Dissociated Self-States: Creation and Contextualization
In the first book of his science fiction trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet, C. S. Lewis has his main character, Ransom, begin to refer to himself as “We” when he is feeling completely alone and overwhelmed by the demands of the horribly harsh extraterrestrial climate and his uncertain fate in it. Ultimately, he sees what he is doing and pulls himself together as “I” to complete his coming adventures on this forbidding planet. Similarly, a mildly troubled patient begins to speak of herself as We when, in the course of an affectively heated-up eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) session, she encounters awareness of extremely painful attachment dilemmas that she has always had. In short, many people who are not technically “dissociative” do at times refer to themselves as We as a mild and temporary verbal multiplication of self in response to aloneness and stress. None of the aspects of the plurality are personified or differentiated. Somehow, though, the plural self is comforting, and I suspect that it has to do with the fact that another part of the self can, or is imagined to be able to, provide support in times of stress and isolation.