Healing relational trauma through relational means: aboriginal approaches

Lewis Mehl-Madrona

in Trauma, Truth and Reconciliation

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print August 2006 | ISBN: 9780198569435
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754449 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

Healing relational trauma through relational means: aboriginal approaches

Show Summary Details


The effects of trauma within intimate relationships can be devastating for people, families, and communities. Consistent with modern psychiatry and psychology's focus upon the individual, an illness has emerged in the twentieth century to encompass the after-effects of trauma—post-traumatic stress disorder. Also consistent with modern psychological culture, when an illness appears, a treatment industry arises to cure it. As a result of these developments, theories multiply about post-traumatic stress and how to treat it. This chapter will focus on trauma within intimate and family relationships and how it can be addressed within a relational context. Other chapters have addressed trauma in interpersonal relationships and upon communities (war, genocide, ethnic cleansing), but this chapter is distinct in that it rejects Eurocentric assumptions about trauma and healing.

European concepts of trauma and recovery focus on fixing people who are damaged and punishing people who do the damaging. Aboriginal concepts tend more toward restoration and healing and concepts of reconciliation, consistent with recent social movements (Lamb and Murphy, 2002). Forgiveness, for example, is becoming more prominent, as evidenced by its place in the 2005 Works of Love conference sponsored by Case Western University. Aboriginal culture strongly encourages forgiveness, reconciliation, and restorative justice over concepts of punishment and retribution but how these attitudes are brought about is different from European-American approaches.

Therefore, we will consider how forgiveness works between intimate and formerly intimate partners when trauma has occurred from the context of aboriginal communities.

Chapter.  9753 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.