, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 505-518

A Phenomenology of Emotional Trauma: Around and About the Things Themselves

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Abstract

This paper seeks to provide a noetic analysis of emotional trauma. It highlights three essential features of trauma, as well as one non-essential feature, and attempts to make sense of them phenomenologically. The first essential feature of trauma that the paper considers is the disbelief that pervades traumatic experience. When traumatized, we cannot believe that the traumatic event has taken place. This is because we will, not for the event not to have happened—we cannot will something that is in the past—but to believe that it did not happen so as to shield ourselves from our painful emotional response to it. The second essential feature of trauma is our inability to distinctly categorially intuit the central state of affairs around which our trauma revolves. The traumatic situation is literally unthinkable by us, for it is incongruent with both our expectations regarding the subject of the trauma and our horizon of sense more generally. The third essential feature of trauma is the temporal disorientation that it brings about. Such disorientation arises from our prolonged and single-minded attention to an increasingly complex categorial object: the traumatic situation. Finally, the paper considers a non-essential feature of trauma, namely, how traumatic experience can motivate phenomenological and scientific reactions.