Dissociation is a normal everyday phenomenon. We dissociate many times during the course of a day whenever we daydream, find our mind wandering or tune out to what is going on in our environment.
Dissociation is also an adaptive function of the human psyche that allows us to cope with pain or trauma. We dissociate by checking out or disconnecting from our body in response to traumatic experiences that overwhelm us. This innate function of our mind helps us to survive traumatic experiences.
Dissociative phenomena exist along a continuum and only becomes pathological when it exceeds certain limits of intensity and frequency or occurs in inappropriate contexts. This continuum ranges from normal everyday experiences such as daydreams to the more severe forms such as divided identity disorder formerly know as multiple personality disorder.
Traumatic experiences can be very disruptive to the psyche. In many instances these events exceed the threshold of our mindís capacity to cope. The generative healing functions within our mind are compromised. And the normal integrative functions of the body and mind fail to operate. We may not have the capacity to process these experiences or our subsequent internal responses. Many of us never fully emerge from the state of shock induced by these traumas.
Chronic dissociation is fairly prevalent within a large percentage of our society. Clinical literature describes a certain range of dissociative phenomena. Some of the more commonly known dissociative disorders are psychogenic amnesia, psychogenic fugues, depersonalization and divided identity disorder.
Psychogenic amnesia usually occurs immediately after a traumatic event such as an automobile accident. The symptoms associated with psychogenic amnesia will usually only lasts for a few hours or days. It is characterized by a sudden inability to recall important information such as oneís name, age, marital status or occupation. Psychogenic amnesia may also be accompanied by other symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and feelings of depersonalization.
Individuals who experience psychogenic fugues have been known to travel great distances and assume new identities. They are often unaware of any memory loss and have no recollection of their primary identity.
Divided identity disorder is usually develops in response to severe trauma in early childhood that occurs over extended periods of time. Severe traumatic experiences that occur in the early stages of childhood can disrupt the normal integrative functions of the mind. The memories and emotions associated with these experiences often become encapsulated within the mind. The extreme nature of these traumas can have a splitting affect upon our consciousness. That may then contribute to the development of a number of distinct personalities.
People who have experienced the horrors of combat, childhood sexual trauma and even automobile accidents often describe experiences of depersonalization. They may feel a sense of deadness, detachment or that they are somehow outside of their body observing whatís happening. It can sometimes feel as if they are living in a dream. Their recollections of these events may also have a dreamlike quality about them. These experiences may also be accompanied by symptoms of dizziness and fainting.
The physical trauma resulting from automobile accidents or surgery compromises the body-mindís own generative healing powers. That often leaves a person feeling spacey or out of focus.
Children often dissociate when they become frightened and overwhelmed by the verbal and physical violence that takes place in the home. The pain associated with neglect or feelings of alienation may also cause them to detach from themselves and their surroundings. Sometimes children have no outer source of nurturance, so they often retreat into their inner world of fantasies and daydreams. Many children who grow up under these circumstances do not feel the sense of comfort and belonging that encourages them to be present and feel comfortable within their bodies. A pattern of being disconnected from their body and environment is established and many of these individuals never become truly present within their body.
Some children grow up in homes where there is no healthy expression of emotion. The parents are either incapable of, or chose not to reflect back the childís own feelings and emotions. After some time they may not even register any awareness of feelings. That will cause them to become disconnected from their feelings and physical body. Many of these individuals never learn to be comfortable with their own feelings and often prefer to live in their heads.
People who suffer from dissociative disorders were often abused by their parents or other close family members. Children often dissociate in response to the abusive behaviors enacted by a loved one. This may help them to maintain the illusion that they are loved and cared for. The abused child is more likely to think that they are wrong or at fault rather than the parent.
These patterns of dissociation carry over into adult relationships. Thatís why many people attract relationships that reflect the abusive dynamics of their childhood. They often do not acknowledge or even register the abuses that are taking place in their relationships, because they are not connected to the reality of whatís happening.
The subtle bodies consisting of the aura and chakras reflect what is happening within the brain and the rest of the body. The chakras in people with dissociative disorders are usually very underdeveloped, which is indicative of the fact that parts of the mind never mature and that they do not have much of a foundation.
The subtle bodies often appear to be very fractured in individuals with histories of trauma. The fragmented quality is an indication of severe disruption and a lack of integration within the psyche. Many of these individuals find it difficult to contain their emotions. As a result they may feel overwhelmed by the memories and emotions associated with past traumas.
Many dissociated people feel that they are outside of their bodies and that they are not connected to themselves. They often have a tremendous resistance to being in their body. And some absolutely hate the experience of being in a body and having to live in this physical world. Being in the body puts them in touch with all the horrible feelings and memories associated with the traumas. So they do what ever they can to stay out of the body.
The bodies of people with dissociative disorders are often under developed. They are prone to specific types of illness. Many suffer from adrenal burnout, auto immune disorders and experience digestive problems. They are also more likely to have problems with chemical sensitivity.
Many faculties within the body and mind never fully develop or mature in people with dissociative disorders. They can be very fragile and overly sensitive. They are often very empathic, which makes them highly sensitive to the emotions of others. Some are so tuned into others that they tune themselves out. That sensitivity also lends to their being very intuitive. And some also have incredibly developed psychic abilities.
People with dissociative disorders are more likely to succeed in professions where they can operate from their intellect. But they are usually not the most highly functioning people. They often fail to mature in the ways that enable them to cope with the stress and frustrations of life. And as a result they may lack the stability that would enable them to be consistent with any endeavor.
Many of these individuals experience a sense of vulnerability. The realities of this physical world can feel rather harsh. Some perceive the world as cruel and unforgiving. They feel a sense of victimization which may be accompanied by a deep underlying rage.
People with dissociative disorders often lack the rooted presence and power to actualize themselves and make things happen in the world. And many struggle in life and find themselves stuck in menial and dead end jobs.
People with dissociative disorders can be very floaty or have a spaced out quality about them. Thatís because many of them are not fully here in their bodies. They often gravitate to various forms of Eastern and New Age spirituality. Some attempt to meditate their problems away. But some of these spiritual practices exacerbate the problem by causing the individual to become even more disconnected from their body and the physical reality. That can do more damage in the long run by further destabilizing an individual.
Often people with dissociative disorders are clearly aware of their situation and discomfort and will seek out healing through attempting various modalities. However, dealing with fearful memories and locked up emotions can be very tricky and often terrifying and requires great fortitude and determination.
The terrifying nature of traumatic memories and emotions can make it very difficult for some people with dissociative disorders to stay present. Powerful automatic fear responses kick in any time they get close to the real issues. And some spend much of their lives running and avoiding. The tendency to avoid powerful traumatic emotions also causes one to become disconnected. That creates a certain amount of confusion and disorientation which often impairs oneís judgment and decision making capabilities. Thatís why it takes a very determined conscious effort to override these ingrained fear responses. But those who do stick with the process find that they get to a much better place.
Itís important to realize that the pain and trauma will never just go away. It continues to live on the inside. And that leaves a person very damaged. There is no escape. The only way out is to go through the middle of it all.
The memories and emotions associated with past traumatic experiences have to be digested. Many of these memories and emotions can feel really horrible and it can become really frightening at times. All of us at one time or another dissociate to varying degrees in response to situations and realities that we find threatening. We may experience a sense of confusion, go away, space out or even faint as threatening situations arise.
People with dissociative disorders learned to check out any time they felt threatened. And there was a time when this adaptive strategy was appropriate because it helped them to survive the trauma. Many of these individuals continue to dissociate even after the coping mechanism has outlived its usefulness.
It helps to set the intention to be present as you breathe into the feelings of fear, confusion or lightheadedness. This practice simultaneously teaches you to be present in your body and surroundings and to digest the feeling of overwhelm
Focus your attention inward and notice where the feelings and memories are located in your body. Breathing gently and deeply into the memories and emotions will help them to soften and digest.
The intensity of the feelings and memories can leave one feeing overwhelmed at times. Breathing into the feelings as you walk at a gradual pace helps to make them more manageable. This walking meditation has a stabilizing influence and will help you to become more grounded by connecting you with the Earth.
Itís normal to fear that you will lose control and some times you will wonder if youíre getting anywhere. You may often wonder if youíre making any progress at all, but you will grow stronger day by day and find that it becomes easier to contain and digest the memories and emotions.
Physical contact can be threatening for some. But for many, therapeutic massage and other forms of body work can create a nurturing experience associated with the physical body. The comfort of human touch can create a sense of safety and well being that will help us to reconnect to our bodies.
I see many people with dissociative disorders in my healing practice. It can take a tremendous amount of work to construct a new foundation that provides stability and makes it easier to contain oneís memories and emotions. The memories and emotions are then diffused and digested. The soul is drawn into the body which causes the individual to become more present. I can observe these changes taking place in stages as I look into the aura and chakras. Iím also listening for feedback and looking for any corresponding changes that are taking place in their lives.
The progress can sometimes be slow. But itís one of the most fulfilling aspects of my work to watch these individuals mature, become more present in their bodies and lives and develop new resources and capabilities that enable them to become more highly functional. The transformation that takes place over time is truly amazing.
©Copyright 2007 Ben Oofana. All Rights Reserved.This content may be copied in full, with copyright, contact, creation and information intact, without specific permission, when used only in a not-for-profit format.
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