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European Journal of Trauma & Dissociation
Volume 3, n° 3
pages 191-201 (septembre 2019)
Doi : 10.1016/j.ejtd.2019.06.003
Received : 21 April 2019 ;  accepted : 27 June 2019
Research Papers

Vehement emotions and trauma-generated dissociation: A Janetian perspective on integrative failure

Onno Van der Hart a, , Jenny Ann Rydberg b
a Utrecht University, The Netherlands 
b Lorraine University, 57045 Metz, France 

Corresponding author. c/o Ithaca Psychotherapiepraktijk, Uilenstede 512-H, 1183 DE Amstelveen, The Netherlands.c/o Ithaca PsychotherapiepraktijkUilenstede 512-HAmstelveen1183 DEThe Netherlands

As the construct trauma-generated dissociation has received a wide range of meanings in recent years, it may be fruitful to re-visit Pierre Janet's original views. Having been the first researcher to study this phenomenon in depth, he concluded that so-called vehement emotions, that is, those that arise when a major challenge is beyond the individual's capacity for efficient and effective action, entail an integrative failure that involves a disaggregation or dissociation of the personality, especially as part of traumatic experiences. This involves a division of the personality into different subsystems, each with its own sense of self and first-person perspective, manifesting in a range of positive and negative dissociative symptoms. This dissociation involves lower-order integrative actions, which substitute for a full integration of the personality but may have survival value. Not only a lowered integrative capacity, but also a range of inner-directed phobias, play a role in the maintenance of the dissociation of the personality. Therapy, as Janet saw it, needs to aim at heightening the integrative capacity, at overcoming these phobias and, similarly, at improving adaptive actions. This goal may best be achieved through the fostering of so-called empowering of “sthenic” emotions.

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Keywords : Vehement emotions, Trauma-generated dissociation, Disaggregation, Dissociation, Integrative failure, Lower-order integrative actions

1  The original meaning of the French term “dédoublement ” is to divide into two parts (and must be distinguished from the term “doublement ”, meaning doubling). “Dédoublement ” may also refer to the creation of a copy (duplication) or to the distinction of two aspects within a whole. In psychology, it refers to the existence of several identities, parts, or states within a person or personality.
2  He also referred to them as “depressive” to express their depressant effect on integrative abilities.
3  Obtundation is an altered level of consciousness, a reduced awareness and dulling of the senses, typically resulting from a medical condition or trauma.

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