I wonder if reading about Soviet prisoner poet Irena Ratushinskaya, such as in her book, Grey is the Color of Hope, can be a form of exposure therapy for borderline post traumatic stress disorder (my unprofessional opinion of my reactions). Exposure therapy immerses a person in memories of their ordeal to help desensitize them. I’ve thought that Solzhenitsyn’s writing of his experiences was probably therapeutic for him. I think there is a line, though, in how a story is told, that can lead to victimizing the audience if crossed. My sense is that excessive details can do this. This is why I wont watch videos of Muslims sawing off people’s heads. Getting that close to the situation can terrorize and thus victimize the audience. Some verbal descriptions go too far too. They seem to be meant to shock and disturb. But isn’t that what is necessary for change? Shock and awe?
I think we have to pay attention to how lives of the Saints are told. ‘And they were dipped in acid, and burned, and then their head was cut off’. We can imagine enough about that telling to know that it was a very bad thing and that the people who did it were very bad, and those who endured without capitulating to the demands of the powers that be were very brave and good examples. I get red flags when the details get too graphic. Especially when nudity is discussed. I would prefer that the story teller just said forced nudity is a tactic used by terrorists. To go into particulars about the situation is salacious, in my opinion. Does my ptsd reaction to details mean I need to be desensitized by hearing graphic stories of that kind of abuse? I don’t think so. I don’t want to care less how bad it is. If I have a reaction to it, then I feel manipulated and controlled by others into having that reaction. If I let myself be immersed in those stories to the point where I quit having that reaction, then for one thing, I am less likely to guard the innocent from it happening to them. Do veterans need to feel less bad about violent deaths? Shouldn’t we try to protect them from experiencing that sort of trauma, even vicariously? Shouldn’t we instead focus on whatever is true and good?
But shouldn’t we also be aware of atrocities that are being committed to fellow humans in the world today? Yes, but there is a good way and bad way to talk about it, like I said about the Saint stories. It should be from the point of view of the good people, with their dignity and modesty being protected. I think there’s a way to do that without hiding the truth, which so far in Chapter 7, Ratushinskaya does pretty well, with maybe two small exceptions. Solzhenitsyn is a bit less careful. I think victims can become unwittingly complicit in some of the tactics of their abusers.
addendum: Schindler’s List, and The Passion of Christ are two examples of movies that I think go too far into inciting salacious and sadistic reactions.