Dissociation of self is when a person have multiple identities. Many hikikomori has two identities: true self and public self.
A child who cannot freely express self develops a public self that adjusts to parents’ likings, and the true self hides away. When parent-child relationship is stressful or dysfunctional, the true self develops an inner child.
1) Public identity
Public characteristics developed by attachment trauma has certain characteristics.
- Cannot make decisions
- Ignore self’s needs and prioritize others’ needs
- Cannot have intimate relationships
- Inability to tell or recognize emotions; inability to examine one’s issues
Public self has a habit of ad-hoc behavior to avoid conflict and not make anyone upset. He or she always look happy but the person has the issue of not knowing what one truly wants to do and unable to understand others since they lack understanding of emotions.
The public self lacks decision making ability; therefore he or she copies others and goes with the crowd. It seems as if the person is good at getting along with anyone, but in reality the person is fearful of being rejected and is constantly worried what others think of him or her.
Hikikomori’s dual identities are developed through dysfunctional parent-child relationship and relationships that punishes the person if he or she is honest.
2) Inner Child
Inner child is a part of self that clients hides from the world. Often times clients describe this part as “grotesque self” or “a part that will result in rejection if shown to others.” The inner child is a part of true self, and it carries the client’s traumas.
3) True self
The true self is the identity of the person that grows as a person if it receives love and affection. It has the ability to live and love others.
- Loves others and can develop intimate connections with others
- Has the ability to make decisions
- Ability to discern reality and truth
- Grows mental maturity
- Has feelings
Hikikomori counseling’s goal is to nurture the true self and to develop new and safe connections.
4) Heart’s Shelter
The true self hides in a shelter when experiencing lost connection with parents. This phenomenon is reported in other countries as well. Psychiatrist Dr. Whitfield (year) introduces clients’ illustrations in his book. The true self hiding away to shelter occurs a few months after birth to about age three.
According to hikikomori clients who has regained the true self, the shelter has some characteristics.
- Time is frozen
- Inside is dark and cannot see outside world
- There is no sound (unable to hear the outside world’s noise)
- There is no one else
- Safe, but there is absolutely nothing.
Clients describe the shelter as a cave, bottom of a well, blackhole, etc., but the feeling of loneliness, to feel unknown by anyone, is a key concept of true self hiding in a shelter.
When a true self is dissociated, experiences below can be observed
- Feels as if every one is two-faced
- Concerned of others’ expressions and attitude more than their words
- No initiative
- Does not know what he or she wants
- Feels like there is no identity
- Does not like assertive people
These tendencies are often seen in Japanese people, and recovered clients report that there are many masked hikikomori around them.