Dissociation from abuse - emotional numbness but increased empathy?

OakTree123

New Here
Hey everyone,

I recently realized that when I was abused I would dissociate. I had episodes where I would feel like I was in a dream even though I knew what was happening was real. I would dissociate at random times too, like if I was just walking through a grocery store. Most recently, I realized that I used to think of myself in third person. When I got older (like high school age) I knew that was abnormal, and I would try to make myself think of me in first person. Now that I've moved out, I never think of myself in third person, only first. I don't exactly know when the switch was made but it wasn't a conscious one. Has anyone else heard of this or experienced this?

Now that I'm in therapy, I feel like I have been having a new dissociative experience? It might not even be dissociation, but I'm not sure how else I would explain it. Hopefully this makes sense... I feel like I'm emotionally numb throughout the day. But it's like I know that deep down I'm having bad feelings. I'm just unable to acknowledge them or name them or dredge them up. It's like I'm ignoring my feelings and I know that but I'm still unable to access them.

What's weird is that anytime I watch TV or a movie or read a book I get really upset when something bad happens to the characters. The slightest bit of negative emotion I see someone else feeling makes me feel really sad and I cannot stop crying. (Like I seriously cried over an episode of Catfish???? ...I don't know, man.) So I haven't been watching TV or anything. Again, I don't really know if this has anything to do with dissociation. I feel like I'm unable to feel my own emotions right now but I have an abnormal amount of empathy for others. Has anyone else experienced something like this? I have never had this experience before.
 

Survivor3

MyPTSD Pro
PTSD sufferers can be quite sensitive creatures. Throughout short periods of time we can go on a rollercoaster of mindsets. From dissociation to emotional numbness to crying because we knocked over the cup of tea or watched a kids cartoon, or happy for 10 minutes because we achieved a domestic chore.

I used to feel that I saw my life in third person aswell so I can relate to that.It's just weird and can't explain it. Also, the more unwell and isolated I got as time went on, the more compassionate and empathetic I got to other people. I never used to be like that. When I was younger I was so traumatised that I would never take on other people's problems or sympathise with them. I was just too f*cked up. But now I consider myself to be quite compassionate and empathetic.
 

Friday

Moderator
What's weird is that anytime I watch TV or a movie or read a book I get really upset when something bad happens to the characters. The slightest bit of negative emotion I see someone else feeling makes me feel really sad and I cannot stop crying.
I call these Vicarious-Emotions.

The ability to feel... but in diluted format. Because it’s someone else. Not me. When my own emotions are too big for me to bear.
 

grit

MyPTSD Pro
In order to keep safe attachment with those who cared for us, when that relationship becomes confusing (or pure neglect and abuse) the empathy goes out to them so we can keep that threat of attachment at the expense of our own survival. No baby thinks they can survive alone, so like any other animal parasite they will latch on to the even the abusive carer just not to die. the only thing more sweet than attachment is survival.

I am writing this cause it has been my experience and it may or may not ring true for you. You did not lose being empathic, you just projected all of it to external source and now when you are alone watching tv (there is no attachment or relation) so your empathy pours out to the tv scenes or memories etc. During my own journey, I considered this grieving and took it my body saying, I still care but obviously the system is inverse - empathy out to others and no compassion to me....and I let it go and felt the love I had for humanity was not one I had for myself.
 

kkd

Learning
Not sure if it's empathy exactly but I am sometimes still am (and used to always be) attuned to others' negative states. Like I "catch" their stress or anger, even after they are over it. Still trying to squelch this at work. Am an ACOA and I had some other things happen in my teens, some thanks to my own idiocy blowing up in my face.

I no longer think I was ever "really good at knowing what they're thinking" so much as attempting to read their minds.

And often being wrong. I didn't really have feelings for about 10 years so what the hell would I know? The more time I get between me and my Stuff and around more normal people and situations, the more I realize that my perception/expectation of what they "must" be thinking or feeling is more often than not way the hell off base. I did not realize this until Spouse was upset about something for a few min and I was on eggshells and attempting (needlessly) to make Spouse feel better for days and Spouse got increasingly annoyed about how I couldn't move on like Spouse did.

The messed up thing is I used to think I was super perceptive and empathetic but that was largely just having the correct responses ready out of habit when someone else was Having A Moment thanks to the home situation and the way it made me hyper aware that other people can f*ck your life up if you provide an incorrect response to their issue. The fact that their issue should not be your problem to begin with is somehow also your problem.

I don't think I am empathetic but now my thing is that i am not sure I have enough of a clue what's normal or what others would think or feel but i do have a couple of people I WANT to be there for. I am also pretty sure I was my sibling's and a friend or two's traumatic incident, which i hate having done. It's for the best I did not end up teaching kids.

I do get very incensed and proactive about potential neglect or being terrible to dependent kids or other dependent people or subordinates, especially if the person in power appears to be milking the situation. But i know i have misread things sometimes, and it's not so much empathy that drives me there as getting back or making up for things.
 

Widow_of_one

MyPTSD Pro
Hey everyone,

I recently realized that when I was abused I would dissociate. I had episodes where I would feel like I was in a dream even though I knew what was happening was real. I would dissociate at random times too, like if I was just walking through a grocery store. Most recently, I realized that I used to think of myself in third person. When I got older (like high school age) I knew that was abnormal, and I would try to make myself think of me in first person. Now that I've moved out, I never think of myself in third person, only first. I don't exactly know when the switch was made but it wasn't a conscious one. Has anyone else heard of this or experienced this?

Now that I'm in therapy, I feel like I have been having a new dissociative experience? It might not even be dissociation, but I'm not sure how else I would explain it. Hopefully this makes sense... I feel like I'm emotionally numb throughout the day. But it's like I know that deep down I'm having bad feelings. I'm just unable to acknowledge them or name them or dredge them up. It's like I'm ignoring my feelings and I know that but I'm still unable to access them.

What's weird is that anytime I watch TV or a movie or read a book I get really upset when something bad happens to the characters. The slightest bit of negative emotion I see someone else feeling makes me feel really sad and I cannot stop crying. (Like I seriously cried over an episode of Catfish???? ...I don't know, man.) So I haven't been watching TV or anything. Again, I don't really know if this has anything to do with dissociation. I feel like I'm unable to feel my own emotions right now but I have an abnormal amount of empathy for others. Has anyone else experienced something like this? I have never had this experience before.
I’ve had all of this happen to me and so much more. And like you said it all seemed to happen involuntarily.
I’ve had many different stages of healing and it’s been amazing!

when I was a child I could t cry about the bad things done to me ONLy the bad things done to other children in my school.
It sounds like you are disassociating because you can’t accept the bad things the are beneath the surface. That’s ok one day you will be ready.

Btw I’ve also noticed that as I heal I am not empathetic anymore to people. My loser ex-boyfriend who is constantly in need of money has not gotten a dime from me in years! I think empathy is a “survival skill” bc of my unresolved feelings. I had to agree with my abuser bc I didn’t want to die!
 
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