Dissociation and Re-connection

Written by: Brandon Miles, Practicum Student, Social Service Worker Program

Many survivors of childhood sexual abuse and trauma experience dissociation. When the triggers happen, survivors may dissociate from reality to help them cope.  Experiencing dissociation can feel like you are disconnected from your thoughts, feelings, and memories. It can impact your perception of time and it may feel like you are disconnected from the world. Dissociation can happen at any time, and in any place.

Remembering traumatic events or times of your life that you don’t wish to remember may trigger a dissociative state. Other indications that you are experiencing dissociation includes feeling as if you are out of your body or you are a different person sometimes, and feelings of being emotionally numb or detached.  The symptoms often and usually go away on their own and can be minutes to longer periods of time. Dissociation is often triggered by your fight or flight response. If you are experiencing dissociation, it may be helpful to reach out for some support from a mental health professional, your family healthcare team and or your peer support network.  

Here are some helpful tips to help reconnect with reality:

Learning mindful breathing. When feeling a sense of dissociation, trying to focus on your breathing can help you bring back to the normal self and come back to “reality”. This also helps and sends signals to your body letting you know that you are safe and are alright. There are many different mindful breathing tools available online. A simple one can be to count to four in your mind as you inhale and count to four again as you exhale. Notice how the breath enters your body. Is it cool, warm?

Try grounding movement-based activities. For example, Tai Chi or Yoga.

Meditation may be helpful, especially guided meditations around topics of gratitude, self-worth, and autonomy. Focusing your mind to feelings of peace and gratefulness helps to shift the attention to feeling grounded.

Keep a journal. This could be beneficial as you can right down unhelpful thoughts, identify triggers and ways to manage stressors.

Spend time with your pet. An emotional support animal could be extremely beneficial. Having a pet that loves you unconditionally especially when you are feeling dissociative can bring your levels of stress down and can help you focus on being present.

Go on nature walks. Being in nature has been scientifically proven to help calm your thoughts, and to help us stay grounded and more connected with the present moment.

Dancing, singing, and music can also help us feel connected. Moving and listening to music can help us feel calmer, which in turn can help us be more connected with one’s self.

These grounding techniques may help you lessen the frequency of dissociation and refocus to feeling safe in the present moment, build resilience, self-love, and grounding. You have the capacity to find the reconnection that you deserve, reconnecting with your inner child and learning to build your resilience and self-worth in community.

YOU are YOU and you cannot be anyone else on this planet.

Your past does not define who you are. You are worthy of connection, love and belonging.

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