Connecting Magical Realism and Psychology

Connecting Magical Realism and Psychology

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Connecting Magical Realism and Psychology


At first, German art critic Franz Roh used the term "Magical Realism" to describe a style of painting (Roh 15). Eventually, Arturo Uslar Pietri adapted the term in order to describe a type of literature (Leal 120). While the exact definition of Magical Realism is open to interpretation, it is certain that Magical Realism gives a deeper meaning to ordinary life by unearthing mysteries that hide behind the world (Roh 16-17). In order to uncover these mysteries, Magical Realism combines fantasy with reality (Flores 110-111). Although Magical Realism is now well-known as a genre of literature, Magical Realism extends into "real life" through a treatment in psychology known as Traumatic Incident Reduction.

In order to see how Magical Realism is found in this treatment, one must first consider at least one of the identifying marks of Magical Realism. Among the characteristics that identify Magical Realism is the feeling of transcendence that the reader has while reading a Magical Realist text (Simpkins 150). During transcendence, a reader senses something that is beyond the real world. At the same time, however, the reader still feels as if he or she were rooted in the world (Sandner 52). After the reader undergoes transcendence, then he or she should have a different outlook on life.

Secondly, one must consider what the process of Traumatic Incident Reduction involves in order to see how Magical Realism relates. In this treatment, the patient who has experienced some type of traumatic incident will replay the incident in his or mind. Then, he or she will describe the event to his or her therapist. After the patient views the event several more times in his or her mind, he or she will usually go into more extensive detail about the incident. Eventually, the patient is supposed to reach a point at which he or she replaces negative emotions regarding the event with positive emotions. Additionally, the patient usually gains new insights concerning life. Most importantly, the Traumatic Incident Reduction offers the patient an opportunity to "confront the trauma at the time it occurred," enabling the patient to move on with life (Schiraldi 209-210).

While feeling rooted in the world, the patient must go beyond the physical world in order to overcome his or her post-trauma stress. Even though the patient does not literally go back in time, the results of replaying a traumatic incident and confronting it in his or her mind have real effects in the patient's life.

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Furthermore, since the patient is able to transform his or her feelings about the event, then the patient attains the refreshed outlook on life, a result of transcendence. As illustrated by the labyrinth in the Magical Realist story "The Garden of Forking Paths," how the person lives the rest of his or her life depends on which path in life the person chooses to take (Borges 19-29). Therefore, if and how the patient chooses to confront the trauma in his or her mind affects the patient's future way of living.

By briefly considering the Magical Realist characteristic of transcendence and the Traumatic Incident Reduction treatment in psychology, one can see that Magical Realism extends into "real life" because the treatment requires the patient to transcend in order to change his or her attitude and outcome regarding life. Since the Magical Realist attitude can be expressed in other modes of real life such as philosophy, psychology, and physics, one can say that Magical Realism can be expressed as a worldview. Because it has become a worldview beyond literature, Magical Realism has regained popularity as a type of fiction in the past sixty years.

Works Cited

Borges, Jorge Luis. "The Garden of Forking Paths." Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings. Ed. Donald A. Yates and James E. Irby. New York: New Directions, 1964. 19-29.

Flores, Angel. "Magical Realism in Spanish American Fiction." Magical Realism. Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1995. 109-116.

Leal, Luis. "Magical Realism in Spanish American Literature." Magical Realism. Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1995. 119-123.

Roh, Franz. "Magic Realism: Post-Expressionism." Magical Realism. Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1995. 15-30.

Sandner, David. The Fantastic Sublime. Westport, C.T.: Greenwood P, 1996.

Schiraldi, Glenn R. "Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR)." The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook. Los Angeles: Lowell House, 2000. 209-212.

Simpkins, Scott. "Sources of Magic Realism/Supplements to Realism in Contemporary Latin American Literature." Magical Realism. Theory, History, Community. Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Durham, N.C.: Duke UP, 1995. 145-157.
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