What survivors of trauma have taught this eminent psychiatrist about hope

Psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, known for studying survivors of various traumatic events, emphasizes the importance of storytelling in recovery and encourages resilience and renewal in his latest book, “Surviving Our Catastrophes: Resilience and Renewal from Hiroshima to the Covid-19 Pandemic.”

Backstory: Lifton commenced his study into the psychology of trauma survivors back in 1968, interviewing those affected by the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
* Through his career, he has studied survivors of the atomic bombings, Auschwitz, Vietnam War, and individuals repressed by the Chinese government.
* His experiences have helped him understand how human psychology interacts with and is shaped by historical events.

New Book & Insights: Lifton’s latest book explores his understanding of “survivor power”, and its contribution to overcoming mass traumas.
* He highlights the transition process of survivors, from being helpless victims into agents of survival.
* Lifton also emphasizes the significance of survivors sharing their accounts, stating it can be therapeutic, bring meaning to their experiences, and aid their recovery process.

In Practice: Lifton found many survivors, like those from Hiroshima and Auschwitz, can transform their trauma into advocacy, contributing to social change.
* For instance, the influence of Hiroshima survivors enhanced the recent U.N. decision against the stockpiling of nuclear weapons.
* However, Lifton acknowledges that while the need for narrative sharing is always present, some survivors may never overcome their reluctance to engage in such dialogues due to their background and personal situations.

Trauma & Storytelling: Lifton suggests that storytelling can help survivors regain confidence in the continuity of human life, and it could be essential for those who experience trauma from extreme events or within refugee camps.
* The transformation of the helpless victim to life-affirming survivor is the central segment of recovery narratives to strive for, according to Lifton.

View original article on NPR

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