What is dissociation? Why does it happen? Is it normal?
Have you ever heard of people referring to dissociation, but were not quite sure what it met? Some people experience a felt sense that something happened or have all the symptoms of PTSD but cannot recall any trauma. Some report frequently feeling numb, disconnected or like they are not here and part of an engaged experience of being. Some are missing parts of their childhood and or parts of the day. Somme people have done things they normally would never have done and have no rational reason to account for what they just did. These are all dissociative experiences.
Response to Coping
Dissociation is a normal and healthy response to coping with helplessness and trauma (even emotional trauma). During trauma, our brain has become overwhelmed and it must choose between fight, flight or freeze. We have a nerve that runs down the side of our brain and neck and connects to our metabolism, our heart, lungs, endocrine system, arms and legs. It is our mind-body connection. This nerve, the Polyvagal nerve has two sides or cables. One is the ventral side and it activates for fight and flight.
If it is not possible to fight or flee a switch to the dorsal side takes place and instead of becoming hypervigilant as in fight/flight, we become hypervigilant and become calm and still (freeze). We leave internally and this memory is squirreled away for safe keeping and for access in the near future so we can react quickly when the memory is triggered. When we leave internally we create a part of us that is still present in the oust-side world, experiencing the trauma.
Our core self is protected by dissociating, and this experienced by missing time. An experience of going numb and feeling disconnected(depersonalization) is partly leaving, often triggered by a partial release of a dissociated memory known as a flashback. We have no recollection of the event as it is stored in a protected way-we are protected from the painful memory. There are two ways dissociation is stored: one is walled off and often protected by internal parts created when the trauma occurred.
When can You Experience Dissociation?
Dissociative experiences can also manifest as out of body experiences so during the trauma, we may have been on the ceiling watching, or in the wall or floor. This is our energetic self separating from our physical body to stay safe. We are rejoined when safe. Both memories are off limits and may have somatic manifestations such as pain in areas related to the trauma. Out of body dissociation breaks down easily with EMDR.
Walled off dissociation requires Brain Spotting, Energy Work and or Hypnosis to break through. Working with protective parts holding memory is often necessary. When someone has acted out as described above, this is when a protective part has hacked the personality and hijacked the body. It is acting out in attempt to avoid more trauma such as sabotaging a relationship about to become intimate as intimacy relates early sexual experiences that may have been abusive. Someone may act out by having a sexual affair, and here a part is looking for love through sex because that is what was learned from incest, that sex is love. Dissociative parts seek to make sense of trauma or to further protect us.
Contact me today to find out how I can help you. I treat patients here in Huntington, New York and can also offer long distance sessions.