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The assumptive world theory of trauma

DSC00481This post is a review of The Loss of the Assumptive World: A Theory of Traumatic Loss, edited by Jeffrey Kauffman. The approach is popular among a group of clinicians, though I think its thesis is widely, if tacitly, held. It’s a good theory with a remarkable flaw.

The assumptive world

The assumptive world is the only world we know and it includes everything we know or think we know. It includes our interpretation of the past and our expectations of the future, our plans and our prejudices. (Tom Attig, quoting Parkes, p. 55)

Robert J. Lifton and Irvin Yalom play pretty big roles in assumptive world theory, which could be called existential crisis theory. Trauma happens when our basic assumptions about the world are shattered. These assumptions are as fundamental as “I will continue to live,” “I will not be alone and isolated for the rest of my life,” and “my life has meaning and purpose.”

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