Posttraumatic Dissociation as a Mediator of the Effects of Trauma on Distressful Introspectiveness

By Somer, Eli | Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, January 1, 2002 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Posttraumatic Dissociation as a Mediator of the Effects of Trauma on Distressful Introspectiveness


Somer, Eli, Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal


This paper focuses on the stable personality trait of introspectiveness, exploring the relationship between introspectiveness and childhood trauma, dissociation and emotional distress. Ninety Israeli women were recruited from emergency counseling services and from academic and office employment settings. Pearson correlations between traumatic experiences and various dimensions of introspectiveness revealed significant links. Negative emotional and sexual experiences were the trauma variables that contributed most to this relationship, whereas a tendency to be aware of feelings toward family and about mortality were the dimensions of introspection that added most to this association. Prior trauma history, dissociation, introspectiveness, and emotional distress were significantly interrelated. The data from a path analysis performed suggest that introspectiveness may be better explained by the independent effect of dissociation rather than directly by trauma or by emotional distress. Theoretical and clinical implications are discussed.

The transient state of attention to the self has been termed self-attention (Carver & Scheier, 1981), or self-awareness (Buss, 1980). This paper will focus on the more stable personality trait of introspectiveness and will explore its relationship to dissociation and childhood trauma. Introspectiveness alludes to the degree to which dispersed attention is directed inward, toward the self, or outward, toward the outside world (Mechanic, 1979). Experimental research suggests that introspective characterological tendencies are associated with more accurate self-descriptions (Gibbons, 1987) and with increased negative affect (Gibbons, 1990; Hansell & Mechanic, 1986). Pyszcynski and Greenberg (1987) challenged the implied directionality of these findings when they argued that people with depression have a negative self-scheme. Introspective people who are depressed may be more likely to selectively remember negative information about themselves.

Little is known about possible pathways to the development of introspective traits. Carver and Scheier (1981) offered some helpful theoretical perspectives on the subject. They regarded introspectiveness as part of a self-regulatory feedback cycle aimed at keeping the organism "on track" in its pursuit of important objectives. Our clinical observations led us to believe that the self-regulatory introspective process in clinical child-abuse survivor populations cannot be effectively terminated by withdrawal from the self-regulatory feedback cycle. Clinical populations of trauma survivors often display a particular form of withdrawal from painful awareness called dissociation that has been shown to have a posttraumatic etiology (e.g., Kluft, 1991; Spiegel & Cardena, 1991). Because dissociation involves the disintegration of normally integrated systems of the self, such as memory, thoughts, sensations, feelings, behavior and awareness, we posit that trauma-related dissociation may impede the self-regulatory feedback cycle thought to be associated with growth-promoting reflective introspection, leaving survivors trapped in a chronic, distressful introspective state. We also believe that psycho-traumatic injuries require the inward allocation of attention resources and that this inward allocation of resources can, in turn, interfere with adequate monitoring of the external environment, hence contributing to the experience of dissociation. In this study we examined the role of introspectiveness in the aftermath of trauma and its relationship to dissociation and emotional distress. We predicted (1) a positive relationship between past traumatization and introspective self-monitoring, possibly reflecting an inescapable effort to control painful reminders. We expected that introspectiveness would be associated with emotional distress and predicted that (2) past trauma, introspectiveness and dissociation would emerge as co-occurring phenomena, not unlike the contradictory symptom clusters in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (intrusiveness and numbing/avoidance).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Posttraumatic Dissociation as a Mediator of the Effects of Trauma on Distressful Introspectiveness
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?