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Dissociation, What Are Examples?

Discussion in 'Flashbacks & Dissociation' started by SimplyComplex, Apr 27, 2011.

  1. SimplyComplex

    SimplyComplex Well-Known Member
    Premium Member

    I have read a bit about it and hear examples and think I am missing something about it. Either I do it all the time and hardly noticed, or I am painting with too wide of a brush.

    When we first started talking about sexual Abuse in therapy, I had two incidents where I really blanked out and nearly crashed my car. Those, yeah, I will call it dissociation.

    But...when I was a teen I day dreamed for hours at a time sometimes. Often actually. Dissociation?

    When I have sex I get a large empty place in my head. It started when I first kissed a boy when I was 12. Like big empty parking lots, fields, roads with no one on them. Its a video almost, the wind blows and grass moves but no one is there. Dissociation? (and is this the weirdest thing someone admitted to?)

    How about when I am reading and my kids talk to me. I don't hear them for a few moments then am startled (a little angry adrenalin rush, I try to control it). Dissociation?

    In church I sometimes miss nearly the whole service and don't really know what they talked about or what I was thinking about...but I assume I was lost in thought. Dissociation?

    What are some common examples of unhealthy dissociation? How much is healthy and normal?
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  3. ronin47

    ronin47 Well-Known Member

    Everyone gets tired or bored and becomes distracted. However "daydreaming" is not, I think, so much a form of disassociation as it is a manifestation of difficulty concentrating, which is also a symptom of PTSD. Disassociation, from what I understand, has more to do with feeling outside of yourself. The way my therapist explained it to me was, when under the stress, the mind tries to make the situation seem less real.
    gizmo71, Marie E., CiaOk and 2 others like this.
  4. SimplyComplex

    SimplyComplex Well-Known Member
    Premium Member

    Oh, I thought that was depersonalization. Its so complicated. Maybe I dont do it :) That would be awesome.
    Ciaran likes this.
  5. Tosh

    Tosh Active Member

    I am no Expert, but I will tell part of my story as an example for you. I learned I was dissociating when I started to have flashbacks about things that happened to me that I forgot for many years of my life. It's like there is another part of me, a part that went through alot of childhood abuse, I dissociated, forgot the abuse for many years in order to survive because I didn't know how to deal with the situation. To be dissociative I think you have to be under the age of 7 when you experienced the trauma, but I'm not 100 percent on that. When I "remember" what happened to me, it's usually triggered by something. I feel the emotions, pain, see the visual picture, as if it just happened. I start going numb all over. I feel like I'm comming out of my body. I tap my legs to try and stay here. It's scary, I feel like I'm just going to float away right out of myself. I feel spaced out and unreal. It's like I'm lost within myself.
    Riot, piratelady, Helliepig and 3 others like this.
  6. Dee Morris

    Dee Morris Active Member

    One of my examples is the first time I was sexually assaulted when I was 8 yrs old. I remember waking up to my mothers boyfriend on top of me with his hand over my mouth. I remember feeling the pain of penetration & silently pleading for my mother to wake up. I have no other memories of the event. Until I learned about disassociation I thought that he may have drugged me. The more I learn, I am able to look back & see disassociation.

    OKRADLAK Well-Known Member

    It is scary what the mind does in response to trauma. I am sad that we are in this, but I very glad that we are not alone.

    I am glad I found this site.
  8. Spero3

    Spero3 Active Member

    I am a bit confused by dissociation, too. I am not sure if I have it. I have been told I do, but I don't have a clear idea of what it is. I know there are times when I am very stressed that I just shut down. I can't concentrate, I don't want to talk, I can't answer people's questions. This happened during what was supposed to be a mediation when I divorced my ex husband (who was abusive). We got ambushed in mediation - he accused me of all kinds of sick stuff - and I just shut down on my lawyer. If it is really bad, I will just go to sleep.

    As a child I spent hours and hours in fantasy land. I had a made-up friend named "Joe" who I think was supposed to be my dad (who I wanted to protect me from my mother but he didn't). I used to pretend I was a horse, too. Was I just a kid with a very active imagination, or was this a form of dissociation or checking out from reality.

    Even as an adult, I often have a whole other conversation going on in my head when I am listening to someone else. I hear them, can respond to them, but I am not totally there. Again, is that normal?

    On a slightly different topic, I also get "triggered" by people I consider bullies. I fantasize about beating them up. I obsess about it for days. I have never hurt anyone, but there are times that I wonder if some day I will snap.

    Anyone have any insight on this stuff?

    Ciaran and Ms Spock like this.

    OKRADLAK Well-Known Member


    Wow! When you said about whole conversations in head......I do too! It was not until the 2nd trauma that I started to talk back to them (in my head). Then I REALLY realized I was going crazy!!

    "You stupid fool.Why did you do THAT?"
    "Well, you're the dumb-a**! You could have stopped me at any time!"
    Then it got to be like "could have stopped "us"....never 3rd person "her"

    Like, "Let's work together, here OK?"
    or "Just STFU" or something like that.

    Like one is REALLY mean and the other is like, "What is UP with that??"

    Of course, they are not real people that "come out" and all. And I would never tell my T. about this because ----well not yet anyway, I do not trust her yet. Maybe later.
    jocko, BloomInWinter, CiaOk and 3 others like this.
  10. Spero3

    Spero3 Active Member

    When I said I can hear, respond and listen I meant to the person I am talking to. I didn't mean to the conversation in my head. :) But, I have fantasies in my head where I am engaged in a conversation with someone who is not present, or I fantasize about a situation I wish I was in, all while I am actually talking to a real person. Sometimes I feel like my brain is split. It is disconcerting.

    I have started meditating in order to keep myself in the present. I can only do it for about 15 or 20 minutes, and I'm not very good at it, but it does help.

  11. Spero3

    Spero3 Active Member

    I meant to ask you if the conversations in your head are almost constant. Mine are.
    Ms Spock likes this.

    OKRADLAK Well-Known Member

    Very constant. They were not there before abuse. I do NOT understand why this happens. It is like a running commentary. At first, it was subtle. Like, a prayer, only not. You know how people pray ( I used to be a person of faith) and it's kind of ongoing?

    Well, then prayer stopped because I realized it was going to help nothing, but my brain was still wired that way. I guess that is how it started.That is a guess, but I see that others get this who were never a person of faith, so maybe it is what we wish we could say to the abuser but can't because you could get the crap kicked out of you?

    Then it got to be rude as hell, I think at first directed to God. Begging, pleading, etc.....then against me. I just took it for a long time and then started to talk back to it. Yes, it is still on almost all day. I also have conversations with people I know who are not here at the time! Am I nuts or what??!!

    No, it is not really nuts. I also do a lot more in my head and it is what happens when you have to survive.
    Ms Spock, olaja, CiaOk and 1 other person like this.
  13. Spero3

    Spero3 Active Member

    I think it must be a way of dissociating from being in the present - from the pain, fear, etc. I am sorry that you deal with this, too.
    Ms Spock, Marie E. and CiaOk like this.
  14. arcc14

    arcc14 Active Member

    Have either of you talked to your dr/therapist about your internal conversations? I'm a little afraid to mention it. I'm fairly new to treatment/therapy so I don't know what kind of things can get me labeled as completely nutty.
    Ms Spock likes this.

    OKRADLAK Well-Known Member

    Arcc----no I have not. I am also afraid that they may get some weird dx when they these were NOT THERE before my PTSD. If she is sharp she will understand and get it right.
    Ms Spock, BloomInWinter and CiaOk like this.
  16. Philippa

    Philippa I'm a VIP

    I get this, not wanting to talk

    Some kids naturally have a very active imagination, so it is hard to tell. I think we all liked to pretend we were something other than what we were. Most kids do that, though I don't think it has to do with dissociation? Maybe though?

    I used to pretend a lot of things and I was never physically or sexually abused as a child.

    I still sometime pretend to be things I'm a queen:D, and once I used to think I was a real faery, but now I'm not sure if I was dissociating, as I had been through some traumatic stuff. It's possible?

    Not sure?

    This is interesting to me. My brother, who is quite sensitive and has studied a martial art for over ten years now, says that whenever I am around him he gets this strong feeling that I am gonna attack him. He has even asked me to punch him on a train one day...which I found very weird. I have no awareness that I feel this way towards him and am not sure if he is just paranoid (as he smokes waaaaay too much weed) or whether he is actually picking up on something going on in me that I am dissociated from?

    I do have fantasies at times of beating people up, and worry that I may snap one day too.
    Marie E. and CiaOk like this.
  17. Spero3

    Spero3 Active Member


    Thanks for your response. Maybe the level and extent of fantasizing is the difference between normal play and dissociation. Maybe there is a line on which one side it's normal and the other side it's not. Food for thought. I know that I used to get so into playing "horsey" that it totally embarrassed my sisters as I didn't care who was around, I did it until I was at least 11, and one day I got so frustrated by a piece of hair in my face that I ripped the whole chunk right out of my head and kept right on running around on all fours. But, maybe I did just have a really active imagination.

    Very interesting about your brother. I think people often pick up on stuff and maybe he is feeling something from you. Do you feel tense or angry alot?

    Philippa likes this.
  18. Spero3

    Spero3 Active Member

    No, I haven't yet. I'm afraid the men in white coats will show up. But, I will be brave and do it at my next appointment (which will be next week) and will get back to you. It's probably about time I did ask. If you don't see me post after next Wednesday, you will know they carted me off. ;)

    ellokitty, Marie E. and CiaOk like this.
  19. SimplyComplex

    SimplyComplex Well-Known Member
    Premium Member

    Early on I told my T I talk to myself in my head alot...and then talked about conversations I had with myself. She said they were totally normal and has reassured me a couple times. My husband said it wasn't normal, but T says it is. So I say take the leap and bring it up.

    Oddly today my T said "its surprising you suffered such severe abuse and don't have more dissociation" and then asked me several questions about dissociation. Do I lose time? (Dude, who doesn't?) She asked me about "spacing out" and what I am thinking about. And even asked me if sometimes I am better at things then others. Oh, and if I ever feel like i am outside my body (I have memories that are outside my body but I never feel like it in the present). I felt kind of icky about the conversation and just answered "I don't know the answer to that question" which is my code for "I can't talk about this right now". Which freaks me out because there are times that I really can not talk about something because all of a sudden, I cant access the info they are asking for. Is that normal???

    She said as we peel back more not to be surprised if more comes out. Thing is, I read people talking about dissociation as distressing. The only times it has been distressing is when I have nearly crashed a couple times and that was under severe stress. If time flies by, as long as I don't forget to pick up the kids, well I am fine with that. So what if I can't remember what conversation I just had? Anyways, I guess I am figuring either I don't really do it that much overall, somewhat in normal range or it is so normal to me that I am doing it a ton. I don't know though.

    What sucks most is that I have no idea what is normal and what isn't.
  20. arcc14

    arcc14 Active Member

    I decided to start sitting down at the computer and typing out some of my more interesting internal conversations. I hate it when they get stuck on repeat. I'm going to mention it to my therapist in a couple of weeks too because I really want to know how to stop the eternal replay that happens sometimes. So much of my time and energy is wasted in internal debate. I'm cool with the amusing commentary which plays all the rest of the time though.
    Zef, Marie E. and CiaOk like this.

    OKRADLAK Well-Known Member


    Not knowing what normal is anymore.........THAT sums up a lot!!
  22. Spero3

    Spero3 Active Member

    I see my therapist tomorrow. I will ask her! Wish me luck.

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  23. Spero3

    Spero3 Active Member

    Ugh! I hate when I get stuck on repeat, too! Great idea to write the conversations out.

    Ciaran likes this.
  24. Girl like a cloud

    Girl like a cloud New Member

    I know exactly what you mean when you say you float over big empty places, lots, fields etc with no one in them. roads with no one on them. Its a video almost, the wind blows and grass moves but no one is there. Dissociation? I've done this my whole life, it's like a screensaver in my head that clicks on maybe 100 times a day. It used to be almost constant, so that while I was with people in a restaurant say, talking, in my mind I could see myself floating over my friend's wind swept back yard (which was a field) or floating over the hillside behind my jr. High (beside the parking lot). They are always pleasant places, always a sunny day and I don't see or feel my body, it's more like a remote viewing consciousness, but the feeling is peaceful.

    My consciousness can roam, but it tends to stay in approximately the same area and it "bobs" like a balloon filled with helium. I don't feel lonely, and it doesn't feel strange that there are no animals or birds or people in these "scenes". I'm always between 6 and 12 feet in the air. I have literally dozens of places I visit, but about 10 my consciousness seems to favor. I never have to travel there, I'm just there and they are not related to any event, except that the places are associated with happy times with childhood friends. It feels so awesome to be able to write this because I've only met a few people who have ever experienced anything like this.

    One is my dad. Both he and I were, of course victims of childhood abuse and sexual abuse, and so was the one other person I knew who had these experiences. I'm definitely disassociative, have bee diagnosed with D.I.D., which I have really worked though, except when I'm under a lot of stress I tend to splinter again but at least I know what's happening. Simply complex, your coping method sounds a lot like mine, even the description of fading out in church. When I'm bored (or I think it's when I'm bored) I drift out of conversations and have no idea what has been said while I was somewhere else. I have some friends who I can't seem to listen to at length and so after years of knowing them, I still barely know anything about what's going on in their lives. I feel like they MUST experiencing me staring off into space but they never say anything. Anyway, that has improved about 1000 percent since I really started working on it. Has anyone had the experience of being really funny, and then as you got more integrated or less disassociated, your sense of humor dried up? That's happened to me and it's a total bummer.
  25. SimplyComplex

    SimplyComplex Well-Known Member
    Premium Member

    Thanks cloud for sharing. I am starting to think I am having alot more dissociation then I admitted. It seems so normal. I know my husband is huge on dissociation when stressed (when ever we go visit his family, it is like traveling with a zombie) and my stepson dissociates quite a bit (he shows alot of signs of PTSD, his mom is very abusive). So it is like...oh that is all? Very much our normal.

    I have found a bit of a pattern that I wonder if anyone can relate to. I seem to dissociate then then when I come back, I have a set of strong memories (flashback) with strong emotions. Often a panic attack, but sometimes not. It happened in church yesterday (there is no where like church and the shower that can cause so many darn attacks). I dissociate, then I come to with access to a whole set of strong memories from church when I was 7. Now today, I can remember remembering them but I cant actually access the original Memory. Anyone else?

    I am going to therapy today and I might even bring up dissociation. I sent T a paragraph that talked about some of it and touched on some lack of integration of myself with my younger self (at the time being sexually abused)
  26. AzureMind

    AzureMind Well-Known Member

    In my personal experience with dissociation, the sensations I feel body may go numb, or when it gets deep enough, I just "go to sleep"; I'm not tired when I do this usually, so it's not me just being sleepy, it's me fighting consciousness....I feel like I'm either being pushed outward and projected above my body watching the experience happening to another person who is just 'there' or I feel as if, I'm being pulled "inward" to my inner world, and I see a bright white light that represents the "external world" in my minds sky. I can hear conversations or people talking to me only faintly echoing through the darkness, but usually I'm speaking to another one of these people, and they may keep me in, while they go out...alot of emotional states that I had to internalize usually cycle through me, and I can feel as if I'm dissociated, but that these words are coming out but they're not "mine" as they aren't synonymous with my current state of mind: i.e. when I'm happy, angry words may erupt out of me, and i feel like they aren't mine....I have no reason to be angry when I'm happy.

    My mind has the ability to "submerge" itself when I'm overwhelmed...most of the time i can dissociate an experience and when i go to summarize the event, I can recall virtually NOTHING abut's just a blank....I've been doing this for quite a while, I can "pigeon hole" experiences if they are overwhelming.

    It's easier to do this when dealing with my father....I live with him still, and he's so Guilt ridden over the past, that he asked me

    "was I a good father to you?" I say all the time

    "Yes, I'm sure you WERE..but I don't remember those days so well, dad"

    Everytime I try to remember something he changes the subject, or when I ask my mother she says "Nothing happened worth remembering. You had a normal childhood"

    lol it's funny.....I have a few friends who had a "normal childhood" and none of them seem to be unable to recall HALF of their 22 year old life....hmmm.....I don't think you just "don't remember" half your life, I don't care HOW normal/boring it was!! lol I've gotta laugh about it, because I'd go INSANE if I could, but I guess it's too late for that so nix the last bit!! :)

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