Dissociation is a common survival mechanism. It is probably most commonly known with victims of sexual assault, but it happens in all kinds of traumatic situations.
Dissociation means that a person disconnects from themselves, in a sense. They feel as if they are not present in their surroundings. Some people describe feeling as if they are looking down on their body from above. Others feel as if what is truly happening is nothing but a dream. Many others simply feel as if they are daydreaming.
Dissociation is a disconnect from one’s body so they can endure the trauma they are experiencing. It may be brief, it may last a while, or it may result in a person developing multiple personalities.
How do you know if you are dissociating or have dissociated in your life? Below are some common symptoms:
- Feeling totally numb.
- You find yourself staring into one place while thinking nothing at all.
- Feeling as if you are watching yourself, as if you are in a TV show or movie rather than real life.
- Feeling very lightheaded or dizzy.
- Feeling detached from those around you and/or your surroundings or as if things are happening far from you as if you are in a dream.
- Feel disconnected from your own body.
- Feeling as if life is happening in a fog.
- Experience blank spots in your memory,
- Feeling as if things are happening in slow motion.
Dissociation is a very common reaction to trauma. In particular, it is especially common when it comes to children who are abused. It may involve a failure to recall certain events, remembering some but not all events that happened during a specific time or complete amnesia where a person forgets their identity.
I have experienced dissociation in my life plenty of times. As an adult, I realize that there are big blank spots in my childhood which means I have plenty of repressed memories due to dissociating. Also after separating from my ex husband, for a short period of time, I would periodically forget who I was.
The good part of dissociation is it is usually quite treatable. A person can remember the parts of their life that they once forgot. In my own experience, I learned it is best not to force things, but to let them return at their own pace. That seems also to be the case for others I have spoken with who have dissociated.
Also, the more a person heals, the less they dissociate. The coping skill that once served them no longer serves them.