DIFFERENT KINDS OF DISSOCIATION

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How people dissociate is probably as different as anything else. What I describe in the poem below is my experience of one way I dissociate. These days – I can stay around and experience the experience of dissociating – kind of a contradiction in terms (since dissociating for me fills the function of not having to be around). But I stay – and experience it. When I started doing that – it was absolutely terrifying. So, I fled it – into my mind and other versions of me. But I have practiced. A lot, and now I can stay in it. It still makes me feel inadequate. I cannot control it. Only be in it – work with it – anchor myself to the best of my ability. Most people would not pick up on any of what goes on for me.

It feels like failing. Like I let fear govern and control me. When technically I know I am safe. What really helps me out of it – is being with someone I feel very safe with, and whom I can anchor “in”. But I have learned that is not okay. That I need to be able to anchor myself – so I keep on practicing.

I used to be very ashamed of my dissociation. Of how I leave my mind and enter this pure state of sensing – and how when I try to come back – I sometimes can not find where I left off, and don’t know what we were talking about or doing. I have learned to stay in my blank space – not panic – and orientate myself. Leave people waiting. Even letting them see my distraction. Hear the stammers. Hear the pauses when I search for words. Returning to mind is not easy. But it is how we “human” right? We exchange things through our minds. We talk with each other. Reaching to each other’s senses seems not to be okay.

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WHAT CAN I DO? - Mindfulness – Trauma & Dissociation

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I am a mindfulness instructor – and am currently taking an advanced training in Trauma Sensitive Mindfulness (TSM) with David Treleaven (https://davidtreleaven.com/). I took his basic course during the fall. They are great courses!

I am also a person with severe trauma and I can be highly dissociative (although I am getting to be more and more in charge of my dissociation than the other way around – If you are interested in my thoughts on dissociation and trauma, there is plenty to read in my blog at http://livethechange.se/).

Taking this course simultaneously as the Coronavirus is affecting us all on a global scale – is interesting. It becomes even more interesting for me since I have managed to time huge life transitions to this time period too… Very little is certain in my life, this did not start now – but has been a process. But the resolution of the process is happening right now.

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Dissociation – Association Part 2

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Is dissociation both a defense system and a lack of learned skills of association?

Most things I read about dissociation is about how it is/can become a maladaptive coping strategy and later a defense system to handle trauma (or possibly everyday stressors, e.g. boredom or feelings of powerlessness).

But dissociation is so much more – as is its counterpart association. So how do we understand “normal dissociation”? How do we understand how maladaptive dissociation emerges and becomes a pattern of coping (outside the range of “normality”)?

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DISSOCIATION – ASSOCIATION

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Dissociation and Association – are two sides of the same coin. Or you can say – they are in each end of a spectrum. A spectrum we all move along on a daily, hourly, momentarily basis. But try to imagine the spectrum as circular – or spiral shaped – not linear. There aren’t really any ends. Dissociation and association move in and out of each other – and at times part of you are more associated – or is free to associate – and other parts of you are more dissociated – or free to dissociate.

We all associate and dissociate – and we all have parts. Some parts of us other parts of us are more prone to ignore – dissociate away – or more strongly associate with. Some parts of us more easily dissociate or associate in themselves.

Does this sound complicated? It is actually rather simple, but it is of course nuanced. The confusion I think stems from when people talk about dissociation (very few talks about association) – most people talk about different aspects of dissociation, undefined and un-nuanced – and try to fit it into a pre-existing model. Not to on purpose confuse, of course, the study – and the “treatment” – of dissociation – is fairly new. Hence all the misunderstandings, misconceptions, mix-ups, simplifications – and a strong wish to fit it into a paradigm or system. Which in my opion potentially shuts out other ways of seeing it.

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Grounding – to keep myself here… and now…

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I do a lot of grounding. Every day, several times a day. Almost constantly I have something around me or with me that I can use to ground myself. Nothing of what I wear is random. Most of it you can see, some of it not. I wear clothes that disturb me the least, but also can help me, textures and colors that are good for me. I wear jewelry that help me feel myself and that I can touch, often they carry some symbolic meaning as well. I often paint my toenails so I can find my feet – see them on the ground easier – especially in the warm season when I go barefoot a lot. I also put the date of the day and this year on my hand – each morning, so I can always check what day it is, as what year it is. I also put a little symbol on my hand each day that keeps on reminding me that I am not a victim in the now. That now, today, I have choices. And if I end up in emotional overwhelm, I can step away, and try to assess the situation and think, before I act, all to help me not react according to old patterns.

Some of the “clothes or equipment” I use – is invisible. I use my imagination. I have my protective cloak, I put it on when I will be in environments where people will touch me (often in social settings). I have invisible flowers I can smell when there are triggering smells around, I have calming sounds I listen to internally, I have comforting things I put on – that I do not want people to see, so I use the invisible ones.

In my front pockets (my real ones 😊), I carry some small stones and a couple of marbles – so I have something I can touch and play with – fidget with. In my back pocket I carry a couple of notes with some writing that I can read, that reminds me of that I have support, that I am not alone.

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