Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Tuesday's Book: "Too Scared To Cry"

This book is out in paperback now with a 1992 copyright. The first time I laid eyes on it, my daughter was holding it in her hand. We were in my kitchen.

Shelagh thrust the book at me and said, "here, take this for me. I just found it at the dump, but I don't think I can read it yet." So I shoved it in the bookcase, made her a cup of coffee and we talked about ordinary things, including what a wonderful dump her town had, with places where people could drop off useable things for others to pick over.

Too Scared to CryThe original book had a kind of grey cover as I recall. It certainly didn't have the garish picture they're using now. At least, that's how I remember it: hardbound with hard words on the cover. The title made me shiver. As it would anyone who's ever been told -- or heard another told to --"shut up that crying or I'll give you something to cry about." There may be a more banally evil expression than that, but I can't think of it. When you are simply too terrified for tears, you're in basic survival mode. Tears only come with a safe haven. And then it seems they'll never stop. I remember reading a book once about a man who decided he would cry until there were no tears left. He cried for months...don't know if it ever healed him or not.

Dr. Terr is a child psychiatrist in California. Hers is not a book for scholars or researchers. She's trying to explain a phenomenon to the rest of us, in flesh and blood terms we can grasp. She doesn't talk down to you, and she doesn't gloss over the emotionally difficult parts, but she does show you how fragile children are.

Part of the book is a longitudinal study of sorts about the children in Chowchilla, California who were kidnapped off their bus one afternoon in the 1970’s and buried for twenty four hours in an abandoned rock quarry. Shortly after their rescue, Dr. Terr began a series of interviews with them and followed them into adolescence. They didn't do well. It was here I learned that children of terror cease to have a future, even if you give it back to them. You know those kids Bill Cosby talks about who make bad decisions? They're part of that club, too. Children left alone too long, neglected too much, ignored too often. People think abuse is the worst, but it's not. Abuse is connection. Neglect is abandonment and disconnection. It can kill.

One part of the book that Stephen King fans may enjoy is her attempt to analyze what childhood trauma he must have endured to keep repeating the same themes in his books and films. You'll be surprised at what she manages to uncover.

If you have some idea of the high incidence of abuse and neglect in families today, this book will interest you.

It is my contention that the roots of global terrorism lie partially in the family system of fundamentalist Islamic cultures. Our fundamentalist Christians, bound as they are with brimstone and bigotry, are similar except for one important fact: they don't want to kill all the infidel non-Christians and so far none of them are exhibiting any signs of donning bomb belts and setting out for godless New York City. There can be no moral equations there.

Lenore Terr writes well and makes important connections you wouldn't see otherwise, including the cognitive losses that terror produces, and why people like horror movies (I loathe them).

I finally read Too Scared to Cry but Shelagh never did. She wanted to, but she never felt safe enough. After she died, I gave it away.


At 8:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate horror movies as well. In fact, I hate any suspenseful movie. I can read suspenseful books, where I can control the pace, but with a movie I have no control.

Your post crystallized a thought-- I would bet that no abused person voluntarily watches horror movies or possibly suspenseful ones. I think that is the case with me.

Also since my son was killed, I cannot watch any of the Law and Order shows on TV, and my wife and I used to be avid fans of the original as well as the special division ones. Neither of us watches CSI. We now read murder mysteries after about a three-year hiatus, but again we control the pace and my wife no longer reads James Patterson and neither of use reads Sandford(the prey series.)

At 9:16 PM, Blogger Dymphna said...

The life of a parent whose child is no longer here -- BIll, we need a one-word term here, as "orphan is one word -- has to be careful with reading or watching things. Some stuff just triggers the loss too much..


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