Dissociation and Trauma
Some people find that it is difficult to connect to certain events in their life or their feelings. Dissociation is an experience where people feel disconnected from their sensory experiences but also their sense of where they are, who they are, sense of self or what they are doing.
Most people can have brief moments of dissociation such as forgetting where they put their keys. However some people develop dissociative episodes in relation to past traumatic events. The dissociation became a coping strategy and once allowed them to shut down and keep a distance from the distress of the event. However after some time the dissociation can last long periods, become highly unpleasant and be problematic to a person whose experienced trauma. This is especially upsetting when there is no longer a real threat present making it uncertain as to when another dissociative episode may occur. Dissociation in response to trauma can be extremely upsetting and interfere with daily functioning and ability to be in a relationships with self and others. It can also make getting help in the form of “talk therapies” more difficult. This is when it is helpful to seek help from someone who understands dissociation and works with it within their practice. Strategies to help stop or resist dissociation can then be taught and practiced. This will allow the person to start staying in the present moment more and eventually process the underlying traumatic events. Some strategies to minimise and stop dissociative episodes include
- Use your Five Senses. Name 5 things you see, 4 things you feel, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell and 1 thing you taste. This can be done anywhere.
- Mindfulness walk. Notice how your body feels with each step, take your time paying close attention to physical sensations throughout your body.
- Slow breathing. Close your eyes and breathe in and out, slowly counting up and down from 10. This will help you to relax and aids clearer processing of thoughts and emotions.
- Write in a daily journal. Recall your day in detail. Make a point of noticing any dissociations that may have occurred and try to recall any thoughts or emotions before, during, or after it.
- Restorative yoga
- Find alternative safe ways to check out such as the TV
- Soothing techniques
- Be kind to yourself
- Grounding exercises
The goal is not to clear people’s mind but rather for them to be more aware (in a non judgemental way) of their thoughts and feelings and avoid getting lost in them.