Dissociation in its most basic description, is leaving this present moment to think about the past or future. It is an unreal practice, action. We create a parallel world, a world filled with treachery for our minds. What we create lacks reality! Dissociation takes us to a place, the past or future where happiness does not exist.
Dissociation is the only symptom we need to address. It is the linchpin, the king, the all powerful symptom, the leader of the pack. Dissociation fuels trauma and all other symptoms. Without the duration of dissociation, the minute by minute consumption of emotional fear, the storyline of PTSD fades, deteriorates and eventually bores us. Hyper vigilance, flashbacks, anxiety and avoidance need dissociation.
Dissociation is complex, abstract, confusing and the biggest thief in our lives. It steals the only time we have to be happy. Judgment can devour every hour of the day. Judging me, worthy or unworthy, searching for approval, avoiding disapproval or criticism can dominate our landscape.
We become heat seeking missiles for pleasure. Sadness, awkward or suffering is avoided with the many dissociative games. Dissociation can engulf every breath, stir fear until it permeates our being. Dissociation grows with use. Each moment spent away from now harms us.
Complex PTSD, usually childhood abuse, complicates dissociation, our minds have not matured so abuse is mixed with development. Dissociation reaches a deeper level,of dysfunction and entanglement. Parts of our personality get stuck. Mp arts of us fight other parts, we feel conflicted. This is why.
Here are some of the complex symptoms of dissociation:
From Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation:
Complex PTSD consists of of six symptom clusters, which also have been described in terms of dissociation of personality. Of course, people who receive this diagnosis often also suffer from other problems as well, and as noted earlier, diagnostic categories may overlap significantly. The symptom clusters are as follows:
Alterations in Regulation of Affect ( Emotion ) and Impulses
Changes in Relationship with others
Changes in Meaning
Changes in the perception of Self
Changes in Attention and Consciousness
Alterations in regulation of affect(emotion) an impulse:
Almost all People who are seriously traumatized have problems in tolerating and regulating their emotions and surges or impulses. However, those with complex PTSD and dissociative disorders tend to have more difficulties than those with PTSD because disruptions in early development have inhibited their ability to regulate themselves.
the fact that you have a dissociative organization of your personality makes you highly vulnerable to rapid and unexpected changes in emotions and sudden impulses. Various parts of the personality intrude on each other either through passive influence or switching when your under stress, resulting in dysregulation. Merely having an emotion, such as anger , may evoke other parts of you to feel fear or shame, and to engage in impulsive behaviors to stop avoid the feelings.
Changes in Attention and Consciousness:
People with Complex PTSD suffer from more severe and frequent dissociation symptoms, as well as memory and attention problems, than those with simple PTSD. In addition to amnesty due to the activity of various parts of the self, people may experience difficulties with concentration, attention, other memory problems and general spaciness. These symptoms often accompany dissociation of the personality, but they are also common in people who do not have dissociative disorders. For example everyone can be spacey, absorbed in an activity, or miss an exit on the highway. When various parts of the personality are are active, by definition, a person experiences some kind of abrupt change in attention and consciousness.
Changes in the Perception of Self:
People who have been traumatized in childhood are often troubled by guilt, shame, and negative feelings about themselves, such as the belief they are unlikable, unlovable, stupid, inept, dirty, worthless, lazy, and so forth. In Complex Dissociative disorders there are typically particular parts that contain these negative feelings about the self while other parts may evaluate themselves quite differently. Alterations among parts thus may result in rather rapid and distinct changes in self perception.
Changes in Relationship with others:
It is especially hard to trust other people if you have been repeatedly abused, abandoned or betrayed as a child. Mistrust makes it very difficult to make friends, and to be able to distinguish between good and bad intentions in other people. Some parts do not seem to trust anyone, while other parts may be so vulnerable and needy that they do not pay attention to clues that perhaps a person is not trustworthy. Some parts like to be close to others or feel a desperate need to be close and taken care of, while other parts fear being close or actively dislike people. Some parts are afraid of being in relationships while others are afraid of being rejected or criticized. This naturally sets up major internal as well as relational conflicts.
People with Complex PTSD often have medical unexplained physical symptoms such as abdominal pains, headaches, joint and muscle pain, stomach problems, and elimination problems. These people are sometimes most unfortunately mislabeled as hypochondriacs or as exaggerating their physical problems. But these problems are real, even though they may not be related to a specific physical diagnosis. Some dissociative parts are stuck in the past experiences that involved pain may intrude such that a person experiences unexplained pain or other physical symptoms. And more generally, chronic stress affects the body in all kinds of ways, just as it does the mind. In fact, the mind and body cannot be separated. Unfortunately, the connection between current physical symptoms and past traumatizing events is not always so clear to either the individual or the physician, at least for a while. At the same time we know that people who have suffered from serious medical,problems. It is therefore very important that you have physical problems checked out, to make sure you do not have a problem form which you need medical help.”
Changes in Meaning:
Finally, chronically traumatized people lose faith that good things can happen and people can be kind and trustworthy. They feel hopeless, often believing that the future will be as bad as the past, or that they will not live long enough to experience a good future. People who have a dissociative disorder may have different meanings in various dissociative parts. Some parts may be relatively balanced in their worldview, others may be despairing, believing the world to be a completely negative, dangerous place, while other parts might maintain an unrealistic optimistic outlook on life
Further complications arise from long periods of abuse, a whole childhood of dissociative behaviour. We have parts that become stuck and stay in childhood mode.
From Coping with Trauma Related Dissociation:
People with dissociative disorder often have related problems of time distortions. They experience time passing by much too slow or fast; perhaps more time has passed than they thought, or an hour seems like an entire day. Some parts of the personality are often quite confused about where they are in space and time, believing they are still in the past.
When people with a dissociative disorder are alienated from their body, they may be insensitive to physical pain or lack sensation in parts of their body. Some people report that they do not always always properly register heat and cold, cannot feel whether they are hungry or tired, or feel numb in their body. Again, it is typically the case other parts of the self do feel the physical pain., the hunger, or other bodily sensations.
There are many different symptoms of depersonalization, but in every case it seems to be a way of avoidance or attempting to regulate overwhelming feelings or experiences. Depersonalization symptoms may be temporary or chronic.
Parts of the personality that hold traumatizing experiences:
Most people with a dissociative disorder who experienced childhood trauma will have parts of personality that experience themselves as younger than the persons actual age: adolescents , child parts of primary school, or even toddler and infant parts. It is as though these parts are stuck in various developmental time periods of the past. They often hold trauma memories, distressing, painful emotions or sensations, but sometimes also have positive memories. They typically are unresolved feelings of longing, loneliness, dependency, and need for comfort
Some people but certainly not all, have helper parts in their inner world that take care of the well being of other parts, an inner form of regulation that can be a resource and basis for leaning further self soothing skills. Sometimes helper parts are modeled on a kind person from the past or an appealing character from a book or movie or television. These parts are the traumatized child’s attempt to soothe and comfort himself or herself. For some people, the major part of the personality who functions in daily life can learn to be quite empathetic and helpful for inner parts as well.
Parts that Imitate who hurt you:
Usually their are parts of the personality that hold anger and rage that are unacceptable or very frightening to other parts. Some may resemble people from the from the past who were abusing. These parts shame, threaten, or punish other parts inside, or they may direct their anger to other people in the outside world. Although the behavior of these parts can be quite frightening or shameful, as well as unacceptable, it is important for you to understand that these parts have good reason to exist and are representations, and thus not the same as the people who hurt you.They originally developed to protect you by containing many distressful experiences of anger, helplessness, and sometimes guilt. or shame. Furthermore, their function often is to prevent other parts behaving in a way that, in the past, evoked fear or shame. Over time it is important to appreciate why they exist, even though their “methods: that is, their behavior and attitudes, may not be acceptable. Your fear and shame about about me parts must be overcome in order for you to heal. These parts like all parts of yourself, need to become part of an internal “team” that collaborate and represent you as the whole person and your own history. And once they do so, you will be surprised at what tremendous help they will be to you.
Some angry parts are stuck in a fight defense against threat. They have the explicit function of protecting the individual by means of fight responses, either toward other people or towards parts inside that in some way evoke a sense of threat. Fight parts often believe that they are strong, have not been hurt, and are capable of carrying out strong aggressive reactions to perceived threat or disrespectful behavior. Often they view themselves as a tough child or teenager or a large strong man.
Shame is a major emotion that maintains dissociation. Some parts of the personality are especially avoided and reviled because they hold experiences, feelings,or behaviors that you, or some part of you have labelled as shameful or disgusting. You will need to be especially empathetic and accepting toward these parts of yourself.
A central problem for people who have a dissociative disorder is that parts of the personality avoid each other and their painful memories and experiences, or they tend to have strong conflicts with each other. In the literature this has been described as phobia of dissociative parts. Parts typically feel fearful, ashamed, or repulsed by other parts. In particular dissociative parts that function in daily life want as little as possible to do with dissociative parts that are fixed in traumatic experiences. Parts stuck in trauma-time often feel abandoned and neglected by the parts that try to move on without them in daily life.
These ongoing inner conflicts can be painful.and frightening, and they cost a person with a dissociative disorder a tremendous amount of energy. As we said before, all parts need to learn to accept and cooperate with each other. After all, in order to adapt and be our best, we must learn to accept ourselves and all our aspects. Only in acknowledgment sand accepting are we able to make positive changes in ourselves.
However we are aware that getting to know yourself and working more cooperatively internally can be a long difficult process. you cannot expect yourself to immediately function differently when parts have spent a lifetime avoiding each other or. Wing in conflict. lease remember that you will need much patience and self acceptance in this work and go at your own pace. Remember to be empathic and accepting of yourself as awhile person.