September 11, 2014
Expository Writing 101:ND Paper #1
The Sanity Behind Insanity
In the face on impending danger, the human brain resorts to primitive instinct to seek salvation. Instincts that drive humans to run from fires, fight off attackers, and hide from their worst nightmares. When those nightmares live deep inside their own minds rather than outside the body, the only way to escape them is through dissociation. Dissociation, the process of disconnecting one’s conscious awareness from his or her physical being to achieve a state of being “away” from reality, provides average humans with a relief from the brutalities of everyday life and victims and witnesses of serious traumas a way to avoid their memories. Popular belief dictates that excessive dissociation indicates insanity, while contrarily, it indicates an individual with heavier than average reliance on this intrinsic reflex. Rather than serving as an indication of insanity, dissociation functions as an innate, biological defense mechanism against memories of trauma to protect against the recurrences and recollections of the original traumatic event.
To begin, the limits of understanding the extent of shared sensory perception between humans contribute greatly to the idea that dissociation is not an abnormal phenomenon. One cannot accurately self-evaluate his or her perceptions and decipher whether they may classify oneself as “normal” due to the restrictions set by the fact that humans possess an inability to completely comprehend another’s perceptions. Resultantly, formulating a definite, all-encompassing line between the extremes of sanity and insanity cannot be achieved. For example, even the most basic sensory perceptions may differ immensely between individuals. Two people may classify a certain stimulus under the same label; yet perceive it in a completely different manner. During a session with Stout, dissociation patient Julia states, “‘two people can agree that the clear blue sky is blue, but does the actual color blue look the same to both of them? Who knows?’” (Stout 429). Without the ability to appreciate another’s perception, and the perception of the general population, one cannot conclude that what he or she perceives is out of the norm. This may lead one to falsely conclude that their perceptions of the world are abnormal, when contrastingly many may share the same observations. Building upon the idea of the binds upon mutual understanding between humans, one may assume that other’s perceptions are the same as their own, rather than that they may be unique to the individual. Julia’s experiences of dissociation lead her to lose large chunks of her memory, particularly from her childhood. However, she did not initially realize that her experiences of dissociation and memory loss were more extreme than that of the general population because she, “‘just assumed, sort of tacitly assumed, that everyone’s memory was like mine, that is to say, kind of blank before the age of twenty or so. I mean, you can’t see into someone else’s mind, right?’” (428). This innocent assumption led to Julia believing for years that the gaps in her memory occur in any other average individuals as well. Unable to clearly identify another’s individual human experience, Julia could not be expected to formulate an accurate idea of the normality of memory. Losing parts of her memory permeated her life since childhood, “‘it was [her] reality, and so of course you never questioned it, any more than any other child questions his reality?’” (434). These experiences of dissociation saturate the lives of many individuals, yet they fail to question these experiences because they are part of what builds up their reality and their normality. To these individuals, memory loss and divided awareness constitute “normal,” therefore blurring the line of the classification between what is “normal” and “sane” versus the contradictory.
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