DISSOCIATION (Diss) is one of the most common defenses developed by ACoAs, starting in childhood. Because it’s so much a part of PMES survival, many of us are not even aware of how & when it manifests now. It doesn’t have to be dramatic (like losing time) but can occur in subtle ways throughout daily routines, where we’re not present for ourselves – like not ‘noticing’ the emotional sting of an insult.
When children are mistreated, their overall development is negatively affected. Chronic mis-attunement, neglect or other parental abuses can severely harm the baby’s brain, impairing the corpus callosum – the main connecting pathway between Right & Left hemispheres (We are “Wired to Connect”)(⤵️ More….)
Diss. involved temporary or long-term emotional numbness & mental detachment. In actual experience, the more severe form is similar to alcohol blackouts – no matter how brief – because we don’t remember what we said or did while being ‘out of it’, but without ingesting a drink or drug. (See next post re. MEMORY dissociation).
Even so, it IS chemical
Aaron Kucyi et.al., neuroscientists at Northeastern, scanned people’s brains using fMRI. They found that a specialized area – the ‘default mode network‘ (DMN) connected to several other networks – has to do with controlling or maintaining a train of thought. (➡️ CHART info)
The DMN is active when a person is not focused on the outside world & the brain is at wakeful rest, such as during daydreaming or mind-wandering. This may explain that being distracted comes from the brain’s ability to go ‘down a mental rabbit hole’.
DMN can also be activated when thinking about oneself, about others, remembering the past or planning for the future – i.e. not being in the present.
The research also found a noticeable lack of connection between the DMN & attention networks – such as those that provide sensory input – making it harder to be aware of our immediate environment. All this research indicates that dis-connecting is actually a dynamic & fundamental function of our psychology.” (MORE….)
Disrupted DMN connectivity between brain regions for too long can change the way a person perceives events, as well as social & moral reasoning, increasing their susceptibility to depressive symptoms. Weakened network linkage was associated with anxiety & dysfunctional attachment patterns, found in people who have experienced long-term trauma, both in childhood & as adults.
SITE: “Brain connections predict how well you can pay attention“
The NERVOUS SYSTEM : Under normal circumstances, 2 versions of the Nervous System function alternately to keeps us in balance –
🔺Sympathetic (SNS), from the(FPN) fronto-parietal network, is mainly geared to mobilization, preparing the body for action when stressed.
AND the opposite is —
🔻Parasympathetic (PSNS), using acetylcholine as its primary neurotransmitter, is in charge of the body’s “resting & digesting” functions, meant to act as a brake. It tells the body it’s okay to slow down, take deep breaths & relax.
A well-functioning PSNS provides the ability to recover from a distressing trigger by deactivating, to digest, play, rest, & again relate to others in an intimate way.
However, exposure to extreme threat, particularly early in life, combined with a lack of adequate caregiving – limits a person’s long-term ability to balance the responses of these 2 systems when facing future troubles.
Disassociation is mainly activated by the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) when we’re under great duress, either by a current event or from past trauma being triggered, also producing ‘freeze’ & temporary muteness)
The brain is flooded with reality-escaping endorphins, dulling the ‘thinking’ brain (neocortex). Changes in cerebral blood flow leads to a failure-to-engage, distorting perceptions (depersonalization & derealization) & impairing memory encoding-&-retrieval.
Constant stress also results in adrenal fatigue, causing a drop in cortisol levels, producing “endogenous opioids as a form of analgesia” (naturally formed numbing chemicals).
Such physical effects make us distracted & detached, missing all or parts of what’s going on around us.
Parasympathetic imbalance shows up as dissociation :
▫️Physically – suppressed hormones, heart rate & blood pressure, also diarrhea, dizziness & sleep disturbance
▫️Emotionally – feeling confused, numb, slow, reactive
▫️Socially – feeling disconnected, rushed, & stuck in anger or sadness, leading to depression.
NEXT: Dissociation (Part 2)