Reclaiming the Self

Reclaiming the Self

One Woman's Refusal to Allow a Nightmare to Define Her Life

By Janice Starkman Goldfein

January/February 2004

Most therapists eventually develop a standard approach for helping clients recover from trauma. We tell them that none of us has any control over what happens to us, but we can do something about how we respond. We try to help them get beyond their anger, hopelessness, and sense of devastation; beyond the feeling of unfairness, the question "Why me?" so often occasioned by tragedy and terror. We encourage them to move forward, to open themselves again to new experiences, and to allow life to continue to unfold. But it's only when we experience trauma firsthand that the real meaning of all this sensible therapeutic advice becomes apparent--as well as the difficulty of following it.

On Tuesday, January 4, 1994, at 9:45 p.m., trauma became a lived reality for me. That evening, I ended a group therapy session and stayed behind, alone in my office, to write a few notes and return calls. As I walked into the hallway, I was grabbed from behind and heard a low, menacing voice say, "If you cooperate, I won't hurt you." It took a few moments for me to realize what was happening. I felt panic rising, and an impulse to fight back, but somehow I knew that to keep the situation from spinning out of control, I had to maintain control of myself.

I was forced to the floor, face down. My attacker sat on me. I heard him unroll duct tape and cut it. He wrapped it around my head, sealing my eyes shut. He demanded my jewelry and my purse. I had the urge to ask him not to take my…

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Topic: Trauma

Tags: Trauma | trauma recovery

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