Other-Being: Traumatic Stress and Dissociation in Existential Therapy


Author: Luke Arnold, PsyD

Category: Articles

Pages: 9

JEPP Issue: Vol. 5 No. 1

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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.