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Dissociation

This is a change in consciousness.  It includes daydreaming and often does not cause great difficulties.  However, some people lose time, when their mind switches off from their conscious mind.  This may happen when they encounter traumatic triggers or otherwise become overly stressed.  In these situations, the dissociation often acts like a "circuit breaker" when the emotional circuit is overloaded.  People may have experiences like "spacing out," losing time, or feeling little (young). 

At the more severe end is Dissociative Identity Disorder, previously known as multiple personality disorder.  There are not different personalities, per se, rather, there are parts of the individual that generally handle specific emotions, situations, etc.  Chronic dissociation almost always suggests a prior history of severe trauma and indicates a need for counseling with someone trained to help deal with the trauma(s).  One can work on focusing on tangible things when they feel this coming on. 

People who frequently dissociate need to learn coping skills to tolerate feelings and otherwise feeling overwhelmed.  Often, imagery exercises where one can put the abuse memories in a container of some sort helps give the person increasing control and have less need to dissociate.  See the link for grounding below for more self-help strategies.

People sometimes want to remember all the traumatic memories all at once.  This is guaranteed to be overwhelming and causing more dissociation.  When there is a lot of dissociation, it is better to go too slow than too fast.  Author/therapist Babbette Rothschild feels that for some who were severely traumatized, that maintaining them in the stabilization phase may be the goal of treatment.

An excellent self-help book published through the Sidran Foundation is Growing Beyond Survival: A Self-Help Toolkit for Managing Traumatic Stress by Elizabeth Vermilyea.  For a more in depth read, check out Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation. Skills Training for Patients and Therapists  by Suzette Boon, Kathy Steele, and Onno Van Der Hart.

A place to start is to work on becoming more aware of the pull of dissociation.  Many with more regular dissociation go into dissociation fairly automatically.  Challenge yourself to stay in now, more often.  For example, if you regularly dissociate when driving, see how far you can drive before or without dissociating.  Keep challenging yourself and you will probably be surprised at being able to stay in now, more often.

Frequent dissociation indicates a need for counseling with someone who recognizes dissociation and has the skills to deal with it.  Unfortunately, some may have seen a number of therapists over years and dissociation was never revealed by the client or discovered by the therapist.

Grounding and stabilization

Sidran Foundation





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