Pitching into the concept of trauma requires the focus on one of the greatest pioneers among trauma psychologists. Jean-Martin Charcot was born in the ninetieth century, in Paris, for a carriage builder father. When he turned 19, it was the time he graduated form secondary school, to later achieve his goal and enter the medical school of the University of Paris.
That was the school he accomplished his internship in which he surprisingly worked as a professor in. Along with teaching students, Charcot was a famous neurologist and the director of the Salpêtrière Hospital. He was married to Madame Durvis, in 1862 and had two children, Jeanne and Jean-Baptiste.
Charcot had three main contributions to modern neurology and psychiatry. He first diagnosed the hysterical disorders (psychoneuroses), and presented a study of its etiology and that proved by the time that hysteria was caused to female patients mainly on the form of physiological disturbances, such as anesthesias and paralysis. He was also able to determine the relationship between behavioral symptoms and the physiological disturbances of the nervous system; thus detecting the roots of the abnormal behavior symptoms. In order to learn more about hysteria, Charcot finally invested more time in studying the “hypnosis” (mesmerism) technique that he believed was a great way in diagnosing hysteria in therapy.
Through the patient being hypnotized, they fall asleep, in order to be able to recall and integrate with their traumatic incidents that they were escaping in their walking state, through narrative psychology (to link their past with their present). In integrating past traumatic incidents with PTSD patient’s new life, Charcot believed that once the “forgotten” traumatic event is integrated under hypnosis; it would be easier for patients to integrate all dissociative memories in their walking state later.
Charcot was not interested in the history of the trauma or how the patients formed it; he was more interested in the physical appearance of it in the form of hysteria on the patients. He was more inclined to use the biopsychological approach than the biopsychosociological one, that emphasized more on emphasizing wit patients and genealogy in trauma psychology, linking all threads of their traumatic incident together as trying to fix the damaged branches of a family tree.
It is impressive to note that Charcot had taught many of our leading psychologists, such as Sigmund Freud, Pierre Janet and Alfred Binet. However, the teacher’s students came into disagreement with their tutor, as they believed that hysteria was the result of a psychological, not neurological dysfunction. In addition to that Freud thought hysteria was related to a repressed sexual interest that is one of the symptomology of showing it is hysteria on females.
However, he came to agreement that patients had suffered form hysteria as a form of emotional consequence to the traumatic incident they experience, whether it is a fall from a scaffold or a railway crash. The main cause from being traumatized is due to the way they had shaped the incident in their minds, not the physical consequences of the event on them. Charoct contributed to modern neurology in diagnosing what is known today with the “Charcot Foot”. It is mainly caused to diabetic patients who have weakening in the bones that is due to damage in the foot nerves.
Charcot died in Morvan, France in the year 1892 at the age of 65 years.
Interesting Facts about Charcot:
- A song “Let Yourself Go” from The Alan Parsons Project’s Freudiana is dedicated to Doctor Charcot.
- A 2012 French historical drama film, Augustine, is about a love affair between Charcot and a patient.
Watch this conversation on hysteria causes: Charcot and his student, Freud.