The body, trauma, and narrative approaches to healing

Maureen Duffy

in Discursive Perspectives in Therapeutic Practice

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199592753
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754715 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

The body, trauma, and narrative approaches to healing

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The experience of trauma, both of the horrific and everyday varieties, involves the body in ways that are central and undeniable. Trauma routinely reconstitutes the body by impeding a person's ability to use language while simultaneously increasing arousal and fear. This reduction of linguistic resources complicates the accessing of new meanings that may be helpful to those who have experienced trauma and to those whom they love. The effects of trauma provide vivid evidence of the inscription of the social world on the remaking of the body in trauma's aftermath. Granting the body greater discursive recognition does not involve moving away from a focus on the construction of meaning within the social world, but rather includes the body more centrally in the flow of life as the body itself becomes constituted and reconstituted as a result. Findings from neuroscience can be read as supportive of an understanding of the body as shaped in and by the world and, therefore, as a repudiation of Cartesian dualism. In many ways, it is social constructionism that is at risk of embracing an unintended dualism by not adequately accounting for the constitution of meaning as embodied discursive experience. We are neither over-weighted body masses like cartoonish homunculi nor shape-shifting mentalists without corporeality moving through the world. Trauma marks the body in ways that are both visible and invisible and profoundly affects the experience of time. Narrative approaches to therapy include a focus on both time and meaning and offer resourceful ways of working with those who have experienced trauma. Narrative approaches encourage emotional resonance with the person who has suffered trauma and are congruent with the requisites for healing that encompass mind and body together.

Chapter.  10148 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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