Dissociation is the separation between our mental functioning from conscious awareness.
In small doses, it helps us cope and self-regulate during times of stress, discomfort, or boredom (i.e., daydreaming, visualizing/meditation, talking out loud).
However, unchecked dissociation can lead to problems with memory, emotional awareness, perception, behavior and identity.
Below are a few examples of dissociative experiences:
Feeling disconnected from yourself and the world around you.
Forgetting about certain time periods, events and personal information.
Forgetting to complete essential tasks such as eating, grooming or reporting to work.
Feeling uncertain about who you are.
Feeling little or no physical pain.
Depersonalization/derealization - Feeling like you or the things around you aren’t real.
If dissociating is one of your primary coping mechanisms it’s essential that you develop additional skills to navigate emotional and external challenges.
Without these skills, you risk going through life on autopilot with increased feelings of emptiness and hopelessness.
Below are a few tips for managing dissociation:
Journal - Documenting experiences, emotions and environmental shifts can be a critical tool for creating self-awareness and time salience. Writing things down also reinforces our memory.
Grounding - Go for a walk barefoot and notice how the ground feels, hold an ice cube or splash cold water on your face, touch something with an interesting texture or sniff something with a strong smell. These are all acts that connect you to the present moment.
Increase your stress tolerance - Set a designated time, at least once a week, to think about the problems you’re avoiding and possible solutions. You don’t have to figure everything out at once, try breaking down one problem at a time.
Look after your wellbeing - Sleep and relaxation are vital aspects of staying rooted mentally, emotionally and physically. Take practical steps to ensure you're getting rest, eating properly and taking time for yourself. The more overwhelmed and neglected you feel, the more likely you are to continue dissociative patterns.
If you’re experiencing more severe symptoms of dissociation such as loss of time, different identity states or memory loss seek the help of a mental healthcare professional.
No one deserves to live as a passenger in their own life!