Jewish World Review April 9, 2003 / 7 Nisan, 5763

Ian Shoales

Ian Shoales
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Your mommy could have told you that silence is the stoic's path to personal salvation --- hey, but who would have listened?


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | I read in the New York Times, the little newspaper that could, that, contrary to the troubled Freud legacy, when it comes to personal demons it might be better to leave them in the cage than releasing them, when it comes to a horrible personal experience, it might be better to shut up about it than vent, it might be better to ignore the memory of the bad touch from the baby sitter you received when you were four. Buck up. Forget about it. Silence does not equal death, no, silence is the Stoic's path to personal salvation.

Of course, this is something my mother has been saying for years. How many Midwestern Dads have said to how many Midwestern offspring, "Stop that crying, or I'll give you something to cry about!" I personally have many memories of wizened aunties in parlors, lips pursed, busily denying memories of anything out of the ordinary that ever happened to them.

None of them were chatty Auntie Mames, or bawdy, or colorful in any way, and were no doubt stunted relatively joyless creatures, by modern standards, but still. They all lived to be nine hundred and six, so there might be something to it.

Apparently, the therapy community has been aware of the value of repression since 1952, when a study found that "psychotherapy in general helped no more, no less, than the slow passing of time."

Now, there is new research --- rooted in part in the experience of Sept. 11, when swarms of therapists descended on New York City after the twin towers fell. "And what happened," says Richard Gist, a community psychologist and trauma researcher "is some people got worse. They were either unhelped or retraumatized by our interventions.''

Again, this is in keeping with the Midwestern tradition --- leave it alone, walk away from it, mind your own business, keep your head low, your shoulder to the grindstone, your nose to the wheel, take the bull by the horns, stop that sniveling, or I'll give you something to really cry about.

The author of the article, Lauren Slater, refers to the "trauma industry," an entity that has quite a bit at stake if this whole repression thing catches on. Scores of shrinks, psychologists, authors, social workers, expert witnesses, and perhaps even a soccer mom or enlightened dad or two would have their whole reason for existence and some cases their very livelihoods taken away from them.

And of course the trauma industry has a point. Our wounds are part of what we are. On the other hand, if you pick at a scab it will never heal.

Didn't your Mom tell you that?

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JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.

Up

04/01/03: Hedging the war
03/28/03: Space: The Penultimate Frontier
03/18/03: Hour of the Narc
03/07/03: Home entertainment tips for pinkos --- no joke!
02/28/03: When Anorexia is a good thing
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01/16/03: "G" for verbal violence?
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01/24/02: Suspension of disbelief has nothing to do with whether we accept something as real or not
01/22/02: Save the Grand Ole Opry?
12/15/01: If you truly want to appeal to the lowest common denominator
12/11/01: KNITTING!
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© 2001, Ian Shoales