We tend to have little sympathy for Humpty Dumpty. What was he doing on that wall, anyway? Surely, he must have known how fragile and ungainly he was.
No one is certain of the origin of the nursery rhyme. Some have speculated that Humpty Dumpty may have been a parody of the evil (and humpbacked) King Richard III. Other possibilities have been put forward.
Whatever his origins, Humpty has found himself in a number of literary works, among them Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll and Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce.
Abuse victims have a surprising amount in common with Humpty Dumpty. Our lives, like Humpty’s, were shattered by traumatic events. And we, too, may find ourselves in strange places.
The human mind is amazingly resilient. When subjected to severe trauma it may involuntarily disconnect or dissociate from reality. Many abuse victims describe this as “going away” – somewhere far from the pain, somewhere the abuser could not reach us. Victims speak of leaving their bodies, watching events involving themselves from above or from a distance.
A defense mechanism, dissociation is protective, in the short term. It can shield us from intolerably painful experiences.
Depending on the severity of our abuse, however, awareness, memory, and identity may be disrupted . In extreme cases, alternate personalities (“alters”) can develop. These may assume different physical and vocal mannerisms, even different ages, sexes, and races from one another. They may or may not be aware of one another’s existence. Continue reading