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June 25, 2007


slough of despond

I had some difficulty with these authors' use of phrases like "higher mental energy" or "higher mental level," "higher order actions," and sometmes I believe "higher cognitive" this or that. After working with this language (on top of the many other wonderful but less dissimilar layers), I was able to extricate myself from associations I felt confident were irrelevant, but still the language seemed different from the more descriptive language taken from Janet, Myers, Bowlby and so on.

This language confused me in that it introduced independent elements into the whole trauma dynamic that seemed to confuse it at least for me and revert to "resilience" kind of implications.

This for me makes the whole "trauma" foundation of the whole volume wobble and threaten to revert to blaming the victim and praising the apparently UN-traumatized survivor, which some people’s use of the "resilience" concept can lead to.

The other layers seemed like a lot of work just because of the ambition and thoroughness of the theoretical synthesis undertaken, but the "higher" language seemed to involve me in speculation and hypothesis until I gradually felt I might have tracked down what they meant, though I remained a bit uneasy.

Perhaps none of this happened for you and this language, opaque or confusing for me, was something you took right in stride.

Ahah, now I check back into the review Roman Numeraled "I" of a few days earlier and see that you also struggled with the Janet language. I didn’t equate as you seem to have "action systems" with just behavior.

It seemed to me the concept or dynamic was more along the lines of a built-in pattern or tendency somewhat like "instinct" or what Jung calls "archetypes" (also an even more opaque term or concept).

But all these languages had issues partly coming from the effort to synthesize them all in one theoretical model and partly coming from the innate difficulty of understanding the phenomena implied and the concepts themselves.

The "higher" stuff seemed differently difficult to me. It confused me by introducing concepts I felt fairly confident were NOT intended, like high IQ or better patient or individual/worse patient or individual (i.e. person of stronger "self" or "superior" character). I wondered if the European authors were less Puritanical than I and the American literatures I am more accustomed to reading and able to use value terms like "higher" without experiencing judgments that disrupt diagnostic continuity and lucidity. I was glad the publishers had included photographs of the authors, who seem so benign and thorough, weaving together this account of what can be deeply harrowing material. It was just nice to SEE them.

Thank you for calling attention to this warm, riveting, sort of forest or mountain range of a book.

It seems almost more of a SET of volumes compressed into a single strenuous yet heartfelt book, a dissociation LIBRARY (which of course the massive and partly unavailable [e.g. most of the Janet] bibliography DOES comprise). I was not at all as able to take all the formidable synthesis in stride as you. It gave me a LOT to think about and a sense I would have to keep reading it over and over, and a sense I was going to learn a LOT that way.

I was especially grateful to have the opaque and impenetrable quality of the word and concept DISSOCIATION acknowledged and so heroically addressed.

Thanks again for your double review of it, and thanks to the authors for their long, hard, foundational work, here.

Robin Shapiro

I didn't like the language, but I've met van der Hart and seen videos of him working. He's a dear. And he was very connected to the clients. I wonder how much of the problem was translation issues. I wonder if "higher" is different in Dutch. I love the ANP-EP breakdown. It makes perfect sense to me.
Thanks for writing!

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