Loss, Dissociation, and Trauma in “The Lifted Veil” & More News Here

In Part 1 of this sequence, I explored how George Eliot’s The Lifted Veil presents a picture of double consciousness akin to dissociation.

Belinda Fewings/Unsplash

Source: Belinda Fewings/Unsplash

Anticipating later theories of trauma psychosis, The Lifted Veil gives the opportunity of emotional shock and psychological trauma as the basis of Latimer’s double consciousness. Latimer’s childhood trauma was the lack of his beloved mom:

I had a young mom: even now, after the dreary lapse of lengthy years, a slight hint of sensation accompanies the remembrance of her caress as she held me on her knee–her arms round my little physique, her cheek pressed towards mine… That unequalled love quickly vanished out of my life, and even to my infantile consciousness it was as if life had turn into extra chill.1

Following his mom’s dying, Latimer spent his childhood and early maturity years considering of himself as an “unimportant being” who was “neglected” and “unloved.”2 The lack of his mom meant, to him, the whole lack of love and he registers this profoundly.

To fill this emotional void, Latimer searches for acceptance and love in nature and in his friendship with Charles in Geneva. Writing about nature, he states, “it seemed to me that the sky, and the glowing mountain-tops, and the wide blue water [of the lake] surrounded me with a cherishing love such as no human face had shed on me since my mother’s love had vanished out of my life.”3 The direct invocation of his mother evidences the lingering pain and emptiness of his loss. He speaks of his new friend Charles as one with whom he shares a “community of feeling” and one who loves him.4

However, a critical sickness places a cease to his time in nature with Charles. Following his sickness and obligatory separation from Charles whereas recuperating, Latimer divulges that he was “perpetually craving sympathy and help.”5 His first imaginative and prescient of Prague comes shortly after his separation from Charles. I suggest we name his imaginative and prescient a dissociative episode in the language of trauma idea that anticipated Janet’s theories.

Pierre Janet’s Theory of Dissociation

Elizabeth Howell explains how Pierre Janet was the primary psychologist to ahead a idea of dissociation and to hyperlink it with psychological trauma and the unconscious.6 In his 1907 The Major Symptoms of Hysteria, Janet explains dissociation as a “diminution of personal synthesis.”7 This lack of one “I” or private synthesis can manifest in several types of dissociative experiences akin to somnambulism, fugue states, paroxysms, anesthesia, or visions.

Reading The Lifted Veil Through Janet’s Lens

Somnambulism appears most related for Latimer’s expertise in The Lifted Veil. Somnambulism entails a shift into a unique consciousness and a contracture of focus in order that the somnambulist sees and hears solely what she or he envisions unbiased from what is going on in the outside world.8 The particular person slips into a unique layer of consciousness and, whereas they look like awake and functioning, their focus is on altogether totally different sensory particulars and visions. So, when Latimer slips into his visions of Prague, he could have shifted into a unique layer of consciousness and actually sees and hears in that second all the vivid sensory particulars of his new location: Prague.

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Janet’s idea of mounted concepts may also assist shed some gentle on Latimer’s psychological and bodily experiences as dissociative occasions indicative of unresolved previous trauma. Janet outlines the method by which “fixed ideas” “lead to somnambulism.”9 First, an emotional shock occurs from “an affecting event.”10 The emotional shock causes nervous exhaustion that leads to a “weakness of personal synthesis,” or an “undoubling” of the character, and a formation of mounted concepts.11 Fixed concepts kind “in an computerized method outdoors the need and the non-public notion of the affected person.”12 This splitting off of consciousness permits the mounted concepts to live on with out having to be united with and synthesized into the traditional consciousness and character.13 It is, in brief, a coping mechanism.

What occurs then, is that “these uncared for psychological phenomena,”14 which are psychologically isolated from general consciousness, can intermittently move into normal consciousness and give “birth to these odd deliriums.”15 Janet theorizes how “these mounted concepts, these parasites, could also be very harmful to regular consciousness, and that in many circumstances common disturbances of the entire thought could also be the results of the event of mounted concepts.”16 Latimer’s psychological experiences could also be moments when his personal mounted concept, usually remoted from common consciousness in his day by day moments, interjects into that common consciousness.

Janet describes mounted concepts as arising from emotionally traumatic occasions and the dying of a beloved one is repeatedly repeated in Janet’s work.17 The dying of Latimer’s mom may function his mounted concept. While he acknowledges his mom’s dying in his writing, the grief, emotional shock, and ensuing nervous exhaustion may have brought about the concept of the dying of his mom to be cut up off from his common consciousness as a way of coping. As a stage of grief, he each is aware of, but in addition doesn’t must course of and know, of his loss.

Not simply somnambulism and visions consequence from this splitting off; the voices Latimer hears may also be signs of the mounted concept shifting into common consciousness. The voices wouldn’t truly be supernatural home windows into others’ ideas however moderately Latimer’s personal unconscious projection as a symptom of his dissociation.

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Why does his mom’s dying result in visions of Prague and the listening to of others’ ideas? Janet explains that the content material of mounted concepts–right here, arguably his mom’s dying– bears no relation to their expression. Moreover, there isn’t a direct trigger and impact between being reminded of or considering of his mom’s dying and the expression by way of imaginative and prescient and voices.18 Simply having a hard and fast concept in any respect is sufficient grounds for the intermittent and random expression by way of dissociative experiences, whether or not this be delirium, somnambulism, voices, and so on.

Eliot’s mannequin of the dissociative thoughts differs from Janet’s in one nice respect: whereas Janet imagines two distinct consciousnesses that ship communication between the totally different layers, his sufferers haven’t any recollection of their visions or voices once they have transitioned again into common consciousness. This is a mannequin of the thoughts that’s much more divided than the mannequin of the thoughts that Eliot writes.


Writing in the Eighties, Pierre Janet provided essentially the most full and, in right now’s phrases, pretty trendy idea of dissociative identification. But his work was ignored by way of the early and mid-twentieth century and it was not till post-traumatic stress dysfunction (PTSD) entered the APA’s DSM in the Eighties that Janet’s work started to appear extra related. Howell explains that Janet’s work truly serves as the inspiration for a lot of our understanding of DID, trauma, and dissociation right now.19The Lifted Veil thus seems strikingly trendy in its mannequin of the thoughts.

Part 3 will discover dissociation right now and mind-body methods for dissociative episodes.

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