15. 2018-04-25 《Dissociation》——Mental Separation

作者 简单的镜子


   Between around 1880 and 1910, there was a great deal of interest in the condition of “dissociation(解离)” – the separation of some mental processes from a person’s conscious mind, or normal everyday personality. Mild dissociation, in which the world seems “dreamlike” and “unreal”, is common, and affects most people at some time or other.

   It is often caused by illnesses, such as flu, or drugs, including alcohol, and may lead to a partial or complete loss of memory during and after the period of dissociation. In rare cases of what was then described as multiple personality disorder, a person appears to have two or more distinct personalities.

   Such extreme examples are now classified as “dissociative identity disorder”.The French philosopher and physician Pierre Janet is credited with being the first person to study and describe dissociation as a psychiatric condition. In the late 1880s and early 1890s, he worked at the Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, where he treated patients who were suffering from “hysteria(癔病)”.

   He published case studies of several women who showed extreme symptoms.A patient called “Lucie”, for example, would usually be calm, but then suddenly became agitated, crying and looking terrified for no apparent reason.She seemed to have three distinct personalities, which Janet named “Lucie 1”, “Lucie 2”, and “Lucie 3”, and would change between them unexpectedly, especially when hypnotized(对...施催眠术).

   Lucie 1 had only “her own” memories, as did Lucie 2, but Lucie 3 could remember events relating to all three personalities. Significantly, Lucie 3 could recall a traumatic(痛苦的) experience, while on holiday at the age of seven, when she was terrified by two men who were hiding behind a curtain.


"These people are persecuted by something, and you must investigate carefully to get to the root."
                     ——Pierre Janet

Subconscious trauma

   Lucie’s childhood trauma, Janet concluded, was the cause of her dissociation. As he wrote in Psychological Automatism: “To have one’s body in the posture of terror is to feel the emotion of terror; and if this posture is determined by a subconscious(潜意识的) idea, the patient will have the emotion alone in his consciousness without knowing why he feels this way.”

   As her terror took hold, Lucie would say, “I’m afraid and I don’t know why.” “The unconscious,” said Janet, “is having its dream; it sees the men behind the curtains, and puts the body in a posture of terror.”

   Janet added that he believed traumatic events and stress could cause dissociation in anyone with that predisposition(倾向).Janet described the part of the mind that he believed was behind uncharacteristic(反常的) and disturbed behaviour as “the subconscious”.

   But Sigmund Freud thought this term was too vague, and instead labelled the source of his patients’ mental traumas as the “unconscious”. Freud also developed Janet’s ideas, stating that dissociation was a universal “defence mechanism”.

   Janet’s work was neglected for decades, as the use of hypnotism(催眠术) to investigate and treat mental illness was discredited.However, since the late 20th century, it has again attracted interest from psychologists studying dissociative disorders.


   Childhood traumas may appear to be forgotten, but according to Pierre Janet, they can often remain in the “subconscious” part of the mind, giving rise to mental problems in later life.



Neurological science


  • 1878 Jean-Martin Charcot in Diseases of the Nervous System describes the symptoms of hysteria, then considered to be a distinct, biological illness.


  • 1895 Sigmund Freud suggests that dissociation is one of the mind’s defence mechanisms.
  • 1900s American neurologist(神经病学家) Morton Prince suggests that there is a spectrum of dissociative disorders.
  • 1913 French naturalist J.P.F. Deleuze describes dissociation as being like the formation of two distinct people – one of them fully awake, and the other in a trance-like state.
  • 1977 Ernest R. Hilgard’s Divided Consciousness discusses the splitting up of consciousness by hypnosis.



   Pierre Janet was born into a cultured, middle-class family in Paris, France.As a child he loved the natural sciences, and began collecting and cataloguing plants.His philosopher uncle, Paul Janet, encouraged him to study both medicine and philosophy, and after attending the elite École Normale Supérieure in Paris, he went on to receive a master’s degree in philosophy from the Sorbonne.

   Aged just 22, Janet was appointed Professor of Philosophy at the Lycée in Le Havre, where he launched his research into hypnotically(催眠地)induced states.Influenced by Jean-Martin Charcot, Janet extended his studies to include “hysteria”, becoming director of Charcot’s laboratory at Paris’s Salpêtrière Hospital in 1898. He also taught at the Sorbonne, and was made Professor of Psychology at the Collège de France in 1902.

Key works

  • 1893 The Mental State of Hystericals
  • 1902 Neuroses(神经症)
  • 1907 The Major Symptoms of Hysteria