Attachment in detachment: The positive role of caregivers in POWs’ dissociative hallucinations

Jacob Y. Stein*, Laura Crompton, Avi Ohry, Zahava Solomon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


ABSTRACT: Humans are social creatures and therefore exhibit a pervasive need for others. Hence, when benevolent human contact is scarce, this dearth may be compensated imaginatively. War captivity is an extreme example of such deprivation and one wherein dissociative hallucinations have been exhibited. Although hallucinations may serve to virtually summon benevolent others and thus provide the prisoner of war (POW) with a platform for compensation, the contents of such hallucinations have yet to be investigated. The current qualitative study is the first to examine whether the content of such hallucinations may harbor positive effects. Guided by the notion that people search for compensation in lack of companionship, we scrutinized testimonies of former POWs for accounts of hallucinatory experiences. A narrative analysis was utilized in an attempt to understand the meaning of the hallucinations for the POW. Findings reveal that benevolent figures and concomitant acts of care are exhibited in war captivity hallucinatory experiences. Thus, it is argued that the content of such hallucinations may be protective. These findings are discussed in light of the literature concerning peritraumatic dissociative experiences. In addition, attachment theory is suggested as a plausible framework for understanding these findings. Finally, limitations of the study are discussed, and future researched is suggested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-198
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Trauma and Dissociation
Issue number2
StatePublished - 14 Mar 2016


FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation1916/12
Israeli Centers for Research Excellence


    • Attachment
    • hallucinations
    • peritraumatic dissociation
    • qualitative research
    • war captivity


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