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Healing Invisible Wounds

Paths to Hope and Recovery in a Violent World

Richard F. Mollica

Publication Year: 2008

In these personal reflections on his thirty years of clinical work with victims of genocide, torture, and abuse in the United States, Cambodia, Bosnia, and other parts of the world, Richard Mollica describes the surprising capacity of traumatized people to heal themselves.

Here is how Neil Boothby, Director of the Program on Forced Migration and Health at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, describes the book:

"Mollica provides a wealth of ethnographic and clinical evidence that suggests the human capacity to heal is innate--that the 'survival instinct' extends beyond the physical to include the psychological as well. He enables us to see how recovery from 'traumatic life events' needs to be viewed primarily as a 'mystery' to be listened to and explored, rather than solely as a 'problem' to be identified and solved. Healing involves a quest for meaning--with all of its emotional, cultural, religious, spiritual and existential attendants--even when bio-chemical reactions are also operative."

Healing Invisible Wounds reveals how trauma survivors, through the telling of their stories, teach all of us how to deal with the tragic events of everyday life. Mollica's important discovery that humiliation--an instrument of violence that also leads to anger and despair--can be transformed through his therapeutic project into solace and redemption is a remarkable new contribution to survivors and clinicians.

This book reveals how in every society we have to move away from viewing trauma survivors as "broken people" and "outcasts" to seeing them as courageous people actively contributing to larger social goals. When violence occurs, there is damage not only to individuals but to entire societies, and to the world. Through the journey of self-healing that survivors make, they enable the rest of us not only as individuals but as entire communities to recover from injury in a violent world.

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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pp. 4-7

Table of Contents

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pp. 8-11

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pp. 12-17

Alittle Italian boy about nine, with wild and curly hair, rushed along the tenement streets of Harlem to meet his father at his fruit...

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1. Striking Out on a New Pathway

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pp. 18-44

Although we all know that suffering is a universal human experience, the modern world still does not know how to speak...

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2. The Trauma Story

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pp. 45-72

PHILOCTETES serves as a metaphor for the essential reality of the trauma survivor and his or her story. It is the genius of Sophocles that more...

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3. Humiliation

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pp. 73-98

On april 6, 1994, rebels shot down an airplane carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, killing both. Then on April 7, an unprecedented...

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4. The Power of Self-Healing

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pp. 99-120

With the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979 and 1980, hundreds of thousands of malnourished Khmer tried...

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5. Storytelling as a Healing Art

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pp. 121-144

In his memoir Survival in Auschwitz, the late Primo Levi describes a recurrent dream he had while in the death camp. In it he has returned home and is telling...

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6. Good Dreams and Bad Dreams

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pp. 145-167

The trauma story is only one self-healing pathway that has not been fully acknowledged. Another psychological process that has been long...

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7. Social Instruments of Healing

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pp. 168-198

Healing begins with a choice. Survivors of extreme violence must decide which reality to live in—their old, broken world or...

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8. The Call to Health

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pp. 199-224

Iam afraid of this patient.” This thought often echoes in the minds of doctors and therapists, paralyzing the self-healing forces in traumatized persons...

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9. Society as Healer

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pp. 225-251

The Indochinese Psychiatry Clinic (IPC) in Brighton, Massachusetts, was young, only eight years old, and just beginning to flourish. Its staff of sixteen doctors, social workers, psychologists...

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pp. 252-259

In 1990 a miracle occurred in Thailand. The military supreme command had just about made the decision to move the 160,000 Site 2 residents—every man, woman, and child— away from the Thai-Cambodian...

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pp. 260-263

My work and ideas have been nurtured over the years by many sources. My mentors have included Professor Fritz Redlich, the first psychiatrist to become...


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pp. 264-271


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pp. 272-279


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pp. 280-288

Back Cover

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p. 289-289

E-ISBN-13: 9780826516428
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826516411

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2008