Embodied Trauma and Healing
Critical Conversations on the Concept of Health
What if philosophy could solve the psychological puzzle of trauma? Embodied Trauma and Healing argues just that, suggesting that one might be needed in order to understand the other. The book demonstrates how the body-mind problem that haunted Descartes was addressed by phenomenologists, whilst also proposing that the human experience is lived subjectively as embodied consciousness.
Throughout this book, the author suggests that the phenomenological tools that are used to explore the body can also be an effective way to discuss the physical and mental aspects of embodied trauma. Drawing on the work of Paul Ricœur, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Emmanuel Lévinas, the book outlines a phenomenological approach to the embodied and relational subject. It offers a reading of embodied trauma that can connect it to wider conversations in psychological underpinnings of trauma through Peter Levine’s somatic research and Bessel van der Kolk’s embodied remembering. Connecting to the analytic tradition, the book suggests that phenomenology can unify both language-based and body-based therapeutic practice. It also presents a compelling discussion that ties the embodied experience of relation in trauma to the wider causal factors of social suffering and relational rupture, intergenerational trauma and the trauma of land, as informed by phenomenology.
Embodied Trauma and Healing is essential reading for researchers within the fields of philosophy, psychology and medical humanities for it actively engages with contemporary configurations of trauma theory and recent research developments in healing and mental disorder diagnosis.
Table of Contents
Part One: Critical Discourses on Embodied Trauma
1 - Trauma and the Subject
2 - Trauma, Ego and the Body
3 - Labelling Traumatic Ambiguity
Part Two: Phenomenology and the Traumatised Subject
4 - The Phenomenology of Lévinas
5- Ricœur on Narrative Experiences
6 - Merleau-Ponty on Embodiment
Part Three: Living Trauma in Relationship
7 - Silence and Communicability: Speaking Truths
8 - Homelessness and At-Homeness: The Body as a Site of Integration
9 - The Intersubjectivity of Trauma: Politics, Rights and Decolonisation
Part Four: Living Trauma as Health
10 - Individual Healing: The Subject and Her Relationships
11 – Relational Healing: The Refiguration of a Place
12 – Conclusion
Anna Westin is an Honorary Visiting Fellow at St. Mary’s University, Bakhita Centre for Research on Slavery, Exploitation and Abuse, Lecturer at St. Mellitus College, and an Honorary Visiting Lecturer at The University of Kent. She is also Director of The JAM Network UK, a survivor-focused anti-trafficking community.
'Anna Westin provides us with a cogent and compelling phenomenology of traumatic subjectivity. Her interdisciplinary study of concrete lived experiences of trauma illuminates the roots of suffering and reveals key ways to healing and belonging’.- Prof Richard Kearney, ([email protected]), The Charles B. Seelig Professor in Philosophy, Boston College, Philosophy Department
'Anna Westin’s wide-ranging and yet always focused conversations on trauma are deeply rewarding. She shows us—with careful scholarship and ethical urgency—that we cannot hope to make sense of and heal trauma without taking seriously the many dimensions of our lived, bodily coexistence with other people.' - René Rosfort, ([email protected]), associate professor of ethics and philosophy of religion, University of Copenhagen
'Etymologically linked to the act of piercing, trauma carries with itself the Sanskrit sense of moving to the other side – now associated with the meaning of being ‘trespassed’, violated, invaded, lacerated: a body-mind-soul perforation. Anna Westin’s conversations are a deep journey through and out of the mystery of the black hole of the experience of trauma. Determinately stitched together by existential phenomenology – Lévinas’ reading chiefly, but also Merleau-Ponty and Ricoeur’s thought – this narrative travel unravels, land after land, the complex geography of trauma. The mapping is multidimensional, in time, space, and perspective, yet woven along three foundation axes: the embodied self, the other, and place. With a self-reflexive and hermeneutical sail, Westin accompanies readers through an oceanic corpus stretching from Greco-Roman mythology, where suffering could transform us in stone, to dystopian Anthropocenic views around the eco-traumatic effects on humans of ecological disintegration. In high seas, readers navigate early analytic accounts of trauma, Freudian and post-Freudian psychoanalytic debates, van der Kolk and Levine somatic readings, the arrival of PTSD taxonomy and its critiques, phenomenological views around the relational, linguistic, corporeal and situated founding of the (traumatised) subject, up to explorations of collective, historico-political trauma – in the Isreali-Palestinian conflict, the Canadian First Nations issue and slavery and colonisation at large, the discourse of universal human rights of children in the context of human trafficking. Routes of healing are finally depicted, where mainstream conceptions of healing are questioned and paradigms of verbal catharsis are sailed through, to land into relational and body-based practices which focus on the body, the spirit, society and our homes/places/lands.
Sensitively mastering an impressive plethora of coordinates, Westin does not lose her direction – not even when we finally reach back home, another home, and she is herself sensorially confronted with vivid social suffering. As the traumatic metamorphosis forcing re-orienting subjectivity and ethics, Westin transforms first reactions of romanticization and rejection into deeper awareness, hope, and further impetus to act for a more just world where interpersonal, social, and political healing becomes reality.
Westin’s book is a fresh philosophical tool re-positioning trauma studies back to the uniqueness of the lived experience, and a loud call to our ethical and political engagement with it.'
- Review: Embodied Trauma and Healing - Critical Conversations on the Concept of Health, Anna Westin; Dr. Runa Lazzarino, ([email protected]), Bakhita Centre for Research on Slavery, Exploitation and Abuse, St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London