Psychologists discuss another sort of compartmentalization, which gets mixed reviews. I’ve experienced that, too. As a child, when a frightening adult repeatedly overpowered me, I detached emotionally. I compartmentalized as much as possible so that at a subconscious level, I did not allow my whole self to become injured. Instead of hearing what was said in a way that allowed it to be recalled, words were heard but not recorded in my memory. My ears were full of a rushing sound as I felt myself close up to the outburst before me. My efforts at compartmentalizing weren’t a total success, and I carried trauma into the future. As an adult, when I was in the presence of that person, I still detached, going to a different space I couldn’t articulate. It was an odd experience, almost feeling as if I were watching myself in a movie. I wanted to respond but felt numb. I didn’t understand it until it was explained to me, I was too good at compartmentalizing, whisking away my entire presence in the room when faced with that stress.
From “Designed to Heal: What the Body Shows Us About Healing Wounds, Repairing Relationships, and Restoring Community” by Jennie A. McLaurin and Cymbeline Tancongco Culiat