dissociation as a defense mechanism

I think I now know why i dissociate.

A hazy flashback of a scene with my mom from when I was a child came to mind today while in my parents house. She started yelling and hitting me, and i knew that as long as I was still me - this living, breathing organism with its own opinions, thoughts, and desires - I might continue to trigger her. And I knew that nothing I could say would stop her from hitting and yelling at me, on the contrary - my attempts at defending myself increased the intensity and longevity of the hitting and verbal abuse. So I intuitively did something that would make the yelling stop - I checked out. I stopped moving, breathing, I made sure there was no hint of a living soul in my eyes. I think i felt that’s what she wanted. She seemed to be beating the ‘will’ out of me because the more I writhed and screamed and protested, the harder she hit. But when I dissociated; played dead; gave in - she would stop.

So now, several years later, as an adult, when I enter into my parents house, I still check out. This time, it’s in a form of hiding. I deaden who I really am to put on the mask of who I know they want me to be: a smiley, happy-go-lucky girl with no complicated emotions, sensitivities, or trauma.
 

TruthSeeker

MyPTSD Pro
I think I now know why i dissociate.

A hazy flashback of a scene with my mom from when I was a child came to mind today while in my parents house. She started yelling and hitting me, and i knew that as long as I was still me - this living, breathing organism with its own opinions, thoughts, and desires - I might continue to trigger her. And I knew that nothing I could say would stop her from hitting and yelling at me, on the contrary - my attempts at defending myself increased the intensity and longevity of the hitting and verbal abuse. So I intuitively did something that would make the yelling stop - I checked out. I stopped moving, breathing, I made sure there was no hint of a living soul in my eyes. I think i felt that’s what she wanted. She seemed to be beating the ‘will’ out of me because the more I writhed and screamed and protested, the harder she hit. But when I dissociated; played dead; gave in - she would stop.

So now, several years later, as an adult, when I enter into my parents house, I still check out. This time, it’s in a form of hiding. I deaden who I really am to put on the mask of who I know they want me to be: a smiley, happy-go-lucky girl with no complicated emotions, sensitivities, or trauma.

I have to ask......your description "a smily, happy-go-lucky girl with no complicated emotions.....is that also who you want to be? That sounds purely delightful to me! ?
 
I have to ask......your description "a smily, happy-go-lucky girl with no complicated emotions.....is that also who you want to be? That sounds purely delightful to me! ?

No. That person doesnt exist in real life but only in movies, TV shows and cartoons. I want to be me in all my fullness : happy as well as unhappy feelings. I want to feel the full range of what it means to be human. A real human.
 

grit

Not Active
I think both are you but just not at the same time understandably. To be human is to feel all those at any given time when it is called for and be aware of your own integration to call up which part is needed at any given time. I am in awe your description of how you feel when you visit your parents to put back the mask - this sounds like years of therapy and recovery. Kudos and wishing you even more concrete finding of your hidden parts.
 

lil_fighter

Confident
Sounds like your survival instinct kicking in and you do what you need to do when you visit your parents. If you feel it works for you and helps you to get through your visits then fair enough, maybe it acts as boundary between you and them to keep yourself safe emotionally. I do agree with what grit said about perhaps both parts - the happy go lucky and the person who feels unhappy sometimes both being you. You can learn to accept all parts of yourself and it sounds like you’ve identified how dissociation is part of your coping mechanism and can serve you well as a protective factor.
 

Survivor3

MyPTSD Pro
Hi @Luluofthevalley, I think dissociation is definately part of the defence mechanism. It protects us against the impending danger and the fear in our emotions. I used to be in dissociative states all the time and I didn't understand it and didn't know I had ptsd. I've seen alot of violence and abuse in my life. I've nearly died on multiple occassions.
 
I think I now know why i dissociate.

A hazy flashback of a scene with my mom from when I was a child came to mind today while in my parents house. She started yelling and hitting me, and i knew that as long as I was still me - this living, breathing organism with its own opinions, thoughts, and desires - I might continue to trigger her. And I knew that nothing I could say would stop her from hitting and yelling at me, on the contrary - my attempts at defending myself increased the intensity and longevity of the hitting and verbal abuse. So I intuitively did something that would make the yelling stop - I checked out. I stopped moving, breathing, I made sure there was no hint of a living soul in my eyes. I think i felt that’s what she wanted. She seemed to be beating the ‘will’ out of me because the more I writhed and screamed and protested, the harder she hit. But when I dissociated; played dead; gave in - she would stop.

So now, several years later, as an adult, when I enter into my parents house, I still check out. This time, it’s in a form of hiding. I deaden who I really am to put on the mask of who I know they want me to be: a smiley, happy-go-lucky girl with no complicated emotions, sensitivities, or trauma.
Throughout the course of our lives, the relationship with our parents can vary in many ways.
Admittedly. The events of the past which involved your mother will have affected you emotionally and that will have cut very deep in your life. Now you are an adult finding yourself having to 'check-out' in order to give an impression of peace, harmony and family happiness.
In a way, you are helping your parents to forget their past indiscretions - such as your mother's beating - by putting on that 'smiley, happy-go-lucky' girl with no signs of complex emotion or trauma.
It's a difficult dilemma. Your parents want to see you wearing that psychological 'mask' to keep up those appearances.
Sadly. You can't do this for ever.
You have been affected by the past behaviour of your mother and whatever went on that day has been engraved onto your mind.
There are the problems you are now experiencing as an adult - from reading your other recent post.
It seems that every time you interact with your mother, your confidence in what you do and who you are quickly diminishes. There is not only the past history of how you've been treated by your mother, but also the present way she treats you.
For a start, you can make your own life changes. The psychological effects of your mother's treatment has now come to light. You'll need to take steps to lift yourself out of this situation and gain the self-confidence to live your own life.
You are likely to have many memories - either clear, vague or buried - concerning the way your mother treated you in the past. The way to explore these memories, experiences and emotions could be to engage with a counsellor and undergo some therapy.
Talking and exploring these past experiences may help you to see more clearly the past memories and slowly work your way through them. This may help you to reflect upon your past memories with a more calmer approach and be able to take more control of your psychological (and physical) experiences - which lead you to 'check-out'.
At the same time, you'll benefit from the counselling because there will be the opportunity to develop your skills with regard to personal self-assertiveness. This will go on to help you interact with your mother in a more positive, productive way.
Therefore. It will help you to deal with her in a more confident manner that enables you to feel more positive about yourself.
There's also the complex and delicate issue of understanding a little about why your mother has been - and still is - behaving the way she does towards you.
Although it is now commonly acknowledged (yet rarely admitted), many parents want to 'live out their own dreams' via the performance of their children. Through their children, they hope to gain further admiration - which in turn will boost their own popularity and their self-esteem.
In all fairness, parents do want what is best for their children and it is only natural for them to want their children to live those lofty ambitions. Many children do this....Which is great for the parents.
However. For some parents, their own life experiences can lead to a low self-esteem and a feeling of under-achievement within themselves. This can then be transferred upon their children through constant beratement - in turn leading to the destruction of the child's own confidence.
Being empowered by a talented child is great....However. The fear of being overshadowed can create resentment.
Maybe your mother feels this could happen. Maybe your mother is frightened of being overshadowed.
Going back to your own personal development, it's trying to find a way to be a little more confident in yourself and what you do.
You can learn via counselling that you don't need to be the 'wreck' after your interaction with Mother. You can learn to still feel your true self and accept that your mother's situation need not be your problem. Being able to handle your mother's behaviour doesn't mean that you need to own - and be entrenched with it.
 
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