Depersonalization in psychosis

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Depersonalization is a psychological approach that is universally used as a means of dealing with the other when he becomes disturbing, threatening, or tiresome. One no longer allows oneself to be responsive to his feelings and may be prepared to regard him and treat him as though he had no feelings, turning him as if he were a thing, an it. Partial depersonalization of others is extensively practiced in everday life and is regarded as normal if not highly desirable. Everyday life relationship with strangers are based on some partial depersonalizing tendency in so far as one treats the other not in terms of any awareness of who or what he might be in himself but as virtually an android robot playing a role or part in a large machine in which one too may be acting yet another part.


The inner self in the psychotic condition

In the psychotic condition there is a persistent scission, or split, between the self and the body. What the individual regards as his true self is experienced as more or less disembodied, and bodily experience and actions are in turn felt to be part of a false-self system. It is well known that temporary state of dissociation of the self from the body occur in normal people when they are found trapped in a threating situation from which there is no way out; prisoners in concentration camps felt that way. This temporary dissociation is expressed with such thoughts as "this is like a dream"; "this is unreal"; "I can´t believe this is true", or "nothing seems to be touching me". However, in the psychotic condition, this split of self and body (and reality) is constant.

This detachment of the self means that the self is never revealed directly in the individual's expressions and actions, nor does it experience anything spontaneously. The direct and inmediate transactions between the individual, the other, and the world, all come to be meaningless, futile, and false. The psychotic and schizophrenic individual delegates all transactions between himself and the other to a system whithin his being that is not "him". Thus the world is experienced as unreal, and all that belongs to this system is felt to be false and meaningless. The self, therefore, is precluded from having a direct relationship with real thing and real people. When this has happened in patients, one is witness to the struggle which ensues to preserve the self's own sense of its own realness, aliveness, and identity. The frightened and cornered real self relates to the real world of real people through a false self system which he fabricates to put on a front of normality.

What one might call a creative relationship with the other, in which there is mutual enrichment of the self and the other, is impossible, and this interaction is substituted with sterile relationship. The substitution of an interaction with the other results in the individual coming to live in a frightening world in which dread is unmitigated by love. The individual is frightened of the world, afraid that any impingement will be total, will be implosive, penetrative, fragmenting, and engulfing. He is afraid of letting anything of himself go, of coming out of himself, or losing himself in any experience, because he will be depleted, exhausted, emptied, and robbed.