Reconsidering the autohypnotic model of the dissociative disorders

J Trauma Dissociation. 2019 Jan-Feb;20(1):48-78. doi: 10.1080/15299732.2018.1451806. Epub 2018 Mar 22.


The dissociative disorders field and the hypnosis field currently reject the autohypnotic model of the dissociative disorders, largely because many correlational studies have shown hypnotizability and dissociation to be minimally related (r = .12). Curiously, it is also widely accepted that dissociative patients are highly hypnotizable. If dissociative patients are highly hypnotizable because only highly hypnotizable individuals can develop a dissociative disorder - as the author proposes - then the methodology of correlational studies of hypnotizability and dissociation in random clinical and community samples would necessarily be constitutively unable to detect, and statistically unable to reflect, that fact. That is, the autohypnotic, dissociative distancing of that small subset of highly hypnotizable individuals who repeatedly encountered intolerable circumstances is statistically lost among the data of (1) the highly hypnotizable subjects who do not dissociate and (2) subjects (of all levels of hypnotizability) who manifest other kinds of dissociation. The author proposes that, when highly hypnotizable individuals repeatedly engage in autohypnotic distancing from intolerable circumstances, they develop an overlearned, highly-motivated, automatized pattern of dissociative self-protection (i.e., a dissociative disorder). The author urges that theorists of hypnosis and the dissociative disorders explicitly include in their theories (a) the trait of high hypnotizability, (b) the phenomena of autohypnosis, and (c) the manifestations of systematized, autohypnotic pathology. Said differently, the author is suggesting that autohypnosis and autohypnotic pathology are unacknowledged nodes in the nomothetic networks of both hypnosis and dissociation.

Keywords: Dissociation; dissociative disorders; hypnosis; traumatic stress.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Dissociative Disorders / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Hypnosis*
  • Models, Psychological