Dissociation – Special Discerment Needed
As strange as it sounds, I believe dissociation is a gift from God. Not that God is the cause of dissociation, which is always some sort of trauma. Rather, that God provides a psychological (and often physiological) escape when other resources are unavailable or impossible at the time.
We typically think of child abuse, or other horrendous acts that cause a person’s mind to split. But childhood dissociation can occur by any event where extreme psychological or physiological stress is experienced. Typically this involves the direct experience, or vicarious witnessing of an experience, which involves death, violence or harm to people, animals or sometimes even a loved object like a teddy bear. A car accident with fatalities or severe injury to a loved one is one example that may cause dissociation for a child. And of course, being the victim of perpetrator acts (especially repetitive or ongoing abuse) is always a potential cause for dissociation and even DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder).
What happens next is the key to recovery, however. If a child if left to his or her own resources to heal and recover from the traumatic event, the dissociated trauma may be stored for days, weeks, years or even an entire lifetime. Our natural human response is to escape pain if at all possible. In effect, dissociation makes the pain “go away.” Or so it appears to the child. Later on however, the child or adult will suffer from unresolved effects of trauma. We were created by God to be whole and not divided. Though one may split off into sections of his or her mind, it is God’s desire to see us restored and made whole again. Sometimes this means learning how to function as a whole, or interdependently as a whole. Other times there may actually be a re-integration of the parts of the mind that have split off.
The classic view or definition of “integration” always meant complete re-integration or re-absorption of all the parts back into a unified mind. After 18 years work in the field of dissociation, including PTSD and DID, I have come to believe otherwise. Having witnessed otherwise brilliant and compassionate counselors and or teachers completely miss the mark in this area of healing, I try to give hope to those who do not fit the mold of well-meaning theorists. And just as there are 1000 causes to dissociation, there appears to be 1000 treatments. Quite frankly, some of these “treatments” cause more harm than good.
Without judging those who mean well, and who genuinely want to help, I have seen great harm, confusion and despair result for the client, counselee or ministry recipient who lacks discernment in this area. Not that I know it all – because nobody including myself has all the answers. Rather, that Godly wisdom and spiritual discernment is desperately needed for this population of hurting people. Not only to promote healing, but more importantly, to cause no further harm to those already suffering. With myriad double-binds, paradoxical dilemmas, love-hate relationships, anger fear and rage riddled minds, it is impossible to create healing without great faith and routine intervention by God. And even that causes problems to those who have lost trust in a God who has supposedly abandoned them to harm. Yet God is the only source capable of restoring someone’s mind to sanity. That takes hard work, support, and a community of believers willing to walk on faith rather than quick-fix remedies. Lord wiling, God will raise up His people to provide such healing. Thus is the need for ministry.
© Thomas Isaac Berscheid
August 14, 2011 all rights reserved