PREVIOUS : Dissociation – Brain
SITE : “Why Can’t I FEEL? Dissociation & Emotional Detachment in Response to Trauma
REMINDER : this topic is NOT about DID (Multiple Pers.)
Dissociation & EMOTIONS
Dissociation is a way to avoid painful emotions, trying to protect a fragile ’Self’. It can occur in the process of being wounded in PMES ways, or later as a long-standing defense (mental habit). If it becomes an automatic response every time we experience intense emotions, is will be hard to undo.
Children can develop dissociation as a coping mechanism when parents do not teach their children emotional regulation skills, who las adults don’t know how to cope with ‘big’ feeling when they surface, & so are overwhelmed by them.
The benefits of dissociation may seem obvious – avoiding specific hurts or endless suffering – but the cost is enormous. By suppressing unwanted feelings, we not only lose the capacity to experience painful ones, but also pleasant & passionate ones, reducing the joy of living. (see POSTs: ACoAs & Emotions)
ACoAs – As adults, many ACoAs are cut off from our ‘true’ emotions, living in our head. This is so even for those who seem ‘very emotional & dramatic’. The first style comes mainly from being stuck in the Left Brain & the second mainly in the Right.
Ironically, in neither version are we actually experiencing the original pain – only the defensive ones that cover. The original trauma-emotions (loneliness, frustration, hurt, sadness, rage, terror…) are dissociated, cut off.
The most common defense against feeling them is self-hate, blaming ourselves for ‘causing’ our suffering.
This numbing started in childhood, but the pain of each abusive & neglectful moment doesn’t go away – it just accumulates & goes underground – over the months & years of growing up. In the present, this pile-up of emotions will inevitably show as constant anxiety, low-grade depression & anger-outbursts.
• One way this dissociation shows up is temporary muteness – we’re so ‘shocked’ by what someone does or says that we can’t say anything in the moment. This is called TONIC Immobility.⬆️
Later of course we think “I wish I had said….”.
This happens when our emotion-center (Limbic system) is overwhelmed, called Flooding, so the thinking brain is temporarily unavailable
• Another way is not being upset when someone manipulates, controls, disappoints or otherwise hurts us – if ever, but maybe until months or years later, when the upset finally dawns.
• It can also show up as a disparity between what we’re saying & the expression on our face – describing a traumatic event we experienced while smiling or laughing!
• The most common form of emotional dissociation is seen in the person who grew up in an emotionally & verbally abusive violent, home but will say AND is convinced they had an OK childhood & that their parents loved them. NOT.
The way we can know they’re in denial is by observing the many ways their life is dysfunctional, even if they’re intelligent & hard-working.
RECOVERY EXERCISE : To undo dissociation we need to become aware of / stay awake for AND accept all our emotions, but this isn’t fast or easy.
Until then – start by checking in with yourself at the end of each day by simply writing down every activity & event – up to 6 words pr item.
THEN list every emotion you might have had for each – as if you had felt something – even if you didn’t notice anything at the time.
EXP : Your ex called today about something, the boss was being a pain, the dog threw up, the car wouldn’t start…. & it didn’t bother you, or you ignored the knot in your stomach.
But by the end of the day, you’re probably feeling down or very cranky, but don’t know why.
You might have dissociated from your anger, frustration, grief, guilt, loneliness, sadness, maybe even relief….
GROWTH : Eventually, by paying attention (Mindfulness), you’ll start to associate events & emotions.
Along the way,
✿ learn how to comfort yourself when upset (& do it)
❖ be in charge of how you express emotions as they surface.
❣️Also give yourself credit for positive changes in behavior.
(Posts : “ACoAs – Accessing emotions” and “ACoAs – Accepting Emotions”
SITE : Biology of Emotions
NEXT : Dissociation & Memory