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Dissociative Disorders are just that, dissociative. No matter how many times a person reads the description or someone tells you that this is a psychological problem WE are unable to make that connection because WE are dissociated from it. The name is in the forum in big ass letters but we skim over it.

We don't own it.

What I am saying isn't an opinion. Nor is it our option. That is the function of the disorder- to keep awareness from you. Not awareness about facts but awareness about feeling. Feelings themselves- having and recognizing and most of all accepting. But to simply say we avoid them would not only be wrong, it would also be a massive understatement. We're not obtuse, we're broken.

Take "Grief" for example. Grief is one of several big emotions but to me shame is the biggest for us. It's the DP's monkey wrench. Shame by itself is hard for anyone healthy or not. Because when shame is not properly processed, it sticks around & becomes toxic. Understand though, that I am not talking about shame for something you did or something you said but shame on global scale - shame about you as a person. For those of you looking around and saying this doesn't pertain to me because you don't have shame, take another look. If you have DP chronically I will argue with you tooth & nail that you do.

For a moment think of the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you. What was your reaction? Maybe you turned red or felt anxious or cringe at the thought of how it felt. Shame makes you want to disappear. But what if you can't get rid of the shame? Or grief, or fear, or uncertainly. What if that got stuck where would it go? And what if it got stuck because you never learned how to process the "big" or "hard" emotions? What happens to a person then?

Well "we" are on the lower end of the dissociative spectrum when that happens.

We were not taught how to process the big feelings probably before we could speak. This is what I meant when I spoke (in previous blog posts) about baby baldness's parents not attending to his emotional needs. Emotions have been with us since the beginning. I'll go as far to say as the womb. We connect or disconnect by how we feel about something. As infants or even toddlers all we experience are emotions. And an infant's only way to interpret how they feel about their existence is by mirroring their caregiver. This is done by bonding (or attaching). Once properly attached, the parent teaches baby how to feel - not just about them but about himself. They teach him that feelings are okay- They are fluid...they change, they move. Sometimes you feel good & sometimes you feel bad. But when they are primarily consistent in providing love & affection, babies learn to "feel" safe. And once that bond is well established babies ultimately learn a new skill. They learn to "self sooth."

Trauma survivors have not.

And DP is one potential result of this trauma. It isn't physical abuse, it's emotional. When a child or infant's needs are not met emotionally they do not learn the essential skills necessary to interpret their world or feel safe. And it's a problem too big for him to handle because he's a baby and he both needs to attach and doesn't feel safe enough to do so. This is what is meant by trauma or damage. And when that damage happens before you can speak, it called complex or developmental trauma. Because it's an injury to you that you cannot readily recall or remember because it happened in the formative years of your life ...say 1-3 years. DP is post traumatic stress for babies. This makes it very difficult for people to understand how they feel or even identify DP for what it is and making that much harder to be resolved.

Which is why Chronic DP doesn't typically resolve itself.

It just stays fixed and creates a freezing in a personal emotional development. Unfortunately, life doesn't allow you stay a baby to wait around for your caregivers to get their shit together so you continue to grow with this basic or key skill severely damaged.

Now most of us have had that sense of safety or what we refer to as "normal" restored. If you didn't then DP would be your normal. But because you've had to continue on damaged -your base isn't as stable. And life is full of hardships aren't they? The emotional lessons you face as you mature only get harder. So now because you've been damaged, you are less capable of facing those hardships going forward. And hardships come. Not because we're bad, unlucky or unlovable but because life is filled with loss, grief, disappointment and change.

When people have their first encounter with depersonalization they are freaked out for good reason. And it's really not our fault that we can't understand what's happened to us. Mainly because we can't remember ever feeling this way. But it's highly likely that you have. Probably before you could speak. So years later when life's hardships came our security is threatened more easily and we remember (emotionally) how we may have felt as babies who didn't have caregivers that were consistent. We were afraid, we were uncertain. We didn't know who we were and how we felt. And most of all, our lives were in danger. Then- that feeling was real. It's not now that we're adults but remember, we're emotionally stunted (or stuck) and can't tell the different between then and now because we haven't been taught the emotional skills to draw upon to help us hope in a healthy way.

If you think that maybe I'm off about this you have only to look at how we react to DP when it first hits us. We can't even describe what exactly it is we lost. You don't even call it a feeling. We just say "normal." We know we lost something precious but we really can't put into a feeling description so we just describe it:

"I feel like my mind and body are separate"
"I feel like I'm going to disappear"
"It's as if I'm floating"

You can't really put your finger on the word because the word safe didn't have a meaning back then. As far as you knew you just always felt normal. All we can do is describe the perceptional changes. But you can't put it into to words because the feeling of safety didn't have a word, it just was. This is what you lost in DP. So the state you arrived in was the same state baby baldness found himself with the sucky parents all those years ago. He was confronted with problem that was too much for him to bear. So he did the only thing that he could do to cope. And this isn't a skill he chose, but it's the only one that was available to him at the time. It's a built in auxiliary power that happens to all mammals when their lives are threatened. He learns how to cut off feelings he can't understand. It's the only escape where there isn't one. He learns not to feel what causes him pain.

He learned to cope by removing it from his awareness. And at this time, this served him. It did help him survive but baby doesn't know that's not how the world is suppose to work.

He only knows that this is how the world works for him. And you better believe he remembers it. In fact, this becomes a template.

It might interest to know that it's possible that you're prone to ruminate or think excessively about your identity or what happened to you might be what baby baldness was doing all those years ago? Except then he couldn't put into words. It was too much for him because he didn't understand why Mom cares more about herself or Dad is an alcoholic. He doesn't understand that maybe Mom died, or that they suffer from postpartum depression, or anxiety disorders. He doesn't understand when he's put in a closet or left in a crib, unchanged, unfed & isolated for days or weeks. He doesn't understand that no one's coming to rock him and tell him he's okay. He only knows or "feels" that he can't take care of himself and some one has left to fend for himself and HE. CANT.DO.IT. Of course he's freaked out.

Emotional abuse isn't treated with the same validation as physical/sexual abuse. It doesn't leave visible scars that can be seen. But a child is a frail and helpless thing and when deprived of what he needs the wounds in the formative years are no less painful and far more difficult to heal. He is split right from the gate. He both needs attachment but is afraid of the people who give it. He's already divided and afraid. What could he do?

He splits off.

But splitting off is like putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound when you're 14, 20 or 50. Splitting off later in life is tool we learned to use under extraordinary circumstances. But now that tool hurts us.

You cannot "think" your way out of DP. I'm sorry. Your rigorous study of the limbic system isn't going to help you. Your thoughtful and organized list of adrenal functioning, brain scans, eastern philosophy won't serve you here. There is no poll on drugs that will point you in the right direction. This is not an intellectual problem. The search for safety or normal cannot be mastered by the mind. This is an emotional problem. You can't see it so you don't believe it but that's what this is.

If you continue to intellectualize DP then I would ask one simple question:

How's that working out for you?

Seriously. Have you found your cure? I bet not.

If you really want out, you're going to have to learn to process emotions. You're going to have to learn to self sooth. And we do that by first facing the things that bring you pain. Some of us have used this technique for so long that it's going to take some work to peel back the layers of awareness so it sticks.

For me when I have moments of safety there is apart of me that doesn't think I deserve to be safe so I revert. But that's the result of life's hardships further traumatizing me. This is where I am now. But it took a hell of a lot to get me there.

The best things you can do for yourself is to work with a professional. Keep people in your life that are healthy attachments and explore the development of your own history to see why this DP remains necessary for you to stick around. You'll find that this will be for more helpful than trying to find a cure outside of yourself.

Hair Arm Eye Jaw Gesture

Dec 20 2015 04:52 PM

Great blog! Your explanation of what the dissociative disorders are is very similar to what I've been taught by therapists over the past 5 years or so. I hope a lot of people here read what you've written and make sense of it, b/c there's a lot of very valuable information here. Maybe the ones who struggle to understand why they have this disorder will benefit most? Personally I know exactly why I have this disorder - trauma during childhood - so I never had the struggle of not knowing.

Self soothing - Yes. We all need to learn how to self sooth so we can slowly turn off the need to dissociate the difficult feelings! Yet I rarely hear anyone even mention those 2 words.

Hair Nose Hand Arm Eye

Dec 21 2015 08:52 AM

I'm glad you enjoyed it. I know the things that I write about are repetitive but I sincerely mean to help people that are struggling with this and I KNOW how difficult it is for us to truly understand something. So I tend to say the same thing on purpose.
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I wish people understood the necessity of working with a professional. Complex trauma is complex. It's hard to figure out and doing it with someone who understands human development is key to getting better.
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