Working with Dissociation

I’m going to share with you one of the easiest ways I’ve found to work with dissociation; when someone is dissociating from the body.  I would recommend this for people who have a solid practice in being able to regulate themselves. If that isn’t you, maybe try this with your therapist. Also, if you begin to associate more with the body, you will likely come upon stored wounds, traumas or emotions. If this happens and it feels overwhelming, take a break or use tools that you have learned from your therapist(or other professional) to help be with these emotions or traumas. You can also stop, resource, and then take that material to your therapist to work through with some support. Never work with something that feels overwhelming; this doesn’t help us. When we feel overwhelmed, we are not able to process emotion or trauma. 

What is Dissociation?

Before I go into the practice that I’ll be sharing. I want to get on the same page about the language I’ll be using and what I think dissociation is. Dissociation is when we remove ourselves from an emotion, body part, or thoughts that are threatening or uncomfortable. We can dissociate from our emotions, parts of the body or the body as a whole. We can also dissociate so much that parts of us become wholly separate from other parts and these parts develop their own personality. This would be what we call Dissociative Identity Disorder(DID) in the DSM. We can call the part of you that dissociates, your energy, awareness, soul, spirit, whatever word works well for you. We cal also call that part “the part that dissociates.” 

With DID, I would use very different techniques to work with the dissociation happening in the system. I wouldn’t start with the technique I’ll be discussing here. 

The Technique

So for this technique, you can start with feeling the part of yourself that leaves the body. Feel for where that part is right now, are you taking up space in your body? Are you half in, half out of your body? Just notice, nothing to do while you are just noticing. See if you can do this without judgement as well. There’s no need to place value on if you are dissociated or not; it’s not good or bad, it just is. 

After you notice where you are taking up space in your body, if you are not fully inhabiting your body; You can ask the part of you that is not totally in the body why it is not in the body right now. Most of my clients will get an answer when done intentionally. If you don’t get an answer when you do this on your own, it could be worth talking to your therapist to see if you can get some support in exploring this. If you get an answer like, “I don’t feel safe to be fully in the body right now”, you can ask that part what would help it feel safer. Then do the thing that would make it feel safer. After you do the thing, then check back in and see if that part of you would like to move more into the body. If the answer is yes, then allow space and time for that to happen. Don’t push. This part of ourselves that dissociates won’t respond well to pushing. Just allow. And if it feels difficult and there’s no movement; again check in with that part and ask what it needs to move more into the body. 

That’s pretty much it!! This one intervention can take up a whole therapy session with asking, doing the thing that the part needs, seeing if there’s movement, etc. Give yourself time to explore this. Take the time you might take if you were stretching out a muscle that was tight and achy. You can practice this as much as you’d like as you are expanding your ability to take up space in your body.

If you are a therapist that works with people who dissociate and you want more community support, less isolation, dialed in techniques like this; you can join my consultation group that happens on the third Monday of every month. Contact me to sign up!

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