Outliving Oneself Essay

1537 words - 6 pages

The idea of “Outliving Oneself” depends on the concepts of trauma and most importantly the self, in a situation where said trauma obliterates the self for an indefinite amount of time. Brison presents the self in three interwoven parts: the embodied self, the self as narrative, and the autonomous self. Any of these parts of self depend largely on the individual’s society, culture, and interactions with other people. The embodied self represents the self in conjunction with the physical body, which our society separates from the self, to intimate a soul or personality, and also assigns genders to certain traits. Trauma dissolves this separation of body and mind because violence brings the traumatized to face their own mortality. They have to see their body as an object because their assailant treats it as an object. Trauma is so damaging because the self cannot exert any power whatsoever; the interaction between the assailant and the victim, essentially a social situation, robs the victim of a voice, because the assailant ignores it, a personality, because it is of no consequence to the assailant, and a self, because the assailant uses the body as an object, and the body plays a more central role in the interaction than the self does. Brison quotes Cathy Winkler in saying a rape is a “social murder,” because the rapist’s part in the interaction defines the victim through their actions that take away the victim’s sense of self. Any control that the victim felt over their body gets taken from them by the rapist. The consequences of this trauma include a loss of control over physiological functions, such as emotion and incapacitation from anxiety; the body and mind are out of balance, which leads the victim to be stigmatized by society. As in the sociology article about psychiatric wards and the psychology article about mental illness’ stigmas, the depression and post-traumatic stress disorder that often follows rape causes the victim to be stigmatized by society and their loved ones, who would rather remain ignorant of their vulnerability and continue in their illusion of the separation between body and mind.
Since society and culture are such intrinsic parts of the self, it is as though the victim is rejected by the self formed by society and is forced to operate in other societies where no self exists, as in the case of Holocaust victims as they tried to assimilate themselves back into a culture that no longer existed. The Holocaust victims were forced to define their “selfs” in context of different societies and therefore had to create different identities from those they had once been. An interesting fact that Brison related is that dissociation from the body is necessary to keep any sense of self intact; often victims of one-time assaults cannot dissociate as easily as victims of continuous trauma, such as the Holocaust, and are therefore more lastingly traumatized or more damaged. The cause could be that, in a situation of continual...

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