Friday, 20 February 2015

Dissociation as a response to trauma

Whether one has suffered the trauma of abuse or the more cumulative low key trauma of rejection or poor parental attachment, dissociation is often the result. If the dissociation is very severe it may interfere with the person being able to inhabit their body and 'depersonalistion' is the term used. Whatever the diagnosis (and there are many in the latest psychiatrists' diagnostic manual the DSM-V), I aim to look at it as a survival technique rather than an illness. In therapy I am keen to help clients understand it as a clever way that the mind has devised of keeping them safe. This approach rather than being locked into inhabiting your diagnosis (I am dissociated, I have dissociative identity disorder DID) has the benefit of empowering the person rather than allowing them the sink into passivity..

People with this condition may well have always struggled with being social in larger groups and found that they retreated into their own quiet world to survive. Of course social anxiety is common, even among those of us who consider ourselves mentally well it is quite a stressful thing - it's just that most of us are clever at hiding it! For trauma sufferers it is completely intolerable. They cannot even work up the courage to walk into a room where there are large numbers of people...

The sad things is that with this degree of dissociation, the sufferer does not feel real in their body, and their interactions with others are superficial. One client told me the only reason she could come and see me is that I look like a 'cardboard cut-out' to her so she doesn't really believe I'm real either. I felt inclined to show her I have three dimensions and am as real as the chair she is sitting on but she doesn't believe that is real either so you can see that the perception of reality is altered and makes functioning extremely difficult.

However, it is important to feed back to these clients that the problem is in their perception, not the reality.. the reality is that their body still notices everything that happens to them, and responds to it. But they are simply not aware, the disconnection is between the sensation (and the feelings that these engender - usually fear) and the interpretation by the brain (meaning - e.g I am in danger). I always stress that the disconnection they feel is ultimately a safety valve for the feelings that have simply become intolerable. Particularly when the feelings are ones of rejection and humiliation (shame) from those who are meant to love you, those feelings are simply unacceptable and are disconnected from the mindbody completely.

So, when you understand the dissociation as a symptom of your experience (usually sensitised early in childhood to rejection and shame) and how then you have interpreted things, the labels no longer matter so much. They are just defences your mindbody has erected. They can be dismantled but very, very gently. This degree of spiritual disconnection from your own body cannot be solved easily.

The usual approaches to trauma, like EFT and EMDR are difficult to apply as the person is asked to concentrate on their feelings as a precursor to both techniques which is almost impossible for them. So, although I do use these, I have to allow the person to gain confidence in trusting their own body not to betray them first by
  • psychoeducation
  • bodywork
  • pendulation
One of the techqniques I have found especially useful in the beginning is applied kinesiology - it has a huge following in chiropractic circles where it is used as a sort of communication system with your subconscious. I find that very interesting but, more appropriate for dissociation disorders is learning to use it psychologically. Check out these two videos; in order they are Bruce Lipton;
and Rob Williams.. They are a 2-lecture series on 'The biology and psychology of perception'. I hope you find they inspire you as they did me. Both men are respected in their individual fields, Bruce in particular is a cell biologist so nothing flaky there.. his book The Biology of Belief is required reading for anyone interested in the mindbody link.

Finally, its worth noting the more naturopathic interpretation of this is that you have a deficiency of spleen energy - apparently there is a link between the spleen and rejection. See
It may be a little too 'woo-woo' for some who reject the notion of meridians, but its written by Alison Adams who is a highly qualified UK dentist and now naturopath. Her website is full of nuggets of information. I am constantly amazed by how many conventionally trained doctors and other clinicians are finding truth and answers in the more esoteric fields of 'alternative' health.

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