I still think about trauma these days, although I tend to think more about the anxiety spectrum. There is afterall, something very fetishized or at least, detached about anxiety. Anxiety is not an emotion oriented towards something present, but rather, is future oriented. Anxiety is our fear of the future. It is a ghost fear, a fetish fear, it is at once less present yet more pervasive than fear itself. It is fear intellectualized, no, grotesquely magnified beyond reason by a reason derailed.

Modern society has no roots, no history, no grounding. We drift in a perpetual freefall, this strange sensation of exhilaration, panic, and numbed boredom, that tight feeling in our chests, the wind in our faces. The dream and the nightmare of the modern man, his most deepest desire and most fervent fear, that which lies below our perverse fusion of lust, anxiety and reason, is the belief that he might actually be falling into something…

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Original Title: of psychoids, modernity and trauma
Original Post Date: December 1, 2006 @ 5:14 pm


There’s a new body of discourse peaking over the horizon and it smells surprisingly numinous. It’s the intersection between modernity, science, psychology and suffering: trauma, or “traumatology” as it is sometimes called.

While the idea of trauma is nothing new, more recent developments in understanding its causes, symptoms and treatments are starting to lead us back to a reintegration of spirit into matter, matter into spirit. It’s using kickass scientific methods to retrace and revive alternative concepts about how the body functions and more importantly, it’s providing models and a language by which modern society can begin to approach the mind-body and rethink Cartesian dualism.

Because let’s face it, you can talk all you want about the Qabalah or chakras or initiation or shamanism and what’s going to happen? Exactly what you see now: appropriation, commercialization, bastardization, distraction. All too often, this desire to get out of our modern skins, to deny ourselves, results in a typical modern reaction to spirituality: to fetishize and escape. Our attempts to connect with the unconscious and the numinous become a pursuit rooted in a vaguely colonialist mentality reserved for the privileged, the educated, the developed etc. We become trapped in fantasies and projections of the Other (usually ancient cultures and religions) or ultimately, we are led back to precisely what we originally tried to purge ourselves of: the present, the current, the now, the modern condition of our ruthless capitalist logic, our vapid commercial culture and our traumatized selves. And while this rejection of the present might very well work for those with the leisure time, education level and the money to pursue alternative ways of being spiritual, what meaning can any of this trendy and oft imported enlightenment, occultism or mysticism have on those for whom the pressures of capitalist development weigh the most heavily?

Robert Scaer’s radical conclusion is that “virtually everyone in a modern society is traumatized.” [1] What we need is a mind-body discourse generated within modernity, perhaps even endemic to modernity. If there is one thing virtually all modern people share, regardless of class and the triumvirate of identity politics (gender, race and sexual orientation), it is trauma. The idea that trauma can only be sustained through direct and extreme cases like torture, rape, military combat etc is becoming a thing of the past. For even the most socially privileged cannot be immunized against the experience of trauma. The widely held belief that material wealth is enough to stave off the negative effects of trauma is glaringly inadequate. Besides, we’ve always known this to be true. The conception of modern life as one marked by disassociations and disconnectedness is nothing new.

Even today’s “cutting edge” treatments for trauma are not really. In addition to the old school cerebral talk therapy approach to catharsis, we also had psychologist and Marxist Wilhelm Reich (another one of Freud’s intellectual exes) who developed a somatic approach to healing. Reich recognized posttraumatic stress in his patients and called the somatic symptoms “body armour”. Significantly, he linked this physical rigidity to a subtle energy he believed he discovered called “orgone” which moved through circuits up and down the spine. Sound familiar? What he also pointed out was how insidious somatic blockages could be to the psychological health of the individual. Any researcher in PTSD knows how debilitating the symptoms of shutting down and disassociation can have on all spheres of life, especially the emotional and psychological. Reich took this one step further and suggested that entire societies could function according to the logic of trauma, or more accurately, posttraumatic stress.

There is so much more I want to write and discuss about treatments for PTSD and trauma in general but I think I’ve said enough for now. Let me be clear in that I don’t think traumatology is some revolutionary belief system that’s going to enlighten the masses. I don’t think it’s going to help solve the mind-body problem and I don’t think introducing the mind-body continuum model into the scientific world is going to either. What I do know is that it’s a step in the right direction.

With that I’ll leave you with an article and an interview about trauma from UTNE magazine. There are some platitudes, but there also are some gems that make them worth the reading:

Trauma: Get Over It

Crash Course

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Benjamin Steele’s response to this post, with some more interesting quotes.