Tuesday 24 October 2017

I just want to forget the Troubles

We're not ready yet to rummage through the rubble of the conflict for 'closure', writes Cathal MacCarthy

Sometimes you wonder whether we'd be better off just forgetting stuff. At some stage (probably the Sixties) someone (probably a professor at Berkeley) decided that it was better to remember. And most particularly remember experienced trauma and horror. We should remember it, and talk about it, and undergo the catharsis that would accompany that reliving of the psychological injury. In this way we would achieve a relationship with the past that would allow us to 'move forward' with our lives.

The 'closure' attained described the central idea of the injured individual summoning the nerve to open the door to the remembered horror, examine the circumstances of the injury in all its harrowing detail and then, through counselling and encouragement, feel empowered enough to 'shut' the memory away in some kind of psychological quarantine; aware always of the existence of the traumatic memory, but strong and confident enough not to feel drawn back to the closed door into the chamber of horrors.

The logic behind the theory always seemed a bit flimsy. How does effectively re-experiencing a horror lessen the damage inflicted first time around? What's the difference between 'remembering' a personal trauma and 'being aware' of a personal trauma?

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