“Fragmentation and Internal Struggles”. Part 2

The theoretical model that best explained the phenomena they described was the Structural Dissociation model of Onno van der Hart, Ellert Nijenhuis, and Kathy Steele (2004).


Rooted in a neuroscience perspective and well-accepted throughout Europe as a trauma model, it was a good fit for me as a firm believer and spokesperson for a neurobiologically informed approach to trauma and trauma treatment.


The theory describes (Van der Hart, Nijenhuis & Steele, 2006) how the brain’s innate physical structure and two separate, specialized hemispheres facilitate left brain-right brain disconnection under conditions of threat.


Capitalizing on the tendency of the left brain to remain positive, task-oriented, and logical under stress, these writers hypothesized that the disconnected left brain side of the personality stays focused on the tasks of daily living, while the other hemisphere fosters an implicit right brain self that remains in survival mode, braced for danger, ready to run, frozen in fear, praying for rescue, or too ashamed to do anything but submit.



In each individual client, I could see that some parts were easier to identify with or “own” and some parts were easier to ignore or dismiss as “not me.”
Internally, the parts were also in conflict: was it safer to freeze or fight? To cry for help? Or to be seen and not heard?


What I also noticed was that the internal relationships between these fragmented aspects of self reflected the traumatic environments for which they had once been solutions.


The left-brain-dominant present-oriented self avoids the right-brain-dominant survival-oriented parts or judges them as bad qualities to be modified, while the right brain implicit selves of the parts are equally alienated from what they perceive as a “weak” or absent other half.


The functioning self carries on, trying desperately to be “normal”—at the cost of feeling alienated from or invaded by the intrusive communications of the parts.



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