“Disclosure of Traumatic Events” is a chapter written by Denise M. Sloan and Blairo R. Wisco in a research anthology “Facilitating Resilience and Recovery Following Trauma”. This piece is dedicated to studying the importance of retelling the damaging experiences to other people. The authors delve into the essence of maintaining mental health by sharing thoughts, fears, and shame. The purpose of the chapter is to ascertain how disclosing traumatic events to other people can contribute to psychological recovery from trauma.
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The chapter begins with a story about a traumatized veteran, Joe, who rehabilitates through disclosure. The authors describe the circumstances of the event, which led to his shell-shocked behavior. When the veteran was on duty, he witnessed children deliver a bomb to a soldier, who was killed in the subsequent explosion. Joe felt a surge of anger towards the children and aimed his rifle at them. At this point, the commanding officer stopped him, which caused feelings of shame and self-hatred in Joe. As a result, of this endeavor, Joe started to criticize himself as an immoral person and concealed his thoughts from the rest of the world.
The authors continue Joe’s story by noting that he spent the next 40 years struggling with the fear that once the truth becomes known he would be despised. Finally, he attended a therapist to whom he confided his emotions. Following the session, Joe felt relief, and he was able to recount the story to other people. He realized that neither they nor the therapist vilified him for blaming children. Sloan and Wisco describe what Joe did as trauma disclosure and consider it “to be critical in promoting recovery” (192). Joe’s story exemplifies how relaying the details of negative experiences can help bolster mental health.
By referencing Joe’s case, the authors proceed to define disclosure and its functioning. According to Sloan and Wisco, it is “the communication of personally relevant information, thoughts, and feelings” (192). It should be noted that disclosure can be beneficial as well as detrimental. The authors state that sharing deeply emotional experiences with strangers can aggravate the situation causing further shame (194). However, by entrusting the people close to them with details, traumatized individuals can heal and recover. Sloan and Wisco also write that the earlier and more often the disclosure transpires, the more efficient it is for rehabilitation (196). Subsequently, the context, frequency, and emotions are important in achieving sufficient recovery.
Next, the authors explore different ways of explaining how disclosure works. Overall, they describe four models, which enhance understanding of this process. The first is the exposure model, which accentuates repetitive confrontation of trauma memory as the key to recovery. The second one is the cognitive processing/assimilation model, and it focuses on therapeutically challenging beliefs, which constitute the mental disorder. Third, the emotional inhibition model emphasizes the acceptance of emotions and fears as the essential part. Finally, the social support model points to strengthening interpersonal relationships as the basis for mental healing. Ultimately, all models accentuate diverse explanations of the same idea that disclosure helps psychological recovery.
Altogether, the main message of the chapter is that it is possible to recover from psychological trauma through exposure. The factors determining the success of healing include the level of familiarity with the audience, the presence of emotional details, and the number of times such communication transpires. Four different models offer explanations of why this process is effective, with the same conclusion that trauma can be healed, and exposure is essential in recovery.
Sloan, Denise M. and Wisco, Blairo R. “Disclosure of Traumatic Events.” Facilitating Resilience and Recovery Following Trauma, edited by Lori A. Zoellner and Norah C. Feeny, The Guilford Press, 2013, pp. 191–209.
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