Who am I? The person in the mirror

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Right now I am ready “The body keeps the score” by Bessel van der Kolk. At one point, he talks about the problem trauma victims have with recognizing basic needs like if they are hungry or need to move their bodies to not be in pain.

What is dissociation?

Dissociation is a word that is used to describe the disconnection or lack of connection between things usually associated with each other. Dissociated experiences are not integrated into the usual sense of self, resulting in discontinuities in conscious awareness (Anderson & Alexander, 1996; Frey, 2001; International Society for the Study of Dissociation, 2002; Maldonado, Butler, & Spiegel, 2002; Pascuzzi & Weber, 1997; Rauschenberger & Lynn, 1995; Simeon et al., 2001; Spiegel & Cardeña, 1991; Steinberg et al., 1990, 1993).

When they dissociate, signals from the body are often disconnected from their experience, and he writes that sometimes they cannot even recognize themselves in the mirrors. He goes on to explain that brain scans have shown that this is not merely inattention, they really have problems with recognizing themselves.  

He also writes that the relationship and talk in therapy, might not be the most important healing force in therapy. What patients really need, he believes, is the “therapist’s attuned attention to the moods, physical sensations, and physical impulses within. The therapist must be the patient’s servant, helping him or her explore, befriend, and trust their inner felt experience.” Relationship therapy can seem like a kind of ersatz friendship, but “it doesn’t make you better friends with yourself.”

To underscore the shocking possibility that neither talk nor relationship may be necessary in trauma treatment, van der Kolk likes to tell the story of his training in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), an approach held in very low esteem by many of his research colleagues. Although he initially considered EMDR a fad, like est or transcendental meditation, he went for the training after seeing the dramatic effects it had on some of his own trauma patients. “They came back and told me how supportive our therapy relationship had been, but that EMDR had done more for them in a few sessions than therapy with me had done in four years,” he recalls. Van der Kolk decided to go see for himself what this weird new thing was all about, and took the training.

So, do you know who you are?

Sometimes we need others to be able to see who we are when we look into the mirror.

mirror kopi

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2 thoughts on “Who am I? The person in the mirror

    Aslaug said:
    May 19, 2015 at 12:31

    When I was dissociative I couldn’t connect to a psychiatrist any more than I could connect with myself, making any sort of therapy a waste of time. EMDR, to my knowledge, doesn’t require the trauma-vicitim to connect on the same level with the one doing the treatment. It’s a bit more safe. Also there should be more focus on lifestyle factors that affect neuroplasticity.

    LaVagabonde said:
    May 21, 2015 at 12:39

    Very interesting. It must be terrifying to not recognize yourself.

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