The following article, HAIR TRAUMA: the Samson Syndrome was written for a national conference on Body Psychotherapy focusing on trauma. Most people have experienced some sort of hair trauma in their lives. If therapists ask about this in their initial session with clients, they can often tap into deep emotional issues, particularly around parents, other authority figures, and self esteem issues that can be very helpful in the therapeutic process.

The article was composed as one complete piece. But for your convenience the information has been divided into separate pages described by the topic of that section of the article. So feel free to read each page consecutively to take in the whole article as written, or simply click to the part of personal interest.

I welcome your personal stories of Hair Trauma incidents.

HAIR TRAUMA: or The Samson Syndrome

One might scoff at the notion of Hair Trauma, as some superficial concern that can be answered by “Don’t worry, it will grow.” Yet throughout one’s life there may be many incidents and conditions relating to one’s hair that leave scars on the psyche and deeply affect an individual’s self esteem. Not wanting to appear vain or superficial, clients and patients are often reluctant to discuss painful memories or current challenges regarding their hair. Although when the subject is introduced, many people will viscerally recall their traumatic hair experiences.

These memories have been held in the body, and can be healed and released for the benefit of the whole person. Our hair is a major aspect of our appearance, telegraphing information about us before we are close enough to make eye contact or say “hello”. Our hair, or lack thereof, is a condition that is with us day and night throughout our lives, affecting how we feel about ourselves and greatly influencing how others regard us.

Birth and Childhood

The best way to describe the realm of experiences that sometimes result in hair trauma is chronologically, beginning at birth.
From the moment a baby’s head crowns, the first comments are about the hair or lack of it. Of course, the next matter is the sex of the child. Once that is settled, it is amazing how quickly the subject returns to the hair, with comments about the color, the volume, and texture helping to define the new little being. The original hair often disappears, with a different color and texture appearing. There could be many changes over the first months, or none. That lack of growth or change is commented on as well.

When a child is developing during the first five years, hair length often influences society’s gender identification. Many female babies do not develop hair for a year or so. If the child is not dressed in overtly female clothing, the comments are often “What a cute little boy!” Parents have been known to tape a bow on the head of their daughter to remove all doubt. Usually there is little long-term impact from this delay of hair growth as long as it comes in eventually.

A stronger impact is made on little boys, whose mothers, enthralled with their son’s beautiful hair, forbid cutting the gorgeous locks until age four or five. By that time the child has heard over and over what a beautiful little girl he is. If Daddy is a rock star or the child lives among people where males with long hair is more acceptable, there is usually no gender identification issue. The ego of the child is concerned about fitting in with friends and family and eventually society at large.

If at some point, ‘fitting in’ might be the precise opposite of what is intended, hair becomes the most immediate way to broadcast that rebellion. There is a language in hair. Most people consciously create their hair to look the way it looks. One can choose length, color, style, and whether to cover it or not; using a wig, scarf or a hat. It becomes a way we tell the world who we are, without uttering a word. Some people spend hours, adding up to days each month, doing something with their hair, all to the end of creating a certain impression. One’s relationship with their hair can range from obsessive to ‘couldn’t care less’ with an amazing spectrum between them.

Currently the range of acceptable coiffures has expanded to allow for tremendous self-expression. Throughout the history of mankind, that was seldom the case.  Each chapter in history has an associated hair fashion for that specific period. Long or short, bearded or not, wigged or powdered, hair fashions were as rigidly defined as the clothing fashions and revealed much about the status of an individual.

Lucky were the women who had long straight hair in the 60’s. Unfortunate were their friends with the frizzy hair that had to be ironed or set on coffee cans to achieve the straight look. In spite of our present day freedom of choice, that cycle is revisiting us now, with new chemical advancements to achieve the desired straight effect. I will speak more about chemical damage later.