Aftermath: The implicit processes of integrating traumatic experience in the poetry of Siegfried Sassoon

  • Saks P
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Abstract

The creation of narratives often allows individuals to bear witness to traumatic events. This study looked at connections between the processing of traumatic, affect laden experience and levels of symbolization and symmetry within the context of poetic expression. The sample for this pilot study is composed of selected works by Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967), a British soldier-poet of the Great War. The language of the poems reflected the deepening trauma of the war experience by showing a progression toward paranoid (concrete)/symmetrical experiences. As the years passed and the poet was able to process the memory of the events, the poetry reflected a more balanced shift toward integration of depressive (symbolic)/asymmetrical experience. In terms of affect, the most significant changes were seen after Sassoon left the front and witnessed the flagrant dichotomy between civilian and military life. The results suggest a way in which traumatic events are processed. The routine horror and brutality of the Western Front initially lay outside of the realm of language and symbols and were thus highly concrete and unprocessed experiences. Time, place, and identity collapsed in on itself, leading to the increase of symmetrical experience, while the extreme 'us versus them experience' of the trenches can be seen in the balance of asymmetrical experience. The study has implications for the treatment of war trauma, suggesting that writing provides a vehicle through which events can be processed and an internal sense of balance can be approached. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Author-supplied keywords

  • 2007
  • Emotional Trauma
  • Poetry
  • Siegfried Sassoon poetry
  • Symbolism
  • War
  • narratives
  • symbolization
  • symmetry
  • traumatic experience

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Authors

  • Paul S Saks

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