Pathology: Hypnosis and Trauma

Ruth Leys focuses heavily on psychoanalysts of the past century-plus in order to illustrate how our societal conceptions of trauma have shifted over time.  Yet so much of what these researchers theorized about trauma was heavily dependent upon their individual beliefs regarding the efficacy of hypnosis.  And this, to me, seems terribly limiting (at least from the 1890s to 1930s – I haven’t read yet what Leys says about more recent times.)

Basically, the conceptions of trauma are constrained by the “medical” or “curative” drive to “fix” the patient rather than a research-driven agenda to find out what exactly happened.

As we see from the book Duped!, there are people who lie about psychiatric illness.  I don’t believe hypnosis would entirely prevent that.  And the mimesis approaches described by Leys seem very reasonable to me in that they recognize the mind’s ability to imitate and simulate to the point that the imagined becomes real.  In creative writing, we call it suspension of disbelief – on the playground in grade school, it’s called fitting in.

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