Loss, Dissociation, and Trauma in "The Lifted Veil"

Loss, Dissociation, and Trauma in “The Lifted Veil”


In Half 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

Supply: 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 demise, Latimer spent his childhood and early maturity years considering of himself as an “unimportant being” who was “uncared for” 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 appeared to me that the sky, and the glowing mountain-tops, and the broad blue water [of the lake] surrounded me with a cherishing love similar to no human face had shed on me since my mom’s love had vanished out of my life.”3 The direct invocation of his mom evidences the lingering ache and vacancy of his loss. He speaks of his new pal Charles as one with whom he shares a “group of feeling” and one who loves him.4

Nonetheless, a critical sickness places a cease to his time in nature with Charles. Following his sickness and essential 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 within the language of trauma principle that anticipated Janet’s theories.

Pierre Janet’s Principle of Dissociation

Elizabeth Howell explains how Pierre Janet was the primary psychologist to ahead a principle of dissociation and to hyperlink it with psychological trauma and the unconscious.6 In his 1907 The Main Signs of Hysteria, Janet explains dissociation as a “diminution of non-public synthesis.”7 This lack of 1 “I” or private synthesis can manifest in various kinds of dissociative experiences similar to somnambulism, fugue states, paroxysms, anesthesia, or visions.

Studying The Lifted Veil By way of Janet’s Lens

Somnambulism appears most related for Latimer’s expertise in The Lifted Veil. Somnambulism includes a shift into a distinct consciousness and a contracture of focus in order that the somnambulist sees and hears solely what she or he envisions impartial from what is going on within the exterior world.8 The particular person slips into a distinct 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 might have shifted into a distinct layer of consciousness and actually sees and hears in that second the entire vivid sensory particulars of his new location: Prague.

Janet’s principle of fastened concepts also can 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 “fastened concepts” “result in somnambulism.”9 First, an emotional shock happens from “an affecting occasion.”10 The emotional shock causes nervous exhaustion that results in a “weak spot of non-public synthesis,” or an “undoubling” of the character, and a formation of fastened concepts.11 Mounted concepts type “in an computerized method outdoors the need and the private notion of the affected person.”12 This splitting off of consciousness permits the fastened concepts to live on with out having to be united with and synthesized into the traditional consciousness and character.13 It’s, briefly, a coping mechanism.

What occurs then, is that “these uncared for psychological phenomena,”14 that are psychologically remoted from basic consciousness, can intermittently transfer into regular consciousness and provides “beginning to those odd deliriums.”15 Janet theorizes how “these fastened concepts, these parasites, could also be very harmful to regular consciousness, and that in lots of circumstances basic disturbances of the entire thought could also be the results of the event of fastened concepts.”16 Latimer’s psychological experiences could also be moments when his personal fastened concept, usually remoted from basic consciousness in his day by day moments, interjects into that basic consciousness.

Janet describes fastened concepts as bobbing up from emotionally traumatic occasions and the demise of a liked one is repeatedly repeated in Janet’s work.17 The demise of Latimer’s mom might function his fastened concept. Whereas he acknowledges his mom’s demise in his writing, the grief, emotional shock, and ensuing nervous exhaustion might have brought about the concept of the demise of his mom to be break up off from his basic consciousness as a method of coping. As a stage of grief, he each is aware of, but in addition doesn’t should course of and know, of his loss.

Not simply somnambulism and visions end result from this splitting off; the voices Latimer hears may also be signs of the fastened concept transferring into basic consciousness. The voices wouldn’t truly be supernatural home windows into others’ ideas however slightly Latimer’s personal unconscious projection as a symptom of his dissociation.

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

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


Writing within the Eighteen Eighties, Pierre Janet supplied probably the most full and, in at this time’s phrases, pretty trendy principle of dissociative id. However his work was ignored by means of the early and mid-twentieth century and it was not till post-traumatic stress dysfunction (PTSD) entered the APA’s DSM within the Eighties that Janet’s work started to appear extra related. Howell explains that Janet’s work truly serves as the muse for a lot of our understanding of DID, trauma, and dissociation at this time.19The Lifted Veil thus seems strikingly trendy in its mannequin of the thoughts.

Half 3 will discover dissociation at this time and mind-body strategies for dissociative episodes.


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