NOTE : This topic is NOT about ‘Dissociative Disorder” (‘split / multiple personality’) in which the mind creates separate identities who are not aware of each other, to deal with extreme childhood trauma.
IMPORTANT : In this category, the person has only one identity. Also, this type of dissociation does not interfere with or distort ego states (wounded & healthy Child, rational Adult, Introject….) which are legitimate aspects of Personality. However one or more of these PARTS may be hidden from oneself in the dissociated state.
DEF : NON-pathological (Normal) Dissociation is a defense mechanism used to cope with distressing or overwhelming emotions, usually but not always linked to a history of trauma.
A person can experience occasional or periodic disconnects of self-awareness, deliberately ‘zoning out’ to get thru a stressful situation (unpleasant medical procedure, deeply concentrating on a project….)
🔸Day dreaming – allowing the mind to wander where it needs or wants to go
🔸Deliberately induced trance states & religious ecstasy
🔸Engaged in peak experiences, losing self-awareness & time, maybe with moments of de-realization (apart from surroundings) or de-personalization (from self)
🔸Immersed in recreation – a psychological vacation from life’s hardships
🔸Successfully engaged in activity of personal significance (prayer, sex, meditation).
There are different types & in varying degrees, falling on a continuum :
▫️from feeling ‘jumpy’ to feeling nothing at all
▫️disconnecting from the words of the book you’re reading, to disconnecting from your body’s sensations
▫️from very short-lived mental breaks to more permanent withdrawal
▫️from forgetting where you left the keys, to forgetting years of your life.
MIND-WANDERING is a mild form of dissociation, considered a stable personality trait, as a transient mental state, in 3 types:
❖ Positive constructive imagining (how vivid your thoughts are)
▪️Guilty fear of failure (how many of those thoughts are guilt- or fear-based
▪︎ Poor attentional control (how deep you go into alternate thoughts).
In general it’s when our mind doesn’t stay on a single topic for very long, especially when involved in a demanding activity we know very well (like driving…. an EXP of mental Decoupling). Being internally preoccupied reduces cortical processing of the external environment, so we tend not to notice or remember what happened around us.
Task-unrelated (meaningless) mind-wandering is common in depressed people, or when intoxicated. (MORE….)
EXP: Mind-LESS reading is mental wandering into unrelated thoughts & feelings while the eyes continue to scan the words without paying attention to their meaning. Decoupling reduces absorbing information from our senses, breaking down the connection between reader & text.
DETACHMENT, a Sub-type of PTSD is a more intense non-pathological form of dissociation : an altered state of awareness with a separation from some everyday experience, in which the medial prefrontal cortex interferes with (shuts down) the normal working of the limbic system in its processing of emotion.
It shows up as one or more disturbances of a person’s :
• emotional experience (numbed, spaced out)
• a sense of self (depersonalization – feeling unreal, like in a dream)
• physical perception (outside observer of one’s body)
• sense of the world (flat, lifeless & “strange”).
NOTE : Dissociation (non-responsiveness) is usually associated with past trauma, with a desire to escape painful emotions. However, temporary detachment-dissociation can also have more immediate causes, not necessarily trauma-based, such as :
✫ daily stress – current, momentary, accumulated
✫ impaired sleep patterns – deprivation significantly increases dissociative symptoms
✫ rumination – the repetitive focus on past distressing events or worry about the future, with pessimism, negative inner speech, depression, anxiety & sadness.
Researchers found that thinking about the past or future both contributed to negative mental states, keeping our attention on the present decreased dissociative episodes.
↗️ vm PFC = ventromedial prefrontal cortex
▪︎ BLA = baso-lateral amygdala ▪︎ PAG = periaqueductal gray
▪︎ CMA = bilateral centro-medial amygdala
NEXT : Dissociation – Brain