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Knox, J. (2011). Dissociation and shame: shadow aspects of multiplicity. J. Anal. Psychol., 56(3):341-347.

(2011). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 56(3):341-347

Dissociation and shame: shadow aspects of multiplicity

Jean Knox, Ph.D., MBBS, MRCPsych

In this paper I shall explore a shadow side to multiplicity, namely when multiple and distorted viewpoints cannot be integrated into any meaningful whole, but exist as dissociated fragments inside the psyche.

A baby's sense of identity comes from the meaning attributed by the mother to his or her actions, which, when positive, provide the foundation for the healthy development of self-agency in early infancy. But the infant's dependence on key attachment figures to give meaning to his/her actions makes him or her uniquely vulnerable to negative attributions from parents who interpret their infant's healthy appetite as greed, or see normal aggression as evil. This kind of parental rejection, which often takes the form of a mere facial expression of disapproval or even disgust, is often fleeting and usually entirely unconscious.

These negative attributions are internalized to become a core part of the sense of self, with devastating consequences—a kind of antithesis of ‘moments of meeting’. The child becomes literally ‘ashamed of himself', of his or her self-agency and libido in the sense Jung used. Echoing Jung's insights (1920), Alicia Lieberman says that the child may become ‘the carrier of the parents’ unconscious fears, impulses and other repressed or disowned parts of themselves’ and that ‘these negative attributions become an integral part of the child's sense of self’ (Lieberman 1999, p. 737). I have suggested (Knox 2007) that this is the basis for the ‘fear of love’—a kind of autistic defence against relationship in those who have experienced such colonization by the disowned parts of the parental psyche.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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