Hypnosis, journaling and plural Self
I personally am a hypnotherapist and the plurality of the Self opend to me through Egostate, which is a hypnotherapy method. Although hypnosis and dissociation are separate entities, in the history of hypnosis there is a long line of cases and research of the plural Self and Egostate therapy is one of the most vivid examples of a new hypnotherapy traditions using a plural personality theory.
According to Colin A Ross (Subpersonalities and multiple personalities: a dissociative continuum?/The Plural Self).there is no intrinsic relationship between dissociation and hypnosis although some researchers claim that dissociation is a autohypnotic strategy. So dissociative phenomenon cannot be solely explained by hypnosis. Ross reminds us, that DID (”dissociative idenitety disorder) is neither a symptom of hysteria.
Anyway hypnosis has a long history of disscociative phenomena research. Two hundred fifty years ago hypnotists realized that persons have two different states of concioussness – one normal waking state and the other ”mesmerized state” (hypnosis), in which a person could reach for example memory chains normally unreachable. In my opinion ”creative writing state” is a auto-hypnosis state in which the person can work with material, ideas, which is are not available in normal waking state. We could call this kind of reflective journailing in autohypnosis state a contemplatitive practice, too.
So what are actually the dissociative states of our soul? Before diving more deeply in the history of hypnosis, let’s make clear some basic concepts (ideas reflected to John Rowans – The normal development of subpersonalities). I prefer to use in my own process the term soul (so did James Hillman) to call the subtle Self or higher Self. It is a kind of autohypnotic Self which questions the boundaries between me and others and is is essentially multiple and polytheistic in it’s nature. I personally have been very interested in Carl Jung’s psychology and his collective unconscious and archetypes, which are in the line with this kind of plural conceptual reality. My opinion is that on this level of Self you can start to practice imaginitional reflective practices (active imagination)by using your different objected ego states (subpersonalities, alteregos, alters). They can carry you still on the following level of Self.
So by meditation and contemplatitive practices (including reflective journaling) we can still reach higher levels of Self, our soul: states in which we feel like being uniform, no matter where and on which time we live in the world. In these levels of existence we do not need anymore symbols or images. It is just a kind of numinous feeling. In my reflective journaling process I have gone several times through these kind of ” mystical experiences” in which I feel there is no boundaries between myself and other persons. In hypnosis there are several case raports of dissociative phenomena as early as 1770’s. Victor, Old Stump and Anna are some of these early documentated cases of multicentered mind.
Pierre Janet was the first one who could quite well clarified dissociation. Adam Cabatree writes:
It was Pierre Janet who finally clarified this aspect of memory (duality) and dissociation. In an article written in 1887 (Janet 1887), Janet for the first time used the term ”dissociation” in the sense that we use it today. Janet worked with hysteria and in the process discovered that the psychological organization of hysterics incorporates a multiplicity of egos or personalities. He pointed out that these personalities coexist in the individual, and because they exist and function separately, they can rightly be said to be ”dissociated” from each other.
Janet noted that each personality had its own set of memories. In the process of investigating those memories he discovered an important fact: dissociation is not the breaking down of an already existing whole into parts. Rather it consists of the building up of the parts through assigning experiences to different ego centers.
Here is how it worked. As Janet’s subjects were developing their hysterical condition, they formed different ego centers, separate from ordinary consciousness, to handle particular experiences. Certain events were experienced by one center, other events were experienced by another center. These centers gradually became more and more complex, to the point that they could be called ”personalities.” The process of assigning one kind of experience to one center and another kind of experience to another center resulted in dissociation. This meant that dissociation was not ”dis-association” or a ”separating off” of segments of experience that had previously been together. Rather dissociating was really the process of associating or assigning experiences, as they occurred, to specific ego centers or personalities.
It looks like Egostate therapy uses these ideas of Pierre Janet. Egostate-therapy is brief hypnotherapy method based on the premise that personality is composed of separate parts, rather than being a homogeneous whole. These parts, which everyone has, are called ego states. So unlike Pierre Janet, Egostate therapy normalizes the multicenterness of the consciousness. It might be so that what previously was an exceptional fragmented consciousness is nowadays normal because of multi-voiced complex reality. The therapist and, based on my own experience, the writer can learn to work directly with the states in talkative playing way and in this way expanding clients or her understanding.
In Egostate therapy everyone of us are made of different states, each has its own feeling of power, weakness, emotion, logic, or other personal traits. When we say, ”Part of me wants to,” we are talking about an ego state. When we say, ”I feel at peace with myself on this issue,” we are talking about our ego states agreeing, not having an internal struggle. Our various states help to make our lives rich, productive, and enjoyable. A state harboring pain can cause unrest and unwanted emotional reactions. (Gordon Emerson – Egostate therapy).
In my experience we can start to be active narrators of our lives by making our inner world an imagination play of our ego states. So my assumption is that the reflective aesthetic experience of meaning maker, our plural Soul can be reached both through hypnosis and journaling. So through these practices, soulwork with our inner multi-voiced images, we can over came barriers between our body and mind. Plural Self, as or as I call it, our soul, gives us an opportunity to objectify, with our imagination, our somatic and affective conflicted, not yet verbal experiences, for the use of new creative integrative understanding.
So our multi-voiced active imagination can be a source of mental growth. This kind of artistic play integrates soul: our conflicted feelings and emotion, finds in arts a healing form and it is a path to mental wider and deeper consciousness. Of course by other forms of arts we can do the same, but for my soul autohypnotic journaling is the thing.
Arts, like journaling can have a survival value. It works in the world of automatism. New integrative mental views are not rationally produced but they pump up with our active imagination from unconsciousness. The problem with some of our psychotherapy traditions is in my opinion, that they perpetuate our body-mind split. You can argue with good reasoning that scientific monotheistic materialism actually promotes body-mind split. I guess the arts are in a trend of deflation, because they have intrinsic value in integrating our emotional and bodily experiences.
As we know, all artists are not (completely) healed by writing. All though many creative writers have mental problems, many writers admit that writing has a survival value for them. I think psychotherapeutic knowledge can be in the service of our playful creative journaling, which helps us to make the process more healing: In my experience by reading psychotherapeutic, philosophical and religious wisdom, and feeding this information to our creative process, we will be able to reach more integrative states in our soulwork.
Carl Jung wrote that conflicted opposites are the power of our individuation process. When we utilize this energy with our imagination and reflection of knowledge, we can write in more harmonizing way. In this kind of journaling we utilize all kind of information sources, including science. We celebrate plurality of world views. I think that when a person has a healing journaling process going on, he is integrating with his imagination what Descartes splatted: Her body and soul are not more strangers to each other. She starts to hear, what her body and its emotions are telling to her. This to be done, imagination work has to have an intrinsic value: journaling is not subordinated to any psychotherapeutic, theological or philosophical paradigmas, but all perspectives are subjected to imagination soulwork. Science is a perspective which keeps our feet on the ground.