There are no winners in the repetition of trauma

Lyn Bender
2010 Journal of Social Inclusion  
Israel is in trouble again. Its extreme response to the ships seeking to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza has aroused wrath and international protest. The pictures of the Israeli soldiers boarding the boats and the accounts of terror, mayhem and fear have awakened a world that seemed to be dozing through the everyday plight of those living in Gaza. Although we await an investigation, Israel appears the aggressor and the incorrigible tyrant, yet again. For me, Jewish by birth but a non-religious
more » ... t a non-religious member of the so called Diaspora, it conjures forth my late childhood -incompletely formed and simplistic adolescent paradigms and memories. I grew up in the hothouse environment of Melbourne Holocaust Survivors. Many of those who visited my parents' Elwood home had been in the camps, hidden, or had lost family in the Holocaust. As my therapist would later explain to me. "They were all holocausted." Now I work as a therapist to those who have suffered trauma. The thunderous stentorian thrilling voice of Charlton Heston, in the epic film, The Ten Commandments, would brook no dissent. "Let my people go!" The screen images of the parting of the seas, the plagues, pestilence and the infant Moses set adrift on the River Nile, suffused my images of the Passover story with its promise of salvation and freedom for an enslaved people. Passover, the memorial to this emancipation, was the celebration at which the stranger at your door was welcomed and invited to dine and join the celebration of freedom from oppression. The youngest child was to question the elders regarding the meaning of the Passover meal. Now we are all driven to question yet again the meaning of gaining the so-called promised land. The two most important "religious" experiences in my Jewish childhood were the Passover celebration and the shadow of the Holocaust. Passover brought expressions of joy and hope surrounded by relatives who had survived the dark shadow of the Holocaust. These two themes were in constant juxtaposition -on the one hand survival and on the other annihilation. Freud postulated that traumatized people are driven to repeat their experiences of victimization (van der Volk, 1989, para. 29). He thought that the aim of repetition was to gain mastery, but clinical experience has shown that this rarely happens: instead, repetition causes further suffering for the victims or for people in their surroundings. In my practice I encounter this repetition phenomenon time and time again. Abused and neglected children revisit and re-enact abusive and depriving situations in their adult lives. Another response may be that the victim becomes the abuser, thereby exchanging the powerless position of the helpless sufferer for the mastery and potency of the perpetrator. Controversially therapist Bruno Bettleheim, himself a nazi camp inmate, observed the phenomenon he termed "identification with the aggressor" amongst the prisoners (Grotjahn, 1945, para 2). These prisoners adopted the stance and mannerisms of the more powerful prison guards. It was a survival strategy. The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine could be seen as one that repeats the traumatic holocaust experience of the Jewish people in Israel as both perpetrator and victim. The situation for the people in Gaza casts a shadow as long as the Nazi Holocaust. In
doi:10.36251/josi.11 fatcat:ffakoxdq7fe2dc6bqropundwze