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Tales from the New Asylum: The Valediction: Page 2 of 2

Tales from the New Asylum: The Valediction: Page 2 of 2

In the New Asylums, spousal loss or divorce gets everyone’s attention. It’s well known that this type of loss, for an inmate, can be a fatal one.4 The outside spouse may well be the inmate’s canteen of water in an endless stretch of dessert. A promise from the future that there is still reason to carry hope close to one’s chest. And suddenly it’s gone—and what remains? Only the individual inmate in question can answer with precision, but here are some findings from previous excavations: vanishing of hope, crushing abandonment, searing rejection. But perhaps less well explored—yet equally destructive—traumatic betrayal.

Strange, but betrayal has not been well defined by the social sciences. One attempt has resulted in calling it “the...(biopsychosocial) harm caused by an actual or perceived violation of a psychological contract by person(s) upon which the victim relies for some aspect of his or her...well-being.”5 Some have speculated that betrayal is more injurious than physical trauma because of its profoundly destabilizing effects. It upends all our mental schemas, guarantees, and “psychological contracts” we had previously relied upon to understand and respond to life.5,6 And perhaps herein lies its lesson—unless the individual can rediscover some form of equilibrium, he is thrust, painfully and unwillingly, into a void of precarious uncertainty. With or without assistance, who can say how any one of us might clutch and flail? On occasion, careful excavations may uncover remnants of the struggle.

Shattered dreams, worthless years
Here am I encased inside a hollow shell
Life began, then was done
Now I stare into a cold and empty well.

....I believe when I fall in love with you it will be forever.1



“I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever),” by Stevie Wonder. Lyrics at: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/steviewonderibelievewhenifallinloveitwillbeforever.html. Song at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYJFkLUGbbk.
2. Boivin M. Forgotten warriors: an evaluation of the emotional well-being of presently incarcerated Vietnam veterans. Genet Soc Gen Psychol Monogr. 1987;113:109-125.
3. Wortzel H, Binswanger I, Anderson C, Adler L. Suicide among incarcerated veterans. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2009;37:82-91.
4. Way B, Miraglia R, Sawyer D, et al. Factors related to suicide in New York state prisons. Int J Law Psychiatry. 2005;28:207-221.
5. Hensley AL. Betrayal trauma: Insidious purveyor of PTSD. In: Dougherty GW, ed. Return to Equilibrium: Proceedings of the 7th Rocky Mountain Region Disaster Mental Health Conference. Ann Arbor, Mich: Loving Healing Press; 2009.
6. Freyd JJ, Klest B, Allard CB. Betrayal trauma: relationship to physical health, psychological distress, and a written disclosure intervention. J Trauma Dissociation. 2005;6:83-104.

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