Into the Fold

Updated: Jun 18

The more I read, and the more I see, the more I realize the need to continue articulating a vision for the future - at least for myself - if I'm not going to go insane or throw in the towel on this life. This comes through not just accepting things as they are but developing a more powerful language that resonates with and motivates me, and keeps my heart oriented. Yes, it's time to start that cult I've been talking about, but maybe a little more mundane than that.

I'm often hastily labelled a narcissist, a liar, or a self-serving fratty white boy by people who don't take the time to get to know me or who have their own issues to project onto me. I hold very few if any conservative views, I consider myself an advocate, I am highly sensitive to other people's feelings, I'm a depressive introvert who struggles to form words sometimes, I am trying to learn the world in earnest, and I know I'm none of those nasty things. I'm like a blank canvas that the world paints onto, and my own perceived identity and personality doesn't really seem to factor in anywhere except in my own actions (or merely my beliefs about my actions). Sure, I do things to my advantage sometimes, I do tell lies occasionally, but never at the cost of someone else or to artificially inflate my image. No, we do this life thing on hard mode - honest and fully engaged. I've noticed that the more I begin to see things in a different light and can't keep my mouth shut on some issues, the more I run into anti-intellectualism, into duals with others' ego constructs, and even into the potential threat of death. The more I learn and make myself known, the more my weaknesses haunt me and even get preyed upon. This has caused a sort of dual consciousness in myself, where I'm simultaneously aware of and worried how many people I put off or what their true intentions or bullshit beliefs might be, and also how I don't really give a damn because nothing important to me would get done otherwise and I'd rather try to make at least a couple friends along the way. This conversation with myself got me curious about dissociation more, along with some other recent events in my life.

I've been reading this book lately called The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization by several fantastic clinical psychologists (free link) who were extending the Interpersonal Neurobiology field. While this book is meant to inform clinicians (which I am not), it holds so many incredible insights and builds a beautifully focused view of developmental psychology and evolutionary biology as it pertains to the careful process of creating a whole person - and how trauma can fuck that up entirely.

The gist of the theory of Structural Dissociation is that your consciousness is made up of many physical subsystems as defined by yet-to-be-measured, tightly interwoven neural interfaces across your brain and particularly in our huge frontal lobes. These help you meet all of your daily bodily needs, and importantly also contain attachment and fear systems. All together they make you, and the unified experience you have of yourself looking out from your beady eyeholes.

From the book: "Attachment is central to the context in which all other action systems mature" (p.48). They use this as a launching point to talk about what happens to young children exposed to chronic abuse by their caregivers. These kids can often undergo a hard split in their psyche. On one hand, caregivers are kids' only source of survival and love. On the other hand, if the caregivers are repeatedly abusive in any way, the children may learn to simultaneously fear and love their caregivers. Over time, these hard splits may never be resolved, and will actually develop their own semi-independent consciousness' that are not integrated with the other parts of the brain and never fully develop. PTSD by this model is then considered to be characterized by exactly one split in the psyche, corresponding to a severely traumatic event like from war or being personally violated in some way - especially when you are too young or inexperienced to understand it. Complex trauma (C-PTSD) corresponds to multiple, systematic traumatic events and conditioning. Dissociative Identity Disorder is a step further, where repeated trauma, neglect, and often sinister forms of conditioning were present from a young age. While this was once thought of in terms of multiple personalities (thus the old MPD label), it's a bit more subtle than that. DID is then split into primary, secondary, and tertiary dissociations, where the person may have elaborate coping schemes and avoidance mechanisms that you have to unravel and reintegrate in layers in order to get to the next - and the former layers may just be a complete show yet even prevent the suffering individual from awareness of their other parts of themselves. It can take years to crack a person like this, and this is one of the hardest to diagnose yet most real and severe psychological illnesses w