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#465495 - 05/19/14 08:03 AM Understanding Dissociation
sadclown Offline


Registered: 02/27/14
Posts: 58
As we all know, an apparently common method of coping with this kind of experience is dissociation. From what I gather, it appears to be a kind of psychic disconnection. My therapist tells me I do it a lot, and indeed I do get twisted up in my own head when I approach these topics. Well, "approach" usually means that they kinda pop in my head despite my efforts to keep them at bay, but that is a different issue altogether.

The crux of my question here is that I don't shut off or anything. I stay with the memory only the emotional intensity is muted. Yeah, I lose focus on what is going on around me to a point and whatever other train of thought I had is lost, but its not like I am back there in the flesh and I don't think of something else instead. In a way these episodes are more like getting stuck with a memory, a vivid and distressful one, but slightly muted from what it would be otherwise if I didn't space out. It's really unpleasant, but its not thinking I'm back there and it isn't numb. So is that really dissociation? Or something else?

So, the question is: Can anyone relate and what is it? What do you do to get away from that? Because once it has me, it has me until it's done or someone gets my attention
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#465496 - 05/19/14 08:22 AM Re: Understanding Dissociation [Re: sadclown]
traveler Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 02/07/06
Posts: 3746
Loc: somewhere in Africa
Dissociation is a term that covers a lot of ground from emotional detachment to periods that resemble "out of body experience" -

"This article is about the psychological experience. For other uses, see Dissociation (disambiguation).
In psychology, the term dissociation describes a wide array of experiences from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experience. The major characteristic of all dissociative phenomena involves a detachment from reality, rather than a loss of reality as in psychosis.[1][2][3][4] Dissociative experiences are further characterized by the varied maladaptive mental constructions of an individual's natural imaginative capacity.[citation needed]
Dissociation is commonly displayed on a continuum.[5] In mild cases, dissociation can be regarded as a coping mechanism or defense mechanisms in seeking to master, minimize or tolerate stress including boredom or conflict.[6][7][8] At the nonpathological end of the continuum, dissociation describes common events such as daydreaming while driving a vehicle. Further along the continuum are non-pathological altered states of consciousness.[5][9][10]
More pathological dissociation involves dissociative disorders, including dissociative fugue and depersonalization disorder with or without alterations in personal identity or sense of self. These alterations can include: a sense that self or the world is unreal (depersonalization and derealization); a loss of memory (amnesia); forgetting identity or assuming a new self (fugue); and fragmentation of identity or self into separate streams of consciousness (dissociative identity disorder, formerly termed multiple personality disorder) and complex post-traumatic stress disorder.[11][12]
Dissociative disorders are sometimes triggered by trauma, but may be preceded only by stress, psychoactive substances, or no identifiable trigger at all.[13] The ICD-10 classifies conversion disorder as a dissociative disorder.[5] The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders groups all dissociative disorders into a single category.[14]
Although some dissociative disruptions involve amnesia, other dissociative events do not.[15] Dissociative disorders are typically experienced as startling, autonomous intrusions into the person's usual ways of responding or functioning. Due to their unexpected and largely inexplicable nature, they tend to be quite unsettling."

that is from Wikipedia - a pretty concise and understandable definition if not the most authoritative. there is a lot more there - including a section on how it is related to abuse.

i think we have probly all had varying degrees of it - even non-CSA survivors do. and one person can do different degrees of dissociation at different times. i have had temporary amnesia about some things - and just feel numbed to other memories that i was conscious of.

i see it as a way to endure without suffering the full effects of the trauma. like putting something on the "back burner" or "out of sight - out of mind" the opposite is staying present in the moment. my experience has been that eventually you have to "take the lid off" the things that you know are there but haven't yet allowed yourself to fully feel and deal with. that is where support is really important - a good therapist, select friends who understand, a life partner, even online help from the others here on MS - it all helps. it is not fun - but what is beyond is much more satisfying. dissociation tends to take over more of our lives than just the really bad parts that are hard to handle - makes everything more grey and muted and less enjoyable. you feel a lot more alive and engaged once you have en the garbage out of the way. at least that is how i see it.

Lee


Edited by traveler (05/19/14 08:28 AM)
_________________________
"That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. . . What will your verse be?" Robin Williams as John Keating in "Dead Poets Society"


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#465501 - 05/19/14 01:12 PM Re: Understanding Dissociation [Re: sadclown]
KMCINVA Offline
Greeter
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 08/31/11
Posts: 2097
Lee

Well said, as one who has lived with dissociation I can tell you loss of time was something I accepted as being natural--just escaping. But when it became more severe, fear set in. It went from loosing time for short interval to lapses that kept getting longer and longer. I was moving further along the spectrum of dissociation, but it was something I learned so well so young--my way to escape emotional pain and stress, senses of violation. The dissociation became worse and I would travel 5 miles, 10 miles, 40 miles and when I returned I would ask how did I get here, or why was I here. There were other signs that I did not recognize or know I created. It always occurred after intense emotions that erupted the memories, the feelings, the sensations of the abuse. I was trying to keep the lid on the past and somehow part of me that lived the abuse came alive. It was a coping mechanism for "me" to escape the pain, to continue to deny the abuse, to deny the child within.

My T and various doctors have explained what happens that fragments one from the present. But it was difficult to at first understand and more difficult to learn new coping mechanisms.

Sadclown, Lee said it well--there are different degrees of dissociation. So detach emotions from memories, as children many of us dissociated as the act was being done--feeling like we were looking down without any sense of attachment to what was being done, it was like we left and were looking down, daydreaming which everyone does at some point in their life. Your T if familiar with dissociation can see you, hear you and he can best assessed. I had several sessions where my T said my eyes began to stare into space, I was drifting away and he had to bring me back by regaining my attention before I completely left. He said I looked uneasy, stopped talking and began to physically leave. These episodes occurred when we were speaking of the abuse. So it depends where on the spectrum of dissociation you fall--your T and doctors can best assess. For me, wandering streets in the frigid cold after traveling 40 plus miles (and how I traveled these miles will never be known) and being forced to safety and not knowing who I was gave clear evidence of where I fell on the spectrum. I only hope dissociative symptoms for others are not that extreme. Take care of yourself, ask you T about alternative coping mechanisms that will keep you safe emotionally and physically.

Kevin




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#465515 - 05/19/14 11:38 PM Re: Understanding Dissociation [Re: sadclown]
kcinohio Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 06/06/12
Posts: 460
Loc: Ohio
Think others have covered the scientific angle of dissociation issue well enough here already, so won't add to that.

As for what does one do to get beyond it, found an intermittent step for me was to third-person it. If someone else I cared about had experienced exactly what I was dissociating over, what's my emotional response to that - this include writing that down. Then, how do I respond to them if they are telling me and I'm their friend (rather than their emotional-distance-keeping therapist, for example.) Once I'd processed this, then it was easier to get in touch with my own authentic emotions and roll through that process rather than dissociating out as readily.

Just my experience with it. In no way is that meant as the only answer, just something I found helpful as an intermittent step.

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#465557 - 05/20/14 09:47 PM Re: Understanding Dissociation [Re: sadclown]
justplainme Offline


Registered: 09/01/09
Posts: 409
Here is my two cents and how i'm managing to recover from it.

Whenever we disassociate it is due to a vivd trigger of the experience, a smell, a visual reference, an emotion, even a color can take us back to the rape and that stage in which our developing selves were so fragile and pure., our flow and stream of consciousness along with narrative memory disappears from us sort to say when we disassociate, and we are left bottom out...the triggering experience takes forefront and we are pulled back to the psychological stage of development we had at the time of the abuse.

We spend our lives in a narrative plain, we interpret everything that we feel or experience into our narrative idea of ourselves, this paradigm is further fueled by the external and internal experiences, and our biological compositions, neurons that fire together , or ideas you have a lot wire together. If you find yourself going numb, in a state of ZERO consciousness, un-aware of the emotional and physical dynamics taking place at this very moment, then what you must do is create a mirror inside yourself to see how and what you look like when this is happening.
Learn to identify by doing meditation exercises on what this might sense and feel like.
This will not make them go away, but it will allow you to integrate this state of being into you fuller self, it is weird to try and wrap this around your mind, but the fact that you were raped predisposes your brain and psyche to a very wide view of the world no human willingly understands. The hidden dynamics lying in the phenomenon of rape only point the finger towards what normal society denies and turn a blind conscious corner on. This has a biological effect on your brain chemistry and how your perception, sensation and rationalization of the world shapes into. So much denial and shame goes into this type of criminality by part of the pedophile, rapist, sadist, lost soul whatever you want to label it as.. that the brain compartmentalizes the experiences from your being in a fail safe way.
The brain is intuitive in how and what it does with certain memories in order for you to survive, that it is amazing.,Something which has always made me think that we are very much responsible for what we think and do with this powerful source of energy.

So just imagine your good little David or Eve and you have to go to school the next morning after receiving sexual sadism all night long from an adult, your brain has to cope with this and split of the experience so you can stay alive in some way.
The amount of shame this creates is enough for any brain to fail in it the way it intuits itself to be. Think of it as a electrical shock of accumulated toxic energy suddenly left of by a release valve into your daily self. Also the state of disassociation is a way of your mind trying to give you back a piece of yourself you had to repress in order to survive. The best way to integrate this is with love and compassion understand that you did whatever you had to do in order to survive, you are not your past, you are not those emotions that you felt during the abuse, you are not wholly composed by your rape experience, you are much more than that, the best thing i can advice is this type of cognitive therapy, a constant state of watch over what you are feeling, sensing, developing,etc...
Support from others and real understanding of your situation aids, a good therapist, a journal, prayer, sex with your loved one, whatever makes you feel in the present.

Stay positive and hope this helped.





Edited by justplainme (05/20/14 09:55 PM)
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"Survivors need an opportunity to define their own sexuality in their own terms, rather than in reaction to the abuse, so that they stop allowing their offenders to have power over them sexually."

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#465559 - 05/20/14 10:17 PM Re: Understanding Dissociation [Re: sadclown]
learning2luvme Offline


Registered: 06/12/12
Posts: 49
Disassociation definitely takes different forms in us. For me, it has a dramatic physical action in that I basically zone completely out. My body goes limp, I canot speak, my eyes are shut and sometimes I can hear and sometimes I can't. It may last a couple of minutes to over an hour. There is no rhyme nor reason to the particular trigger nor is it completely controllable on my end. Sometimes I can feel myself "leaving" and then I usually focus very hard on a small object and state at it very intently. I also tend to count things in an attempt to keep from disassociating. Today is happens a couple times a month which is much better than when I first started the recovery journey three years ago where it happened at least daily. Progress...

Happy Healing,

L2LM

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#465568 - 05/21/14 02:10 AM Re: Understanding Dissociation [Re: sadclown]
justplainme Offline


Registered: 09/01/09
Posts: 409


This might help too.
_________________________

"Survivors need an opportunity to define their own sexuality in their own terms, rather than in reaction to the abuse, so that they stop allowing their offenders to have power over them sexually."

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#465569 - 05/21/14 02:12 AM Re: Understanding Dissociation [Re: sadclown]
justplainme Offline


Registered: 09/01/09
Posts: 409


Edited by justplainme (05/21/14 02:13 AM)
_________________________

"Survivors need an opportunity to define their own sexuality in their own terms, rather than in reaction to the abuse, so that they stop allowing their offenders to have power over them sexually."

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#465573 - 05/21/14 03:53 AM Re: Understanding Dissociation [Re: sadclown]
sadclown Offline


Registered: 02/27/14
Posts: 58
Thanks for all the insight. I've already torn up the DSM and most paraprofessional sources salient to this particular topic. My issue is that they tend to speak very broadly and nothing they say really seems to hit on what I am experiencing. I'll probably pick my T's brain about it but I was wondering if anyone else had the kind of presentation I described. I'm not quite sure what it is due to the failure to fall into any clearly defined category.
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My Story

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed"- Ernest Hemingway

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#465583 - 05/21/14 09:57 AM Re: Understanding Dissociation [Re: sadclown]
don64 Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 10/09/13
Posts: 1002
Loc: St. Croix, USVI
Dissociation for me is all the stuff that is locked away that some part of me decided was too psyche threatening to know. And, there is still tons of it. I am completely dissociated from any detailed clear recollection of any abuse. At 64, and after decades of a lot of different therapies and other resources, I'm finally getting to some of the feeling levels of some of the real original events. But, the dissociation, for me, is a protection I require so my mind doesn't get fried and of no use to me any more. I am more optimistic than I have ever been, even though the healthier I get, the more I realize how damaged I am. For me, dissociation is a good friend who keeps me safe. It's true that keeping the poison from the abuse locked away would eventually destroy me, IMO, but that's not what I'm doing. It's just that my own self has a place that knows how much I can handle at a time. I couldn't handle remembering the sexual abuse, physical abuse and torture by my mother until last spring at age 63. Though surfacing that has been difficult, I have the tools to work with it now, and didn't before.

Don


Edited by don64 (05/21/14 09:59 AM)
Edit Reason: grammar
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Divine Law is not judgment or denial of self truths. Divine Law is honoring harmony that comes from a peaceful mind, an open heart, a true tongue, a light step, a forgiving nature, and a love of all living creatures. Jamie Sams & David Carson, Medicine Cards

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