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Spectrum of Dissociation?

kgould's picture

Virtual Reality and Dissociative Personalities

This final examination of dissociation will be looking at the projection of the self in daydreams and other fictional states and will suggest the incorporation of a fluid scale of dissociation…

The article that inspired this investigation is written by a woman in the forefront of the examination of the idea of “plural selves” and dissociation, especially in relation to technology and virtual reality. In the article “Who Am We?” professor and clinical psychologist Sherry Turkle writes about herself and her research in the 3rd person, a quirky self-reflexive approach that goes hand-in-hand with the concept of self-pluralism:

‘Windows have become a powerful metaphor for thinking about the self as a multiple, distributed system,’ Turkle writes. ‘The self is no longer simply playing different roles in different settings at different times. The life practice of windows is that of a decentered self that exists in many worlds, that plays many roles at the same time.’ Now real life itself may be, as one of Turkle's subjects says, ‘just one more window’ (1).

That is, instead of expressing one mindset when you’re at school (sociable, friendly, studious) and another when you’re on the bus (polite, observant, reserved), this examination of multiple-roles simultaneously suggests that not only do we “dissociate” from our normal state at different times, but that we can also dissociate on several levels at the same time. For people who experience depersonalization, this is important to note. Even those who don’t suffer from DP or DR (derealization) seem to dissociate into different modes at the same time, like those who experience dissociative events regularly (from anxiety, stress, or from some underlying disorder). What this would suggest is that dissociative events are not abnormal or bizarre. Rather, DP and DR are outliers, an emphasized part of a normal state that everyone experiences. Another, even more extreme form of the “normal” state is DID, dissociative identity disorder. Perhaps all people exist upon a spectrum of dissociation, of multiple selves—and some just have a lower threshold for experiencing dissociative events. Certainly, some kids are more prone to daydreaming than others…

    That “normal” dissociative state is just that: daydreaming. Also included are states that I view as “formalized” daydreaming like using the internet in chatrooms, in roleplaying and other games where one creates an other identity, and in pouring oneself into a good book. One takes on another identity, a facet of ourselves that we may already know about, or a whole new one entirely. In standard RPGs  (roleplaying games) and in novels, that identity is typically predetermined, a character created by the game designers or the author of the book—even the character written by screenwriters for a movie or a TV show.

We take on that new identity, that other “self” and dissociate from our regular series of “selves” or modes of thinking that we use everyday. (It should come as no surprise that it’s hard to rouse someone from a daydream or get someone’s attention away from a book or the TV.)  If they are truly invested in this other identity, have dissociated as Turkle suggests, than those individuals experiencing derealization and depersonalization are not as alone as it may appear.

My tentative scale is below, problematic because I'm unsure of an extreme away from dissociation... Extreme self-association? Solipsism? (Which is, really, extreme derealization...)

Singular/ Association<----------------------ll---------------------->Multiple/ Dissociation

Solely Singular Self?...                                                      "Normal"                          DP/DR                       Dissociative Identity Disorder

1) Turkle, Sherry. “Who Am We?”