Friday, October 20, 2017


Bromberg writes that dissociation is both a structure and a process; it can be pathological--in its extreme, DID: Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder-- defensive, or normative, the latter occurring ubiquitously and a part of everyday life, such as putting aside our maternal selves while performing open-heart surgery or when we drive home with no memory of how we got from point A to point B.

When we think of dissociation as sequelae to attachment (relational) trauma, or to traumatic events, we consider overwhelming affect-- unmitigated, unshared, unsoothed-- that threatens to disrupt one’s sense of ‘going on being’ or continuity of self. Bromberg writes:

In order to preserve the attachment connection and protect mental stability, the mind triggers a survival solution, dissociation, that allows the person to bypass the mentally disorganizing struggle to self-reflect without hope of relieving the pain and fear caused by destabilization of selfhood.

Often patients have complained that they would feel ‘weak’ or ‘too dependent’ if they expressed their need for comfort (for shared affect) from an important other. Bromberg reminds of us the double shame inherent in the psychoanalytic process: the shame that comes from both seeking solace and from the belief that their needs are illegitimate, unreal to the other, and thus that the patients themselves are unreal and risk losing the attachment bond. He reminds us that, if the analyst does not recognize the patient’s desire to communicate to us the dissociated parts of the patient’s self, then the patient will continue to feel her needs are illegitimate and undeserving of solace.

Bromberg, P (2011) The Shadow of the Tsunami. Ch. 2. Routledge, New York & London.

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