Tag Archives: Dissociation

When Parents Threaten Their Child With Violence

I have written elsewhere about how my mother was prone to unpredictable, unprovoked outbursts of extreme hostility when I was very young but it is only now I feel I want to be a little more specific – something has prevented me from going into detail up until now, although that ‘something’ is very hard to define, despite the fact I have (I hope!) gained a fair amount of insight into my past and its effects upon me.

When she was angry my mother’s verbal rage knew no limits ; her frequently repeated threats or hurtful statements included :

  • ‘I feel evil towards you! Evil!’ (The second ‘evil’ delivered in a particularly melodramatic, emphatic and malevolent tone)
  • ‘I feel I could knife you!’
  • ‘I feel murderous towards you!’  (or, if I was ‘lucky’, she’d be slightly more restrained and scream at me the rather more banal phrase, ‘I wish to Christ I’d never bloody had you!’ (though delivered in a tone of devastating conviction and palpable authenticity; one could almost feel the hot waves of hatred emanating from her).

(There may well be still worse examples which I have either repressed or which occurred when I was too young for them to form long-term memories – I simply can’t know; but this, of course, is true of everyone).

At the time, being on the receiving end of these, how shall I put it, rather less than maternally loving statements, I think I felt very little; just numb, in fact, as if everything had gone hazy and foggy. It seems I must have mentally shut down as a form of self-preservation; this is a psychological defense mechanism I now know to be called ‘dissociation‘).

For years, even decades, I kept these memories at the very back of my mind, so to speak, but, of course, that will have only worsened their psychological effect.

It is only now, decades later (I was about twelve-years-old when my mother’s verbal aggression was at its most vehement, just as I was entering puberty) that I feel ready to attempt to mentally process such experiences. However, painful this may be, avoiding doing so is likely to be even more so.

Very few of the articles I publish on this site are so personal and I apologize for, once again, indulging myself. However, my next post will be more objective and its topic directly related this one : ‘The Effects Of Parental Threats Of Violence Upon The Child.’

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Childhood Trauma, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Dissociation.

childhood trauma

I have already written posts explaining the connection between childhood trauma and BPD. An important symptom of BPD is DISSOCIATION, which this post will examine in greater detail.

Dissociation is generally considered to be a COPING MECHANISM in response to severe trauma or stress. The phenomenon of dissociation can involve feeling disconnected from one’s emotions, one’s memories, one’s thoughts or even from reality itself. It is common in those suffering from BPD; BPD frequently occurs in individuals who have experienced childhood trauma.

Dissociation is, essentially, a way of ‘escaping’ from the stressful situation, or memory of the stressful situation, by changing one’s state of consciousness (this often occurs automatically and without intention); sometimes people report feeling ‘numb’. In situations of terror, one may dissociate, and, paradoxically, feel a detached state of calm. It may feel, too, that the traumatic event is not happening to oneself, but that one is ‘observing the traumatic event from outside of the body’, leading to passivity and emotional detachment.

Dissociative feelings of ‘being outside of oneself’ are described as DEPERSONALIZATION and dissociative feelings of being disconnected from reality are described as DEREALIZATION.

Some experts have described dissociation as working a bit like morphine – dampening down emotional and physical pain. However, it is yet to be properly explained what the exact biological mechanisms are that underpin the dissociative experience.

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The four main types of dissociation are:

1) DISSOCIATIVE AMNESIA
2) DISSOCIATIVE IDENTITY DISORDER
3) DISSOCIATIVE FUGUE
4) DEPERSONALIZATION DISORDER

Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail:

1) Dissociative Amnesia: here, large parts of, or all, the traumatic event/s cannot be remembered.

2) Dissociative Identity Disorder: this is also known as MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER. Here, the person adopts two or more distinct, utterly different personas. The different personas talk in different voices, use different vocabularies etc (they can also actually differ in handedness). The different personas do not have access to ‘each others” memories, studies have shown, so they have distinct ‘personal histories’. It is likely that each persona represents a different strategy for coping with stress.

3) Dissociative Fugue: in this state, individuals can disconnect from their previous personalities, and, then, often, travel far from home to take on, and live under, a completely new persona. They may appear normal to others who have never met them before, even though they are living under a completely new identity, having left a whole life and set of memories behind.

4) Depersonalization Disorder: in this state, individuals can feel detached from their bodies or experiences. A phrase I read in a novel recently may aptly illustrate the sensation: ‘it’s like living in a dream underwater.’

A large number of people who have suffered extreme childhood trauma report experiencing such automatic dissociative states. Furthermore, they may often seek to induce dissociative states, deliberately and artificially, as a way of escaping the constant psychological pain resulting from the initial trauma by, for example, USING ALCOHOL TO EXCESS, USING NARCOTICS, SELF-HARMING or GAMBLING. The kinds of psychological state from which the individual is seeking to escape through dissociation include INSOMNIA, NIGHTMARES, FEELINGS OF RAGE and INTENSE ANXIETY.

LONG-TERM PROBLEMS OF DISSOCIATION:

Dissociation may be helpful (adaptive) in the short-term but problems develop when the state persists long after it has served any beneficial purpose. The psychologist ,Lifton, described prolonged states of ‘psychic numbing’ and ‘mental paralysis’ often resulting from a dissociative response to severe trauma. This can make even basic day-to-day functioning extremely problematic and requires professional intervention.

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David Hosier BSc (Hons); MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery