“Another definition, presented by Steinberg and Schnall (2001), defines dissociation as “an adaptive defense in response to high stress or trauma characterized by memory loss and a sense of disconnection from oneself or one’s surroundings.”Pollock, B. L. A. (2015, April 29). The Brain in Defense Mode: How Dissociation Helps Us Survive. Retrieved August 6, 2020, from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/the-brain-in-defense-mode-how-dissociation-helps-us-survive-0429155
Disassociation for me feels and looks like the following…
It’s a haze. I hear the person speaking to me. I can hear them say the words but I’m not quite sure what the words are or what they are trying to tell me. My chest is tight. My heart is beating fast. I feel all the blood rushing to my face. My face feels hot; I’m sure it’s red.
I’m thinking, “Try and focus on a word that they’re saying. You’re going to have to respond soon. Make sure you know what they’re talking about so you can respond appropriately.”
The room is a blur. However, I know where I am. I try and focus on the person talking to me. Oh no, they’re quiet. I think it’s my turn to say something…“I’m sorry, what was the last thing you said?”
One of the first times I was aware that this happened was with my boyfriend. I can’t remember what we were talking about but the above description occurred…except, I responded differently. I didn’t ask him what was it that he said last. I responded to “what he said”. At least, that’s what I thought I did. He said, “What are you talking about? That has nothing to do with what I just said or what we are talking about.”
Of course, I brought it up in therapy, once it was brought to my attention. I learned what disassociation was and how it looked for ME. Like everything else in life and with mental health, everything looks different for every individual. I was able to figure out what triggers this for me. I learned how it’s a defense mechanism my brain has learned to do. It’s as if it’s instinctual at times. I’m not quite there where I can “control” it and stop it from happening. See, I learned that since I was a young child my brain has been protecting me. I appreciate my brain learning to “tune out” what is happening or what is being said whenever it “perceives a threat“. I think it’s amazing what the brain is capable of doing and what it does on a daily to make sure we are alright.
Currently I am working on teaching my brain what is an “actual threat” versus what it believes to be a threat. Sometimes my brain is correct but there are plenty of times where it perceives a threat that is not valid. I am getting better at actually using my strategies from therapy and techniques to try and minimize the amount of disassociation. I’ll be sharing a few of those techniques in upcoming posts this week. 🙂