TOO SCARED TO CRY: Psychic Trauma in Childhood by

TOO SCARED TO CRY: Psychic Trauma in Childhood

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A penetrating report by a California psychiatrist on how frightening events such as kidnapping, abuse, death, or accidents affect children, and continue to affect them through their adult lives. Terr takes as the starting point her study of the children involved in the 1976 Chowchilla, Cal., school-bus kidnapping. The bus carrying 26 children home from summer day-camp disappeared with its driver and passengers. Thirty-eight hours later, the heroic children dug themselves out from a living tomb 100 miles from home. In spite of the happy ending, the event left deep scars. Even five or more years later, although ""predictable"" symptoms like a drop in school grades were infrequent, some of the children were reenacting the kidnapping in play or had undergone marked personality changes. Terr pinpointed groups of emotional, mental, and behavioral symptoms that could clearly be tied to childhood trauma. So strong was the connection between symptoms such as distortion of time, repeated dreams, and repetitious play that Terr was able to spot frightening events in the past lives of some of the children in her control groups, chosen for their apparently untroubled histories. In the same way (and like Alice Miller in The Untouched Key, p. 161), she ties the work of writers and filmmakers like Edgar Allan Poe, Alfred Hitchcock, and particularly Stephen King to childhood terrors constantly reenacted. Cogent and eloquent--Terr has a gift for metaphor--the book deals too briefly with treatment, but shines a bright light on things that go bump in a child's night.

Pub Date: May 23rd, 1990
Publisher: Harper & Row