Broken Images, Broken Selves-Dissociative Narratives in Clinical Practice

By Ross, Colin A. | American Journal of Psychotherapy, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

Broken Images, Broken Selves-Dissociative Narratives in Clinical Practice


Ross, Colin A., American Journal of Psychotherapy


STANLEY KRIPPNER AND SUSAN MARIE PowERs, EDS.: Broken Images, Broken Selves-Dissociative Narratives in Clinical Practice. Brunner/Mazel, Washington, DC, 1997, 372 pp., $44.95, ISBN 0-87630-851-5.

This edited book provides a fascinating look into nonclinical and transcultural aspects of dissociation. I learned quite a lot from it. The sixteen chapters deal with the history and etiologies of dissociation and topics including near-death experiences, mediumship, alien abductions, fantasy proneness, hallucinogens, altered states of consciousness, hypnosis, and dreams. The writing is a mixture of anecdotal and scientific but is always lucid and scholarly, with the exception of one chapter.

The different contributors demonstrate the universal nature of dissociative experiences, what might be called the dissociations of everyday life. They also provide interesting commentary on the distinctions between normal and pathological dissociation. The book is a continuation of a tradition established by Janet, Myers, Binet, Jung, James, and the early Freud. Jung's medical school thesis was on mediumship and dissociation.

In the late-nineteenth century, the subject matter of this book was studied within mainstream psychology and psychiatry. Comprehensive dissociative models of normal psychology, creativity; paranormal experience, and psychopathology were developed in this tradition, especially by Myers. The tradition was lost to mainstream psychiatry with the eclipse of scholarly interest in dissociation after 1910. This book is evidence that the tradition has been revived and continues to generate new and interesting work.

The first four chapters are in a subsection called, "The Realm of Dissociation." Here Krippner, Wright, and Cardena and White examine the history of dissociation from a global perspective, formulate a comprehensive biopsychosocial model of normal and abnormal dissociation, and explore the dissociative component of .exceptional human experiences." Exceptional human experiences are a very broad category that includes many different kinds of transcendent, mystical, and anomalous experiences. …

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