Understanding the Psyche

What is the Psyche?*


Our psyche is a part of our psycho-somatic system and functions in the service of survival and procreation.

It is the means by which we connect with reality, through our senses, and also the means by which we interpret and understand the world.  If our psyche is split due to trauma (see IoPT - theory) then our ability to interpret and understand reality is compromised.


* This definition is based on chapters II and III of Franz Ruppert's book 'Trauma, Fear and Love' (Green Balloon, 2014). 

The Psyche after Trauma - Rejected, Abandoned or Betrayed

Researchers worldwide are reporting the devastating effects of emotional and physical trauma on the human psyche.  In particular Early Trauma (pre- peri- and post natal) has been shown to have serious long term health implications, both physical and psychological. 


The most powerful psychological experience of every human is the symbiotic relationship with their mother, which begins in utero.  Whether we are an egg or an infant, our safety and survival depend on some connection with our mother.  If compromised or unavailable to us, this lack of vital connection feels life-threatening.  To preserve a connection, we will sacrifice our developing sense of identity - our "I" , our "want"- to align with what we feel our mother wants.  Giving up on what we want in this way - abandonment of self - causes a split in our psyche at a crucial developmental time.  This abandonment of the autonomous development of our psyche, in order to maintain contact with our mother, is known as the Trauma of Identity (rejected). 
If we have suffered a Trauma of Identity at the earliest stage of development, what naturally follows is a Trauma of Love (abandoned) A mother who is not in good contact with herself, cannot offer a healthy loving connection to her baby.  Our strong impulse to live, to love and to BE loved, is thwarted, causing internal conflict and confusion.  Out of this confusion we develop illusions of love - the romantic ideal that love will save us by fulfilling our longings and feelings of emptiness.


The Trauma of Love invariably leads on to the Trauma of Sexuality (betrayed). If I am neither wanted, nor loved by my mother (and father), I am vulnerable to seeking love and connection in unsafe ways and open to the attention of unsafe people.  The Trauma of Sexuality is therefore about physical or emotional violation and may not include literal sexual abuse.  Most importantly every child wants to feel safe with their caregivers and protected from harm.   


When we are overwhelmed by trauma, our psyche splits into 3 parts and we are no longer fully healthy. We begin operating out of a combination of these parts: Healthy Self, Survival Self and Traumatised Self... whichever part has the upper hand is determined by how safe we feel in any given situation.

Healthy Self

No matter the extent of our trauma, we always retain a healthy part.


When we are in our healthy self, we can: 

  • make clear decisions
  • see reality as it really is
  • let go of illusions
  • make safe bonds, and dissolve destructive ones
  • feel safe and keep safe
  • be self-responsible and self-authorising
  • seek clarity and healing
  • experience loving contact with ourselves and others
  • live a good life


Survival Self

The survival self comes into being at the moment of splitting. Its sole function is to keep the traumatic experience out of our consciousness. In order to do this, it develops a variety of strategies to distract us from the truth of our experience...


The main categories of survival strategy are denial, suppression, control and avoidance.


If we are overwhelmed again at a later point in our life, the survival self will create a new split to ensure that the trauma feelings remain suppressed.


The Intention Method gives us an opportunity to get to know our survival strategies, and gradually to become less reliant on them.

Traumatised Self

The traumatised self is frozen in time, and constantly pre-occupied with the traumatic event, no matter how long ago it occurred.


This part of us can be suddenly triggered by a seemingly innocuous event in our everyday life, causing the survival self to leap into action, so that we do not become overwhelmed.


Like the healthy part, the traumatised part of us also longs for wholeness, through the safe expression of the trauma feelings.