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Toronto, E. (2009). Time Out of Mind: Dissociation in the Virtual World. Psychoanal. Psychol., 26(2):117-133.

(2009). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 26(2):117-133

Time Out of Mind: Dissociation in the Virtual World

Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

While greatly facilitating ease of interaction across time and geographic boundaries, the virtual world presents an unreal universe comprised of instant connection and gratification. Our culture has embraced this alternate reality in the form of online journals, chat rooms, and excessive involvement with video games, as well as Internet pornography and sexual solicitation. Psychoanalytic principles can greatly illuminate our understanding of individuals' involvement with virtual reality as it becomes disruptive to work and meaningful relationships. Two cases will be used to illustrate overinvolvement with the virtual world as a form of dissociation in which the individuals retreat from the painful memories, deficits, and helplessness they experience in the real world to a subjective state in which they can attempt to exercise control and aggressively capture the supplies they lack. In the course of treatment, the dissociated material must be invited into the therapeutic dyad so that it may become a conscious and accepted part of the self. The process involves both verbal interpretation and relational grounding in the person of the therapist.

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