Posts Tagged ‘Dissociation’

“Fragmentation and Internal Struggles”. Part 2

The theoretical model that best explained the phenomena they described was the Structural Dissociation model of Onno van der Hart, Ellert Nijenhuis, and Kathy Steele (2004).


Rooted in a neuroscience perspective and well-accepted throughout Europe as a trauma model, it was a good fit for me as a firm believer and spokesperson for a neurobiologically informed approach to trauma and trauma treatment.


The theory describes (Van der Hart, Nijenhuis & Steele, 2006) how the brain’s innate physical structure and two separate, specialized hemispheres facilitate left brain-right brain disconnection under conditions of threat.


Capitalizing on the tendency of the left brain to remain positive, task-oriented, and logical under stress, these writers hypothesized that the disconnected left brain side of the personality stays focused on the tasks of daily living, while the other hemisphere fosters an implicit right brain self that remains in survival mode, braced for danger, ready to run, frozen in fear, praying for rescue, or too ashamed to do anything but submit.



In each individual client, I could see that some parts were easier to identify with or “own” and some parts were easier to ignore or dismiss as “not me.”
Internally, the parts were also in conflict: was it safer to freeze or fight? To cry for help? Or to be seen and not heard?


What I also noticed was that the internal relationships between these fragmented aspects of self reflected the traumatic environments for which they had once been solutions.


The left-brain-dominant present-oriented self avoids the right-brain-dominant survival-oriented parts or judges them as bad qualities to be modified, while the right brain implicit selves of the parts are equally alienated from what they perceive as a “weak” or absent other half.


The functioning self carries on, trying desperately to be “normal”—at the cost of feeling alienated from or invaded by the intrusive communications of the parts.



A great explanation of our inner world: Part 1; “Fragmentation and Internal Struggles”.

“Healing the fragmented selves of trauma survivors”
Ten years ago, in the context of consulting with traumatized clients who came to me as an “expert,” seeking to understand why they were not making progress in treatment, I began to observe a very characteristic pattern: these clients had something unique in common.


Each was superficially an integrated whole person but also manifested clear-cut signs of being internally fragmented.


They experienced intense conflicts between trauma-related perceptions and impulses (for example, “the worst is going to happen,” “I will be abandoned if I don’t get out first”) versus here-and-now assessments of danger: “I know I’m safe here.


I wouldn’t let my children live in this house if it were not safe.” They suffered from paradoxical symptoms: the desire to be kind and compassionate toward others or to live a spiritual life, on the one hand, and intense rage or even impulses to violence, on the other.


Once their conflicts were described, the patterns became more easily observable and meaningful.


Each side of the conflict spoke to a different way of surviving the unsurvivable, of reconciling the opposites that are so often part and parcel of traumatic experience.


With an explanatory model that described each reaction as logical and necessary in the face of threat or abandonment and that reframed them as the survival responses of different parts of the self, to which the individual could relate, each client started to make faster, more sustainable progress.


The theoretical model that best explained the phenomena they described was the Structural Dissociation model of Onno van der Hart, Ellert Nijenhuis, and Kathy Steele (2004).

PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety

What behavior makes it worse and what helps improve our condition.


First, we must realize that our trauma thoughts are irrational. No real danger exists from past trauma.

Second, dissociation is the one behavior that controls our destiny!


Leaving this present moment to ruminate in past trauma or projecting worry into the future is jet fuel for PTSD, depression and many other disorders.


We can spend days ruminating in trauma thought, trying to figure out how to make it stop or avoid it all together.


Each time we handle our trauma or trauma thoughts without integrating them, PTSD grows.



Spending hours or days ruminating gives PTSD tremendous power and energy.



Dissociation can become habit.


Healing will not happen until we break our incessant need to think and avoid.


Takes daily action to make our tools (mindfulness, affirmations, aerobic exercise, meditation, taking calculated chances, therapy) habit.

I want to Heal……………… I want to be Happy!



I want to heal.

I want to improve.


I want to increase my well-being.


I want inner peace.


I want to be happy.


Do we say, I want to suffer.



We may not say it, but we sure behave in ways that bring suffering.


We need to bring awareness to our behavior.


If we want to be happy, we need to behave in a certain way.


For a start, never entertain a negative thought or say anything negative about ourselves.


Second let go of negative emotions. They receive no air time in our life.


Third, smile, you’re changing.

PTSD impacts all of us Differently!!!

PTSD impacts individuals differently. People can experience the same trauma, some will get PTSD and others will not be impacted long-term.


Some will develop PTSD immediately while others may live unaware for decades until another stressor activates that dormant trauma.


PTSD has a different effect on different people. We all suffer in the early stages of this disorder. After we figure out that we have PTSD, a search for a cure proceeds.


We suffer more when we engage in certain behaviors. We suffer less when we engage in different behaviors.

Dissociation is the lynchpin. Dissociation is leaving the present moment to enter our past or future thought patterns we habitually live.


The choice then is dissociation, grasping the storyline, judging or staying present, focusing, observing our body sensations.


Hyper-vigilance increases exponentially when we dissociate into what ifs and judgment. Avoidance becomes easier when we get lost in thought and judgment.


We journey farther and farther away from reality and down the trauma hole.


We avoid future triggers, perceived danger, narrowing our life until we end up agoraphobic.


We can learn to live and enjoy life in spite of this disorder.


We have to build certain daily skills to accomplishment this.


To stay present when a trigger explodes takes strong focus and courage from daily practice.


Work on dissociation and improve your life tremendously.


The opposite of dissociation is a mindful existence. We are ever present, observing what our eyes see, ears hear, hands touch, nose smells and mouth tastes without judgment.


Letting the noise pass on through is key.

Know your mind, explore the inner world


Where does your mind settle? What entices your mind into thought?


Rick Hanson’s says our mind has a negative slant, positive is Teflon, negative is Velcro. We always slow down to see the horrific wreck on the freeway.


Our mind unattended finds the negative, quickly!


This seems to be the origin of how we waste our lives.


We need to limit the time our mind is left unattended, wandering or ruminating in thought.


Seems a simple task. Our mind can be our friend or mental torturer.


Get to know the patterns of your mind, your daily thoughts, worries, doubts and fears.


Our wellbeing grows when we limit dissociation into past or future thought.


Do you know your mind or does your mind control you?


Do you know your inner world, nervous system?

Healing from childhood abuse



Trauma is stored in the right amygdala as implicit memory at the time it occurs.


It is stored along side your capabilities at that age.  Abused at five or ten and you feel like a child when trauma erupts. 


Part of healing integrates this trauma to the present moment.


My trauma is many decades old and my abuser is dead, so real danger is a mirage in real life.


The adrenaline and cortisol that jolts my nervous system is real. Our fight or flight mechanism is broken, reading danger everywhere.


Our goal is to integrate this implicit memory to now. We are not a 10-year-old anymore and have many more skills and alternatives now.


Our trauma happened before our minds developed fully thus confusing development with trauma.


Know the mechanism and characteristics of your abuse.  Write your triggers down to limit their power and their ability to impact your nervous system.


Develop a plan and a daily practice to confront this disorder.


Take action!



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