Silvano Arieti, in his classic book Interpretations Of Schizophrenia, emphasized the view that it is childhood adverse experiences, such as psychological and emotional abuse by the parents that cause anxiety which hurts the ‘inner self’ are the ones which are most likely to lead to severe mental illness in the individual whereas traumatic experiences that many might consider worse, such as war or severe poverty, may well NOT lead the child to develop severe mental illness if they do not lead to the aforementioned damage to the ‘inner self’.
What Is Meant By The ‘Inner Self’?
This can be defined as one’s personal sense of identity, self-concept and integrated personality.
We Are Most Vulnerable To Psychological Harm From Those With Whom We Have A Strong Emotional Bond:
Arieti stresses that children are at most risk of being psychologically damaged by being maltreated by those with whom they have a strong emotional bond (most commonly, of course, their parents). He also believed that a major cause of schizophrenia was a childhood during which the individual’s sense of self was seriously undermined by one, or both, parents. The Scottish psychiatrist, R.D. Laing, who wrote the famous book entitled The Divided Self, thought along similar lines, stressing the importance of the family environment as a cause of schizophrenia.
In essence, when we are betrayed, or significantly mistreated over a protracted period of time, by the very people who are supposed to love us, care for us and protect us, we are thrown into a state of extreme psychological torment, confusion and conflict, the effect of which is uniquely pervasive and perfidious; as a result, our sense of inner self may be shattered and our personality may disintegrate.
Above : R.D. Laing, author of The Divided Self
This idea is encapsulated by the trauma model of mental disorders which contends that early life psychological trauma is a very major cause of several different adult psychiatric disorders.
Proponents of this view include Sigmund Freud (as illustrated by his psychoanalytic theories) and John Bowlby (as illustrated by his attachment theory).
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).