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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Dissociation?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Dissociation

Any Intolerable Experience Generally Leads to Dissociation

Because the soul is incapable of tolerating the direct impact of traumatic event or situation, the organism becomes overwhelmed and goes into emergency mode. A dimension of the organism becomes frozen emotionally and energetically, a frozenness that ends up being repressed or split off from consciousness. This then influences conscious experience in ways that might not be obvious to the individual, as has been identified as posttraumatic stress disorder. What is significant for our exploration here is that the soul cannot at the time tolerate the sensations, feelings, and visual images associated to the incident or situation. This intolerance makes the soul dissociate, a defense mechanism often seen in traumatized individuals. The soul deals with the intolerable situation by not experiencing it directly, either by totally blocking it out of consciousness or by retaining the memory while becoming numb to its emotional and feeling significance. But for the soul to do that she would need to limit and lower the intensity of her awareness. Since the essential presence is pure presence of awareness the dissociation will have to include dissociation from this inner ground of the soul for it to be effective. In other words, in order for the soul to dissociate from the traumatic event or situation it inadvertently dissociates from her essential presence. Something similar happens in the case of severe abuse of any kind. In fact, any intolerable experience generally leads to dissociation of one kind or another, all of which result in dissociation of the soul from her essential ground. This dissociation then becomes structured into the identity and character of the developing soul.

Dissociation of Soul/Self from the Divine Realm of Being and from the World Terribly Impoverishes Us

More than any other factor in our modern life, the dissociation of soul/self from the divine realm or Being and from the world terribly impoverishes us. The transformation of our identity from soul to self has indirectly impoverished our world; robbing us of our spiritual potential, this development left us increasingly identified with and thus dominated by the physical dimension of the self. And the more we experience ourselves as mainly physical, the more we see our world as fundamentally physical. This view of the world is in most of modern society the prevalent one: the world is simply matter. Rather than inhabiting a comprehensible but ultimately mysterious living world, we inhabit a material universe, explainable only by physical science. The world or cosmos, separate from soul and from God/Being, is only matter. It is a dead world, an inert universe waiting to be explored by our scientific reason. For many people in the modern world, and for virtually all thought that is considered scientific, the dominant orientation is materialistic. When the soul is considered to be and experienced as a self, an objectifiable entity whose most fundamental identity is the physical body, we are bound to be materialistic, caring for material well-being, wealth and possessions, security and comfort more than inner depth and fullness.

Dissociation of the Self from one of Its Dimensions Invariably Affects Other Dimensions

Without essential realization, emotional maturity and freedom are limited. The exclusion of deeper dimensions of the self distorts the more surface dimensions. The self is fundamentally a unity; dissociation from one of its dimensions inevitably affects other dimensions. The effect of normal narcissism on our emotional life is not resolved by freeing and integrating the emotions. If treatment of narcissistic pathology is limited to the emotional level, it can ameliorate the pathology only to the point where the narcissism of everyday life remains. This amelioration is, of course, very significant to the suffering individual, providing him or her with the capacity to live a satisfying human life. Also, achieving emotional health makes it possible for some people to embark on the journey towards the greater maturity of spiritual realization. Emotional freedom and maturity are important for self-realization; disconnection from emotions will cause narcissistic disturbance even for those with a degree of self-realization. We sometimes encounter this situation in our work, when a student has done a great deal of spiritual practice but no work on the emotions. Since spiritual work exposes and intensifies both pathological and fundamental narcissistic issues, these issues generally distort or limit the person’s self-realization unless they are worked through. Without psychological understanding they are not easy to deal with.

Ego is Always Based on Dissociation and Splitting

The ego is based on not wanting to see all of reality. The ego is always based on dissociation and splitting. If the ego sees all of reality, it won’t exist any more. Ego continues to exist because it believes its own perception. Ego is part of the mind, and the mind has a great capacity for self-deception. The mind can be lied to; Being cannot be deceived. So in the beginning the mind deceives itself, and it continues to believe that deception, taking it to be reality. But the moment it recognizes that something is not the truth, it cannot hold on to it. In a sense, the mind is very honest, very sincere. It is honest and sincere, but it is not completely knowledgeable or intelligent. But the moment it sees the truth, it cannot pretend that things are any other way. The mind continues to believe the false only because it thinks that it is the truth. The moment you show it that something is false, the mind will let go of it. So the moment the mind sees the whole totality of the truth, it will let go of the false, and the ego will go. One way of going about this is seeing the complete relationship. If you really see, acknowledge, and live a complete relationship, you will have to live as a real human being, not as an ego, not as a mental structure. A mental structure—which is a self-image—persists because you keep engaging in mental relationships, which are split relationships, unreal relationships. When a relationship is complete and real, you have to be complete and real.

In Both Normal and Pathological Ego Development there is Dissociation from One’s Being

However, looked at from the dimension of Being, regardless of how mature and integrated ego is, it is always a precocious development. We have seen that the ego becomes the system that structures, and includes in its structures the ego functions. It becomes, in other words, the functional part of oneself. We have also seen that ego development is an incomplete process, short of the realization of the Personal Essence. Ego structures are always alienated from the true Being, so the functional part of oneself is separate from who one is. Thus from the perspective of Being, ego development is a development of functioning that is separate from who one is. When there is appropriate emotional development, the individual is better off than the narcissistic character we have just described. However, it is intrinsically the same kind of situation, for in both cases—normal and pathological ego development—there is dissociation from one’s Being. In normal ego development, the mother’s image is internalized, and this provides some basis for a certain kind of satisfaction and connectedness, but only on a superficial level. For true integrated development the Merging Essence must be realized, creating the possibility of the development of the Personal Essence and the sense of being intimately connected to one’s life and achievements. In fact, the Personal Essence is the factor responsible for actualization.

The Soul Cannot Help but Dissociate From Her Essential Ground

Our task now becomes clear; by learning how soul develops duality in a way that shows us how to reverse it we learn a possible path to the redemption of Western thought. The various wisdom traditions tended to see this development of duality as a going astray, as the fall of man. However, we need not take such a view of normal human development. Since this development happens to all souls it makes more sense to view it as lawful and natural. And since Western thought has developed in a way that on the one hand alienates us from the ground of Reality, but on the other has resulted in various advances for humanity—scientific, technological, cultural, artistic, and so forth—the soul’s normal development must also have its positive side, a result that would not happen otherwise. This positive side is one thing we will need to explore, but the important point is that this development is part of the natural evolutionary pattern of the soul. That there is no other alternative for the soul will become clear when we recognize the implications of her childhood condition. The soul cannot help but dissociate from her essential ground; the only variation is in the degree of this dissociation. The dissociation occurs partly because the soul has not only essence, but also the animal soul, as an important potential; partly because of physical embodiment and living in a world that cannot perfectly satisfy her needs; partly because the initial condition and further development of her cognitive capacities strongly predispose her toward such dissociation; partly because of her extreme and conditionable impressionability and malleability; and partly because of the way ego development patterns the soul’s overall normal development.

Through Dissociation Soul Loses Her Character as Soul – She is no Longer a Living Organism of Consciousness

The overall process of the soul’s alienation from the ground of her being combines all of the above factors, in a multi-leveled redundancy. As the soul reacts to the inadequate holding of her environment—which includes (a) inadequate mothering, (b) caretaker’s narcissistic blindness, (c) the body’s limitations, (d) and abuse and trauma—she dissociates from her essential ground. This reactive soul is patterned by the ego structuring process, through which—because of: (a) the mental nature of this structuring, (b) the soul’s early cognitive immaturity, (c) the phenomenological-epistemological characteristics of true nature and ground of existence, (d) her early extreme impressionability and pliability, and (e) the outward orientation of her earliest and most powerful animal forms of experience—dissociation from her being is cemented in her identity and its overall experience. The soul becomes a normal self by dissociating from her essential presence. The final outcome of this dissociation is not exactly a duality between soul and essence. Through this dissociation, soul loses her character as a soul. She is no longer a living organism of consciousness. She does not experience herself in her true condition. She is split up into two parts, two separate dimensions. One is the normal self, and the other is essence, or spirit. By losing contact with her essence the soul collapses into a self, a self that may experience spirit. The resulting duality is between essence and the ego-self.

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