What does "feeling present" feel like?

internal

Sponsor
Interesting. Because I don't see this as clinical at all.
i interpret it as clinical because it's a presented in a clinical enviroment, as a clinical solution. but i also don't understand the difference between grounding one's self and being present-the way people describe them it seems to describe the same thing.

when you're playing chess? Most likely you're pretty grounded for that. Which would it a worthwhile activity
so would you say being grounded is similer to being focused? because i do get very focused on things. often hyper focused. sorry, i don't mean to sound like i am starting fights. like i said that i really do not under stand what this language is describing.

But so, being grounded is that something like, function without suffering? Is function the criteria at the end?
this is often what i've assumed it's referring to, but then i get into trouble by naming that i'm functioning well, and i'm not suffering, but i'm still not "existing properly" because i'm numed out/dissoceated and things.
 

Sideways

Moderator
similer to being focused
Similar, very. Being focused is a big part of it.

My daily grounding/mindfulness activity is washing the dishes every morning. A big part of it is my attention is all on what I'm doing (the temp of the water, the order I wash things, whether I'm getting all the crut off, etc.). My emotions are with the dishes (pretty calm - with chess, probably there are moments of stress or elation - but they are responses to what you are doing right now).

So yeah, thoughts and emotions and movement/behaviour, all directly connected to the thing you are doing in the present moment. And it can be anything: breathing, running, washing dishes, playing chess...
 

Friday

Moderator
i do get very focused on things. often hyper focused. sorry, i
That’s a different kind of disassociation. When the world falls away, and there’s only right here, right now, this moment.

It happens in life or death situations, sports, falling in love, true talent or enjoyment of virtually any endeavour… and certain disorders.

It’s one reason all the “live in the moment” nonsense irritates the hell outta me. Um… I DO have to pee sometimes. Ideally not by leaping back to awareness of things other than what I was hyper focused on, 2 seconds before bursting 15 or 36 hours after I sat down “for just a few minutes”, when the bathroom is9 seconds away, and why the hell is the fire alarm going off??? And I would reeeeally like to have my own place … which requires leasing, bills, an income stream to pay for all of those things, and supplies to clean it, and, and, and, and. When there’s no future? No past? There’s surviving, and there are passions, but there’s no real life/living… unless I’ve got a badass butler to arrange all the everything for me. (Everyone needs an alfred.).
 

ruborcoraxxx

MyPTSD Pro
It happens in life or death situations, sports, falling in love, true talent or enjoyment of virtually any endeavour… and certain disorders.
I don’t really agree. For having had "the flow" quite a lot in my work (when I’m totally into the prints or whatever I’m doing to the point I can sort of feel it more than I think of it, like, I am the print, the plate etc. It can be similar to be in love and having physical contact & response (not just being in the limerent state, it’s another something else) while I still find it’s different, and imo/ime it really hasn’t anything to do with life/death situations.

I did have the hyperfocused state because I had to pick my ex from falling from the balcony, believe me not much of my environment meant anything. There was, okay, this is happening, this is happening now and I know what I have to do: step 1, step 2, step 3. No feelings until it was done, and when it happened I was overwhelmed and it cut again. Then I realised time jumped, stopped, and I couldn’t understand why I had a plastic bag with my shoes and my stuff all around me, but I still was capable to calmly say it all to the cops, come back home and panic again and leave with the first train available. It was frankly bizarre and it felt like I was evolving in a sort of video game with an order to do each operation. I also had this when I almost died of sepsis if I didn’t manage to crawl to the hospital. I just quietly went crawling. (It was close). I knew all I had to do was that and nothing else did count. So, not really agreeable neither and I don’t remember it well apart from the moments where time stopped and then jumped. And so and on.

But it’s really nothing to do with the focus you get in a flow state. You aren’t rushing mad on adrenaline, very much the reverse, it’s your parasympathetic system that is at play and if someone interrupts you it doesn’t feel like you’re getting back from underwater like when you’re recalled from dissociation. You don’t have the weird physical superpower and the physical numbness that comes with the extreme degree of stress. You don’t entirely loose the attention from your surroundings. Actually, you’re very much attentive of the surroundings but not in a hypervigilant way. And also, for many activities, you can think as you do. And it’s sort of congruent. As Sideways points out, "the emotions are in the dishes". And, depending on the activity, you can even be talking with someone and responding adequately to what they’re saying.

Dear I miss flow states!

Now perhaps there is a fine line with dissociation, as the "flow" really is a sharp edge between being completely present and having many actions managed by skilled autopilot. But you can’t do it in total autopilot, even the dishes. If I’m in a flow I certainly will not forget that I brought my shoes with me and have a time loss. You might loose a bit the track of time but it will not have the jumps and the stops that are so typical from dissociation, and the fatigue that it causes, and the eventual headachy thing. And things do feel real, while in high stress, well, I don’t know if it was feeling real. It had a quality of "this is not happening" even if I knew "this is really happening for good, this isn’t a nightmare, shit, that’s it" and these two things happening at the same time. and more or less competing with each other which results in a cut.

And in situations that are of high stress and have a clear deadline (like, you have to mount that entire work of art for it to be ready in 8 hours and you’re late and the guy who was supposed to help you is sick), I have the same kind of dissociation, while less marked. I become very quiet and just do what has to be done. And fast. And well. But it hasn’t the pleasurable quality of the flow.

I also have the impression that dissociation mechanisms still aren’t very well understood and that finding the threshold between pathological dissociation, annoying dissociation, adaptive dissociation and flow, it’s not well explained. So @Friday I do see what you find is common in all the states you mentioned, but I really don’t think they’re equivalent, and I don’t know if they can really we placed in a spectrum—I guess it really depends on whom.

Now everyone can have a different experience of it.
 

Mee

MyPTSD Pro
Remember the times you went to the stables and the baby horse was all new? When you were there, that baby horse was your entire focus. That's being present.

Still too woo woo? Something most people in most parts of the world can relate to: walk into a public toilet at a park or train station. You'll be present in that moment almost guaranteed. The stink, the "don't touch any surfaces" panic, the sheer overwhelming grossness of it...? That's a fully present moment. Ain't no part of anything else on your mind, even if it's just fleetingly, for most people, that moment they step into a totally foul public toilet.

Ain't the most pleasant "fully present" moment to think of, but a lot of people seem to think of that example and go "yeah, I get that!"
Ok - this is useful - but where is the line between present and hyper vigilant?
 

Friday

Moderator
If I’m in a flow I certainly will not forget that I brought my shoes with me and have a time loss. You might loose a bit the track of time but it will not have the jumps and the stops that are so typical from dissociation, and the fatigue that it causes, and the eventual headachy thing
We clearly make art in very different ways.

All the things you’ve gone to pains to tell me don’t happen? I’ve experienced since I was a child, long before trauma, and I have to be very careful to set up my life with hard breaks to snap me out of the possibility of hyperfocus kicking in. Not just with art, but with anything I’m really interested in, or captivated by. Does it always happen? Nope. The same way I don’t close a restaurant down on every date, not even noticing that they’re vacuuming with the lights on; nor every run snowboarding, nor every project at work, nor every time someone’s shooting at me.


So @Friday I do see what you find is common in all the states you mentioned, but I really don’t think they’re equivalent, and I don’t know if they can really we placed in a spectrum—I guess it really depends on whom.

Now everyone can have a different experience of it.
Yep.

My point was that there’s a difference between focused, and hyper focused.

Hyperfocus has its own spectrum of normal-situational-pathological. I listed a few of those examples most people experience themselves, or are at least aware of being fairly normal parts of life.

Also that invoking hyperfocus to be more present, is simply shooting past the mark of one kind of disassociation into another.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

A) It’s often a helluva lot easier to find the middle ground, once one is very aware of where the outside edges are

B) trading a kind of disassociation that causes nothing but problems with a kind of disassociation that’s productive and useful, even if often problematic? Is not a bad trade. Definitely a major step in the right direction.
 

Freida

Sponsor
Being present - comes from a place of open curiosity
Hyper vigilance - is driven by anxiety
I like this ^^^ because it kind of shows the difference between "good" dissociation and "bad" dissociation

The hyperfocus thing is .....hard to grasp. Working in 911? You spend most of the day dissociated from the reality of the job - but you are also hyperfoused on what you are doing because making a mistake isn't an option. So I guess that's dissociation by choice? Or just something we do automatically to be able to do the job

Maybe dissociation goes "bad" when you can't voluntarily choose it or voluntarily leave it behind?

Ok, so I dissociate to deal with the choking baby call, then I come back to the present to see where I'm at and what I'm doing and get ready for the next thing. That's good use of it

I walk down the street and suddenly get triggered by something and WHAM! feelings I don't want, memories I don't want, can't handle this, poof! My magic dissociation kicks in so I don't have to. Not by choice - more automatic protection of my mind. But then how do I know when it's over? Because I feel back in the world? Like so many of you have said, I can feel the wind, hear the birds, pet the dog. So I'm back.

As long as I don't think about the memories.

Good grief talk about chasing my tail! 😁 😁
Maybe that's what T is blahblahing about -- that to NOT be dissociated I have to be able to say yes, I'm here, on my couch, with my dog and yes, my brain is overwhelmed by memories and feelings and pain. ugh. That sounds horrible.

where's my bang head emoji when I need it!?
 

barefoot

Sponsor
Working in 911? You spend most of the day dissociated from the reality of the job - but you are also hyperfoused on what you are doing because making a mistake isn't an option. So I guess that's dissociation by choice? Or just something we do automatically to be able to do the job
To throw another word into the mix, it sounds like you do a lot of compartmentalising? That it’s necessary to split off from what is happening and compartmentalise those experiences and any related feelings, in order do that you can ‘park’ all that, so that you can think rationally, focus, do what your job demands? Compartmentalising is a way to keep your rational, thinking brain online in situations where your emotional brain could get highly activated, such as a choking baby call (which then prevents us from thinking clearly. t being able to think clearly = pretty disasterous in your job, I imagine?!



Maybe dissociation goes "bad" when you can't voluntarily choose it or voluntarily leave it behind?

I don’t think of dissociation as something we have choice in. I think it’s an automatic response? Though I guess we can work on building skills to ground ourselves/become more present once we realise we have dissociated?



Maybe that's what T is blahblahing about -- that to NOT be dissociated I have to be able to say yes, I'm here, on my couch, with my dog and yes, my brain is overwhelmed by memories and feelings and pain. ugh. That sounds horrible.

I think the subtle difference is that, to be fully present/to not be dissociated, our brain is not overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed is what makes our brains automatically dissociate. So, there are memories and feelings and pain…and, yes, that can be really horrible and it may feel overwhelming…but our brain is not overwhelmed enough to the point where it has to ‘go away’, ‘split off’ etc. It is instead able to be present - and stay present for however long, which may only be a few seconds to begin with - with the memories, feelings and pain. And, yeah, it’s tough suddenly experiencing all that and not having the escape that dissociation brings. It can feel really awful. But awful though it feels, your brain can cope with it if you are present to feeling the difficult feels.

My T always says our brain will never allow anything we can’t manage…because it is designed to protect us and not allow itself to break. Hence mechanisms like dissociation, to keep us intact. So, however unpleasant and painful the memories and feelings are/feel, our brain has allowed it (rather than kicking a defence in) because we can manage. But being able to manage it doesn’t mean it’s going to feel good.
 

Freida

Sponsor
So, however unpleasant and painful the memories and feelings are/feel, our brain has allowed it (rather than kicking a defence in) because we can manage. But being able to manage it doesn’t mean it’s going to feel good.
sigh...which might explain why my intrusive thoughts have kicked up lately....
 

barefoot

Sponsor
sigh...which might explain why my intrusive thoughts have kicked up lately....
Yeah…I know when I first stopped dissociating (in sessions and in my daily life) I did find it quite destabilising. It felt like a whole flood of shit I wasn’t ready for and didn’t know what to do with. Cue intrusive thoughts, hours of rumination, sky high anxiety, increased sleep disturbance etc.

It certainly wasn’t fun or easy.

If it helps at all, I did move through that lairy stage…
 

Mee

MyPTSD Pro
I wonder if it’s something around what’s driving things/what place it’s coming from.
Eg:
Being present - comes from a place of open curiosity
Hyper vigilance - is driven by anxiety

??

Maybe!
Mmm- this makes sense. And personally puts other things into place a little - e.g - during an errant youth I had atypical reactions to substances- not bad ones just atypical- I relaxed. I think that might be one of the few times in my life I have truly been relaxed
 
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