Dissociating is what enables trauma survivors to survive, it is the body’s intelligent way of protecting you. However, after the trauma has passed, the unprocessed trauma can be triggered, and the body, unable now to differentiate between perceived and actual danger, dissociates.
"If you dissociate, you may feel disconnected from yourself and the world around you. For example, you may feel detached from your body or feel as though the world around you is unreal. Remember, everyone’s experience of dissociation is different." - mind.org.uk
It can be a frightening and unhelpful state that seems unpredictable and outside of control. It can range from a milder feeling of being not quite real, or feeling outside of your body (suddenly becoming clumsy, or looking at yourself from outside of your body), or more severe where time is lost and you have no recollection of what has happened for a period fo time, or to DID where there is switching between different identities.
Grounding techniques may help you to start to interrupt the dissociative process.
The first step is to start to notice what happens leading up to your dissociative states. What your thoughts are. What the context is. Whether you feel anything. Start observing, with curiosity, without judgment. Figure out what your triggers are. Take note of your body’s cues.
Then, start to be alert to these triggers, and the cues. This might take some practice. It requires noticing what is happening in the here and now. Being able to observe yourself.
You may not be used to it, or it may be frightening to notice how your body feels. You may not be able to do it at first. What can really help if you are unable to do this part, is a mindful movement practice such as yoga, or talking to a professional (psychotherapist or a counsellor).
Once you have begun to be able to self observe, you can use your body’s cues as an alarm: that you need to intervene to stop the dissociation.
An example of a cue might be that your body starts tingling, or that you no longer feel you are ‘in’ your body, such as becoming clumsy or suddenly being behind yourself looking on, instead of looking on from inside of yourself. It is different for everyone.
This can take time and practice. Once you have begun to master this awareness, you can start to have some control over stopping the dissociation by using some grounding techniques.
If any of the following techniques are triggering for you, then please don’t do them, find an alternative. Everyone is different, find what works for you.
10 Grounding Techniques.