Splintered Reflections: Images of the Body in Trauma

By Jean Goodwin; Reina Attias | Go to book overview
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ture, "Intuitively, I knew it [the tree trunk] was 'the body' because it has roots. Because it is solid, it can't change, so I couldn't be the tree [trunk]. None of us could -- only 'the body.' The alters have to be the leaves because they are changeable. . . . I don't think my body holds much of a physical image -- and that tree could change -- a lot ( Cohen and Cox 1988).

This similar behavior is observed in seemingly dissimilar individuals: a profoundly retarded, mute male with a seizure disorder and chronic direct, moderatelethality self-harm; a teenage male in his first psychotic break, with one episode of low-lethality self-mutilation; and a high functioning female chronic self-injurer with several Axis II diagnoses.
Anzieu alludes to an extraordinary form of contamination of self by briefly mentioning the "poisoned tunic" skin ego ( 1989, 62). The possibility that one could become psychologically allergic to oneself is an intriguing rationale for the development of multiple dissociated identities by the severely traumatized child. The first author (B.M.C.) has found that teaching the concepts of skin ego and the poisoned tunic helps clients in the middle stage of treatment to better understand the possible origin of their disregard for and antipathy toward their bodies.


Anzieu, D. ( 1989). The skin ego. New Haven, CT. Yale University Press.

Arnheim, R. ( 1974). Art and visual perception: A psychology of the creative eye. 2d ed Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Biven, B. M. ( 1982). The role of skin in normal and abnormal development with a note on the poet Sylvia Plath. International Review of Psycho-Analysis 9: 205-229.

Bolander, K. ( 1977). Assessing personality through tree drawings. New York: Basic Books.

Braun, B. G. ( 1988). The BASK model of dissociation. Dissociation 1 ( 1): 4-23.

Buck, J. N. ( 1948). The H-T-P test. Journal of Clinical Psychology 4:151-159.

Cirlot, J. E. ( 1962). A dictionary of symbols. New York: Philosophical Library.

Cohen, B. M. ( 1996). Art and the dissociative paracosm: Uncommon realities. In L Michaelson and W. Ray, eds., Handbook of dissociation: Theoretical, empirical and clinical perspectives. New York: Plenum.

Cohen, B. M., ed. ( 1985). The diagnostic drawing series handbook. (Available from Barry M. Cohen, P.O. Box 9853, Alexandria, Virginia 22304).

_____. ( 1994). The diagnostic drawing series revised rating guide. (Available from B M. Cohen, P. O. Box 9853, Alexandria, VA 22304).

Cohen, B. M., and Cox, C. T. ( 1988). Breaking the code: Identification of multiple personality disorder through art productions. 19th Annual Conference of the American Art Therapy Association, Chicago, November 19.


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