Martha Stout - Dissociation

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Dissociation is a protective mechanism that stimulates a person to enter into a detached state, in which the person is completely separated from his or her usual thought processes and memories. It is a state activated by one’s nervous system upon reaching maximum capacity to process the “real” stimuli around him or her, thus causing that person to lose track of time and find another representation of himself to continue in that moment. In “When I Woke Up Tuesday Morning, it was Friday,” author and clinical psychologist Martha Stout explains her view of sanity and dissociation by illustrating some experiences that her patients describe to her through several therapy sessions they have with her. With the use of her patients’ personal experiences as well as their history, Stout claims that dissociation can be a harmful experience for some people as it severely weakens a person’s capability to be present psychologically, thus giving them a limited perception of reality, to the extent that it becomes chronic and consequently feels unbearable. In contrast, dissociation can be a therapeutic coping mechanism in response to stress and when one feels overwhelmed with thoughts, feelings and memories that are unbearable.

Dissociation can be a major detrimental experience because it brutally diminishes one’s ability to remain present, or just be simultaneously at the same place both physically and mentally. Martha Stout relates dissociation to fuses burning out when electrical wiring overloads: “ Like the outdated fuse box, the psychologically traumatized brain houses inscrutable eccentricities that cause it to overreact –or more precisely, misreact –to the current realities of life. These misreactions become established because trauma…” (Pg. 382) It other words, it is very harmful to someone especially when he or she wants to progress or even overcome the unbearable psychological trauma and developmental problems that prevent the person from remaining fully activated,...
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