People often ask me what is a fugue, when they see the title of my novel. What is dissociation disorder?
A fugue can be a piece of music split apart from the whole symphony, similar but different. The Greek definition means “flight.” To take flight. Dissociation Disorder is a broken off piece from the whole. There are many types of Dissociation Disorder. There is Dissociative Fugue which is short -lived, Dissociative PTSD and the most famous type, Multiple Personality. Dissociation was once seen as quite rare, but today therapists are saying it occurs more frequently. Martha Stout, author of “The Myth of Sanity” writes that “moderate dissociation is a normal mental reaction to pain and fear and that even the most extreme dissociative reaction-multiple personality is more common than we think.” We all dissociate when we daydream.
The mind is a wondrous living computer. The cerebral cortex filters enormous amounts of stimuli that bombard us everyday from inside and out. The living human brain is also hell- bent on survival.
A traumatic event can be overwhelming for a child. The child has no life experience nor perspective to draw from. If a small child for instance is left accidentally by his/her mother, they may actually believe she is never coming back, he/she may eventually curl up in a fetal position, helpless.
In the case of a small child who witnesses a horrific event, the mind filters the event, puts the memory deep within the subconscious, so he/she does not have to feel the pain again as a recurring memory.
In dissociation disorder, this has happened a number of times due to many events. The response happens again in the adult due to triggers that relate to an actual excruciating memory. It can simply be a sound, or a smell or even a picture paired with the frightening experience.
Take Elaine, for instance, a beautiful young woman, who did a stint as a model and even started a business selling handbags. But she is continuously plagued by severe episodes of depression. It affects all her important relationships. When asked what is wrong, she doesn’t know. Her misery finally forces her to seek therapy. She undergoes hypnotherapy where she uncovers horrific memories of her childhood, living under the roof of a sadistic father. A sadistic father who threatened her with horrible things such as making a stew out of her pet white rabbit if she disobeyed him. Uncovering these memories is painful, but the truth of why she is the way she is, is revealed and that is priceless.
Many patients, decide that it is too painful to uncover memories. But Elaine decides she is going to make it worth all the struggle. She is going to make her life COUNT. She makes the effort to fill her life with passion and joy after having come out on the other side. This is the stance that many with severe Disassociation take, of appreciating life much more than the average person, perhaps freaking out over their iphone breaking. They have a clarity about them and know themselves well.
Dissociative Disorder is how the mind survives the unimaginable. It is adaptation.