When trauma overwhelmed our body/mind system, it is natural for us to wrap up what we can’t deal with into one part – the dissociated part of trauma-related experiences. Researches in trauma narratives have theories about how trauma narratives are encoded differently in our brain. Comparing to the daily life memory (I get up at 7am, eat lunch at 12pm, ride my bike at 3pm, pass the church at 3:30pm…..), the dissociated part of trauma experiences are recorded in narratives that’s often incoherent, loaded with sensory information, interrupted by strong emotions, and may even be distorted.
What if we encounter many many traumas in our life? Yes, our body/mind/personality started to be broken into many pieces. That’s what Dr. Van der Hart and his colleagues called “structural dissociation.”
There is always a major part of us trying best to avoid those traumatized parts and maintain daily life functioning. However, triggering events could draw out the other fight, flight, freeze, submit, and attachment injury parts; these parts may come out consciously (e.g., an intrusive memory of being frozen) or unconsciously (e.g., an isolated body part is tensed w/o our awareness).
In my last article, “Hurricane is not a puppet master,” I mentioned that for many people who feel that they live with someone who often distorted their reality, it may be more helpful to use the metaphor of hurricane rather than puppet master to understand the feelings of being disoriented by someone else.
The puppet master does exist in our society, yet it’s rare – they are the real sociopath or psychopath who have no remorse when they lie to you and who may smile and stab you on your back.
Hurricanes are more common – they are people who went through multiple trauma in their life and suffer from structural dissociation in their body/mind/personality. It’s not that hurricane never lies, all of us “lie” at some point. Yet, what makes a hurricane disorienting is not sophisticated lies; it’s the fundamental nature of structural dissociation – when there are too many parts that can’t really coordinate with each other.
One part screamed, “I hate you” “leave me alone.” The other part cried, “Don’t leave me alone again.” Another part coldly looks at you without a word. A few minutes later, a carefree part showed up and started to smile at you. Receiving rejection, the angry part came out again and may throw things at you. Then, the guilty part overwhelmed everything …….sounds disorienting? wouldn’t this start to “groom” you to respond in a specific way?
I came across this audio recording by Dr. Keith Witt and Dr. Mark Forman: THE SPECTRUM OF BROKENNESS: WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE DEALING WITH A PERSONALITY DISORDER.
I enjoyed Dr. Witt’s sense of humor –
We are either “normal crazy” – all of us have some traits that will drive others crazy; all of us could show very high conflict behaviors when we are dominated by our own fight/flight behaviors, or
“extra crazy” – some of us do suffer from diagnosable personality disorders, which means that there is a more pervasive pattern of destructive behaviors/emotions/thinking, or
“super crazy” – diagnosable sociopath or psychopath.
All of us will encounter some type of normal craziness in our life. It will be helpful if we can detect the extra crazy behaviors and learn how to prevent the hurricanes from completely destroy all the buildings (- I think this is extremely important part of trauma prevention).
Note: This website does not intend to provide any specific individually-tailored psychological advice/services to replace any medical and/or psychological treatment. If the readers are in need of medical or psychological attention, please seek appropriate services in your area.
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