Updated:…..From Dissociation to Awareness

A guest post by Elisabeth, who writes about her experiences as a trauma survivor at stolenchildhood.wordpress.com


Dissociation was my defense mechanism of choice when I was young. The sexual, physical and emotional abuse started when I was only three years old, and I could not escape it, so I learned to leave my body entirely. At the time, it kept me sane. In adulthood, it wasn’t serving me, but I didn’t know that.

When I found yoga sixteen years ago, I was living my life in my mind. I did not realize that there was another way to live. I was so dissociated that the only moments I spent in my body were in yoga class, and honestly, I was pretty good at doing yoga without grounding myself (except for the balancing postures).

I first heard about healing meditation during a trip to an ashram. Honestly, before the trip, I thought meditation involved sitting on a mountain top chanting mantras for days. I really had no interest. I tried meditation while at the ashram, but it was extremely challenging for me. My mind had always run my life. I didn’t know how to quiet my mind. When I was successful, I felt like I lost myself completely. When my mind was quiet, I ceased to exist. That produced more fear. I made a decision that meditation was not for me.

Fast forward ten years and I was still dissociated. The yoga helped some, but not enough. I knew something had to change. I started reading self-development books, and one resonated with me: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. From reading that book, I discovered something new about meditation. It wasn’t about sitting on a mountain top. It wasn’t about shutting down my mind. It was about living in the present. Most importantly, it was about being in my body. Of course, I had spent about five minutes in my body during my lifetime. I had no idea how to do that.

I am a willful person. I want everything to happen fast. Even after six years of recovery, that hasn’t really changed. It is just innate to who I am. However, for some reason, after reading The Power of Now, I choose to take a “baby step”. It might have been the first baby step I had ever taken, and honestly, there have not been many since then, but that baby step may have saved my life. I don’t know where I got the idea, but I decided to “be in the moment” while driving my car. I didn’t try to turn off my mind and this was key to my success. I let my mind think about anything as long as it had to do with the present moment: the buttons and dials on the dashboard of the car, the car in front of me, the signs on the road, the scenery as I drove, and especially the trees. The trees have always grounded me. At first, I was able to stay present for about thirty seconds, but it didn’t take long before I could do it for an entire fifteen minutes.

This baby step led me to other moments of awareness. I started to sense my body and the way it was feeling, and honestly, most of the time it didn’t feel very good. The turning point came when I was able to focus on my body pain without judgment. I noticed that the pain would dissipate when I would focus on it and feel whatever emotions were associated with it. This has led to physical healing that is just not possible with medicine. It has led to miraculous changes in my life that would not have been possible without that baby step.

Today, I use this form of meditation on a daily basis. Although I do meditate more deeply now, I rarely have to quiet my mind completely. I just use it for a better purpose. I focus my mind on the particular activities of that moment. I try not to get lost in the past or the future. There are still plenty of days with dissociation, but on good days, I feel like a completely different person. There is no anxiety, no impatience, no panic. It feels like the trauma was never a part of my life. It started with a realization and a small step. It started with an understanding that something needed to change and that I had the power to change it. With just one baby step, my entire world transformed.

12 responses to this post.

  1. Reblogged this on Trafficked and commented:

    I have had another great opportunity to be a guest blogger. This is a great blog discussing techniques to overcome C-PTSD.

  2. Thank you Elisabeth and feel free to post anytime. We all have little insights, specifics that could help others.

    A baby step, it is all it takes. Like eating an elephant, starts with the first bite, and a feat that seemed impossible would disappear with three easy unhurried meals a day in a month.

    Find that you do not get lost in the past or furture, it is not perfection, but living this way drastically alters happiness, opportunity and living.

    I hope others are inspired enough to take a baby step.

  3. Hva e you tried daily affirmation said out loud to engage more parts of the mind. It has to do with self image and needs to be like a smooth resume of perfection as a true self.

    It changed my self image and it was awkward for me, unnerving to sit in front of a mirror and repeat. Things like,

    I strive with all effort to be present, engaged with all of life without emotional distress or anxiety having an impact on my actions.

    I love and respect every part of me, accept my flaws and know my true self is perfect.

  4. I agree Marty. I have had a few mantras that have been very powerful for moving me forward. My favorite mantras relate to awareness of all dissociated parts and unconscious thoughts. We I commit to that awareness, my life perception changes dramatically.

  5. Thought you would have to bridge this gap. Any memory would be influenced negatively by a low unworthy self image. Healing is difficult with this negative anchor attached.

    I salute you on your courage to not give up, not give in. It has taken incredible determination when things are rough, improvement seems stalled, and you lasted.

    Hopefully others see your strength and determination, this is not an intelligence context or an intellectual discussion this is a beginning with a baby step and continued beyond healing.

  6. An amazing post Elisabeth, your courage and resilence is amazing. I had very poor impressions of meditations at first also. I was always told to “tough it out.” When I told many of my friends and family members I was practicing mindful meditations to cope with some of the demons in my past, I was looked down upon.

    Like you, I have felt a world of difference since practicing my meditations. The feeling you get when your brain finally reconnects with your body is hard to put into words, but I can definitely feel growth of the soul and feel more concious during the present.

    Thank you for sharing your story so others can benefit from the struggles you’ve had.

  7. […] From Dissociation to Awareness […]

  8. […] From Dissociation to Awareness (ptsdawayout.com) […]

  9. You wrote “There are still plenty of days with dissociation, but on good days, I feel like a completely different person. There is no anxiety, no impatience, no panic. It feels like the trauma was never a part of my life. It started with a realization and a small step. It started with an understanding that something needed to change and that I had the power to change it. With just one baby step, my entire world transformed.”

    I will read and re-read this regularly. Thank you for posting!


  10. Thank you so much Dharma.

  11. Understand that a small sentence in your post, beams with power, healing and courage,

    I am a willful person.

    That says it all.

    If I had to pick a skill or a trait it would be determination, a never give up attitude, never give in. That does not mean things go smooth, or we do not get beat down at times, it is we refuse to give in or quit.

    We take action and if we do not succeed, we try something else,.

    It truly is a journey, not if you win or lose but did you use your willpower, all of it, as often as possible.

    It takes enduring the tough times, that takes a willful person.

  12. Thank you Marty for all of your encouragement.

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