Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


I’ve Overshared and it’s too late to Retract

Orla T. Muldoon

I have described writing my forthcoming book as something I needed to do, almost like an itch that needed to be scratched.   But now that it is finished, I have very mixed feelings about its imminent publication.  The bravery and the enthusiasm project have long since evaporated and replaced by a combination of nerves and reticence. 

There are the usual reasons for this.  The book is a long time with me, a big investment of time, so like any author I am keen that it lands well.  And of course it isn’t just the time I have spent writing. I have spent a career studying the psychological impact of all sorts of stressful and traumatic experiences.  The book includes much of my own research as well as wide ranging coverage of new and old research on the social psychological foundations of trauma.

There are other reasons too I worry about how the book might land. The book is intentionally written to be accessible to people interested in psychological trauma: victims, survivors, their families, those supporting them as well as practitioners, students and academics. This is a very different genre of writing to my usual and well practiced scientific writing style.  Whilst I had started to develop this style in pieces for The Irish Times and RTE Brainstorm, the danger is that this new voice grates.  I am keen that the main message of the book is heard: psychological trauma is a socially situated phenomenon linked to power and privilege, disempowerment and disadvantage.

When I started to write the book, I struggled with how I could exemplify this to readers. A social psychology that de-emphasizes personal causes of mental ill health, is something that I have found is best illustrated using worked examples. This affords a genuinely contextualized and collective understanding of complex issues like mental health. In conversation with colleagues, I concluded that the examples needed to be linked to ensure consistency across the book. And so, I have taken the unusual step of using myself and elements of my own story to illustrate the main argument of the book. I have, so to speak, ‘overshared’.  We all have times of dark and light in our lives. Using mine to illustrate a key argument in this book was not something I ever thought I would do.  And whilst this too makes me very ambivalent about the launch of the book, I hope my personal disclosures help readers to see that trauma is an archetypal example of how the personal and political are connected.

The Social Psychology of Trauma by Orla T. Muldoon

About The Author

Orla T. Muldoon

Orla T. Muldoon is Professor of Psychology at the University of Limerick, Ireland, where she has lived on both sides of the border. She is currently Editor-in-Chief of Political Ps...

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