What Is Dissociation?
I have already discussed the phenomenon of dissociation in the article : Always Zoning Out? Dissociation Explained ; to recap very briefly, dissociation is a biopychological process that operates as a defense mechanism to prevent disturbing thoughts/memories/experiences from penetrating consciousness due to the unbearable burden of stress they would bring about were this mechanism not in place.
What Does Being In A State Of Dissociation Feel Like?
Feelings of dissociation can be seen as lying on a continuum : relatively mild dissociation involves feeling mentally ‘hazy’,’foggy’ ‘ numb’ and somehow ‘not fully present’ nor fully engaged with reality ; at the other end of the continuum, dissociation can involve complete loss of conscious memory of a highly traumatizing event / series of events / periods of one’s life (I describe my own experiences of dissociation in the article linked to above : ‘Always Zoning Out…’).
Depersonalization And Derealization :
Two important types of dissociation are :
a) DEPERSONALIZATION : this state involves cutting off from one’s own thoughts and feelings so that they do not feel like one’s own but those of somebody else. Individuals in this state can feel like an ‘observer of themselves’, as if they were watching themselves on a film screen.
b) DEREALIZATION : as the word implies, this refers to a feeling of ‘unreality’ – as if what is going on around one is unreal, surreal or dreamlike even when it is, objectively, ordinary and quotidian.
Overcoming Feelings Of Dissociation :
According to Dr Harold Kushner, author of Healing Dissociation, in order to overcome feelings of dissociation / dissociative disorders it is necessary to :
– gradually, as part of a therapeutic process, to come to terms with, and accept, the reality of one’s traumatic childhood experiences (as opposed to being in denial about this, repressing it or suppressing it)
– firmly recognize the traumatic experiences are now over and in the past
– firmly recognize that because the traumatic experiences are over and in the past, how one feels, behaves, thinks and acts no longer has to be constricted by these experiences – one is free to start making fresh choices and take on a new, more positive approach to life
– come to an acceptance that injustice, pain and suffering are inevitable parts of life and that what is of greatest importance is how one responds adapts to this inescapable fact.
– find meaning in one’s experiences of suffering, such as how it has developed one as a person and how it can lead to posttraumatic growth.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).