Professor Jay Polish
May 8, 2018
Was memory loss the most effect way to cope with trauma?
Memory loss is a tricky and frustrating situation which is caused by multiple factors. There are many specific cases where trauma is the reason behind your memory loss. According to research physical and emotional trauma can directly affect your memory. Sometimes the memory loss may be temporary but there are cases where it can become permanent regarding the type of trauma you went through such as a possible severe brain injury or psychological trauma. Luckily our character Nemasani, mother for “Anon”, her memory was not permanently impacted. Although she did use memory loss and denial when it came to the loss of her son.
Anonymous is a thrilling and intense play written by Naomi Iizuka that tells the heartbreaking story of the separation between a mother and her son during the midst of horrible war occuring in the background. This play starts of anon telling his story and his journey to finding and reuniting with his mom only to realize that she has forgotten him and is in denial when he is pushing the truth on her which is that he was never dead only lost. The play does go back and forth between Anon’s life and Nemasani’s and her story is everything that happened to her after her dear son was “killed in the storm”. Nemasani is working in a sweatshop, always being bothered by her boss who has no boundaries and each time she is asked about her son, she repeatedly says he’s dead. This play is definitely one for the feels and the harshness of this story becomes obvious when Anon soon does find his mother and it’s heartbreaking where she refuses to believe he is who he says he is. She constantly told herself and others that she no longer had a son. She started to believe the truth. Her true recollection of the facts refused to kick in even after Anon constantly told her what she is saying is true.
What Nemasani has done here is a clear fact of her decision to cope with trauma with Denial. I believe that she has chose to have denial has her coping mechanism. She knowingly did it and here’s why. Denial is in fact a psychological defense. It is one of the many reactions to trauma. Denial can involve denying or rejecting the traumatic event happened, refusing or denying that it was traumatic and pretending to feel an emotion of certainness when you aren’t. It is said that “If you’re in denial, you’re trying to protect yourself by refusing to accept the truth about something that’s happening in your life”. (mayoclinic.org, lines 1-2). According to an article written by Mayo Clinic discussing denial and its effects, some symptoms of denial are (you) “won’t acknowledge a difficult situation, try not to face the facts of a problem, and downplay possible consequences of the issue”. On page 50, during the scene where Nemasani and Anon look at each other for the first time after Anon says in broken lines which in a full sentence would be “What if I told you…what If somehow…But what if- you have a son?” Nemasani is refusing to let him say what she is scared he might say. She replies with lines such as “No. Don’t say it..please don’t”. And when Anon says “What if?” Nemani replies with “ I don’t believe in “what if”. “What if” will break your heart. After she hears that he says she has a son she immediately says “My son died. He died a long time ago. He was just a little boy and he died”. Anon is begging for her to listen and she apologizes and just simply says that she can’t. This is an example of how Nemasani fits 2 of the symptoms described above. She isn’t trying to acknowledge the truth of a difficult situation that she is speaking to the son that she thought she had lost. She also isn’t trying to face the facts of the problem. She only assumed he was dead. She never really found his body or reported what had happened to him. She was only left with having to cope with her loss and to starting a new life without him.
When I think of dealing with immense trauma, a certain career choice comes to mind and that would be anyone in the Medical department. How do they experience and cope with death? “Nearly all the students experienced some sort of degree of distress upon the death of patients. This anxiety mostly included sadness but also included guilt and anger” (OMEGA, VOL 68(3) 207-228, 2013-2014). Upon reading this I began to think of what Nemasani and Anon have done. Nemasani’s sadness brought on extreme sadness she had chosen to be oblivious to her facts and believe something that was much easier for her to understand. Anon’s anger and sadness resided when he refused to tell anyone his name. He got angry in the beginning of the story when Calista and Anon had a conversation upon where he would go since he refused to go anywhere with her. Each time he would say no. When she replied with “but this is your home”, he would always say no and make sure she knew he wanted her real home. Another example would be the mentioning of his mother throughout the various groups of people he met. A common response to a question about his mom was “Don’t talk about my mom”. It’s researched that “Students who experienced deaths that were the results of code situations (where the student may not have met the patient before) often did not have an emotional response to the losses. However some students lost patients with whom they interacted for days or even weeks, leading them to develop an attachment to the patient” (OMEGA, VOL 68(3) 207-228, 2013-2014). This is only the bond between a patient and their doctor. Imagine the bond between a mother and her child? A mother and her child seperated is meant for severe depression and can cause many types of trauma and having to cope with it, there would be drastic solutions than the one Nemasani has went through.
Nemasani dealt with trauma one way and Anon dealt with it another which was memory loss. Throughout the story, he does seem to be repeating the story of him and his mom multiple times but there are still some hazy facts here and there. He isn’t sure of most things but one thing he is of course sure of is that once he woke up from the wrath of the terrible storm and was taken in by an American family is that he knows this isn’t his real home. He also changes his name multiple times throughout the story going from “Anon, to nobody, to koori..etc”. One of his names was even “Monkey”. That’s cause to smirk! He doesn’t ever give his actual name. There was an important scene during this play that I’d like to focus on. He had trouble getting recollection of his memory but after talking to this girl Naja she helps him remember. On page 24, Naja is repeatedly asking “what do you remember?” When anon says “I don’t know where to begin. I don’t know how. I don’t know how to begin”. Naja replies with “Begin in the middle, on the border, on the crossing. Begin in the place in between”. Naja is trying to help him gather his thoughts and it works. He soon starts to remember his mother and how she used to hold him as a baby. Nemasani and Anon both had memory loss but in the sense where they pushed the trauma to the back of their mind and as for Anon his perseverance in finding his mother is what was helping him get through this and remember. According to research, “Memory loss is a natural survival skill and defense mechanism humans develop to protect themselves from psychological damage”. (casapalmera.com) It is also said that “A person will often suppress memories of a traumatic event until they are ready to handle them, which may never occur”. Nemasani clearly has done this to get through the loss of her son. I would say that Anon has also done the same when it comes to suppressing memories because he doesn’t remember everything and this adventure in finding his mom is what is helping regaining his memory. Everyone he bumps into he soon collects more and more pieces he didn’t know were there.
Research has proved that the 2 coping mechanisms Nemasani and Anon have used is the case of denial and memory loss. Suppressing memories for Anon was more of a conscious choice rather than choosing to be in denial which was Nemasani’s choice because she didn’t want to face facts and if she went through denial she’d only be remembering her song instead of having to relive traumatic situations and mourne even longer than she is now. Deep down Nemasani always knew about her son and have thought about him in a different way she seems to show as if she’s not.
Pessagno, Regina, et al. “Dealing with Death: Medical Students’ Experiences with Patient Loss.” Omega: Journal of Death & Dying, vol. 68, no. 3, Sept. 2013, pp. 207-228. EBSCOhost, doi:10.2190/OM.68.3.b.
Staff, C. (2018). How Trauma Affects Your Memory. [online] Casapalmera.com. Available at: https://casapalmera.com/blog/how-trauma-affects-your-memory/ [Accessed 10 May 2018].
Mayo Clinic. (2018). Stuck in denial? How to move on. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/denial/art-20047926 [Accessed 10 May 2018].
I think the trickiest pieces of paper to write our research papers. Especially in college. It’s very frustrating to know that it involves a lot more than just writing about characters and the story you actually have to search up articles that relate to your story and the point you’re trying to make across and then try to add it into your story. Finding the right kind of research and writing about it was always a big trouble I have. I still do to this day. I am proud of the way I can make analyzations though, after reading this play it was super easy to interpret this in an analytical way and come up with the topic I wanted for my research paper. After that, I would say things went downhill. Like I said it’s very difficult for me to connect the research in with the story because the kind of topic I chose was analytical and opinion based. I am not a doctor to be identifying their symptoms and giving them like some issue they have. What I will say about my research is I could have used more articles that helped probably 75% more instead of 60% percent. The research I chose could have led the topic I chose in multiple directions. Choosing one direction would be very difficult. The kind of research I was reading up upon and have come across with have made me understand this play from more psychological perspective. Any dialogue the characters such as Anon and Nemasani I was able to see it in a way a doctor would or see it in a way where I can understand that this isn’t necessarily a normal state of mind the characters were in clearly. I’m not going to lie to you I despise research papers with a passion. I hear it all the time that as I get older that is all I am going to be writing but I just don’t seem to be getting better at it. Peer review helps in the sense where I am literally getting someone else’s viewpoint on things and they are only trying to help me get better but trying to get better at a thing I don’t even think I am remotely good at is difficult.