Trauma and Formation of Self

For the past three years I have been employed by an organization key to special education in my region. This has placed me as a substitute in a variety of classrooms and social environments, and the one thing that I’ve noticed among all of these positions is that the human mind has an incredibly ability to cope in the face of trauma.

I think of one classroom in particular which accomodated high school students with behavioral disabilities. The majority of these students had faced tragic and unconventional circumstances. One student in particular came from an extremely abusive home. This student struggled excessively with reading comprehension and memory. He retained almost nothing of what he read and struggled to memorize terms for science and formulas for math. It wasn’t until I spoke with the classroom’s social worker that I understood what a toll past traumas take on the human mind. This social worker explained to me how the mind protects itself from extreme stressors by physically changing the way that the brain functions. In scientific terms, the brain works through a complex series of rapid-firing neurons and has the normal capacity to quickly regenerate neurons in the hippocampus, the part of the brain essential to memory and learning. But when under extreme stress, the brain is impaired and either stops or slows down neuron re-generation (Bremner, J. Doughlas, M.D.). Essentially, the anatomy of the brain is changed which results in changed cognitive processes.

By now you’re probably wondering what this has to do with any of Butler’s works.

Well, here it comes; I would argue that Butler portrays the effects of trauma most vividly in Doro. And furthermore I feel that my consistent argument for Doro’s innocence as situational comes from my understanding and personal experience with trauma survivors. The way that Nikita has paraphrased a sentiment from Frank B. Wilderson III in his blog post particularly fits with my understanding of Doro: “Doro’s violence ‘precedes and exceeds’ his history.” This is to say that I believe Doro’s inescapably violent nature and traumatic past has caused the excess of negative and hostile behavior he exhibits.

So as Beth asked our respective groups to discuss what tugged at our heart strings the most, my heart immediately ached as I remembered the last paragraph of Chapter Eight which really solidified the hardship of Doro’s life and his ultimate humanity for me:

He admitted to himself that he didn’t want to kill Mary. She was easily controllable in most matters, because she loved him; and she was a success. Or a partial success. She was giving him a united people, a group finally recognizable as the seeds of the race he had been working to create. They were a people who belonged to him since Mary belonged to him. But they were not a people he could be a part of. As Mary’s pattern brought them together, it shut him out. Together, the “Patternists” were growing into something that he could observe, hamper, or destroy but not something he could join. They were his goal, half accomplished. He watched them with carefully concealed emotions of suspicion and envy. (392)

Though Doro still unflatteringly speaks in terms of his people as property and experiments, it is the raw emotions of loneliness and crushing disappointment in this passage that hits my heart at its weakest strings. It was this passage that convinced me that though Doro was stuck in a cycle of unethical existence but also that he was more than his blatant malpractices.

In John Panus’s blog post, he referenced studies that touched upon “innocence and indoctrination into violent structures of thought” which lead me to contemplate the possibility of Doro regaining a sense of innocence. And furthermore, can Doro’s past and repeated traumas be seen as a source of indoctrination? It’s fair to say that Doro couldn’t survive in his destructive parasitism forever, but I find it tragic that Butler killed off Doro as we began to see his raw emotions. I’m convinced that Doro in his core wasn’t a “bad person,” and we know that Butler aims to write in a way that blurs the boundaries of “good” and “bad.” Perhaps in this final appearance of Doro, Butler aimed to redeem Doro by showing his vulnerability.

Though it’s absurd to claim that Doro had brain damage that kept him from passing the ninth grade, I still liken him to the students I encountered as a tragic product of his circumstance and his traumatic experiences. Because of the early trauma he suffered at the age of thirteen, Doro, I believe, had little choice in who he became. I believe that the very nature of Doro changed his identity at a core level in his mind and that this wound was too great for Doro to ever fully conquer. By the end of Mind of my Mind, I think Doro has redeemed himself the best that he can in the eyes of the reader.

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