Dissociative State

/ Detachment from immediate physical surroundings and emotional experiences /


Dissociation as detachment from reality, rather than a loss of reality as in psychosis. In mild cases dissociation can be regarded as a coping mechanism or defense mechanisms in seeking to master, minimize or tolerate stress, boredom or any type of conflict. At the non-pathological end of the continuum, dissociation describes common events such as daydreaming. Further along the continuum are non-pathological altered states of consciousness. In other means it can be described as psychological experience in which people feel disconnected from their sensory experience, sense of self, or personal history.

It is usually experienced as a feeling of intense alienation or unreality, in which the person suddenly loses their sense of where they are, who they are, of what they are doing.

Dissociation is a disconnection between a person’s thoughts, memories, feelings, actions or sense of who he or she is. Examples of mild, common dissociation include daydreaming, highway hypnosis or ‘getting lost’ in a book or movie, all of which involve ‘losing touch’ with awareness of one’s immediate surroundings.

French psychologist and philosopher Pierre Janet is considered to be the author of the concept of dissociation. Contrary to some conceptions of dissociation, Janet did not believe that dissociation was a psychological defense, but psychological defense mechanisms belong to Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis, not to Janetian psychology. Janet claimed that dissociation occurred only in persons who had a constitutional weakness of mental functioning that led to hysteria when they were stressed. Although it is true that many of Janet’s case histories described traumatic experiences, he never considered dissociation to be a defense against those experiences. Janet insisted that dissociation was a mental or cognitive deficit. Accordingly, he considered trauma to be one of many stressors that could worsen the already-impaired ‘mental efficiency‘ of a hysteric, thereby generating a cascade of hysterical, dissociative, symptoms.

Carl Jung described state of dissociation as special or extreme cases of the normal operation of the psyche. This structural dissociation, opposing tension, and hierarchy of basic attitudes and functions in normal individual consciousness is the basis of Jung’s Psychological Types. He theorized that dissociation is a natural necessity for consciousness to operate in one faculty unhampered by the demands of its opposite.

This is not the same as simply forgetting something. It is a memory ‘lapse’. This means you cannot access the memories at that time, but they are not permanently lost.

In severe cases you might struggle to remember:

who you are

what happened to you

or how you felt at the time of the trauma



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