Where can I read about this kind of dissociation?
November 20, 2015 12:59 PM   Subscribe

Where can I read about dissociation in which the mind convinces someone that something was positive? I'm thinking about Hawkeye from the end of M*A*S*H* and the chicken as an example of what I mean. (trigger warning)

I'm looking for articles or books on how an adult could dissociate traumatic experiences and have their mind turn them into positive experiences until years later.

The closest thing I can think of what I'm trying to describe here is at the end of M*A*S*H* where Hawkeye turns a baby into a chicken in his memory. But I'd like something that is not from fiction.

Trigger warning. For example, let's say someone was raped by their boyfriend but somehow recorded that event in their mind as consensual and fun. Years later, they experience flashbacks and a traumatic reaction and, in therapy, they are able to see that they were raped and that their mind dealt with the trauma by splitting that off and turning it into a positive experience.

I suspect there isn't much information about this because it would not play well if survivors of rape provided this sort of information - they are so often discredited that saying that the incident was enjoyable at the time would lead some people to discredit them.

It doesn't have to be about assault. It could be about other traumatic incidents that the mind re-writes as a positive.

I *do not* want information relating to childhood victims. I want information about people at least in young adulthood or older. It doesn't have to be sexual assault - it could be examples from war, Holocaust, POW camps, etc.

I'm also interested in anything where a trauma victim splits off anything dangerous/red flag about their partner, where dissociation happens so fast that they don't even know or where their mind turns that into a positive somehow.

Again, just looking for information about adults. And I don't mean incidents where the person is fully aware that something wrong is going on - I'm looking for incidents where their brain is actively perceiving things in a safer way, while dissociating the horror of the actual situation. I don't mean where they actively see themselves as being in a horror and blame themselves for it. I mean something that is happening so fast that they can't even see the trauma and instead their brain records it as a good thing.

I'm happy to clarify.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: *good thing = or less dangerous thing, too.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 1:00 PM on November 20, 2015

I don't have any specific examples, but this idea is very Freudian. Freud would describe this as a defense mechanism - that the brain is protecting the psyche by altering the memory of the event.
posted by Giailh at 1:47 PM on November 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks. I could also see how it fits into the BASK model for dissociation, but I can't find anything where the memories get reframed with more positive / less scary things.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 2:02 PM on November 20, 2015

Fiction, but (spoiler alert) Life of Pi by Yann Martel deals heavily with this.
posted by saucysault at 2:30 PM on November 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

This sounds close to the whole "repressed memories" era where false memories of bad events were accidentally implanted in people, showing just how suggestible the human mind is.
posted by w0mbat at 3:37 PM on November 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Researching Stockholm Syndrome might give you some leads.
posted by gehenna_lion at 4:28 PM on November 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks. Yes, kind of like Life of Pi. Just wondering if there is anything in legitimate literature.

I'm not sure repressed memories is quite the thing. In the situation I am thinking of, the person can see that the facts themselves show what happened - it's just that they couldn't see it as it was or maybe their mind did something like change a human into a chicken.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 5:17 PM on November 20, 2015

This is actually sort of the opposite, but illuminating about replacement of reality with other content in memory anyway:
Donald Thomson, an Australian psychologist, was bewildered when the police informed him that he was a suspect in a rape case, his description matching almost exactly that provided by the victim. Fortunately for Thomson, he had a watertight alibi. At the time of the rape, he was taking part in a live TV interview – ironically, on the fallibility of eyewitness testimony. It turned out that the victim had been watching Thomson on TV just before the rape occurred and had confused her memory of him with that of the rapist.
posted by Miko at 7:24 PM on November 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

Some of the ways a domestic violence victim perceives/rationalizes the actions of their abuser could fit into this, I think.

"He doesn't want me to contact those family members because they don't treat me well, so he's protecting me."

"He doesn't want me to have to deal with the stress of our finances, so I don't have access to the bank account."

"He doesn't want me to wear that because it might get the wrong sort of attention from men and make me feel uncomfortable or unsafe."

"He overreacted a little when the house wasn't clean enough, but it's important to him that our home is a lovely place to raise our family."

posted by stormyteal at 9:34 PM on November 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

somehow recorded that event in their mind as consensual and fun

From mine and others' experiences and from conversations with women friends I would guess it's not at all rare for many women's earliest sexual experiences to be this way. Isn't this why predators will prefer young inexperienced victims, who can't quite name what's going on as abuse?
posted by glasseyes at 12:59 PM on November 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I agree, but that is why I was wondering about when this sort of thing happens to an adult, say in their 20s or 30s.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:45 PM on November 21, 2015

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