Ego States: Theory and Therapy 1st Edition
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About the Author
Helen H. Watkins (1921 – 2002) was an innovative psychotherapist, a founding member of the International Society for the Study of Dissociation (ISSD), a psychologist at the University of Montana, and co-creator with John G. Watkins of Ego State Therapy. She and John were awarded the Pierre Janet Award to Clinical Excellence, at the 15th International Congress of Hypnosis at the University of Munich.
John G. Watkins, PhD, (1913 – 2012) was Professor Emeritus of the University of Montana, and world renowned as a pioneering psychologist in the areas of hypnosis, dissociation, and multiple personality. He was a founder and past president of ISCEH, as well as president of the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (SCEH), the American Board of Psychological Hypnosis, and the Hypnosis Division of the American Psychological Association. Dr Watkins has also served as clinical editor of the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. One of his best-known successes was to get the notorious Hillside Strangler to confess to murder and to reveal his multiple personalities.
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The book starts out with basic concepts, which assumes some history with traditional Freudian psychotherapy. If you have some basic understanding of the Freudian psychotherapy tradition, this may even seem remedial to you. I found rather annoying the discussion and use of "energy", that perenially undefined term in both mental health and new age circles. Some other fundamental concepts (subject-object, for example) are sketched out or muddily described rather than precisely defined. These problems aside, the authors provide a rough enough understanding to proceed on to the main idea: that we all have a variety of more-or-less distinct personality states, which we shift amongst in our different life situations. Most people behave differently at work, with friends, and with family, for example. It's when these states become more distinct, separated from one another, or out of volitional control that we head into the realm of pathology. At the severe end of the spectrum is dissociative identity or multiple personality disorder. At the milder end are general difficulties or problems in particular situations, such as severe reactions to criticism or difficulty with public speaking. The idea there is that, typically, some early trauma or difficult situation that couldn't be resolved at the time resulted in the formation of an ego state stuck in that trauma, falling back on the same failed strategy every time a situation reminiscent enough of the original occurs.
In ego state therapy, the therapist interacts with these different ego/personality states directly, often with the client under hypnosis. They present various techniques for revisiting and resolving trauma, either through direct confrontation or through enlisting the help of ego states not involved in the traumatic event as remembered.
The theory and practice seem quite plausible to me, especially based on my reading in related topics. It'll be interesting to see how the work pans out for myself.
If you are interested in this field, I would also recommend:
• The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization, by Onno van der Hart, Ellert R.S. Nijenhuis, and Kathy Steele
• A Dynamic Systems Approach to the Development of Cognition and Action, by Esther Thelen and Linda B. Smith
• Thinking in Systems: A Primer, by Donella H. Meadows and Diana Wright
• Anything by V.S. Ramachandran
My metaphorical understanding is as follows: Tom (Conscious) and Dick (unconscious) are in a locked room looking at each other. The lights (cathexis) are turned off and Dick moves without sound to another location in the room. In Tom's mind's eye, he pictures Dick exactly where he was before the lights went out. However, the darkness (broken cathexis) has broken the visual bond so they are no longer visually in touch with each other even though they are still in the same room.
This is just one example of the insight that I gained from reading this book. This book is helping me understand and use NLP and hipnotherapy techniques with greater effectiveness.