Julie Miller's Mental Health Blog

Dissociation #2

Posted on: March 10, 2010

Most people experience some form of dissociation at one time or another.  Dissociation is on a continuum, and at the bottom end of that continuum, most people have the experience, once in a while, of driving a car and suddenly realizing that you don’t remember what happened during part of the trip.  Occasionally, you are listening to someone talk and suddenly realize that you did not hear part or all of what was said.  “I’m sorry – could you please repeat that?  I got distracted….”

Day dreaming (for brief periods on occasion) or taking that “mini mental vacation” is actually an important part of how our central nervous system takes care of us.  Maybe you come home after work and just “veg-out” by doing something mindless, watching TV, or even just staring at the garden.  No problem.

The difficulty with dissocation comes in when it interferes in your life.  Maybe you can’t stay present in a group because someone talked about some experience you had, and it sent you off into “space,”  just being  “blank.”

You might find yourself in a place and have no idea how you got there.  You may find yourself dressed in clothing that you don’t remember putting on.  You may be approached by people that you do not know who calls you by another name or insists you have met them before.

You may have no memory for some important events (like a wedding or graduation).  You may look in the mirror and not recognize yourself.

You may remember a past event so vividly that you feel as if you are reliving the event. While watching television or a movie you may become so absorbed in the story that you are unaware of other events happening around you.

You may feel as if you are looking at the world or yourself through a fog so that things appear far away or unclear, including yourself or the sense that you exist.

You can see how these experiences might interfere with life.  The more often they occur, the more impact they have on your life, your family, your friends, your work, yourself, etc.

As with many issues, awareness is the first step.  Recovery is possible, uncomfortable and even painful, but possible.  Working with a good therapist who has experience working with dissociation can help provide support, guidance, and practice in awareness and alternative coping skills.

Next time, I’ll address why dissociation can become a part of one’s life.

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