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Victor R. Volkman

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Critical Issues in Trauma Resolution, by Frank A. Gerbode, M.D.
by Victor R. Volkman   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, February 16, 2004
Posted: Sunday, February 15, 2004

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This article is a brief excerpt from Chapter 1 of Beyond Trauma: Conversations on Traumatic Incident Reduction, available from

Critical Issues in Trauma Resolution
by Frank A. Gerbode, M.D.

This article is a brief excerpt from Chapter 1 of Beyond Trauma:  Conversations on Traumatic Incident Reduction, available from

Most common approaches to Post-Traumatic Stress Reduction (PTSD) fall into two categories:  coping techniques and cathartic techniques.  Some therapists give their clients specific in vivo methods for counteracting or coping with the symptoms of PTSD -- tools to permit their clients to learn to adapt to, to learn to live with, their PTSD condition.  Others encourage their clients to "release their feelings", to have a catharsis.  The idea is that past traumas generate a certain amount of negative energy or "emotional charge", and the therapist's task is to work with the client to release this charge so that it does not manifest
itself as aberrant behavior, negative feelings and attitudes, or
psychosomatic conditions.

Coping methods and cathartic techniques may help a person to feel better temporarily, but they don't resolve trauma so that it can no longer exert a negative effect on the client.  Clients feel better temporarily after coping or having a catharsis, but the basic charge remains in place, and shortly thereafter they need more therapy.

Methods that operate on the principle that a permanent resolution of a case can be achieved require anamnesis, which means recovery of repressed memories.  To understand why clients have to achieve an anamnesis in order to resolve past trauma, we must take a person-centered viewpoint, and explain what makes trauma traumatic.

Time and Intention

Let us start by taking a person-centered look at the subject of time. Objectively, we view time as a "never-ending stream", an
undifferentiated continuum in which events are embedded.  But
subjectively, we actually experience time differently.  Subjectively, time is broken up into "chunks" which we shall call "periods" of time.  "A time", for me, is a period during which something was happening or, more specifically, during which I was doing something, engaging in some activity.  Some periods of time are in the past; some are in the present.  Those periods defined by completed activities are in the past; those defined by ongoing (and therefore incomplete) activities are in the present.

The Contents of Present Time

For that reason, we don't experience present time as a dimensionless point.  It has breadth corresponding to the width of the activities in which we are currently engaged.  For example, I am still in the period of time when I was a father, when I was living in California, when I was writing this paper, when I was writing this sentence, when I was writing this word.  These are all activities in which I am engaged, and each defines a period of time with a definite width.  In fact, I inhabit a host of periods of time simultaneously.

Activity Cycles

A period of time has a simple but definite anatomy, determined by the activity in which you are engaged, which we call an "activity cycle" or just a "cycle".  The period of time (and the cycle) starts when the activity starts, continues as long as the activity continues, and ends when the activity ends.  The activity in question may be related or unrelated to trauma.  It could be trying to get away from a sniper, or it could be vacationing.  For instance, the period of time "when I was going from Paris to Rome" starts when I begin the process of getting from Paris to Rome, continues while I get the train tickets, get on the
train, and eat in the dining car, and ends when I arrive in Paris.  If an activity has started but not ended for me, that period of time is still ongoing and is part of my present time.

The Ruling Intention

Moreover, each of the activities in which I engage is "ruled" by a
governing intention.  In the example I just gave, the intention was to get from Paris to Rome but, in the case of a combat veteran, it could be an intention "to get revenge".  In effect, therefore, an activity cycle starts when I formulate an intention, continues so long as that intention continues to exist, and only ends when the intention is ended. Therefore, there is an intimate relation between time and intention. Each intention continues until the intention is fulfilled or unmade. Present time consists of periods of time that are determined by my current intentions.

In fact, there are only two ways to end an intention and thus to send a period of time into the past:

Fulfill it:  An intention ends more or less automatically when it is fulfilled, because you don't keep intending to do things that you know you have already finished doing.

Discontinue it:  Even if an intention is not fulfilled, you can
deliberately and consciously decide to unmake the intention.  Unmaking it, however, requires that you be aware of it and of your reasons for making it.

The Effects of Repression

Repressing an incomplete cycle makes it destructive and, at the same time, much more difficult to complete.  As mentioned above, to complete a cycle, I must be aware of the intention that rules it.  But if, because of the trauma it contains, I have repressed the incident in which I created the intention, I am not aware that I have that intention or why I have it, so I cannot unmake it!  That period of time continues up into the present, and some energy remains tied up in it.  In fact, it makes sense to define "charge" as "repressed, unfulfilled intention".  Getting rid of charge, then, consists of un-repressing intentions and then unmaking them.

Now we can understand why anamnesis resolves the effects of past traumas.  To reduce the charge contained in past traumas, the client must come fully into contact with them, so that he can find the unfulfilled intentions that he has repressed and why he formulates them, and unmake them.

About the Author

Dr.  Frank Gerbode is the author of the book Beyond Psychology:  An Introduction to Metapsychology.  Learn more about trauma and how to resolve on his website

Web Site: Critical Issues in Trauma Resolution

Reader Reviews for "Critical Issues in Trauma Resolution, by Frank A. Gerbode, M.D."

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Reviewed by Lee Garrett 9/16/2004
Interesting and insightful approach, dealing with time as perception instead of dimension--quantum psychology, what a concept!
Reviewed by Cynthia Borris 2/17/2004


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