Christian Counselling for Dissociation
Dissociation is a God-given, self-protective mechanism which enables us to deal with traumatic situations in a way that does not overwhelm us and allows us to continue to cope with life.
Christian counselling for Dissociation can bring resolution of parts and healing to the damage that trauma has on spirit soul and body.
Present day psychiatry treats dissociation as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Earlier it was called Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) and some talk about Fragmentation.
Most people when they talk about dissociation (the DSM-V included) describe those at extreme cases end of the spectrum. Films like “The United States of Tara” have brought this topic to popular consciousness.
Looking at dissociation on a spectrum is far more helpful and reflective of reality. Extreme dissociation (where people switch personalities and have no idea what they have said and done while an alter has been out) is quite rare, around 1 to 2 percent of the general population.
Whereas in actual fact many people dissociate to a lesser extent and this has not been acknowledged because of the subtlety of the occurrence
Dissociation is not at all rare, and its causes are far wider then previously understood by psychology professionals, though sexual abuse is a common reason. In fact, probably almost everyone dissociates. By this we do not mean daydreaming or tuning out, which some people wrongly call dissociation. Dissociation occurs across a wide spectrum, from mild dissociation in response to fairly normal traumas in a child’s life, to severe dissociation as a response to trauma and abuse of various kinds, through to high-level dissociation as a result of highly ritualized abuse, systematic torture or Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA).
Explanation of How Dissociation Occurs
When we are overwhelmed by a trauma to the degree that we are unable to continue to endure it, another part of our brain takes over and experiences what is happening. It then holds the memory of what occurred. Once the trauma is over the mind returns to its normal state, but, depending on the extent of the dissociation, we may or may not remember very much, or anything at all, of the trauma. Those who have been involved in a car accident will testify to their inability to remember all the details of the accident and shock can cause such gaps in memory. Particularly in childhood trauma the shock will result in dissociation and the inability of the child to recall what has happened.
This newly created part of our mind has the rudiments of personality, based on the memory of events it has and its memory of the feelings experienced. If the trauma is repeated over time the dissociative part may form a more extensive worldview and appear to be a more developed personality.
However, a part does not actually have all of the components required to be a person in its own right. It has mind, and influences the will but shares the emotional apparatus of the body and soul with the real person. It has no spirit of its own.
We will not go into great detail about how the brain is structured, nor about the mechanism of dissociation, except to say that the process is well documented and has been observed in scientific studies using brain scans, as well as in ministry experience. Peter Toth’s book, The forgotten factor in healing. gives an excellent account of the process, easily grasped by the layman.
Dissociation occurs when the intensity of a trauma overwhelms our normal ability to cope, and we can no longer remain consciously aware of what is happening. We ‘disconnect’, and another part of our mind takes over and functions for us or ‘is present’ during the trauma. When the trauma is over, this other part of the mind recedes and we have no memory of the trauma we have just experienced.
To outline the process simply, there are parts of the brain responsible for receiving sensory inputs from the world outside the person, such as sight, touch, sound, smell, pain, etcetera, and to organize and classify these inputs so that other brain functions can decide what they mean, what to do with them, and to send them for storage in our memory. Central to these functions is the part of the brain called the amygdala, and there is a limit to how much and how quickly it can process the data.
Each time there is a new experience, the amygdala is required to work harder than when processing something familiar, because more sensory data is produced. If the experience is far more intense than the normal things experienced in life, again a great deal more information must be processed. If the amount of data is too great the system becomes overloaded and is unable to process it. Consequently nothing will be passed on to the following brain functions for processing and nothing will be stored in memory. This would create a complete gap in the person’s experience – as if they were not even present. If allowed to continue the person might become catatonic.
To handle this situation, when overload occurs a mechanism is triggered which creates a new area of mind and assigns it to handle the data from the traumatic experience. Then the overloaded amygdala resets and it is able to resume assessing and passing on information about the experience. But now the data goes to this separate, newly formed part of the mind. This is a dissociative part, which as a result is present for the traumatic experience and holds the memories and feelings associated with it. The creation of this part happens in an instant, so nothing is actually lost.
Once the trauma is over the brain resumes functioning as before the trauma, except, of course, the person does not remember what happened. If the trauma is especially severe or continues for a long time, this overloading of the brain may occur numerous times in sequence, resulting in a number of dissociative parts holding the trauma.
If the person experiences a similar trauma later, a new part might be created. However, the same part might take control each time. This results in a more highly differentiated part with a more extensive set of experiences and a more developed worldview. Such parts have greater ability to take over from the person, and the person will be less aware of them doing so.
Why Dissociative Parts Need to be Removed
While the ability to dissociate is a God-given ability that helps a child cope with excessive trauma, later in life the dissociative parts become a dysfunction and for a number of reasons they should be removed.
Because parts continue to try and protect a person from any situation they perceive as threatening, the person may act in unexpected and bizarre ways. For example, if they meet a person who reminds them in some way of a childhood abuser they may suddenly attack him, or run away, without knowing they are about to do so, or why they did it. In highly differentiated dissociation the person might carry out the action but then be totally unaware of having done so and deny it when challenged. As another example, a person may be unable to eat certain foods, go to certain places, or wear certain clothes because of their association with earlier events, but not know why this is so.
Dissociation is, at its core, a denial mechanism, designed to keep the truth of certain experiences in a person’s life from that person, because at the time they happened the experiences were too much to process. However, because those events actually occurred there will still be consequences in the person’s life.
Jesus makes it clear that it is truth that sets us free (John 8:32), not ignorance. He desires “truth in the innermost parts” (Psalm 51:6), and without it the complete control God wants us to have over our lives is reduced.
When, with the co-operation of the parts a memory is accessed in its entirety, the person will be able to receive healing from the trauma that has been “locked” away in the subconscious. They experience the presence of Jesus in a intimate and personal with all his healing grace in ways that brings wholeness. This is known as Traumatic Memory Resolution
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18, 4:6)
We know of one person in history who could have dissociated under the extreme torture he suffered, but chose not to. Instead he endured to the end. This was Jesus. If he had escaped into the denial of a dissociate state then he would not have born for us the sins of the world, and his purpose on earth would not have been achieved.
We used http://www.prayercounselling.com/dissociation/lesson2.php for the basis of this article as Malcom Dow has done such an excellent job explaining Christian Counselling for Dissoication
Further references and info
Unconscious fear-related memories can remain totally hidden from your conscious mind, yet they still have the ability to dramatically affect everyday behavior and emotions :https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201508/unconscious-memories-hide-in-the-brain-can-be-retrieved