Kenoath states, “...is it necessarily the free child part of personality which splits off in dissociation?”
That is the way I would theoretically explain it and my reasons are as such.
Dissociation in essence uses the censorship model of personality development. It works in the same way as the government censorship of our movies does. Why does government make it illegal for a young child to see a violent, horror movie? It is assumed that it would be damaged psychologically. The government hides the movie from the young child.
The Free Child ego state is that part of the personality that is conceptualised as being the most sensitive and vulnerable. It is where we can have the most intimate and sensitive contact with others. It allows us to meet with others and understand ourselves in the most sensitive and vulnerable ways. It is where we have a true understanding of who we are.
If a youngster is subjected to very adverse parenting styles then it is the same as the child seeing the horror movie, it will be damaged. One solution is to use a self censorship model. The child thinks, “I can deal with the physical and verbal abuse by hiding from it. If I hide from it then it does not really matter or it cannot really hurt me”. The child then sets about hiding the sensitive part of itself, the Free Child ego state. And this works at least to some degree.
I would suggest there are two different levels of this self censorship by the youngster that both use the same model of survival. First there is desensitisation which could be diagrammed as such:
The person sets up a kind of psychological barrier that isolates the Free Child and this results in desensitisation. This allows the child to receive abuse but it has less impact because the child has adjusted psychologically such that it gets used to it. When a child sees mother bashed for the first time it has a big impact, when it sees mother bashed for the 20th time the impact is less. It has adjusted by partitioning off the Free Child. The censorship is working.
If the abuse is more severe then censorship by desensitisation is not enough and the child has to take more drastic action. One solution is to dissociate. And this is shown as in this diagram.
This is more severe censorship in the desire to hide from the ‘horror movie’. The Free Child is split off from the personality. This hides the sensitive aspects of the personality and the person gets a sense of, “That is not me”. The person reports that when they were being abused it was kind of like they were standing separate and watching a stranger being abused. Torture victims often report this when recounting their episodes of torture as do bulimics some times as they vomit into the toilet bowl. It feels like they are standing back and watching this stranger vomiting.
This is a main difference between desensitisation and dissociation. With desensitisation there is not a sense of “That is not me”. With dissociation there is a sense of self alienation. And the censorship works at least to some degree. The Free Child is protected from future assaults. The problem is the censorship continues into adulthood and humans can not survive psychologically without reasonable access to the Free Child part of the personality. If the Free Child censorship continues then some symptom will develop whether that be depression, anxiety, substance abuse, insomnia, OCD, eating disorders, sex problems and so on endlessly.
With such symptoms the Free Child is simply shouting out loudly that they are still here and they want to be allowed back in. If the therapy assists the Free Child to be allowed back in then the symptoms will subside.