Dissociation & Repetition Compulsion: Affirmation-Only Care’s Twin Coping Dysfunctions
Updated: Mar 17, 2022
When a person has suffered trauma, unless good and ethical psychological support is provided, s/he may easily adopt a dysfunctional coping strategy—one that may alleviate pain in the short-term, but is ultimately harmful in the long-term. Two such maladaptive coping strategies are dissociation and repetition compulsion.
When a person dissociates, his or her mind removes itself from reality. People who experience dissociation say that they feel as though the consciousness has left the body; they are outside themselves, watching what is happening rather than experiencing it. Dissociation is the mind’s way of protecting itself from painful feelings or experiences. A child who is sexually abused, for example, may learn to dissociate in order to stop mentally experiencing what is happening to the body.
Repetition compulsion is another maladaptive coping strategy, by which a person tries to deal with (and prevent future) pain and trauma. Have you ever noticed that certain people repeat destructive or painful behaviors over and over again? The alcoholic keeps going back to the bottle. The lonely person sabotages every relationship. The obsessive-compulsive must count every step taken, or touch each corner of the refrigerator before opening it, or perform ten hand washings before eating, even though s/he may know that none of these things really have any effect on reality.
Affirmation-only care for gender dysphoric people not only embraces these two maladaptive coping techniques, it teaches and reinforces them.
When a person who suffers gender dysphoria is only told, “Yes, you really are transgender. Yes, your mind and body are mismatched, and you must present to the world differently than your biological sex indicates,” that person is pressured to dissociate from him- or herself, and to repeatedly perform behaviors that ultimately lead to unnecessary medicalization, as well as to physical and psychological trauma. One only needs to watch a selection of detransitioner videos to recognize the harms that medicalization wreak on these vulnerable people.
With no other medical or psychological diagnosis do practitioners encourage dissociation or repetition compulsion. These are widely recognized as unhealthy coping strategies, which are to be put aside through good therapy that teaches patients how to honestly and safely cope with the pain and trauma they have experienced.<