Orit Sônia Waisman

Come Meet the Dragons! – A Jungian Analytic Perspective of States of Shut-down

"…for Jung, affect is the central organizing principle of psychic life because it links together otherwise discrepant components of the mind…" (Kalshed, 1996;88)

The science of trauma has undergone dramatic evolution in the last decades (Levine, 2017; Porges, 2011; Kalshed, 2013; Van der Kolk, 2014). Acute trauma often results in states of shut-down.

States of shutdown are described by Porges (2011;16): "Immobilization • Feigning death, behavioral shutdown. • The most primitive component, shared with most vertebrates. • Dependent on the oldest branch of the vagus nerve…"

In these cases, emotional content is barred and the individual stops the ability to feel. This cocoon-like state creates a situation in which an individual is able to survive, but not to feel; able to lead a seemingly normal life, but with a sharp split that detaches them from the world. As a Jungian analyst and a Dance Movement therapist, I invite clients to experiences of active imagination on situations from their lives. Often, it is at these times that the blockage is revealed.

In this talk, I would like to expand on the consequences of prolonged states of shut-down, as particularly described by S. Porges, (2011) and discuss the impact of coming out of these states on the emotional system.

The therapeutic process that allows the individual to feel again, must include a phase of "fight-flight" in which the patient is in states of disaccordance\mismatching (Waisman, 2010, 2014) with the therapist. These are crucial states, and this interaction is crucial to healing, as it includes a call to face "the diabolical side of the Self in early trauma". (Kalshed, 1996;5).

I will rely on cases from my clinic to present an analytical perspective of this transition.


Dr. Orit Sônia Waisman is Jungian analyst at the Israeli institute for Jungian psychology in the honor of Erich Neumann, in Jerusalem. She is also a dance movement therapist and a linguist. She is currently a member of the curriculum committee of the institute. Dr Waisman heads the Dance Movement Therapy Masters Program at 'David Yellin College' in Jerusalem, since 2006. She has extensive clinic experience with various populations, in private and public settings as a therapist and as a supervisor. Dr. Waisman has extensive experience as a lecturer. Her book: Body, language and movement in conflict situations published by John Benjamins Publishing Company reflects an innovative holistic approach to text analysis, integrating verbal and nonverbal signs, concentrating on mismatches as markers of significance.


  • Waisman, O. S. (2010). Body, language and meaning in conflict situations: A semiotic analysis of gesture-word mismatches in Israeli-Jewish and Arab discourse (Vol. 62). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing.
  • Waisman, O. S. (2014). Mismatches as milestones in dance movement therapy. Body, Movement and Dance in Psychotherapy, 9(4), 224-236.


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