The time of trauma: Husserl's phenomenology and post-traumatic stress disorder

Human Studies 18 (4):351 - 366 (1995)
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Abstract

The phenomenology of inner temporalizing developed by Edmund Husserl provides a helpful framework for understanding a type of experiencing that can be part of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). My paper extrapolates hints from Husserl's work in order to describe those memories — flashbacks — that come so strongly to consciousness as to overtake the experiencer. Husserl's work offers several clues: his view of inner temporalization by which conscious experiences flow in both a serial and a nonserial manner; a characterization of process memory as distinct from representational memory; and the notion of telos, which takes human subjectivity as intrinsically changeable, for example, by means of a retroactive cancellation that would allow the PTSD experiencer to re-process the original meaning of the traumatic experience into a meaning that fits the current situation and thus allows a recovery.

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