Monday, 24 July 2017 19:01

Biological traumas are causal factors in personality disorders

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Biological Traumas Are Causal Factors In Personality Disorders

Date: July 24, 2017

To: Bruce Bibee, LPC

From: Ozodi Osuji, PhD (907) 310-8176 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Subject: Your presentation yesterday.

Your presentation yesterday at the ATOM center of Anchorage, Alaska prompted me to write the following piece. I will think more of it and if it still makes sense to me develop it further and send it out to an appropriate journal for publication. Thank you for the excellent talk you gave us on developmental psychology and how traumatic experiences disrupt child development and possibly cause dissociative disorders and or post-traumatic- stress disorder (PTSD). Your explanation of the writings of Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg, Button White, Erik Erikson, Jerome Kegan and other developmental psychologists writings on the various stages of child development was a refresher course for me; I had taken courses where they were taught but have, more or less, forgotten them. I learned a lot from your presentation.  Thank you.


Ozodi Thomas Osuji

Those who treat people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD (DSM, 2013) talk about how the abused and or traumatized child reacted during the actual traumatic experience and subsequent post abuse issues of  guilt, depression and anxiety.

If, for example, a child is raped, during that rape she does not have the ability to run away from the rapist, especially if the rapist is related to her; she may use her mind to escape from her body by projecting herself out of her body and into an imaginary self; that is, she creates another self and identify with that different but imaginary self and from that stand point deny that what is happening to her body is, in fact, happening to her body.

That is to say that the abused child dissociates from her body and that enables her to cope with the pain of the trauma she is subjected to. Projecting herself out of her body and to a different self is thus a coping mechanism during abuse.

In effect, she is able to say to herself that the abuse is not happening to her body since she is now looking at her body from the perspective of another self, the self she projected herself to.

It is speculated that dissociative disorders, such as multiple personality disorder are the product of childhood sexual and other abusive traumas. See the writings of Alice Miller, James Masterson, Heinz Kahut and F. O. Kernberg.

As I reflect on this hypothesis, it seems to me that medical disorders, especially in childhood, disorders that the child cannot escape from is also traumatic for the child and could lead to eventual PTSD and in the immediate force the child to seek dissociative escape from her body.  Such a child could also develop multiple personality disorder.

More likely is that the child may use his mind to posit an idealized body that is not subjected to medical trauma from constant pain and try to become an ideal self that is pain free.  Karen Horney (1950) developed the concepts of real self, actual self and ideal self.

Subsequently, the child obsessive-compulsively pursues an ideal self and rejects his real physical self that is prone to pain.

Such a child is what Karen Horney (1950) called the neurotic child; she sees neurosis as caused by the child's rejection of his real self and pursuit of the imaginary ideal self. This is a magical attempt to transcend the realities of a pained body. The ideal self is a magical self.

Alfred Adler (1964) sees the etiology of neurosis in inherited inferior body and attempt to transcend that problematic body by using the mind to posit an idealized superior and powerful self and pursuing it in an all or nothing manner.

The compensatory superior self is not real; it is a false magical self. As a false self it must be defended (with the various ego defense mechanism, especially denial, displacement, rationalization and projection) to seem true in the person's eyes.

The idealistic person is always seeking other people's attention; he wants other people to approve his mentally constructed ideal self, for social approval makes that false self-seem real in his eyes.


In the process of seeking an idealized self while rejecting the real self-such a person may develop delusion disorder.

In delusion disorder (DSM, 2013) the person posits an imaginary perfect self, an idealized self and identify with him. Subsequently, he tells tall tales about how successful he, the ideal self, is and makes it seem like it is who he is whereas in real life he is not that ideal, deluded self.

There is a  young woman who did not graduate from high school but says that she  is very intelligent and is a college  graduate; she wants you, the listener, to believe that she is a college graduate whereas you know that she did not even graduate from high school.  Being an intelligent, college graduate is her ideal self; she has so over identified with the false ideal self that she believes that it is who she is and is thus deluded (aka paranoid).

It should be noted that she inherited a problematic body; her body caused her pain; her body traumatized her and she sought escape from that body through the construction a false ideal self-concept and subsequent attempt to become that false self.

George Kelly (1955) developed the idea of personality as a self-concept.


The neurotic and or deluded person seeking an idealized successful self is ridden with fear and anxiety; he fears that other people may not see him as the ideal, deluded self he wants to be seen as.  He has fear of being his real self for he knows that his real self is not good enough, is riddled with medical issues such as pain; after all it was because it is not good enough that he rejected it and tried to escape from it by constructing an imaginary ideal self and identifying with it.


The pursuit of idealism and subsequent delusional disorder is probably rooted in traumatized body that disposes the child to seek escape from that body, escape in positing an imaginary ideal self and believing that one is that false, imaginary ideal self.

The treatment for such a person is to get him to realize that he is not the idealized self and cannot be it and does not have to be it; it is for him to accept his real self, crummy and pained as it may be, and do the best he can with it.

By generalization, the idealist must stop seeking ideals in his self, people, social institutions and the world and live with the imperfect self and world we have.

The self, especially the human body and the world are not going to become perfect just because we wish them to be so.

The individual must learn to accept imperfection as reality and live with it. No matter what you do the human body and social institutions cannot become perfect and you might as well deal with that reality.

However, it is a lot easier to live with the imperfections of a relatively healthy human body than the imperfections of a pained and traumatized body. Thus we must acknowledge that traumatized bodies necessarily lead to pursuit of ideals and or attempts to escape from them in dissociative disorders.  We must then work to get such persons to accept their problematic bodies that traumatize them and do the best that they can do with them.


Adler, A. (1964). The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler. H. L. Ansbacher and R. R. Ansbacher (Eds.). New York: Harper Torchbooks.

Adler, A. (1979). Superiority and Social Interest: A Collection of Later Writings. H. L. Ansbacher and R. R. Ansbacher (Eds.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton.

American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition. Washington DC: American Psychiatric Press.

Horney, Karen (1950). Neurosis and Human Growth. New York. Norton.

Kahut, Heinz (1971). The Analysis of the Self: A Systematic Approach to the Psychoanalytic Treatment of Narcissistic Personality Disorders. International Universities Press.

Kahut, Heinz (1977). The Restoration of the Self.  New York: International Universities Press.

Kahut, Heinz (1978). The Search for the Self, Selected Writings of Heinz Kohut (1950–1978, Vol. 1 (1978). Edited by Paul Ornstein. New York: International Universities Press.

Kahut, Heinz (1978). The Search for the Self, Selected Writings of Heinz Kohut 1950–1978, Vol. 2 (1978). Edited by Paul Ornstein. New York: International Universities Press.

Kelly, George (1955). The psychology of personal constructs. New York: Norton.

Kelly, George (1963). A theory of personality. The psychology of personal constructs. New York: Norton.

Kernberg, O.F. (1975). Borderline conditions and pathological narcissism. New York: Aronson.

Kernberg, O.F. (1976). Object relations theory and clinical psychoanalysis. New York: Jason Aronson.

Kernberg, O.F. (1984). Severe personality disorders: Psychotherapeutic strategies. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Kernberg, O.F., Selzer, M.A., Koenigsberg H.A., Carr, A.C. & Appelbaum, A.H. (1989). Psychodynamic Psychotherapy of Borderline Patients. New York: Basic Books.

Kernberg, O.F. (2001). The suicidal risk in severe personality disorders: Differential diagnosis and treatment. Journal of Personality Disorders. The Guilford Press.

Koenigsberg, H.W., Kernberg, O.F., Stone, M.H., Appelbaum, A.H., Yeomans, F.E., & Diamond, D.D. (2000). Borderline Patients: Extending the Limits of Treatability. New York: Basic Books.

Masterson, James (1976).  Psychotherapy of the Borderline Adult: A Developmental Approach. Brunner/Mazel.

Masterson, James (1988). The Search for the Real Self: Unmasking the Personality Disorders of Our Age. Collier Macmillan.

Masterson, James (1993). The Emerging Self: A Developmental Self & Object Relations Approach to the Treatment of the Closet Narcissistic Disorder of the Self. Routledge.

Masterson, James (2005). The Personality Disorders Through The Lens of Attachment Theory and the Neurobiologic Development of the Self. Zeig, Tucker & Theisen.

Masterson, James (1988). The Search for the Real Self: Unmasking the Personality Disorders of Our Age. Free Press, Simon & Schuster.

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Miller, Alice (1978).  The Drama of the Gifted Child. Revised in 1995 and re-published by Virago as The Drama of Being a Child.

Miller, Alice (1981). Prisoners of Childhood, The Drama of the Gifted Child under a new title

Miller, Alice (1983). For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence.

Miller, Alice (1984). Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society's Betrayal of the Child.

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Miller, Alice. Pictures of a Childhood: Sixty-six Watercolors and an Essay

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Miller, Alice. Breaking Down the Wall of Silence: The Liberating Experience of Facing Painful Truth.

Miller, Alice (2001). The Truth Will Set You Free: Overcoming Emotional Blindness.

Miller, Alice (2005). The Body Never Lies: The Lingering Effects of Cruel Parenting

Miller, Alice (2009). Free From Lies: Discovering Your True Needs.

Ozodi Thomas Osuji, PhD

July 24, 2017

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

(907) 310-8176

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: (907) 310-8176