Editor's Note: This article discusses reactions to trauma and may be triggering for some readers.
We all have experiences that we know shaped us. We have memories of significant events. What makes traumatic events different from ordinary life-changing events? And, how do they lead to the dissociative hypoarousal that trauma survivors may experience for years, even when the traumatic events have passed?
Writers in the field of psychology have different ideas about the development of dissociative hypoarousal. I have found that their ideas tend to fall into three main pathways. Each pathway offers a perspective on the origins of dissociative hypoarousal, its manifestations, consequences and recommended treatments.
The First Pathway focuses on the “dissociative” part of dissociative hypoarousal. It describes how the self splits into fragments after trauma, how those splits manifest, and how structural models can aid the understanding of trauma.
The Second Pathway focuses primarily on the “hypoarousal” part of the equation. It focuses on the biological nature of dissociative hypoarousal, especially observations about the nervous system and animal defenses.
The Third Pathway involves early attachment and its role in the development of enduring hypoarousal. It challenges our understanding of fragmented selves and adult predispositions toward dissociaitive hypoarousal.
After describing each pathway, I follow up with additional topics about each pathway to augment your understanding. These include discussions of Parts and Biology, Complex PTSD, DID, Immobiliazation, Abuse, Attachment and Repair, and Alexythymia.
In the photograph above, each waterfall is unique, but flows into the same pool. Similarly, each pathway to dissociaitive hypoarousal describes the same phenomenon through a different lens. In a final article, I show how the three pathways contribute to the overall picture of dissociative hypoarousal.
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© Nancy B. Sherrod, PhD