Sunday, May 23, 2010

Personality and dissociation **

Kenoath states, “ 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.



  1. Ohh Tony,

    This is rather frightening to me right now.

    Very informational though.

    Happy Sunday night.

    Ps, it was my birthday yesterday. I'm 48 now. Kinda exciting really.

    Good night...

  2. Happy birthday to you Roses,

    just a spring chicken you are!

    Why is it frightening for you


  3. Thanks for that Tony. I would assume that dissociation of Rebellious Child and or similar derrivitives of Child ego state would be suppression and repression rather than dissociation? That is if we are talking about the functional ego states.


  4. Hello Kenoath,

    I suppose the way I would look at it is
    Dissociation = I never saw the horror movie in the first place
    Repression = I saw the horror movie but I will pretend that I can't remember it.

    I agree it is about ego state function


  5. Tony - I am interested in learning more about Transactional Analysis. Can you direct me to any books or websites, preferably something that a non-professional like me can understand? Feel free to email me if you don't want to take up room in the comments - Thank you!

  6. Tony,

    I have 16 year old client who has pickup role of lost child (you are not even close to your sister)and its Adolt offen "slips" into Child to easy. Can you give me advice how to make this boundary stronger and do I need to do reparenting with him?


  7. Hello fellow bloggers,

    A few have asked in the past and this comes from an email I sent to Harriet regarding reading about Transactional Analysis.


    Regarding online no place better to start than good ole' Wiki

    Then you could try

    With books if you want to read some of Eric Berne it is probably best to start with
    "What do you say after you say hello"

    But for a good overall introduction to the theory in general.

    You could go to

    TA Today - Stewart and Joines

    There is another book called "Talking TA". This is an introduction to TA theory and at a layman's level. TA today is far more comprehensive. This book you get from your fellow blogger - Me!

  8. Hello Mirko,

    I recall you from the workshop I did in Serbia. I hope you are well.

    If a person slips from Adult to Child ego state too easily they need to do Adult ego state strengthening exercises. I have some notes on that somewhere and I will see if I can find it for you. This should make the boundary stronger.

    We must remember that the client is only 16 years old. If they are an immature 16 then they will be naturally quite childlike and one must not expect too much from their Adult ego state.

    However what you are describing is the defence mechanism of regression. The person has decided that they will deal with stress by simply taking a child like role and not doing any problem solving. That is they will leave it up to others to take charge. So as you say reparenting could be an interim solution in the overall treatment plan


  9. Hi Tony,

    thanks, that notes would be very useful to me.


  10. Just the part where young children are kind of left alone to work things out for them selves. Its frightening how some one can separate the volnerable part of themselves off and yet keep functioning.

    We are amazing creatures Tony.

  11. Yes we are amazing Roses.

    the splitting of personality is quite a remarkable thing when you think about it. But a fairly basic child response. If something is happening that you don't like just run away and hide and it can't hurt you.


  12. Ohh! Is that all it is?

    Gosh - hasn't everyone done that?

    I think I do that - go hide for alittle while, but then, somehow, I get so angry and run at it... my ful intention; to rip its head off!


    That doesn't sound very nice does it. To be honest, that's how angry I get at things, but i don't think i could do that to a real living thing.

    I think, somehow, that you already know that about me and are just waiting for me to catch up. Thanks for that.

    Have you done that - hidden and then run head long at it screaming?


  13. Actually, i'll tell you the truth about why this post frightens me ok? It's because this stuff is describing my grandson's behaviour and he's not even 2 yet. I see him close off when stuff gets emotional. Even when it's just all in jest he watches and either goes and plays quietly by him self or, if there's an element of laughter, he joins in.

    It's horrible. It makes me want to cry and usually I do - when i feel appropriate.

    That's why.

  14. OK Roses,
    thank you for your candor,

    You are right that if there is a sense of closing off that could be the boy protecting his FC in some way.

    Could he go to a counsellor of some kind?


  15. Oh Tony!

    There doesn't seem to be a lot for him right now - perhaps in time.

    He's 19 months old... and there's alot of 'tug-o-waring' over him. Ownership type thing?

    I will always be here for him - but that means nothing if he is incapable of reaching me. This is real here-and-now type stuff I think. While he's here, we live in the now.