a reply to: WhiteAlice
I think your definition of dissociation isn't quite right--dissociation, in terms of psychology, is the emotional and physical detachment from
reality. Not a "breaking of focus" or even a loss of focus. It is quite simply detachment. For a normal person, that would be the same as
daydreaming. I could be misinterpreting your statements but your base definition is wrong.
I disagree. The conventional usage is sort of arbitrary, as every change of mind is simultaneously a "change in self". As many and more
psychologists are beginning to acknowledge - and as has been the working premise in clinical hypnosis for the last 40 years - every "break" in
awareness is a dissociative phenomena.
So why are people thinking differently now? Because our metaphors are changing. We're thinking less of ourselves in rigid ways such as
"computational representation"; itself a descendant of Netwonian mechanical thinking; for example, the idea of dissociation was the creation of
Pierre Janet - a disciple of Jean-Marc Charcot. This idea had already been formulated, at least in theory, that conscious states 'move about'; but
then Freud came around and 'rigidified" consciousness by positing THE unconscious. Freud was right in the beginning when he worked with Breur in
positing unconscious causes of behavior; but later on he got carried away and spoke about consciousness as if it were something pre-existing activity
and behavior with the environment. I.e the oedipal complex, etc, is a particularly useless notion divorced from the intrinsic causes of behavior.
I am adopting a growing framework in psychology that mental states "compete" with one another, as it were, for "conscious domination". It's kind
of like evolution within our minds: all systems basically operate in this way; with basic paremeters; states of instability; and a pull towards
Dissociation in the clinical sense, which you refer to, is essentially the same phenomena but in a far more symptomatic sense. For example and to
prove my point: everyone dissociates. When you talk to someone and they agitate, and you ignore the effect they're producing in you, you're
essentially ignoring how your consciousness will organized in the next sequence. Thus, you "dissociate" the affect - the catalyzing emotion - from
Now, clinically speaking, dissociation is operating in more damaging ways. For someone with borderline personality disorder, the dissociated affects
of early childhood - SHAME in particular - have produced an extraordinarily rigid narcissistic self-structure, which, paradoxically, becomes
enormously sensitive when an experience of shame is "dissociatively" experienced within the body: and then you get the borderline behavior i..e
insane aggression and beliefs about others.
You can pretty much go through the host of dissociative disorders and you can make out the same dynamic: certain experiences being denied i.e.
dissociated - and the mind adapting itself to counter the affects. This is what dissociation essentially is: a separation.
Philip Bromberg makes the essentially distinction between 'soft' and 'hard' dissociation. The former describes the way consciousness basically
works (i.e the dissimilarity between thoughts and experiences). Whereas the latter describes clinical manifestations.
I guess dissociation in this sense you mean it refers to trauma and how trauma as a felt experience acts like a repelling magnet, keeping certain
thoughts and experiences out of consciousness. The most extreme variety of this is "dissociative identity disorder". Where traumatic affects become
so destabilizing that the mind literally "splits" meanings held in one state from meanings held in another state. It can be amazing, as a therapist,
to see someone know something in one state, to deny that they had an experience or said something in another state; the former state, which may have
been an acknowledgement of deeply held shame, when passing into another state, will literally FORGET everything that held in that previous state.
Which shows that if trauma is deep enough, the mind can even dissociate conscious actions done a second earlier from a state of awareness "selected"
for its utility as maintaining stable affects.
In that light, I can honestly say that when I am at my most depersonalized and dissociative is when my reaction speeds and targeting begin to hit
their maximum potential
Yes, thats the trick! The paradox is every state of focus is similtaneously a state of dissociation i.e. a break from any state. Thus, my argument and
thread is very nuanced; the idea is, and the way I use dissociation, is in the "splitting" between cognition and affect; when the mind seems
"broken off" from it's environment (i.e the empirical plays-space of the visually perceived game). This is a dissociation. And, so too, when you
are completely "immersed" in the game, you are dissociating everything else and completely immersed in the experience of the environment.
I've befriended several professional fps gamers and the ones that are the most consistent in gaming ability are the ones that shut down all thought
and emotional processes totally.
First, you cant shut down emotion. Emotion is always present. Even when you think you're being a robot connected to the game, theres a specific
neurochemistry and a specific embodied experience which enables a deep sense of connection. It's just being overlooked at the time because of the
sense of contuinity between self and environment.
Where I think you're correct is that it is taxing to maintain it. I can sustain the state for maybe 45 minutes to a little over an hour. Afterwards,
I'm not just mentally wiped but physically wiped to boot. How long I last depends, however, on how unaware of the taxing nature of the state that
I'm in lasts. The moment i notice it, it's done because that jars me back to my physical/mental awareness aka reality.
That's definitely true. Exhaustion does happen, and even the best yogis have limits to how long they can do their amazing feats before their
physicality exhausts their cognitive focus.