PREVIOUS : Dissociation – Memory
⬆️ CHART : “Trauma : Normal Stress to Disorder“
Normal (non-pathological) Dissociation
“The essence is being ABSORBED – an intensely focused mental concentration & involvement in one or more aspects of conscious awareness, to the exclusion of other content from the phenomenal field.
The ‘adaptive’ function of absorption is to be able to complete specific necessary mental processes, although at the expense of tracking intervening events.”
EXP : One second you’re fully focused on driving or taking to a friend…. & the next your mind is wandering to food shopping or worrying about your children…..
🔻Acute dissociation – from a single event, extreme enough to threaten the person’s emotional or physical security
🔻Chronic – from repeated & prolonged abuse. Very distressing symptoms may appear early on, or only years after the original event(s) when triggered by some current event that mirrors the original experiences
🔻Complex – exposure to varied & multiple harmful events, often invasive & inter-personal, but also from dangerous environments & civil unrest – giving the person a feeling of being trapped.
▪️Secondary or vicarious trauma – symptoms develop from ongoing close contact with a PTSD trauma victim / survivor
REVIEW : Experiencing traumatic events results in overwhelming PMES distress, actually changing the structure & function of the brain, so it’s no wonder we have strong mental & physical sensations from terrible childhood events. ➡️ BRAIN SCANS
MRI images show that ongoing severe stressors during childhood can shrink key parts of the brain,.
The “Adverse Childhood Experiences Study” (ACEs) underscored the negative impact of trauma on later-life health & well-being, such as drug & alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, cancer & chronic, & life-shortening diseases. (⬅️ More….)
SITE: “4 Ways Childhood Trauma Changes a Child’s Brain & Body”
When psychologically overwhelmed, all human beings look for safety. But many times that can’t be met by the external world when needed, so we shift to internal safety – withdrawal.
Dissociation is the mind’s “last resort”, the freeze response when fight or flight isn’t possible. It’s the nervous system kicking in to protect us from unbearable awareness.
Many factors determine how badly the traumatic events will affect a person. It will depend on :
∇ their basic personality
∇ the presence of other mental health conditions
∇ previous exposure to traumatic events
∇ type & characteristics of the event(s)
∇ person’s background & approach to dealing with emotions
∇ the degree (or lack of) their trust in a Higher Power
a. Temporary ‘spacing out’ because of current pressures.
EXP: During a job interview or a first date, you’re so nervous it’s hard to think. Afterwards, you can’t remember most of what happened.
It may seem like losing your memory, but actually – the memory was not formed. Dr. Ira Fischler suggests “When memories for specific emotionally-laden events appear lost (a “blackout”), it’s most often because our attention during the event was not on the interaction itself”
b. Episodic – Dissociating can occur in people who usually function well, but as a result of too many stressors or responsibilities piled up in too short a time, (family trouble, work problems, health issues….all at once), so the mind takes a little vacation
c. Long-term – feeling disconnected to one’s True Self, in reaction to intense distress, such as a very painful breakup or divorce, death of a child or long-term mate, a house fire, a hold-up or purse-snatch, serving in a war zone (as PTSD-DS).… & can take months or years to recover from. The person may still seem to be functioning , OR not be able to function well at all.
NOTE: Red dots indicate the experiences over several years of one high-functioning ACoA, before & during the early years of Recovery. As indicated, the person’s specific dissociative reactions fall into different categories & levels, rather than limited to one ‘style’.
These experiences were short lived & rare, but generally triggered by an abandonment flashback, mainly occurring in present-day locations or groups similar to those in childhood. The 2 larger dots indicate the more intense experiences.
* This suggests that a wounded adult can go thru life with normal developmental experiences (career, relationships, creative outlets… ) but still have moments of disconnection which can’t be seen by others, yet are the result of long-term childhood trauma.
It also shows that many ACoAs have great inner strength, resilience & intelligence, which has helped them survive & eventually thrive – with the right kind of help & hard work.
NEXT : Dissociation – HEALING