What Dissociation Is

Let’s first explore what Dissociation is

In my experience dissociation is the state that I move into when I am too overwhelmed by the emotions I am feeling in a given moment.

This can happen at any time; in any moment.

What it feels like

Nothing really, other than not being fully present.  It’s that sense sometimes like you are ‘out of your body’ and no in it.

It may be a sense of loosing time, not really being aware of what has happened in the short term past.

The psychological definition from Wikipedia is

dissociation is any of a wide array of experiences from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experiences.

This ‘detachment’ from reality is an interesting thing because in the moment it is happening I am not even sometimes aware that it is happening, that I am dissociating.  It is just what is.

Why it happens


In my experience, as I mentioned earlier, it happens when I become overwhelmed by my emotional reaction, in any given moment.

I would describe it this way:

I’ve walked into a room of people having already felt tense and anxious before I arrived.

I see people talking and someone walks up to me and asks me what I do.  I instantly go into overwhelm.

“What do I say?” “I mightn’t say the right thing?” “I’ll blubber and won’t speak clearly?” “What will they think of what I say?”

My mind is saying to me that I don’t know what to say, or the right thing to say.

In this space then I am so overwhelmed by the emotion I’m feeling that I leave my body.  I’m not the one standing there in that moment.

The person talking to me won’t notice anything any different.

For me though, it’s as if I’m no longer present.  Sometimes it is as if I am watching myself.

It’s not an illness

Many people consider dissociation a mental illness.

I guess it could be called a mental process, not sure how it is an ‘illness’ though.

Life was very normal for me, living with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

I didn’t feel as though I had an ‘illness.’  An illness is where I feel sick, unwell.  That wasn’t the case with my dissociating, because a lot of the time I wasn’t even aware that I was doing it.

It was my own inner way of coping, and so it happened without me doing anything.

Working with people that dissociate

In working with people I notice that a lot of them talk about ‘dissociating.’

For some this is quite often and they too live with Multiple Personality Disorder or Dissociative Identity Disorder, which ever feels right for you.

Some just notice it happening at odd times.

When I talk through the situation with them, the reason for the dissociating is the same – a sense of overwhelm.

There is nothing wrong with dissociating

It is our bodies way of handling a situation that we think, and notice I said think, we don’t know how to manage.

Dissociating is like a natural safety valve inside our internal system.

Watch out for future articles on living with Dissociative Identity Disorder and how to integrate.

If you are interested in how I work with people with dissociation contact me for a free chat.

About Karen Cherrett

Karen has trained as a Certified Facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie and is also a Holistic Counselor. She wants to be of service to you to improve your love of life and all its experiences. Karen supports individuals, businesses and practitioners.

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