What Is Dissociation in PTSD?
Friday, July 20th, 2012 • PTSD Guest Post: Professional Perspective •
While Post-traumatic Stress fuels depression, anxieties, phobias and compulsions, dissociation occurs at the onset of PTSD. Trauma, abuse, neglect, or severe loss causes the self to freeze in time, rather than go through the overwhelming moment. It may be the nature of time to move forward, but when the self disconnects, we freeze in that moment. This fracture, this loss of self is often the basis of vague feelings of uncertainty that diminish self-esteem and spur codependency, dysfunctional relationships, addiction and more.
The self dissociates to protect the psyche from experiencing emotional pain. However, this defense mechanism leaves a trail of persistent uncomfortable feelings that fuel depression, anxiety, phobias and compulsive behaviors. Unwanted behaviors and reactions develop in an attempt to manage the negative thoughts and feelings that emanate from the disconnected / lost self.
Patients often state that the memory “feels like it just happened yesterday.” This is due to recurring traumatic memories reflecting the presence of a self frozen in that very moment of time. Exploring the split in the psyche, we often find the fragments of self that disconnected and were lost during moments of dissociation.
Identifying the dissociated parts of self stuck in the past and associating them back into the person’s psychological economy reduces those persistent uncomfortable feelings, emotional pain, as well as the unwanted behaviors they generate. Symptoms held in place by Defense Mechanisms begin to disappear, and qualities and abilities thought to be missing, but are simply disconnected, come back on line. When integration releases energy held within the defense system, redirecting it to the whole of the person, it’s easier to relax, think clearly and achieve long sought after goals.
I use a process called Metaphor Therapy, based on a 5,000 year old tradition of the Maori Tribe of New Zealand, called Dreamtime. It is a very unique process that allows dissociated elements to reintegrate and bring more of the whole self together, literally resolving the trauma at its root.
The opinions in this post are solely those of the author. To contribute to ‘Professional Perspective’ contact Michele.