Of Deserts, Dialectics, and Trauma Work

My camera in hand, the desert’s quickly changing light and sweeping landscapes always bring to mind a dialectic.

We are small compared to the passage of time, recorded in the history of a dry river bed. We are tiny compared to the enormity of a sky that that can hold a full moon setting as a bright sun climbs.

As small as we are, we have an impact, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. Our missteps can bust biogenic crusts that have taken hundreds of years to grow, or we can leave trails better than we found them, picking up trash along our way.

A dialectical stance is an invitation to find synthesis in apparent opposites. In this case, a way to be small and have a positive impact. Across my career studying responses to trauma, I’ve found a synthesis for this dialectic in collaboration.

After all, trauma and its impacts reach far, from one generation to the next; and to all areas of life, from education and health to economic security. Against that backdrop, we can feel small in our individual work.

Yet, we can have an impact that is more than the sum of our individual efforts through intentional collaboration.

Together, we can make progress towards a world without trauma and intimate violence, built on a foundation of equity and healing. That synthesis is at the heart of my forthcoming book, Every 90 Seconds: Our Common Cause Ending Violence against Women, scheduled for release in April 2022 — minus the desert photos.

The “Fun Stuff” section of Trauma Research Notes is for sharing photos, reflections, and other musings. I took the photos below in New Mexico in summer 2021, while musing on dialectics.

Published by Anne P. DePrince, PhD

Author of "Every 90 Seconds: Our Common Cause Ending Violence Against Women" (Oxford University Press), Anne is Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Associate Vice Provost of Public Good Strategy and Research at the University of Denver. She directs the Traumatic Stress Studies Group.

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