Saturday, 6 September 2014

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the Jungian Theory of Personality

According to the Jungian theory of personality in psychoanalysis, an individual's inner world is comprised of three parts - the id, the ego, and the superego. You often hear of people saying things like "ego burn!" or people "that's just your ego talking", but this doesn't exactly show a clear understanding of what ego truly is.

In the Jungian theory, the id is the spirit of an individual's personality, and is as close to it's basic form in infancy as one can get - which means it lacks self control, is prone to being selfish, demanding, etc. The ego exists in order to both contain the id and protect it, and essentially translates the individuals' environment and the expectations and relationship models which exist in their world view for the id. The superego represents both internal self expectation and the expectations of the community of the individual for the id.

Every person, male or female, has an inner voice, which speaks for the collective experience of the individual's experience with the opposite gender. Women have what is known as the "animus" - the root of the word animosity, interestingly enough - and men have what is called the "anima". Basically, these voices represent the voices of the people of the opposite gender who had a powerful influence on the individual. If, for example, a child is raised in a nurturing environment where they are told by their community that they are loved, respected, capable, etc, that is what they will become. If they are told by their community that they are stupid, irresponsible, useless, etc., that is what they will become. (This damage to the psyche can be mitigated through psychotherapy and self development, but it takes a great deal of work).

Post traumatic stress disorder is defined as anxiety, reccurring nightmares, increased startle reflexes, "reliving the experience", mood swings, hyperarousal, and other psychological phenomena arising after a situation in which an individual either personally experienced or observed a traumatic, life-threatening event. These phenomena create social phobias, depression, etc., which interfere with relationships, social interaction, and impair the ability for the person to function properly in society.

One of the basic survival mechanisms of the ego-id interaction is that after a deep psychological damage to the spirit, the person withdraws into themselves, similar to the way that a wounded animal behaves. In the military, PTSD can be mitigated through the battle buddy relationship which is encouraged there; in the civilian population however, PTSD is often incurred THROUGH interpersonal relationships, which makes it much more difficult for the person to relate to others, as the psyche believes on a very deep level, that other people only want to hurt the id, and reacts to attempts by others to relate to them in much the same way that a porcupine responds to being surprised by a dog. Further injury to the ego - such as the aforementioned "ego burn!" comments - further increases the likelihood that the individual will retreat into themselves.

So. What to do about it?

First of all, we must recognize that people often define themselves through "I" statements, and the "I" represents the id-ego interaction. Those include things like accomplishments, dreams, hopes, fears, and acquisitions. Therefore, when we as a society denounce someone or devalue these things, we are essentially committing psychological cannibalism.

Secondly, a damaged ego-id-superego requires space to heal. Healing can in fact, be compared to body building or training for a long distance marathon - the individual must go through the process of stretching their psychological muscles in order to try to bridge the distance between themselves and others - and must also retreat from people in order for those muscles to repair and heal so they can become stronger. Forcing this process is a bad idea in much the same way as training for a marathon without a proper diet and sleep is a bad idea for muscle development.

If you have someone in your life who is overcoming PTSD, I suggest the "wounded bear" model. Go about your daily life as per normal, but do not overtax or stress them with your presence. Try to understand that they are undergoing psychological changes similar to those undergone by an infant adjusting to their environment. Show them that you are thinking of them, and reach out to them; whether or not they are able to go places or whatever is up to them and their personal development, but understand that whether they accept or not, they will appreciate the fact that you are thinking of them. Understand that they are placing themselves under more pressure internally than they are allowing you to see.

Do not question their sanity, or try to intervene medically unless you are seriously concerned that they are a hazard to themselves or others. Do not make light of their feelings or laugh at their dreams. And understand that when they pull away, they are not rejecting you, but rather wrestling with themselves.

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