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Weisel-Barth, J. (2007). The Associative Mind: Review and Commentary on The Dissociative Mind by Elizabeth Howell. Int. J. Psychoanal. Self Psychol., 2(1):117-125.

(2007). International Journal of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology, 2(1):117-125

The Associative Mind: Review and Commentary on The Dissociative Mind by Elizabeth Howell

Joye Weisel-Barth, Ph.D., Psy.D.

A person has no sovereign territory; he is wholly and always on the boundary; looking inside himself, he looks into the eyes of another or with the eyes of another.”


An occupational hazard for psychoanalysts is the tendency to develop theories about regular folks from observation and work with people who are psychologically dysfunctional. Building normative theories through a lens of deprivation, deficit, and disjunction, analysts are likely to ignore healthy resources and forward-moving processes. It is something like defining a new infant by the loss of its umbilical cord and placenta. The statement is technically correct, but the focus and emphasis are all off. This fact struck me as I was reading Elizabeth Howell's masterful presentation of the history and current thinking about dissociation and multiple selves in The Dissociative Mind. Howell makes a persuasive argument for the pervasiveness of dissociative processes, both normal and pathological, in the development and functioning of the human mind. Yet, in my view, she overstates her argument by suggesting that dissociation is the principle process for understanding the organization of mind.


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