In my article Time Out of Mind (Toronto, Ellen L. K. (2009). Time Out of Mind: Dissociation in the Virtual World. Psychoanalytic Psychology. 26 (2) 117-133), I also present the case of a young woman whom I have named Casey. In our work, we have become well-acquainted with the “house people” and, by bringing them into consciousness, have diminished their toxic effect on Casey. She has not, however, been able to acknowledge the destructive effect of the online predators whom she meets and apprehends in her professional life. They remain sequestered, away from her conscious mind, and in that way color her views of the men she might meet in her online dating.
Casey and I have spent many sessions discussing reports of the house people. Though she cannot speak with them directly she can tell me what they are saying and what they want. As we have listened to their conflicting demands with understanding and patience she has been able to redefine them as three-dimensional beings with complex needs that are intertwined with one another. The smart-aleck has become more understanding of the excuses of the pathetic one and she, in turn, has been able to stand up for herself and explain her reasoning. Through that process, the patient has become more accepting of her limitations and not so harshly critical of her failings.
She has in fact begun dating again, meeting men through an online dating service. This is after a hiatus of many years in which she had few if any, dates and fended off efforts of friends and family to “fix her up.” Yet dating itself has proved problematic. We have come to realize that she reacts in a nearly phobic manner when she is anticipating the prospect of meeting someone new. We have explored her responses in terms of her fears of men seeing her as over-weight. The prospect of spending long periods of time in intimate contact with a man also appears frightening, both because of the physical closeness and the psychological openness it would require. Yet these explanations do not appear sufficient to explain the extreme nature of her reactions at the prospect of being with a man.
Professional Contact with Internet Predators
In her professional life, Casey is required to review hundreds of pages of pornographic material written by sexual predators who are attempting to solicit sexual contact online. These men are apprehended when law officers posing as teenagers agree to meet them. In order to prosecute offenders, the state must prove that the internet material is designed to solicit an actual meeting with the victim and that the perpetrator believed that the victim was underage but wanted to meet him or her anyway. The material is often incredibly graphic such that, during a trial, the prosecutor may warn a jury of its salacious nature in order to prepare them. The offenders can be well-known and respected members of the community or the lowest dregs of society, but they are typically in denial and unrepentant as to the harm they may be inflicting on their victims. Casey took great satisfaction in helping gather material that would implicate those she believes to be guilty, but expressed only appropriate and professionally modulated “outrage” at the heinous acts which they had committed or were attempting to commit.