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The Unsayable: The Hidden Language of Trauma

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  655 ratings  ·  61 reviews
In her twenty years as a clinical psychologist, Annie Rogers has learned to understand the silent language of girls who will not–who cannot–speak about devastating sexual trauma. Abuse too painful to put into words does have a language, though, a language of coded signs and symptoms that conventional therapy fails to understand. In this luminous, deeply moving book, Rogers ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published August 8th 2006 by Random House
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May 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
"I saw that what is so terrible about trauma is not abuse itself, no matter the brutality of treatment, but the way terror marks the body and then becomes invisible and inarticulate. This was the case even when someone could tell a story or reconstruct a memory. There was always something unsayable, too."

What a provocative, difficult, and compelling read. In her book The Unsayable, clinical psychologist Annie Rogers details her work with survivors of sexual abuse. She analyzes her experiences wi
Oct 15, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: abuse survivors, psychotherapists and patients, those interested in trauma
this books is not perfect -- the writing could be a lot tighter, the stories less scattered, the lacanian theory underlying rogers' therapeutic approach more deeply explained. maybe rogers could have eliminated some stories and spent more time on others, because one does come away from this with a lot of unanswered question.

this said, this is a moving book. the girls are terrific -- scarred and raw and angry and beautiful -- and rogers' own presence in their lives is portrayed (by herself) with
Jun 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
"Arrest: to be stopped by a law beyond yourself

"Beautiful: to be known through another's experience of your beauty, and to love by knowing their desire

"These are my words for her sounds working on our bodies at the same moment."
Erica Tjelta
Sep 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Absolutely every therapist and counselor in existence.
Wow. (That truly is the most succinct review I can offer!)

Do you walk around thinking you more or less say what you actually mean? And that others do the same? Do you think you've finally gotten yourself pretty much figured out? Ha.

Have you ever wanted to be able to better relate to those who have experienced trauma beyond what you can understand? Or maybe to makes sense of the trauma in your own life?

Would you like to have your stereotypes of Freudian psychoanalysis to be shattered? Have you ne
Mar 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Rogers does an excellent job of allowing readers into the most intimate and vulnerable relationships in one's life: therapist and client.

Not only does Rogers see the value in spending time after each session with a client, to analyze, process, and make sense of the interactions, but she reminds clinicians of the importance of "listening" and finding meaning within language.

Clients often say more than we think they say, and if we listen close enough, we will be able to hear them.
May 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
i don't know. i read this slowly, trying to understand. she introduces a lacanian theory of psychoanalysis, which focuses on the idea that the unconscious is not what freud though, but rather, the unconscious is through language. and she has this theory that trauma is actually through language (which then makes sense that she picks lacan to lead her through the whole thing, as he's a rather famous deconstructionist).

so mostly, i want to read lacan now, but i don't know what.

i found myself offe
Jul 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2006
i think shrinky already wrote my review for me. i really liked the book, but i had the same problem with believing all her patients magically open up in response to her repeating their own words back to them. the parts where she makes a big deal of the recurrence of "ed" in words used by a girl who was abused by someone named ed made me less inclined to accept her theories about language and the unconscious, too. still, it definitely makes sense to me that things from the unconscious can leak in ...more
May 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
OH. SO. GOOD. It's remarkable how we use language and how we tell our stories and what we don't even understand we're revealing when we're talking. But our brains do.... I've re-read it twice and am still thinking about and trying to understand it.
Aug 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The author of this book is brilliant, to start with. The book is a chilling, fascinating, profound explication of Freudian/Lacanian theory and practice. I've never thought much of Freud, ever since I had him over and, when I went to the bathroom, he stole my entire cocaine stash and disappeared.

The idea of Freudian analysis by any psychoanalyst not as brilliant as Freud or the author of this book has troubled me (even though I have never given nor received psychoanalysis). The idea of free assoc
Feb 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
*At a loss for words*

It's probably not a coincidence that it is difficult to put into words what Annie has communicated in her book about the hidden language of trauma. Through her entrancing and lyrical use of language, she somehow magically illustrates how the invisible marks of trauma on the body repeatedly surface through the spoken--and more importantly non-spoken--language. In her work with traumatized children, Annie mirrors back traces of their unconscious she remarkably detects in both
Nov 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book for anyone working with children and trauma. Some of the stories are difficult to read, but Annie Rogers is great writer. I highly recommend this book. The content of the stories help one to consider the importance of words and the role of language and how difficult it can be to articulate horrible things (especially for children).
Apr 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
A pretty fascinating read about the author's experiences as a psychoanalyst. The book starts off with her experience with psychosis, hospitalization ... And then goes into case studies, where she emphasises how children speak the unspeakable through signifiers (Lacanian term), And signifiers can be words that have a special tendency to repeat in one's language, usually through freudian slips, accents, or through behaviour, fantasies, dreams, symbolls. Most of the time they are unconscious, visib ...more
Sep 03, 2015 rated it liked it
There is no question that Rogers is a fantastic writer. Her use of language is incredible, and her ability to describe her own processes is fascinating. It also does a good job of communicating her patients to the reader in a way that really displays their candor.

I have, however, been building up to a "but," and it is this: she gives far too much credit to Lacan and this search for the "unsayable." Towards the end of the book, I feel like the only thing she allows to come through in her writing
Aug 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book several years ago when I first started back at school. I enjoyed it then, but decided now, almost 5 years later, to pick it back up and see what more I might get out of it.

Quite a lot, it seems. Based on the Lacanian theory of how our unconscious manifests itself in the things we DON'T say, the metaphors we use, and the way certain words we use sound like other things that our conscious mind won't let us say, Rogers uses this information in her work with sexually abused children
it was... hard to read. not... intellectually hard to read. emotionally hard to read. I had to put it down a couple of times 'cause... i don't know; it was stirring something in me and it was too much to handle, but... but it was good. I mean, personally, I think she's reading a little too much into those repetitious words and sounds. I think she's making connections that no one else would ever think twice about. I understand it, to a certain extent. I even agree with it, to a certain extent. Bu ...more
Dec 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Um. Yeah. Well, I couldn't say. No, REALLY, I couldn't say. Which is probably why I was drawn to this book. Reading it was a roller-coaster ride. There were passages so vertiginous that I thought I'd throw up and then the author would go haring off on a psychotic break of her own, or some impenetrable Freudian passage and I'd roll my eyes like one of the teenagers featured herein. There were passages where I couldn't even breathe, it was like they were written about me, or about that little girl ...more
Natalie Steinberg
Mar 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book has a slow beginning and a slow, tiresome ending, but the middle portion (and the vast majority of it) is incredibly interesting. There were points in this book where I struggled to put it down, but other points where I felt I could skip whole pages and not really miss anything. Much of the beginning spoke of the author's own psychotic episodes, and (as I suppose it probably should have been), were somewhat confusing to me. There is also a significant amount of religious references and ...more
Oct 26, 2012 rated it liked it
This was a very interested collection of case studies. It reads very much like most of Freud's collections of case studies. Some of the stories were interesting, but I didn't really feel like I learned anything new in this. She basically took Freud and Lacan and applied it to her specific cases, but didn't really offer anything new to the discussion. It was easy to read, but at times unnecessarily repetitive.
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
this book was more theory-heavy than A Shining Affliction, and to some extent I missed the lovely lilt and roll of her narrative style; but the depth and nuance of the theory was spectacular. I understand more about Lacanian analysis after reading this book than I did after taking half a semester's class on it. Dr. Rogers is a beautiful writer, a precise and elegant thinker, and takes a deeply kind and respectful approach to her clients. I want to throw myself at her feet and study from her.
May 08, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: psychotherapy
Extremely disappointing. The writer's main case study was of her performing Lacanian analysis on a teen -- and she wasn't even trained as a Lacanian analyst. Unethical. As a licensed mental health professional conducting evidenced based practice on children and teens who were sexually abused -- I thought it was atrocious that she kept this teen in treatment for 7 years. Such an antiquated understanding of severe sexual trauma. It was tough to read the whole book.
Jun 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
I haven't read anything like this in quite a while. I liked that her approach is so different from others I've been reading recently, though some of the Lacanian theory was a bit much for me. I kept up a healthy argument with her in my head as I read, but found that some of her ideas have been making me look at the world somewhat differently.
Susan Berger-jones
Mar 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Not just about trauma. The book is about language & music & Lacan. Audiences, witnesses, silence & sound. Made me think about Facebook, for example, and what it means to speak to the missing there. "It is Lacan's idea that when we speak to someone, we're actually hearing ourselves through them." ...more
Spider the Doof Warrior
Apr 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: i-love-this-book
I remembered I read this book. I should probably read it again as trauma and how it effects the mind is something I'm interested in. Even stuff you don't remember can shape you. This therapist was trying to listen to her patients and find ways to help them. She also had went through similar trauma too.
N. Likes
Nov 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Annie Rogers is a compelling, fluid writer. With this book, part confessional, part memoir, part how-to manual, she provides tremendous insight into how to understand the speech - and the silences - of traumatized people.

Anyone who loves, or cares for, anyone who has suffered childhood trauma, should read this book.
Dec 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Rogers is a Lacanian psychologist who bases her work on the assumption that when something is unsayable, the traumatized, through repetitions and other word use, will betray or tell the story he or she can not speak. Centered on work with young girls and inclusive of Rogers’ own history of trauma and breakdown.
Intriguing. Well-written. But definitely a mixed bag, in my personal opinion. Some lines were sharply lovely and real, but there was a lot of excessively Freudian and narrowly analytical material that left a sour taste in my mouth, per se. I'm glad I read it, but I'm not over the moon about the message.
Abbie Meyer
Apr 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
If you are looking for a quick psychology read don't bother with this book! Sometimes requires going back to re read stories and then understand how she applies Lacan's theory. I agree with others that have stated her storyline is somewhat scattered. Rogers has convinced me to reconsider the unconscious when practicing. Very thought provoking book!
Donovan Lessard
Oct 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
The best, most accessible interpretation of Lacan I've ever read. Highly recommended for social scientists who are getting in Lacanian theory. The writing is quite good, the stories are touching, and it's a relatively quick read.
Travel Writing
May 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
"The real unsayable of trauma is the trauma of language itself. Our use of language makes us human, and in our humanity we create the worlds we're bent on destroying. If you do not believe words create destruction and trauma, listen to the language of war, how we use the name of god, justice, goodness, peace and reparation, all to justify endless violence. think of the harm we do one another all the time, how we use words to cover it, as if we are not responsible."

Wild ride, this book. Part stor
Sandy Plants
Jun 12, 2019 rated it liked it
I can’t say I fully understand this book, but I still found some gold within it. I appreciated reading stories about children who were sexually abused and learning how that affected them later on—subconsciously for the most part. I related strongly to some stories and it helped me understand my own experiences in a way.

I appreciate the author’s insight into the importance of listening to the “unsayable” / subconscious and I judge that there is a lot of wisdom behind words. That being said, I fo
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Annie G. Rogers is a writer and Professor of Psychoanalysis and Clinical Psychology at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. The recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship in Ireland, and a Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard University, she is the author of A Shining Affliction (Penguin Viking, 1995), Charlie's Chasing the Sheep (Lismore Books, 2003), and The Unsayable: The Hidden Language of Trauma ...more

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Contemporary young adult literature has often led the way in depicting the real-life issues facing teens from all backgrounds. To delve into ho...
56 likes · 8 comments
“Lacan wrote about two levels of speaking, one in which we know what we are saying (even when struggling with something difficult or contradictory) and another in which we have no idea of what we are saying. In this second level of speaking there are repeating words, phrases, and even sounds that function as magnets of unconscious meaning, condensing multiple scenes, times, and ideas. He called such markers in speech 'signifiers.” 8 likes
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