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Dissociation preventing progress in therapy


New Here
Hi All,

Really at a frustrating point in my healing journey and have no idea of how to move forward.

I have anxiety/depression/derealisation with a background of childhood trauma. Over the last 7 years Tried CBT, ACT, NARM, Somatic experiencing, EMDR, Brainspotting, neurofeedback, internal family systems, ego state work, meditation, craniosacral therapy, energy healing, inner child work.

Ill give some examples of some difficulties
somatic experiecing - unable to fully feel into sensations/feelings due to dissociation/numbing
internal family systems - reaching a point to where a part states feeling/seeing the trauma would be too overwhelming. Unable to get a part to accept, im currently safe, no immediate danger around me etc etc. Unable to change parts that see safety in 'containing' the traumas rather than processing.
energy healing/CST/innerchildwork/EMDR - have some sessions where I feel some relief of symptoms during the session then experience worsening severe derealisation that can occur for a week before going back to how it was before the session.

I guess this is all pointing towards a highly dysregulated nervous system, but having gone through most of options for treating trauma, I really do need some advice on what to do next :(
One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given?

It’s going to get worse, before it gets better.

Annoying as f*ck, right?

Except? Regular therapy? You’ll feel better IN session. And? AFTER session. That’s not how trauma therapy works. You’re gonna tucking HURT. Every symptom you currently have? Is gonna get worse. Not better.

Because trauma therapy isn’t like regular therapy.

Regular therapy is like going to the doctor when you’re sick or injured, and getting meds/advice/treatment where you start feeling better. Immediately.

Trauma Therapy is like Reconstructive Surgery & Physical Therapy. You walk in, but end up in bed for the next 6 weeks, then in a weelchair, then on crutches, then with a cane, then gimping like you were when you first got there… and only waaaaaay later are you walking/running free and easy. After months/years worth of work.

If your knee jerk is disassociation? That’s your go to coping mechanism / symptom smackdown? Oh yah. That? Will get WAY worse. Ditto suicidal tendencies, self harm, flashbacks, panic attacks, and all the rest. WAY WAY worse.

Before you see any improvement whatsoever.

So find a seeeeeriously skilled trauma therapist, who can both get you through that process & normalise it & …stop… if your life starts getting too f*cked up. So you have time to stabilize. And then get worse, again.

IME that either requires trust or desperation.

-Trust means ya ain’t gonna be doing anything important, any time soon.
- Desperation means ya ain’t gonna be doing anything important, any time soon.

Because? Trust takes time to build. And desperation means you need to stabilize, first.

It’s a shitty answer, I know.

You want some immediate results? StressCup & other healthy coping & management skills will be both immediately, & long term useful/effective. You want REAL change, though? You’re looking at time. And that time sucking. Hard. Where everything in your life gets worse.

Single source PTSD (a rape, a car accident, etc.) can often be sorted in a matter of weeks/months. Long term and complex trauma? Takes a minute.
Fair enough, I get your analogies. I just really thought after a solid 7 years of doing this stuff, I would have seen some improvement. I guess I gotta keep on going with therapy
It’s finding that elusive ‘window of tolerance’ I think that helps. Can you map your feelings and thoughts before it gets to the disassociation to help with then working on the disassociation?
do parts of you that say containing rather than processing, and the part of you that is adult you today communicate?
maybe they need to build trust that adult you has got this?
Like movingforward10 said, finding that window if tolerance helps. That is something that your therapist is there to help with.
I've done exposure work with a therapist specialising in sexual trauma and it did help me stabilise and get on with life but much of my trauma remained in different parts of my mind because when something was overwhelming I dissociated and checked out of the process too much.
I'm now working with a therapist that doesn't work specifically with trauma. This is working for me because they and I recognise when I'm becoming overwhelmed and checking out and we pull back a bit from the traumatic memory and go back to it another time. It's a slow process and sometimes it frustrates me when I've tried to get something traumatic out and then pulled back. But gradually I'm finding acceptance that I can think of trauma without checking out immediately.
In my experience, some therapists focus so much on trauma that they don't know when to pull back.
hello troop dogg. welcome to the forum. sorry for what brings you here, but glad you are here.

dissociation is one of my more prominent psycho snot knots. i can detach to the point of dissociation quicker than a soldier can dissociate from the human they are killing in combat. for me, dissociation is such a natural reflex that, after decades of recovery, i still have to make a conscious effort to even be aware i have dissociated. i still need my mindfulness exercises to stay fully present in the here and now.
I just really thought after a solid 7 years of doing this stuff, I would have seen some improvement.
healing seldom runs a straight line. nor does self-improvement. at 69 years old, i still find myself lost in the kindergarten joys of being stuffed in a trash can by older children who, "...knew what to do with white trash." on those days i ***feel*** like i have seen no improvement, whatsoever. then the episode passes and i can see ***facts*** that say otherwise. separating my feelings from my facts is one of my more effective mindfulness tools.

but that is me and every case is unique. steadying support while you find what works for you.
It's the things I wish I could go back and tell myself in the beginning that would have helped so much.
First off....the Stress Cup thing. Learn it. Not read it, learn it.
Because when you learn it - you start to learn to feel where that stress that is taking you to dissociation is coming from.
When you know where its coming from you can deal with where its coming from - and that's a start to dealing with your trauma.

Because in the end - there is no magic pill, or magic therapy, the only way to get better is to deal with your stuff, no matter how much it hurts when you do. Because until you do - its like a splinter in your finger - it just festers and gets worse until you get it out.