Disassociation is not something everyone will know exists. Its the bodies way of adapting to deal with trauma.
I am grateful for the question some one asked me, that reminds me, not everyone knows trauma stuff and to keep sharing.
Firstly, it’s helpful to think of disassociation as on a spectrum. We all disassociate or zone out. Think being at the traffic lights perhaps in a blank state and your pipped by the car behind. To day dreaming.
The freeze disassociated state is a survival strategy used when things become so stressful that we shut down.
We don’t always collapse to the floor, but we might curl up, lose access to vital networks. Hearing speech can go off line, the struggle to move fingers, toes.
You can’t stand up, it can be terrifying and flashbacks, traumatic memories, sounds smells can trigger disassociation.
On the far end of the spectrum is someone so frozen they may take hours to be able to fight there way out of this frozen state.
Some can feel the freezing happen, move and halt the disassociation by moving and with one client, I worked with we found , if she knitted whilst talking we were able to keep her Prefrontal Cortex (thinking upstairs brain) online more.
She also was able to access her social engagement system – the senses, hearing and speech, were possible.
This survival mechanism is deployed when you can’t escape. The disassociation helps keep you from experiencing more unimaginable trauma.
Some will have clear triggers, such as places or smells. With others it might be more random and unknown.
Some clients can put their hand up tell me ‘I am freezing’ and we can catch it. Others are not able to do so as it’s lightening fast. It can take time to get clients unfrozen and back in the their bodies enough to function.
I often leave larger spaces for clients who disassociate. Over time as we unlearn fear and tolerate more emotions, the freeze response eases.
This is not quick or easy work and tends to be long term. It is feeling your way out with bottom up healing, bodies first.
Every clients disassociation is different. Some can still hear me, others are not able to.
It is not something everyone understands.
Keeping the many body systems and networks online takes work. Just like phones, bodies in survival mode can’t work optimally.
Sex, hunger, play, our bodies thriving drives all shut down under intense threat. Safety needs restoring for us to thrive, for everything to work in sync.
Trauma can have us wetting or soiling too, chronic stomach ache and a whole myriad of horrendous symptoms.
I hope this helps make a little more sense and thank you to the person who asked. I forget this stuff isn’t common knowledge and I hope I have described this well enough.
Please reach out if you would like any more information on this subject or if this hits a nerve for you.