Torture and the society
Thursday, Terry Gross interviewed Dr. Michael Grodin about his work in providing therapy for people who have been been badly traumatized in their lives. He works with Tibetan monks who had been tortured and has also worked with Holocaust survivors. What he says is that the traumas these victims have experienced are so horrible they suffer from PTSD years and decades past the abuse. He noted that the aging holocaust survivor can in their later lives relive the horror of the death camps - certainly a terrible cruelty begotten within the mind that perpetuates a terrible injustice experienced in life.
He also talked about what he has to do to be able to help treat these victims of cruelty -- he must let them know that their terrible stories cannot hurt him because their stories will not be worse than he's heard before from others with whom he's worked. Therefore they can tell him their most horrible stories without worrying that they are responsible for doing evil to him.
Yet hearing these stories can cause harm. Human caused trauma is a subtle and pernicious evil. It moves from the person who is the primary victim to those who emphasize with or care about the victim. And it can poison the lives of those who listen.
For as Dr. Grodin tells Terry, working with these unfortunate souls is truly dangerous and damaging to therapists. Therapists suffer vicarious traumatization if they spend too much time listening to tortured souls with an empathetic mind and they must be careful they do not become so overwhelmed by the pain of their patients that they drown in the pain themselves.
One final thing: Dr. Grodin mentioned is how terrible it was to hear that the US had used torture. Torture is a destructive poison on the body humanity as it spreads from the perpetrator to the victim and then spreads to others who listen and care.
It is a powerful and wrenching interview.