What is dissociation?

Charbella

MyPTSD Pro
I don’t know why this is suddenly bugging me but it is so I thought I’d ask. As a kid when things were happening with CSA I could disconnect from my body. Generally I did that by attempting to become whatever I was staring at like a tree or whatever. I was still aware of sounds but I didn’t feel anything and the sounds did seem further away. I can still do it but it requires way more thought. My T said this isn’t dissociation because dissociation is not a voluntary process.

In EMDR my T asked me about my vantage point when I’m going into the memory and I told him sometimes it’s happening to me and sometimes I’m watching it happen. This is not a choice it just is. Later he said that I must’ve dissociated and that’s why the multiple ways of seeing it.

I guess I can’t say both didn’t happen as I am not 100% sure. But I know that during most of the memories I have I did chose to become the dot, I also know that when recalling these memories there are times when my vantage point changes.

So those with experience with dissociation. What do you think?
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
I was in my 40s, and in therapy, before I realised how much I disassociated in my life. And still figuring it out.
So I can only talk about disassociation from what I now know. When I read about it , (as I research a bit and try and find things out), a lot of the descriptions don't necessarily feel like I relate to. I feel more relation to it when it's discussed on this forum. But maybe that's me and my brain.

In EMDR my T asked me about my vantage point when I’m going into the memory and I told him sometimes it’s happening to me and sometimes I’m watching it happen. This is not a choice it just is. Later he said that I must’ve dissociated and that’s why the multiple ways of seeing it.
Yeah, I have this: some memories I see it from the view point I would have had at the time,but mainly it is from a bird's eye view. And one event, I can't even see it, it's like that event is shattered into a billion tiny pieces and all that is left is a 'knowing' rather than any coherent visual or image at all. Given that I locked all these away for years, and some decades, it was my brain doing something like disassociation?

I then also have this thing where I don't know if feelings or a memory is real or not. I've learnt that if it doesn't feel real, it means most likely it is real. I think that is disassociation at the time. Putting my feelings and experiences away and replacing them with something else. Idk. Still working this out. Either way, now adays it's confusing at times to know if a feeling is real or what it is. But this is usually when things are overwhelming and I suppose my learned behaviour is to switch off, but I'm learning skills to feel. So it's that transitional phase.

I also think I have disassociated with particular activities throughout my life. Mainly sex and also stressful situations. Just get on an do it. Robot. I now realise that is disassociation?
One time I had an out of body experience, I was floating above myself watching myself in the moment. That was in relation to a work thing, nothing traumatic, just me presenting at a prestigious conference and something I had never done before.

So I think, from my experience, there are different levels and types of disassociation. For me it doesn't feel like one thing.
 

Lilac98

Policy Enforcement
I thought dissociation is mainly involuntarily but focusing on something and then not being able to feel your body is dissociation. Is forgetting a memory of abuse for years even if you didn't dissociate at the time, a form of dissociation?

I've tried emdr on myself and when I thought of things I thought of them like video and images completely separate to me cause that's how they came back. With a flashback I had it was like it was being projected near my bed, I could still see my room but part of my bed I couldn't see cause the video of me being held down was in the way. Though the weird thing about that was that when I turned away from it I couldn't really see the video anymore, I just heard and felt things. My counsellor at the time said maybe I was watching it cause I took myself out of it cause it was too difficult. I think that's dissociation.
 

Mee

MyPTSD Pro
The other thing I would say about disassociation is even when it isn’t voluntary sometimes we deliberately put ourselves in the position where we almost certainly will disassociate. For me it’s audiobooks. For some it’s mindlessly sort of watching tv. Or gaming . I give my self space through out the day now during which I either relax and rest , or I don’t fight if I disassociate. I consider them my ‘sort of sanity stabilising sessions’ - I don’t meditate to disassociate but I certainly have conditions in which I know it’s likely I will. and if I do it’s because it’s what I have needed to navigate the day.
 

Charbella

MyPTSD Pro
Thanks everyone. I do think if I brought it up with my T since he’s known me he’s probably have a different theory on it. It’s hard to deny something you watch happen.

Textbook definition he’s right but psychology changes and the textbooks don’t always change with it like the DSM 5 not including CPTSD despite experts in the field of trauma believing it should’ve.
 

KayW

Learning
It could be that it's more relevant to find out why it's bugging you rather than answer the question of what is or isn't dissociation.
 

Charbella

MyPTSD Pro
It could be that it's more relevant to find out why it's bugging you rather than answer the question of what is or isn't dissociation.
I think it’s relevant to me because previously I was told it was disassociating. 20 years ago my T at the time wanted me to control it better and stop using it to escape. To be fair I spent a lot of sessions not uttering a word. I also spent a lot of time rocking in the stairwell. I also went to school full time and worked full time, at times my breaks I fell apart for those 15-60 minutes before going back as if nothing was wrong. I was a mess and yet if you asked anyone I was fine. So I wondered what people who’d actually experienced it thought. Maybe finding redemption from those who have it because textbook definition was not getting me there.

When something is bothering me I tend to do research, try to find evidence for or against the issue. I wasn’t finding solace in the research so I sought it out here.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
I think the understanding of disassociation has vastly changed and improved the last 20 years. So some of what your T said then may not be the main thinking now?

But totally agree with you about not finding resolution in textbooks about this. Same here.

One book I found really helpful, if a bit intense and scary at times but I related a lot was "healing the fragmented selves of trauma survivors" by Janine fischer (I think that's the spelling). It talks about disassociation and all sorts of things in there. Parts of us etc.
 

KayW

Learning
20 years ago my T at the time wanted me to control it better and stop using it to escape
I think there's a lot of therapists out there that don't understand responses to trauma. The person that said this to you didn't understand it for sure. From what I understand, when we've experienced dissociation during trauma, it is likely to happen when reminded of the trauma. It's the therapists job to help us, not to tell us to stop doing it as this therapist did.
My reason for asking about why it was bugging you, is because I wondered if it was your current therapists lack of understanding that caused this. My feeling was that your therapist should acknowledge your response as how you got through that situation instead of telling you it's not dissociation.
at times my breaks I fell apart for those 15-60 minutes before going back as if nothing was wrong. I was a mess and yet if you asked anyone I was fine. So I wondered what people who’d actually experienced it thought.
I think the best searches I've found on this are compartmentalization and articles on self structure. Some refer to it as a form of dissociation and some don't.
 

Charbella

MyPTSD Pro
KayW, yes there are a lot who don’t understand, also 20 years ago a lot of the research wasn’t as easily accessible. 20 years ago I reported to the police the CSA which meant recalling it not in therapy, it broke me and the downward spiral was quick. My T at the time was in over his head and attempted to refer me out.

My current T said that probably a year ago and I don’t think he’d still say it. I’m not sure it bugs me so much as I wanted to know others experiences.

Movingforward10 thanks for the book recommendation, it’s also nice to hear I’m not the only one that found the research unhelpful.
 
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