Does dissociation produce shame? : an exploration of adults with sexual abuse histories
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Studies suggest a causal interplay between shame and dissociation. Increased shame in response to dissociation has only been indirectly assessed in non-clinical populations. This study employed dissociation induction techniques and aimed to examine if exposure to dissociation increased feelings of state shame. It also sought to clarify the findings of McKeogh et al. (2018), who found shame increased only when dissociation occurred when with a close friend. Two hypotheses were generated. First, that more shame would be reported following a dissociation induction than a relaxation induction, and second that more shame would increase more following dissociation occurring with a close other or acquaintance than when alone. Participants were adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse (n=28), recruited via specific NGO services in Christchurch and Auckland, New Zealand. An induction procedure and a dissociation recall procedure, and two shame outcomes (i.e. state shame scale and single item measure) were employed. The inductions failed to induce state dissociation. However, participants indicated peri-experimental dissociation spontaneously occurring. Median split analyses of this spontaneous peri-experimental dissociation found a significant relationship between higher dissociation and state shame following the induction procedure, but not following the dissociation recall procedure. There was no significant impact of dissociation on single item self-report shame measure. Reasons for shame during the procedures were explored. Analysis suggests that being flawed and exposed were central perceptions related to activation shame. Findings suggest that increased state shame was a result of acute spontaneous dissociative experiences, making more specific the relationship between shame and dissociation. A trend towards more dissociation following the induction procedure compared to the dissociation recall was indicated, suggesting that the intensity of acute dissociation may be a key regulator of shame activation. Future research should seek to replicate these findings in a larger and more diverse population group.