To know who one is and what one is, is to know one’s identity. A child’s development of identity is through the identification and internalisation of composites of parental attributes and values, and as he/she matures, a fusion with more recent identification occurs. Identity acquisition requires a process of alternating identification and dis-identification of what is thought of as being of less value. Trauma can rob oneself of one’s identity – to have a personal identity is central: consistency, rationality and intentionality. Multiple complex trauma has serious consequences for personal identity. The circumstances of loss of identity create differences in the attempt to recover what has been lost – the multiply abused individual, the migrant, the refugee.
In this presentation Dr Haliburn will discuss identity as that part of ‘Self’ that is lost as a result of serious trauma, and elaborate the role that psychotherapy plays in the phase of integration. Building a ‘new identity’ independent of the trauma, by elaborating and consolidating aspects of identity that have been lost, facets of the earlier self, strengths that emerge and were not apparent during stressful times, personal qualities that surface in the psychotherapy interaction, such as with, humour, determination, perseverance, generosity, are important tasks that help consolidate self on the path to recovery.