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Tema 4

Norman Simms

Waikato University

"History as Cruelty, Abuse and Trauma:

Using Psychohistory to Understand History of Mentalities"

>>Most writing about abused children and the consequences of their traumatic

>>experiences focus on contemporary issues, where immediate clinical and

>>therapeutic models are urgently needed. Psychohistorians attempt to set

>>the current crisis into a historical context by showing that what is

>>happening today is not a sudden aberration in behaviour or a mere

>>perversion brought on by contemporary political events. Instead, they

>>attempt to show that child abuse is the essential flaw in human history

>>which, gradually, and with many reversals, has progressed towards the

>>beginnings of a self-conscious understanding allowing for deliberate steps

>>towards amelioration, correction, and prevention of further abuse.

>> The function of this paper to show that historical research can be

>>enriched by new ways of reading and evaluating documents and other texts

>>from the past from a psychohistorical perspective. This does not mean

>>that psychohistory replaces normative history of political, social,

>>military and economic matters, for instance. Nor does it mean we impose

>>some kind of Freudian narrative pattern of development on events and

>>persons of the past; no more so than we attempt to lie historical

>>characters on the couch and psychoanalyse them from inadequate and

>>fragmentary data. Nor does it mean that social history can be widened to

>>include such topics as childrearing, maternal care, and early education at

>>home and in school. Rather, much more deeply, it means that the treatment

>>of the essential caregiver-infant in the first three years of life shapes

>>the personality and the affect-parameters of later life, with some

>>dialectical reciprocity the other way, from adult institutions back on to

>>primary emotional-social development. In other words, I wish to argue

>>that attention to these basic human experiences of early childhood

>>revealed through Psychohistory are as powerfully formative for social

>>groups and historical movements as they are to individuals and private

>>life and feelings.

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