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.
We have all had different experiences during lockdown, but all of us in some way will have been affected by the pandemic and the stress that the past 18 months has brought on us.
As of August 2021, the figures indicated that over 75% of adults in the UK were doubled jabbed. Schools and universities are operating as usual, people are returning to the office and cultural events are back on: things are opening up, life is resuming.
For some, lockdown may have felt claustrophobic, depriving and interminable, and the lifting of restrictions has been celebratory and brought joy back into our lives.
For others, things opening up may feel daunting, you may feel apprehensive. The lack of social interaction over an extended time may have left some feeling awkward and unsure of themselves in social situations, as if we need to relearn how to socially interact. This is an ordinary response, and go easy on yourself – start by introducing shorter social interactions and build up gradually.
Other people may feel anxious about catching the virus, or passing it on. We all have different tolerance levels to threat, and what we can live with, and the key is to find what you yourself are comfortable with. It is OK to say no to certain social gatherings if you do not feel you can stay safe, or to wear your mask when others are not. You can’t change other peoples behaviour but you can be responsible for yourself.
Another phenomenon I am seeing in clinic, is an emergence of feelings that have been kept at bay during the pandemic. This may be the result of having to keep going and survive during the pandemic. This could be due to pressures on us, whether that is from family or living dynamics, attending university online within the family home and without the social stimulation, work commitments, juggling children and homeschooling, furlough or a crisis in work such as redundancy or the drying up of work, or being a carer, and having lost the things in the external world that are depended upon to keep life interesting and joyous.
I have been struck by how important routine things in our lives are, how important a sense of play/joy is to balance out life’s commitments and pressures, their role in keeping our mental health balanced: things such as going to the gym, or your favourite group be it choir, art, swimming, or dance. Being able to meet with a friend or friends. Being around people, in a public place. Being able to eat out, or enjoy living culture: theatre, music, exhibitions, events.
Without these things that create a work / life balance, some people may have felt more affected by the negative aspects of the pandemic. And coping may have taken up all of your mental space and emotional capacity.
Now that we are returning to a semblance of our previous lives, there may be space now, for the feelings evoked during the pandemic, to come out. Because these feelings were not felt at the time, (and were repressed due to survival needs), they may feel overwhelming. They may cause anxiety. Things may seem confusing, or you may be struggling to make sense of what you are experiencing.
Talking to a professional can help. If you resonate with anything int his post, please reach out to me. I would be happy to discuss how I might be able to support you, either online or in person. It is easy to arrange, and you are welcome to a free 10 minute telephone consultation to see if therapy might be right for you. Call or email me on 07710 819 485 or firstname.lastname@example.org.