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Trauma, Disability, and Social Isolation

Robert E. Murphy describes his own experience with social isolation after becoming a paraplegic in this selection, titled, “The Damaged Self.” He uses words like “stranger,” “aliens,” and “exiles,” to describe a new condition of being in the world. There is much trauma attached to disability. Murphy describes an “us vs. them” mentality when he speaks of being “one of ‘them’…[standing] somewhat apart from American culture, making [him] in many ways a stranger” (Murphy, pg. 323, 329). Disability and low self-esteem often leads to withdrawal, as the disabled person has been given a completely new identity. With disabilities, especially paralysis, come extreme feelings of helplessness–a very traumatic feeling.

Traumatic experiences in general also tend to result in social isolation. On her blog, “The Forgotten Peace,” a woman named Gayook speaks about her own experiences. After a traumatic event, she explains a pattern of avoidance, as victims are often reminded of the event. She makes an enlightening comment about the perpetuation of social isolation after a traumatic event. “While, in the short-term, counting on ourselves may have helped us in the beginning. Over a long period of time, it perpetuates for the survivor a sense that no one can help us. It keeps us in a state of trauma.” (Gayook)

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How does healing occur? Certainly not in isolation. I believe that a support system and some sort of therapy is essential, both for people like Murphy suffering from a major disability, or Gayook reliving a traumatic event. Unfortunately the luxuries of a support system and therapy are not always available for everyone.

Sources:

Robert E. Murphy: “The Damaged Self”

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