The Dissociative Mind

The Dissociative Mind

The Dissociative Mind

The Dissociative Mind

Synopsis

Drawing on the pioneering work of Janet, Freud, Sullivan, Fairbairn and recent literature, Howell develops a comprehensive model of the dissociative mind.

Excerpt

Dissociation pervades psychic life, and the capacity for it is built into our DNA. A variation on Harry Stack Sullivan’s (1953) famous dictum that everyone is more simply human than otherwise might be that dissociation is far more common in humans than otherwise. Our ordinary language reveals an implicit conversance with a divided self. Such expressions as “falling apart,” “coming unglued,” and “being beside oneself” imply parts that are not cohesive. The common exhortation “Pull yourself together” implies parts that are segregated from each other. Various forms of dualism, Cartesian dualism (separation of mind from body), “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” and even many gendered attributes imply a dissociation of one realm of experience from another.

Although dissociation theory has existed side by side with the doctrine of repression in the history of psychoanalytic thinking, the fact of dissociation was, for many years, less focally examined, even largely dissociated. Although psychoanalysis traces its origins to the treatment of dissociation and trauma (Breuer and Freud, 1893–1895), from the early 1900s until 15 or 20 years ago, the current dissociation field grew in a barren climate. Multiplicity and the dissociative structuring of the mind did not receive the attention they are beginning to draw today, and dissociative identity disorder, previously called multiple personality disorder, was thought to be extremely rare. In contrast, today the fields of psychoanalysis and traumatology are coming together. This is fitting because they complement each other.

Today, the mental health field is paying more and more attention to dissociation and dissociative experiences. In psychoanalysis, this is partially attributable to the growing appreciation of the relational model, in which multiplicity and dissociative processes are implicit. When we take into account the internalization of multiple aspects of attachment relationships, plus the likelihood of some relational trauma, it is clear that a construct of psychic structuring based on relationships must include dissociation. More broadly, the increased interest in . . .

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