Why Am I Like This? Introduction to The Three Pathways

Why Am I Like This? Introduction to The Three Pathways

Photo by Derek Baumgartner on Unsplash 

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 to augment your understanding. These include discussions of parts and complex PTSD, abuse and the bi-phasic response, more on shame and dissociation, and information about the brain and dissociation. I also dive further into attachment trauma with a discussion about attachment and repair. 

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. 


The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any condition or disease. This blog is not intended as a substitute for consultation with a licensed practitioner. Please consult with your own therapist or healthcare provider regarding any suggestions and/or recommendations made in this blog. Although the author has made every effort to ensure that the information in this blog was correct at publication time and while this publication is designed to provide accurate information in regard to the subject mater covered, the author assumes no responsibility for errors, inaccuracies, omissions, or any other inconsistencies herein and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions. Unless otherwise indicated by name or direct reference, any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. The use of this blog implies your acceptance of this disclaimer. 



© Nancy B. Sherrod

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