Pain, dissociation and subliminal self-representations

Consciousness and Cognition 17 (1):355-369 (2008)
According to recent evidence, neurophysiological processes coupled to pain are closely related to the mechanisms of consciousness. This evidence is in accordance with findings that changes in states of consciousness during hypnosis or traumatic dissociation strongly affect conscious perception and experience of pain, and markedly influence brain functions. Past research indicates that painful experience may induce dissociated state and information about the experience may be stored or processed unconsciously. Reported findings suggest common neurophysiological mechanisms of pain and dissociation and point to a hypothesis of dissociation as a defense mechanism against psychological and physical pain that substantially influences functions of consciousness. The hypothesis is also supported by findings that information can be represented in the mind/brain without the subject’s awareness. The findings of unconsciously present information suggest possible binding between conscious contents and self-functions that constitute self-representational dimensions of consciousness. The self-representation means that certain inner states of own body are interpreted as mental and somatic identity, while other bodily signals, currently not accessible to the dominant interpreter’s access are dissociated and may be defined as subliminal self-representations. In conclusion, the neurophysiological aspects of consciousness and its integrative role in the therapy of painful traumatic memories are discussed
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DOI 10.1016/j.concog.2007.12.001
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