The Silent Scream, The Life of Quiet Desperation, and Treatment

My continuing search for telltale characteristics of adult victims of infant surgery without anesthesia suggests two that are expressed in literature and art. These adults seem to live “a life of quiet desperation” as quoted from Thoreau’s Walden (1854) and descriptive of the person’s unconscious (nonverbal) dire expectancy of doom. The second relates to the painting “The Scream” by Edvard Munch. That was one victim’s description of her invariable reaction to stress; a silent scream. Others have endorsed this description as applying to their inner echo of perennial pain. I understand these two experiences as arising from the dissociated infant self, frozen in the trauma of surgical pain.

How Can You Treat The Trauma Of Infant Surgery ?
The processing of any trauma requires the processing of two memories, the verbal memory and the nonverbal. The verbal memory of infant surgery is a reconstruction of what-must-have-been, elicited by known facts, imagination, and guided imagery to form a narrative with beginning, middle, and end. The nonverbal memory is the body’s experience of survival instincts (startle, flight/fight, freeze, submission, and repair). The verbal memory must convey narrative truth but not necessarily historical truth. The nonverbal memory is known to the therapist as the instinctual trauma response, which is the same for all traumas at all ages. The narrative construction is assisted by guided imagery that develops a believable story of the traumatic event. The verbal story and nonverbal sensations are merged into a graphic narrative, which the patient draws. The therapist pins up the pictures and “re-presents” the story to the patient as audience. This makes it possible for the person to experience closure and to finally regard the trauma as past tense and finished.


About ltinnin

I am a Professor Emeritus at West Virginia University Medical School with a primary interest in the treatment of trauma-related conditions. I am currently a psychiatric consultant for Intensive Trauma Therapy in Morgantown, West Virginia.
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5 Responses to The Silent Scream, The Life of Quiet Desperation, and Treatment

  1. You’ve given a lot of nourishing food for thought. I am a survivor of infant surgery without anesthesia and your blog post holds great meaning for me. Thank you. I look forward to reading more.

  2. Excellent information. I had Pyloric Stenosis operation without anaesthetic back in 1952, and one’s life is a nightmare. I have battled with the effects, and from it, has become a Global vision which is emerging based on my book A Child Unheard. Please share with others. God Bless. David


  3. Bless you Louis. Been led over Christmas to create the below insight to my personal journey. All the best for 2013, and if I can be any help in any way, please drop me an email.

    Good evening all , may I wish you all a blessed 2013, the year which will finally see the message/vision of A Child Unheard
    Flow across the world, with new ACU centers being established in Ghana, Kenya and Uganda, music which will touch the heart
    and souls of folk across the world, and so much more………….

    To share at this time, the below insight, to my personal journey, and how the A Child Unheard message/vision has come into being.


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