Are You Disassociating?
How to Tell and Shift Your Response
How would you know if you were disassociating or if you were in a place of security through tough times?
The act of dissociation and escaping can look like:
Running away from the problems at hand
Leaning into drugs or alcohol, or any other addictive habits that alter your state of being
Filling your schedule with tasks in order to make yourself busy
Moving your mind away from the things that actually need to be done and hyper-fixating or focusing on things that make you feel like you might have some control
Just ignoring what’s really going on
On the other hand, living in a secure place—a place of processing and self-regulation—is knowing what needs to be done and being able to take the action needed, while also knowing and understanding that you have feelings and emotions that need to be heard and processed. Think of it this way: when you’re in a secure place, you take everything in digestible pieces. This helps you move through each facet with a sense of certainty. Being able to slowly compartmentalize one task at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed by the big picture or everything that might be going on in your life.
Underneath dissociation is typically a fear or a sadness. For some, it can feel unsettling and restless, while to others it can feel hollow and numb. This is due to the fact that we are human beings and we all handle things in very different ways. The construct of being human is such a spectrum of emotions and feelings, that sadness to one person may feel different to another. Just like escaping for one person could be alcoholism or addictions that alter the mind, whereas addictions and escapism for someone else could look like shopping or obsessive gaming.
What it Means to Act from a Secure Place
On the other hand, the feeling of being secure even through darkness, is anchored in clear introspections. You’ll know you’re in a secure place when you can organize your thoughts and manage your hardships in a way that is honoring where you are, your environment, and staying grounded in what you know to be true. And also grounded in the uncertainty of the fact that you may not know what is going on, the confusion around all of it. It’s also a place where you can allow yourself to feel the challenging emotions that want to be validated. This can look very different for different people. One of the most common ways is when you’re dissociating, you may not be able to feel things. You may not be able to really access your feelings, because it can be a lot. Right? However, when you’re in a secure place, you can still choose to recognize that these feelings, these emotions you’re feeling, need to be regulated at a different time and place. For instance, let’s say you get into a car accident. You need to make sure that you’re safe, you’re okay. You’re parked at the side of the road. You process everything in tandem. Someone who is in a really secure place, at that moment, will be able to do everything that they need to do. And then as soon as they get home or as soon as they have the mental capacity to process what happened, they’ll let all of their emotions and feelings out to be recognized and be validated. It doesn’t mean they ignored them (their feelings), it just means that they recognized there were things that needed to get done right now, and they can’t break down because they have safety-checks and processes that need to be attended to before they can really settle in and process everything that’s happened emotionally.
Your Emotions and Levels of Security Will Flow
All that being said, when things are really heard—like really hard—these feelings that we hold within our bodies begin to move in waves. Meaning that no one is in a secure place all the time. That same person who may have been able to be really secure during that car accident, may be completely unregulated and unable to feel secure a few days later when they are triggered by something else. It’s a spectrum of how you move towards and away from our security and into dysregulation. And some people spend more time on one side of the scale than the other, but regardless, we are human so it’s a very fluid process for everyone of having things come up allow coping mechanisms to come forward to protect us.
The point is, if you are escaping from the world around you…there are these parts, these aspects of the self, that do this to protect you from harm—whether it be emotional, physical, irrational or rational. It’s a coping mechanism meant to keep you safe. Our minds do this all the time unconsciously. Some of the protection mechanisms are productive while others are dysfunctional. The purpose of escaping is to remove ourselves mentally from stressful situations in fear of an outcome or experience. So if you’re someone that struggles with escaping through things like shopping, cleaning, or playing video games just remember to notice. Pay attention to your body. Pay attention to your coping mechanisms and ask why. Why do I want to be somewhere else right now? Why doesn't it feel safe to be in my body right now? What am I running from?
These questions will open up the door to self-exploration as you uncover truths about yourself that you may have never known existed. Dissociating and escaping is not something that is bad or wrong. It’s something we do to protect ourselves, and it’s rooted in trauma.
So if you’re someone who wants to learn more about your coping mechanisms or learn more about how to understand how you process things—or just be more aware of your emotions and your states of being internally, go to my website at mysticrosemedicine.com to learn more about my offerings.
This article was contributed by:
Emily Rose Wheeler
Consciousness Facilitator at Mystic Rose Medicine
Emily Rose Wheeler is a healing facilitator who works with folks to over come limiting beliefs as they deconstruct false narratives, and empower self-compassion. She believes that healing takes place on all levels, physical, emotional, & spiritual, creating an all-inclusive holistic approach that generates balance within the whole human experience. Those who feel called to work with her have usually fallen through the cracks of the system & require nourishing validation as they heal subconscious wounds that have taken up space for far too long.
Her mission is to assist others in finding their pleasure, pursue their passion, discover their values & honoring their relationships. As they cultivate love & compassion within themselves, they step into their true nature of being.
When she isn’t working with clients, Emily is reading books on child psychology, energy healing, neuroplasticity, trauma, & epigenetics. When she’s not reading, she is painting or creating something with her hands. The soothing & unfamiliar prediction of what her art will turn into allows her to be comfortable with mistakes & embrace what she has made, even if it turns out different than anticipated.