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Normal Vs. Abnormal Dissociation

One might think that dissociation is an abnormal condition that only happens to people who have lived experience with childhood trauma. They would be wrong. Dissociation is a totally normal human reaction to boredom or becoming overstressed.

What happens when dissociation becomes abnormal? What are the causes for the formation of abnormal dissociation? This article will address these questions and more.

Normal Dissociation

Everyone experiences dissociation. As stated above, dissociation is a behavior that occurs when humans are bored or stressed. That feeling of being out of your body and experiencing something as though you were looking at yourself is dissociation.

Two common experiences are highway hypnosis and watching a movie in a movie theater. Highway hypnosis happens when you are driving down the road, get bored, and either daydream or space out. Before you now it you may have driven ten or more miles without even realizing it.

The movie theater form of dissociation happens when you go to see a movie you have been waiting for and as soon as it begins you become engrossed. You become so engrossed, in fact, you become oblivious to everything going on around you until the movie ends.

Trauma and Abnormal Dissociation

Trauma is defined as an emotional response to a horrific event such as a car accident, rape, or other personal disaster. Shock and denial are typical in people who have lived through a traumatic event and they can exhibit unpredictable emotion and flashbacks.  

The shock and denial are compounded by the human ability to dissociate away from anything trauma. An example may be that a person lives through a horrific car accident but does not remember any part of it although they did not lose consciousness.

When trauma is repeatedly perpetrated against a child, that child will learn very quickly the value of dissociating away from the memory of the events. Unfortunately, if used enough as a defense mechanism, dissociation will become the go-to way the child will use when stressed or frightened all their life.

Dissociation the Ultimate Defense

If the trauma continues for years, and especially if there are multiple perpetrators, the child will have formed two or more splintered off ego states. The ego states of these children cannot communicate their knowledge to one another, so the child lives in a so the child lives in a world of disjointed emotions and feelings.

Unfortunately, as stated before, this is a lifelong condition way to deal with strong emotions or traumatic events. It is crippling to the life of these children and continues into adulthood.

If the abuse goes on over years, and if different scenarios and perpetrators are involved, many different parts splinter off. It is important to remember that not only have these children missed an important milestone in their development, but that dissociating has by the age of five become the best weapon they can escape the tragedy that is their reality. Living in parts instead of a whole allows the child to move on with life, not forgetting what transpires, but putting it away so that they can carry on.

The only alternatives are death or insanity.

Hope for the Disjointed Personality

Although dissociation can feel frightening and sometimes is dangerous, it must be remembered that it is a defense mechanism, no more, no less. People who live with dissociative identity disorder dissociate when experiencing extreme stress, but also when the experience a scent, smell, sight, etc. that reminds them of the past.

The good news is that once you have been enough therapy and begun fusion (where the alters work together as one unit), dissociation becomes just an inconvenience not horrifying.

There definitely is hope beyond dissociation, I know, I am living it. I am polyfragmented with over 127 alters. It has taken me a long time in therapy, but I am finally grounded and ready to rock.  

 “The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma.” ~ Judith Lewis Herman

“We cannot have a world where everyone is a victim. “I’m this way because my father made me this way. I’m this way because my husband made me this way.” Yes, we are indeed formed by traumas that happen to us. But then you must take charge, you must take over, you are responsible.” ~ Camille Paglia

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