International Journal of Existential Positive Psychology

Other-Being: Traumatic Stress and Dissociation in Existential Therapy

Luke Arnold, PsyD

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

Allayna F. Pinkston, PsyD

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology


In the present article, we set out to conceptualize and reframe posttraumatic stress and dissociation from an existential perspective. We employ an Other(s)-focused lens for understanding trauma, which we define as an evaluation of a response to a painfully unpredictable Other who can be a person or event. In this way, we prepose that what is traumatizing is the person, or Being, in relation to an Other who traumatizes. Traumatic stress is a term which encapsulates a Being’s meaningful and chosen responses to an Other who traumatizes. Dissociation is a unique phenomenon in which a person attempts to escape the Other who traumatizes by forging a felt sense of space between the person and the trauma. Existential therapy, then, is a relationship with a new Other who embodies and highlights ways of being with the trauma which honor rather than escape the pain. Finally, we put forth a therapeutic way of being which is attuned to the uniqueness and agency of the individual taking up the trauma.

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