Exploring Cancer Trauma: The Image Beneath the Mirror

Lieberman, Saundra (2007) Exploring Cancer Trauma: The Image Beneath the Mirror. Doctoral thesis, Meridian University.


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This research study focuses on breast cancer trauma. The Research Problem asks: What is the role of painting images in the release of trauma-based emotion, the shifting of imaginal structures, and the re-imaging of the feminine in women diagnosed with breast cancer? The hypothesis stated: women with breast cancer who creatively express and release trauma-based emotion through painting in a like-diagnosed group gain insight, shift imaginal structures, and release suppressed affect. The literature review focuses on general cancer trauma, breast cancer trauma, and imaginal approaches to breast cancer trauma. It recognizes breast cancer as a gender-specific cancer which is often traumatizing, affecting quality of life, feminine identity, and body image. Yet, there is insufficient understanding of the trauma and feminine identity shift that breast cancer evokes for women. This qualitative study used the methodology of Imaginal Inquiry, with its four phases of evoking, expressing, interpreting, and integrating experience. Seven participants, women traumatized by breast cancer, viewed evocative slide images of the female body with and without breasts, and then expressed their experience through painting, journaling, and group-sharing. Six learnings emerged from the data. First, evoking breast cancer trauma reactivates earlier unresolved traumas. Second, engaging evocative images of women with and without breasts activates suppressed emotion in women with breast cancer including fear, grief, anger, and awareness of mortality. Third, expressing cancer trauma through creative expressive arts releases and transforms the emotions associated with ix trauma, allowing for the creation of new perceptions and meanings. Fourth, women with breast cancer who paint in a support group of like-diagnosed women enter into a group field of emotional resonance where they experience being seen, mirrored, and understood in ways they could not by others. Fifth, the degree of altered body image and mutilation that breast cancer survivors experience is equivalent to an initiation that catalyzes a radical transformation of feminine identity. Sixth, the circle, an archetypal symbol for the whole self, appeared as the most repeated image in paintings and group-sharing of women in the study. This study’s significance suggests that women with breast cancer benefit from emotional support following medical treatment.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Psychology > Critical Theory
Depositing User: Saundra Lieberman
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2017 18:57
Last Modified: 07 Feb 2017 18:57
URI: http://scholarship.meridianuniversity.edu/id/eprint/132

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