Date: 30 Aug 2013

Sense of ownership and sense of agency during trauma

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Abstract

This paper seeks to describe and analyze the traumatic experience through an examination of the sense of agency—the sense of controlling one’s body, and sense of ownership—the sense that it is my body that undergoes experiences. It appears that there exist (at least) two levels of traumatic experience: on the first level one loses the sense of agency but retains the sense of ownership, whilst on the second one loses both of these, with symptoms becoming progressively more severe. A comparison of the traumatic experience with various modulations of the senses of agency and ownership, from cases involving prostheses to tools requiring greater or lesser extents of control, suggests that the harsher the traumatic event, the greater the damage is to the sense of ownership, resulting in the increasing sense of the body as a tool rather than an original organism. Likewise, the long-term ramifications become more severe according to the significance of the damage to the sense of ownership.