Trauma & Disassociation
Dr. Bruce Farmer’s thoughts on exploring trauma and disassociation through the development of
Infants and young children who are violated, either physically or mentally, abused, and/or neglected by their caretaking adults are overwhelmed. This represents a traumatic shock, and like an atom bomb, threatens to destroy or shatter the psychosomatic unity of the infant/toddler to its core, akin to annihilation or something one investigator has called “soul murder” (Shengold, 1989).
To prevent this, the human psyche is wired to dissociate. Dissociation is the life-saving maneuver or split engineered by our psyches to preserve us. The result is multiple fractures and fragmentation of our original unity or wholeness into disparate parts. We become a multiplicity of alienated parts, each holding to some degree the trauma, so we can bear it. Our psyches then create an archetypal story which attempts to bind these parts together and give us a facsimile of wholeness.
What makes this process so fascinating is that dissociation follows certain fault lines. The way one person breaks down is not that dissimilar to another. It would be akin to examining a raw cut diamond and understanding how to strike it in such a way it fractured into beautiful stones.
I maintain that all humans have suffered to one degree or another and dissociate. This lies along a spectrum combining the innate health of the infant and the skills, or lack thereof of the caregiver. When a mother leaves an infant alone the little one may feel abandoned. How long the mother is gone and why, and how sensitive the child is to absence effect the trauma of being “alone.”
In Blood Sapphire’s Revenge, our heroine, Staff Sergeant Haddy Abrams, has suffered an “atom bomb” to her own nascent soul in the traumatic loss of her father, his murder at the hands of the Enforcer. Clearly, artistic license prevails here, but I take it as axiomatic that Haddy is keen to this loss early on as she learns of the catastrophe from Sasha, her mother. This painful loss is like a knife and grows more painful each year where she must both celebrate, her birth and mourn her father’s loss. Added to which the identity of his murderer remains an enigma.
Haddy Abrams, like many of us, shatters along innate, inborn psychic fault lines, into a multiplicity of parts. This is, in my opinion, the essence of existential alienation, where the left hand really does not know what the right one is doing and vice-versa.
To feel alienated in a society is to sense the primal alienation deep within. Only through grief work can these parts begin to come together.
Kalsched, Donald. Trauma and the Soul: A psycho-spiritual approach to human development and its interruption. Routledge, 2013, pp.10-11.