What is dissociation? Some people have never heard the term before; others may know it all too well. For those who are unfamiliar with dissociation, you may have heard it in passing, when people are describing a feeling of “zoning out”. However, dissociation is much more complicated than a mere feeling of zoning out or daydreaming.
Dissociation, in many ways, is your body’s way of “nope-ing” out of a situation that it can’t actually escape. Oftentimes, people report feeling like they’ve had an out-of-body experience, as if they are watching themselves from a third-person perspective. Others can feel like they are a different person. People report feeling numb, detached from reality, and report experiencing little to no pain. When someone is experiencing a dissociative episode, they can forget how they got somewhere, feel like they cannot move, have an altered sense of time, or feel like their heart is pounding.
While it sounds pretty terrifying on paper, dissociation is actually your body’s way of trying to protect you. Don’t get me wrong, dissociation can wreak havoc when trying to function day-to-day, so it’s something that should be addressed by a professional; however dissociation serves as a way to allow you to keep moving forward, particularly after something traumatic has happened.
When the body is at its breaking point, and feels completely overwhelmed, dissociation, or your body’s “auto-pilot” kicks in. This defense mechanism allows us to keep moving forward in the face of stress and anguish. When we have parents who are not emotionally available, abusive, and/or neglectful, we can develop dissociative behaviors in order to protect ourselves from the confusion of simultaneously needing to be around and needing to avoid our caregivers. In addition, dissociation can also protect us from the full impact of a traumatic event, such as sexual assault, combat, or car accidents. Overtime, if these events keep persisting or the event has not been fully processed, the dissociation can become more severe and lead to dissociative disorders.
If anything discussed in this post sounds familiar to you, whether you’ve experienced dissociation once or daily, there is always room to heal. Dissociation is protective when it’s needed, but when it starts to creep into our daily lives and influence the way we interact with the world around us, it may be time to start talking to someone. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.