accepts the caveat that they are not all asked in one sitting nor would we demand articulate answers from victims:

  1. What traumatic events have happened?
  2. How are your body and mind repairing the injuries sustained from those events?
  3. What have you done in your daily life to help yourself recover?
  4. What justice do you require from society to support your personal healing?


Filed under Abuse, counseling, counseling science, counseling skills, Good Books, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, teaching counseling, trauma, Uncategorized

3 responses to “Good trauma telling?

  1. Andrew J. Schmutzer

    Informative post Phil, with a lot of helpful ideas. But I find myself asking where the serious spiritual and ecclesiastical questions are in such books? These are significant questions as far as they go, but reintegration is both personal and communal, with serious implications for believers. What kind of corporate grief does the church greet the traumatized with? How does the worship service honor the memory of the traumatized. I believe until we press these questions into the fabric of corporate faith, our youth (and other traumatized) will continue to leave, believing there is no point of contact for their pain. I welcome your thoughts.

  2. We have found that teaching about (and engaging in) corporate lament here and abroad reveals a significant lack of knowledge and practice in this area. So…I agree we need more to honor losses.

  3. Pingback: Wyn Magazine | Resources and hope for mental and emotional healing

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