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270 of 282 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Exposition of Understanding for Human Suffering
I must express extreme praise and admiration for the work and eventual understanding the authors of The Haunted Self have so relatively displayed in researching trauma related disorders and maladaptive behaviors. But the amazing thing is they were able to explain it in terms a sufferer can understand. This is not something that happens in research very often. I have...
Published on April 25, 2007 by Walt

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3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed reactions
I'm in recovery from DID and had a very mixed reaction to this book. Here are a few thoughts in case they help someone wondering whether this book will be of interest to them:

* It's a very heavy read, very intellectual, and I had to read some sentences over and over to grasp the meaning.

* It did an excellent job of helping me to come out of...
Published 1 month ago by Betty


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270 of 282 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Exposition of Understanding for Human Suffering, April 25, 2007
By 
Walt (Denver, CO) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) (Hardcover)
I must express extreme praise and admiration for the work and eventual understanding the authors of The Haunted Self have so relatively displayed in researching trauma related disorders and maladaptive behaviors. But the amazing thing is they were able to explain it in terms a sufferer can understand. This is not something that happens in research very often. I have been involved in research of some sort all my adult life and know that research produces facts and figures from which decisions and theories can be constructed with a reasonable amount of certainty. The one thing research cannot do is produce empathy and compassion. Being a post-modern theologian as well as an engineer, I know these two expressions can only come from a calling to help humanity. I am a fifty-one year old male who has suffered the agonizing pain of the effects of trauma in many different ways and forms all my life. After reading well over one-hundred and twenty thousand pages of research on my symptoms and problems and theorizing and journaling thoughts, I finally found not only an explanation but compassion and empathy within the pages of this book. I believe this is vital in any therapeutic relationship. Without a shadow of a doubt, the reader can make a therapeutic relationship with this book that can be externalized and extended into their patient therapist relationship. This book is to trauma and mental health as Einstein's theory of relativity is to physics or what the personal computer is to how we view information or, more importantly, what parole is to a prisoner.

I have been treated for many anxiety related symptoms but another symptom would just take its place after treatment. Then the original symptom would reoccur. This cycle has lasted all my life with devastating personal effects. But like most people with psychological disorders or underdeveloped functionality, it was hard to talk about what was really going on inside of me. I could neither express nor have the courage to face my inward demons. I was stuck in a living example of structural disassociation. My emotional self (EP) was stuck in the state of both somatic (empty) and exaggerated memories of accumulative trauma (or of personal perceptions of life events) while my normal every day self (ANP) was in a defensive war keeping me from dealing with the pain, relived trauma and torture of those memories. This actually caused a somatic type of discomfort. Of course this psychosomatic physical suffering just kept the cycle of mental distress going in a spiral of disassociation. Actually I was fighting for the gift of life as found in wholeness.

I have been inducted into the lifer's panic attack hall of fame. If that were not enough I have fought phobias, struggled with intrusive misplaced thoughts bordering OCD, mimicked heart attacks getting intimate with the EKG machine. I endured the embarrassment of publicly displaying tics and jerks and leg movements during stressful situations that I was ill equipped to handle. I would have to find some excuse for losing my current thought process during emotional and trying times. The list could go on but at this point I think you have the idea. I felt like a loser with no hope. Make no mistake. All of those labeled disorders were real. That is; they were symptomatically real due to trauma related structural disorder which affected and distorted my understanding of the gift of life. Treatment was nothing more than an aspirin for the pain. Healing started, however, through understanding the complex make up of my person.

The Haunted Self provided that understanding. I introduced the book to my therapist, whom is very good and someone I trust very much. She embraced the detailed theory as it applied to me much to my surprise. By the way, did I say she was good? Something amazing happened with this embrace. I know that what I am about to say will sound patronizing but healing is something one must share. Within five weeks of therapy using a facilitated understanding of this book by my therapist, symptoms began to weaken (of course I had already completed my homework and I desperately wanted change). Wholeness began happening in my life. Doors began to open to things I never understood. Changes began to happen to my thought process bleeding over into my actions (synaptic psychotherapy). I was actually creating opportunities for myself. I was able to accept past trauma perceptions and started believing and knowing that the defense used by my everyday self (ANP) only made things worse. I feel a life time of treatment, attempted understanding and suffering came to a head with nothing more than simple insight made clear to a somewhat neurotic person. Actually this understanding was presented as a detailed expression of the conflicting forces that wreck havoc on the lives of so many people that make up our world (makes one question the concept of spontaneous panic attacks).

This review is way too long so I will end here with a challenge. I challenge anyone who has been beleaguered with anxiety related disorders to look at themselves and their disorders from a different point of reference like the changing colors of light through a prism as presented in The Haunted Self. I also challenge all mental health professionals to at least look over this book and allow it to provoke your thoughts (it should be required reading for all doctoral students in psychology if only because of the post-modern interpretation of prior research). I believe this book is a holistic expression for a broad range of disorders that are now being treated separately and in this sufferer's opinion sometimes ineffectively. I do not pretend to be an expert in psychology as some of you who are will notice, while chuckling at my review, but I am a seasoned professional at suffering due to trauma or perceptions of trauma and the extreme bizarre anxiety and actions it produces.
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114 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Putting the pieces of the puzzle together, April 1, 2007
This review is from: The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) (Hardcover)
Prior to reading this book, not only did I feel fragmented myself, but the different theories about what had happened to me that were put forward also seemed fragmented and disconnected, like slices at different angles to the truth. As well as advocating an method of integration in the patient, the theory of structural dissociation presented in this book also seems integrative in itself, in showing how different, seemingly unrelated diagnoses can be seen to be derived from the same underlying trauma related processes. As a patient this is not just theoretically interesting but it can help take away alot of the anxiety, confusion, and scepticism that comes from being sliced and diced in different ways by different mental health professionals. I think that the more patients and professionals that are exposed to these ideas, the better.

I thought this was a brilliant, original and beautifully written book, that expresses some very sophisticated ideas in a clear and systematic way. As well as the theoretical insights conveyed, this book also provides a integrative treatment plan, which brings together tools and ideas from across a broad spectrum of psychological paradigms. After only a few pages into the book, I got an "aha" moment and this deepened into a sense that finally someone seemed to be speaking a language that made sense to me. The book is written in a structured, iterative way. The first few chapters give you a broad understanding of what structural dissociation involves, and how it plays a core role in creating the symptoms experienced by both "classic" dissociative individuals, and those who may appear to have another mental illness (anxiety, depression etc), but whose symptoms are in fact a manifestation of underlying structural dissociation. The rest of the book goes into further theoretical detail, and then explains the phased treatment programme, with a comprehensive array of information and guidance for mental health professionals on how to effectively treat patients. Depending on their current level of mental stamina and capability, patients may find that they only need to read the first few chapters to understand the basics of the ideas, but those with more energy and interest will get great value out of the rest of the book also.

While not all mental illness is caused by structural dissociation, those who have experienced problems with getting a diagnosis or effective therapy may gain value from the insights contained in this book. I strongly feel that this is the best book by far that i have found on trauma related dissociative disorders, and i recommend it highly to anyone suffering from DID, BPD, PTSD, conversion/somatisation disorders etc.
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79 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Major Advancement in Understanding Trauma and Dissociation, May 11, 2007
This review is from: The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) (Hardcover)
In THE HAUNTED SELF the authors, Onno van der Hart, Ellert Nijenhuis and Kathy Steele present a theory of structural dissociation that builds upon the work of Pierre Janet and ties together the recent developments in the areas of trauma and dissociation. They build their theory methodically and concisely, tackling the difficult subject of dissociation and its effects on survivors of trauma. Their writing is compassionate and understanding, illuminating their therapeutic skills while at the same time delving into one of the most misunderstood and confounding areas of psychology with clarity and thoughtfulness.

The book is a challenging read, not because of the language, but because of the thoroughness and detail devoted to the construction of the authors' somewhat complex theory. Divided into two sections, the first constructs the theory of structural dissociation itself, with the second section presenting the phase oriented treatment, including examples illustrating the therapeutic processes involved.

The theory the authors present is consistent with recent advances in neuroscience and has the potential to impact the treatment of those suffering from a range of psychological disorders. The authors fully acknowledge and solicit feedback for those parts of their theory that are in need of further research. They also use the work of many others who have extended our knowledge of trauma and dissociation and its treatment over the past century.

Rather than approaching dissociative disorders by only examining the modern theories and developments, they begin with the work of Janet and thus are able to define the sequential breakdown of the personality in the face of traumatic incidences. Their theory respects the varied nature of individual responses making their approach most accessible for those who work directly with any dissociative system, from the simplest ranging to the most complex or polyfragmented.

This book is great advanced reading for those DID'ers who have already read everything else out there and are looking for more. Although it is dense, if you can make your way through it, you will find yourselves, as I did, commenting on how `on the mark' it feels.

THE HAUNTED SELF should be required reading for all psychology and neurobiology students as well as for all private practitioners and those currently working with the mentally ill in institutions, programs and educational settings. It is also excellent material for those seeking to understand more about the functions of the brain.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Text for those Working in this Controversial Field, July 14, 2007
By 
Sandra M. Hacker (Victoria Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) (Hardcover)
At last - a truly excellent text on the psychological aspects of trauma-related disorders! This book provides a clear and comprehensive account of the theory and management of complex PTSD and complex dissociative disorders. In approaching the difficulties of categorising all the phenomena seen in these severely disturbed patients, the authors have taken a bird's eye view, presenting their theory of structural dissociation and linking it in a useful and meaningful way to a phased treatment model.

The issue of dissociation has been phenomenologically challenging and even more difficult to unravel theoretically. Van der Hart, Nijenhuis and Steele have accomplished this task with a quite densely written, but lucid, volume which draws on the work of Janet, expanding his concepts and defining a range of terms that greatly assist in conceptualising how dissociation and its consequences occur, and how its manifestations produce the symptoms these patients present. It draws on the growing neurobiological research into the underpinnings of dissociation and highlights the centrality of the phobic response to the traumatising event in the maintenance of dissociation.

The authors importantly distinguish between potentially and actually traumatising events, and traumatic experiences, recognising that only some people develop psychopathological symptoms or mental disorders in response to exposure to a particular event, which can then be identified as a traumatising event which produced a traumatic experience. This can be seen in contrast to the person who does not develop psychopathology and to whom the identical event may be quite stressful, but by definition is not traumatic.

While this theoretical analysis might seem a sufficient endeavour, the second part of the book provides an overarching map to treatment, connecting it throughout with the previously described theoretical framework. In contrast to many previous attempts, the plan provides an understanding of how the phased model of treatment seeks initially to consolidate the patient's response to the traumatising event, thereby attempting to diminish the likelihood of further disintegration. Further it does not view fusion of the dissociative parts, if this can be achieved, as the final therapeutic goal for those who dissociate in response to the traumatising event, but rather suggests that the ultimate task of treatment is to assist the patient to overcome the `phobia of normal life'.

Without doubt, the most helpful text yet for clinicians working in a psychological framework in this controversial field.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Haunted Self - An Indispensible Guide and Resource for Clinicians, September 14, 2008
By 
Dr. David Leonard (Melbourne Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) (Hardcover)
Treating people with dissociative disorders is a very difficult enterprise for which most mental health professionals are poorly prepared. Education programs neglect the area and even otherwise reputable textbooks are unhelpful. Many members of the community and even quite senior mental health professionals display a lack of understanding and even scepticism and antagonism to the very concept of dissociation. This is directed towards those who suffer from dissociative disorders and those who try to treat them. Thus sufferers are often isolated from effective help and clinicians also are isolated, poorly prepared and often at a loss as to how to embark on the complex task of therapy when they do encounter people with such problems.

"The Haunted Self" provides a scholarly, comprehensive and practical work for everyone interested in the area and is particularly helpful as a guide and a resource for poorly isolated clinicians. It is a wonderful work of creative synthesis of 150 years of work in the field of dissociation. While not neglecting the work of more contemporary thinkers, the authors own their great debt to the work Pierre Janet carried out 100 years ago. With some important exceptions, Janet's brilliant insights into the field of "hysteria" and dissociation have been neglected in the English speaking world. The authors' enviable command of European languages gives them access to his and other important works not published or neglected in English.

The book provides an excellent balance of the theoretical and the practical. It is set out in 3 sections. The first deals with the authors' concept of structural dissociation, the second deals with chronic traumatisation and links it to Janet's theories while the third sets out an approach to treatment.

Traumatic experiences at any age can have serious consequences and this is covered in the book. In childhood,in particular, early trauma such as abuse and neglect, of a physical, sexual or emotional nature, exert pervasive, destructive effects, which may extend far into adult life. The authors point out that children have pathetically inadequate resources with which to cope with the horrors to which, tragically, they are sometimes subjected. They refer to Janet's concept of their having an inadequate "mental level" i.e. integrative capacity to cope adaptively with these experiences. They coined and developed the term "structural dissociation" to describe the complex response to such abuse.

The authors develop the concept of of "action systems." These are psychobiological responses which can be divided into two major groups - those in response to attractive stimuli and those which defend against noxious ones. Traumatic situations in childhood often evoke both responses simultaneously e.g. a response to an abusive caregiver in which fear and attraction are mingled giving rise to intolerable conflict. Such intense feelings and the unbearable terror and arousal produced by trauma are referred to as "vehement emotions."

The book describes the impact of these powerful feelings in producing a loss of integration and cohesion in the personality. As a result intolerable feelings and memories are segregated from complete awareness and traumatised people move between different identity states. In some states they are locked into traumatic events which are constantly re-experienced with their associated overwhelming emotions. In other states they are cut off from the memories and experiences of the trauma and are phobic and avoidant towards anything that threatens to remind them of the trauma and of the internal states which carry the trauma experiences.

Charles Myers' work with soldiers from World War I is recalled. He described splits into what he called "Apparently normal personalities" and "Emotional personalities" in response to combat trauma giving rise to structural dissociation.

The second section focuses on Janet's theories in relation to trauma. As the authors say, "the inclusion of Janet's work is not a romantic flight into history. His ideas on actions are most helpful and practical in understanding the plight of trauma survivors"

And so they are although, initially, I myself had to exert a fair amount of effort to understand and start to apply these concepts. I think most people unfamiliar with Janet's work would have similar problems but the effort is very worth while. Interestingly, although clinicians brought up with other theoretical models may share my problem, I have found that the concepts, are easily grasped and make perfect sense to people struggling with trauma related disorders. Concepts such as synthesis, presentification, personification and action tendencies and their hierarchies are discussed in depth and applied to clinical problems.

The final section on treatment begins with a useful section on assessment. It then outlines a three phase approach to treatment. The first phase involves stabilisation and symptom reduction, the second the treatment of traumatic memories and the third personality integration and rehabilitation.

Those who read The Haunted Self will quickly discern that it is the work of highly skilled clinicians not simply theorists. All who have battled with the problems of trauma affected people will recognise that the authors have travelled the same paths and will find their guidance very valuable.

I have stressed the worth of this excellent book to clinicians but a number of my more sophisticated patients have also found reading it very valuable. It is certainly a wonderful validation of this body of work that it does make so much sense to those very people who have to live their lives with the consequences of trauma.

David Leonard
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Contribution Toward Understand and Healing, April 20, 2007
By 
This review is from: The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) (Hardcover)
The Haunted Self is an illuminating and welcome contribution to our understanding of the effects of trauma on the human organism. The author's theoretical work, an extension of the work of Pierre Janet, offers a unifying theory by which one may more fully apprehend Dissociation. The theory and its practical clinical application are presented in a manner that helps to bridge the often disparate and confusing perspectives about this disorder and its treatment.

Complex concepts are clearly organized and articulated as the reader is guided to understand both the processes by which trauma fractures the self and the reparative therapeutic processes necessary to heal such fractures. The author(s) explain the physical and emotional mechanism(s) that contribute to the formation and maintenance of the pathology of Structural Dissociation. They describe the intricate neurophysiology that likely underpins the disorder and how the patient's and therapist's neurobiology (as expressed in a broad array of attachment, affect, sensorimotor, cognitive & behavioral manifestations) is considered and integrated into a collaborative phasing of the treatment plan.

This is an often dense but thoroughly satisfying read. Onno van der Hart, Ellert R. S. Nijenhuis and Kathy Steele know their subject and have meticulously explained and structured it in a way that makes sense.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an important and fascinating book, July 31, 2008
This review is from: The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) (Hardcover)
What an exceptional book! The step-wise didactic clarity and innovative content of The Haunted Self alone would suffice to justify making the book required reading material for all health professionals encountering trauma victims. However, it is also a remarkably thrilling reading experience, reminiscent of the "haunted-house" stories of my youth. One finds oneself led to familiar areas through "hidden stairways" and suddenly comes to perceive and comprehend things from unexpected angles.
As a psychiatrist specializing in trauma as a clinician, a lecturer and a researcher for nearly 20 years, I found this book to be a fitting and eloquent summary of over 25 years of innovative thought, thorough research and ongoing re-assessment of the theoretical and clinical applications of Trauma-Related Structural Dissociation of the Personality by Van der Hart, Nijenhuis and Steele, whose ongoing publications in leading journals I have followed avidly. The theoretical basis is coherently and systematically presented in the opening section, followed by a section which concisely and didactically addresses the clinical applications, from guidelines for patient assessment and formulation of the treatment plan, and then deals in detail with each stage, with ample guidance and clinical examples. The lay-out of the book also conveniently enables selective reading of independent sections and topics. There is a refreshing undercurrent of humility to the book - the reader feels encouraged to examine and comment freely.
Without seeking to replace or compete with other trauma theories or treatment modalities, the authors present an over-arching and unifying conceptual approach to comprehending the psycho-biological underpinnings of a highly variable and challenging population of patients, who quite commonly present with a complex and confusing array of atypical and changeable clinical and therapeutic issues, only partly addressed by current diagnostic criteria and treatment guidelines.
The structural conception of dissociation enhances ones understanding not only of PTSD and Complex PTSD, Dissociative Identity Disorder and cases of severe protracted physical and sexual abuse, but clarifies the contribution of trauma to Borderline Personality Disorder, Somatoform Disorders and certain physical syndromes characteristically associated with emotional trauma and stress.

Dr Mike Matar, MD (Psych)
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is just wonderfull!, August 13, 2008
By 
This review is from: The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) (Hardcover)
This book is just wonderfull! I deeply enjoyed reading it - and much more :) - applying its concepts and practical guidelines into the complex clinical work with traumatized individuals. Myself, psychotherapist, child and adolescent psychiatrist in Ukraine - I found this book most clinically useful book I have read in few last years about trauma-related disorders. It gives clarity into this very complex dimensions of inner and outer lives of chronically traumatized individuals and it helps to empathically understand their suffering. From this empathic understanding well-paced and well-structured therapy can take place. And from my clinical practice I saw how useful and effective are concepts and practical therapeutic guidelines from this book. So I highly recommend this book for everyone working in the field of trauma-related disorders, and I also highly recommend this book to publishers for translations and publication in other languages. This knowledge must become widely available so we can better assist traumatized individuals in their inner healing. Special thanks to authors for their great work!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book!, May 1, 2012
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This review is from: The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) (Hardcover)
This is the best book out there explaining dissociation. It is a tough read for the non-professional but worth the effort. The Theory of Structural Dissociation of the Personality is presented along with Janet's Psychology of Action, giving new tools that will help the person with a dissociative disorder move towards recovery. Pair this book with "Coping With Trauma Related Dissociation" by Suzette Boon, Kathy Steele & Onno Van der Hart for an incredible workbook applying the skills laid out in both books.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PASP(1)(tm) Resource Seal of Approval: Book Review--The Haunted Self, May 23, 2010
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This review is from: The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) (Hardcover)
Structural Dissociation of the Personality

The leading theorists on the subject recognize that reactions to extreme stress can lead to one or more differing diagnosis, and that inherent in said traumatic reactions is structural dissociation of the personality. Where three types of structural dissociation have been postulated: primary structural dissociation, secondary structural dissociation and tertiary structural dissociation.

Primary structural dissociation involves simple PTSD, and dissociative amnesia, where the Emotional Personality (EP) and the Apparently Normal Personality (ANP) have become disenfranchised or fragmented. The EP "...is fixated in the trauma and associated experiences....[and the ANP]...is fixated in avoidance of the trauma, manifesting detachment, numbing, and partial or complete amnesia" (Steele, van der Hart, and Nijenhuis, n.d., para. 8).

PTSD is not only about personal protection or self preservation but in its essence a mechanism of such endeavors, thus becoming a self-perpetual entity in of itself (the EP can develop into a sub-personality, a component of Dissociative Identity Disorder [DID]). Almost as if it has become self-aware and not only will it steer one away from danger, but also away from its own demise; a seemingly serendipitous supra-intelligent guidance of the subconscious.

The EP has evolutionary roots in defensive mechanisms that propelled us through the traumatic experience(s), an inborn reactionary system that can become entrenched within the mind. The EP's success in our survival leads us to firmly identify with this part of ourselves and engages in obsessive and compulsive rumination of the defensive mechanisms and exhibits as symptomatology.

The ANP has become the mode of operation whereby the individual can engage everyday operational tasks. Such as "...attachment, energy management, reproduction and rearing of children, socialization, play, and exploration" (para. 12). To do so, the ANP's main function is to avoid the intrusive thoughts and fear potentials.

In a constant threat environment, the evolutionary response system and the benefits of survival further encapsulates the differentiated states of mind. Secondary structural dissociation is a result of this prolonged and saturated state of being. A fluid environment demands that we engage in concerted efforts to survive, to do otherwise means death. Animalistic reflexive defense mechanisms such as the fight or flight response or submissive freezing, delve into the realm of "...complex PTSD or disorders of extreme stress (DES), trauma-induced borderline personality disorder, and dissociative disorders not otherwise specified" (para. 12).

Tertiary structural dissociation results from the complete fragmentation of the EP and the ANP. Whereby numerous ANP's can develop to engage different aspects of a persons life, such as putting on your "work hat" to enable the separation of a traumatic existence to a work self, the social self, etc. Here we find the diagnosis of DID, where traumatic associations or triggers have inundated the individual and submerges them into a function of constantly changing identities governed by situational exchanges.
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