The Brain in Defense Mode: How Dissociation Helps Us Survive

profile portrait with brain explosion fragmentsAccording to Ross and Halpern (2011), there are several definitions of dissociation. One of them (referred to as “the general systems meaning of dissociation”) is “the opposite of association” or the disconnection of two or more things that were once associated with each other. Another definition, presented by Steinberg and Schnall (2001), defines dissociation as “an adaptive defense in response to high stress or trauma characterized by memory loss and a sense of disconnection from oneself or one’s surroundings.”

Dissociation occurs when someone disconnects from some part of himself or herself or the environment. It can occur in a number of different ways, including disconnection from one’s emotions, body sensations, memories, senses, etc. A normal and common phenomenon, dissociation can happen in mild forms even when there is not imminent danger or stress. Think of a time you drove somewhere, arrived, and then couldn’t remember the drive because your mind was wandering; an instance when you lost track of time because you were engrossed in a riveting television show; or when you disconnected from body sensations to avoid going to the bathroom when you were on a tight deadline at work.

Dissociation is something we all do, and it is a vital part of our ingrained survival system. It is a part of the system that helps us to cope with stressful situations, which may otherwise feel overwhelming (Steinberg and Schnall, 2001). It is built in and is not pathological (Ross and Halpern, 2011). However, when a trauma occurs, sometimes this built-in system disconnects to a greater degree in an effort to protect the individual from traumatic material, body sensations, emotions, or memories that may be overwhelming.

Dissociation related to trauma occurs in varying degrees. On the lower end of the dissociation spectrum, for example, let’s say someone was in a car accident. A few days after the accident, the person finds that he or she cannot recall parts of the accident, even though reports of others were that he or she was conscious and responsive during those times he or she cannot recall. On the other end of the spectrum, someone who was severely abused throughout life can dissociate to the point that he or she has more than one personality, all of whom display and contain their own characteristics and who hold different memories associated with the trauma.

The goal in therapy is not to eliminate dissociation completely, but rather to help the brain and body to update to the current circumstances. Specifically, this would include helping a person to integrate current information about the present circumstances in which they live.

For the traumatized individual, dissociation may help him or her to survive circumstances that may have otherwise been intolerable. Dissociation can help a person feel as if situations, his or her body sensations, emotions that would have been overwhelming, etc., are muted and distorted so he or she can then go into “autopilot” mode and survive extreme situations and circumstances. When trauma is ongoing, dissociation can become “fixed and automatic” (Steinberg and Schnall, 2001). When this is the case, integration of memories becomes difficult for the brain, and the brain also continues to send of signals of danger, even when the traumatic situation is over (Steinberg and Schnall, 2001). This can continue for years after a traumatic situation has ended.

According to Steinberg and Schnall (2001), the five central symptoms of dissociation are:

  • Amnesia: Loss of memory for short or long periods of time. This can include not recalling all or part of an incident or time period.
  • Depersonalization: Feeling detached from yourself, parts of your body, and your emotions—like you are on autopilot or robotic.
  • Derealization: Feeling detached from your surroundings and people who were once familiar—like the world around you isn’t real.
  • Identity confusion: Feeling “uncertainty, puzzlement, or conflict about who you are” (Steinberg and Schnall, 2001).
  • Identity alteration: Alterations in personality and behavior that others notice. Sometimes this manifests as feeling as if you don’t have control over other personalities or your body.

For someone who is concerned that he or she is experiencing a more-than-normal incidence of dissociative symptoms, help is available. Several accurate tests are available through therapists and psychologists who have been specially trained in diagnosing and treating dissociation and trauma.

The goal in therapy is not to eliminate dissociation completely, but rather to help the brain and body to update to the current circumstances. Specifically, this would include helping a person to integrate current information about the present circumstances in which they live. If no danger currently exists, helping the brain and body to learn how to be safe would be one part of treatment. Working toward being able to maintain awareness of the present moment, body sensations, emotions, surroundings, etc.—also known as mindfulness—is one way to start to address dissociation, especially prior to any trauma work that needs to be addressed.

As a therapist, I appreciate dissociation as a valuable gift our brains are able to give us when we endure trauma. I emphasize to the people I work with in therapy that dissociation has helped them to survive, and we can acknowledge that this is a defense that has perhaps worked for longer than it was intended. It is important to remember that experiencing more than a regular level or type of dissociation as a result of trauma does not make a person defective. Rather, it shows that he or she has been able to live through and survive extraordinary circumstances that no one would be able to endure without the brain’s ability to dissociate.


  1. Ross, C., and Halpern, N. (2009). Trauma Model Therapy: A Treatment Approach for Trauma, Dissociation and Complex Comorbidity. Richardson, Texas: Manitou Communications.
  2. Steinberg, M., and Schnall M. (2001). The Stranger in the Mirror. New York, New York: Harper.

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  • Grey

    April 29th, 2015 at 8:22 AM

    On the surface it sounds like it would be helpful but I don’t think so because it lets you avoid rather than deal, and even when you avoid, the problem is always still going to be there until you recognize and acknowledge it.

  • TracyB

    August 27th, 2016 at 2:09 PM

    I have dissociated for years – My Mother had an emotionally abusive relationship with her Mother and oldest sister. This was then transferred to myself and one of my brothers. Only now am I understanding what has been happening to me. Thank You for this article, at least I know I am not on my own and others do this to survive.

  • ross

    April 29th, 2015 at 1:26 PM

    It is a survival technique, one that helps for a little while. But I have seen people become majorly messed up because they have dissociated too much I guess and they have become way out of touch with reality. Learning to do things to help you get through something, that’s ok, but the problem can’t be buried forever without expecting that there will be some severe consequences later on.

  • Kay

    April 29th, 2015 at 8:51 PM

    Remember that the individual does not consciously choose this survival technique. I think this post described the process and treatment fairly, if concisely.

  • Linda B

    April 30th, 2015 at 9:15 AM

    From age 15-17 my mother woul straddle me on the floor and slap me 10 or more times and pull my hair. Because my dad had said he would kill us if we ever struck her I had to die within to deal with the pain and humiliation I remember just lying there and enduring it all until she was done. I would then go on to school or work and they would see the disheveled look and allow me time to regroup a little before classes or work. It was a horrific time in my life I had already endured sexual molestation by my father from age 7-9. I feel that now some 50 yrs. later that I still dissociate sometimes

  • Sherrian

    May 1st, 2015 at 5:16 AM

    So very sorry but u survived!! Be proud and think good thoughts! Most importantly break the chain!!!! Do not repeat the same to your children or allow other children to suffer if u have knowledge of it. God bless you & prayers are going up!!!!

  • Olivia

    April 30th, 2015 at 12:42 PM

    Linda B your story is so sad and probably so reflective of the things that others have gone through and are still going through today. I think that when you have experienced pain like tat the only thing that you can do sometimes to survive is to step outside of yourself and try somehow someway to leave it behind.

  • Wendy

    June 12th, 2015 at 9:09 PM

    Having been raped by an uncle and four neighbor boys at age three while living with a drunken and sociopathic grandmother who regularly used physical violence to discipline, I struggled with this and still do. I have two other alters whom step in from time to time And luckily I have friends and family who understand what’s happening. It’s cost me a marriage, a child, sometimes jobs and friends. Luckily, I am blessed with someone who isn’t judgemental and who is able to help me be mindful and present in my life at this time. He’s actually interacted with my dominant alter. The periods of abuse and scope of the things that happened went on for years from sexual stuff to physical abuse resulting in my removal from my home at age13 by the state after my mom lost her nut and beat me bloody. Ten years of it. By then there were three of us in here…all getting therapy though at a children’s home. I was returned to my home at age16, left again six months later after another bloody encounter with mom and was in a mental ward at age 17 after eating sixty 20 mg valium And a bottle of aspirin. I was vile they pumped my stomach I was told. After two weeks, my dominant alter had regained control and the urge to exit passed. I again went into therapy. It’s not like Sybil…but sometimes it’s not that different with the sudden shifts. I am hoping to be able to use the positive aspects of this to move through. My life is so different now but stress will still trigger me. I have three kids, all great ones, and have a great relationship. I’m a nurse, going back for my bachelor’s. Relationships with the exes are good…but this still remains. Its hard to let go. Especially with broken bones and scars as a constant reminder. I’m ready though. About to let my brain know it’s not a war zone anymore. Hoping it works. Hope for any of you out there feeling alone in this that this helps. Lol. We’re never really alone are we?

  • Linda

    June 14th, 2015 at 6:25 AM

    Dear Wendy,
    Your strength , your courage,and your sheer willpower is like something I have never seen. I’am at a loss for words. You my dear are a true inspiration.You should be so proud of yourself. With every odd stacked against you , you made it. I just want to give you a big hug, and I don’t even know you. You are an amazing human being. I hope you continue to strive in life. You deserve nothing but the best. <3

  • Lisa

    June 12th, 2015 at 9:21 PM

    I cannot begin to tell you enough how much I appreciate this article. I was afraid to even tell anyone I was having feelings of “not being ” entirely here mentally. I did have childhood abuse that I believe contributed to this survival mechanism. Thank you again .

  • Wanda E.

    June 14th, 2015 at 8:44 PM

    I have been dealing with this and other severe problems for 10+ years I hope to one day to be fully integrated. I can’t go into much detail as it will trigger me. Thanks for this I am glad I am not alone.

  • Patty

    August 6th, 2015 at 6:51 PM

    Having been abused and raped many times over and over again over the course of 60 years (i’m in my mid 60’s), I had completely disassociated myself from all that trauma, even as soon as it had happened, even after being nearly murdered. This worked somewhat well for me over time and I was able to convince myself that things were fine. Besides, I had lots of interesting stories to tell, and I’m a writer, so it was good. Then on top of all that, I lost 18 people (including mom), friends, family and animal companions in the space of 12 months. I had just spent years care giving for family with Alzheimer’s (mom) and Bi Polar sister and my own severe and chronic illness of 15 years. Then I collapsed from exhaustion. I was cooked to the bone. I became suicidal. Ended up in VA in-patient treatment and applying for VA service connected disability for PTSD/military sexual trauma. I still can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I was just starting have a lot of hope as I worked fervently towards something better. However unfortunate, it is my opinion now the treatment only exposed things better left hidden because I am finding there is little respect in the mental health field for one such as me (I’ve rec’d the best of the care and the worst of it, but often when mental health enters in, compassion and understanding can leave). So at this point, even after ongoing treatment, I still find myself wanting to vacate my life just from the driest white bone of exhaustion of it all. I kind of wish I’d never started this process. Let sleeping dogs lie. I sometimes research the best way to end my life without causing too much pain. Yet my daughter is probably the only thing that keeps me on earth. The thought of hurting her like that is something I know I cannot do. But I sure do think about it on my bad days–and today is one of them especially after just finding out that some very big doors to my healing have just been slammed shut in my face forever, and it seems I have nowhere to go. (I’m currently living with an old perpetrator of mine out of necessity). I guess I just have to resign myself, put on a happy face and realize it just is what it is and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it. Life guarantees nothing, and it’s certainly not personal.

  • The Team

    August 6th, 2015 at 8:15 PM

    Thank you for your comment, Patty. We wanted to provide links to some resources that may be relevant to you here. We have more information about what to do in a crisis at

    Warm regards,
    The Team

  • Reader

    April 6th, 2017 at 8:29 AM

    Patty, I cannot begin to imagine your painful and difficult web of life. But you write very well, and I hope you will consider writing in journals or even creative writing, if you don’t already do this. You have stories to tell, you tell them well, and who knows where it might lead? Keep at it.

  • Anita

    October 18th, 2017 at 9:18 AM

    Hi Patty
    Just want to say your expression about what happened is greatly appreciate. There is no guarantee in life. What I do is look at my time presently, rest well, read my favourite book, pet my cat, exercise, eat my favorite food, listen to good music and watch TV. These things give me pleasure no matter what happens out there.

  • There ARE people out there that do and WILL love you

    September 8th, 2015 at 7:22 PM

    I am glad there are articles like this so I can understand the feelings of the horribly wounded, because no matter how far away I am from knowing how it feels to go through these horrific situations, I get so much fuel to keep my eye out for people in similar situations and truly be able to help people make a difference by being there for them so they never feel alone when it really comes down to it. I am so sorry for these terrible people entering your lives… It should never have happened and you are incredible to the core to manage every day with any morsel of strength. Please NEVER give up on yourselves.. Because there is a beautiful second part of your story that oddly will be a reward you’ll feel blessed to have received. Life works mysteriously and your deepest wounds are miraculous to hear about… You survived!!!!!!!! You are incredible!!!

  • Amber

    December 18th, 2015 at 6:55 AM

    I think the dissociation helps to keep up with the pressure to keep the machine of daily existence going, in a world where it is criminal to simply be, to own nothing and want nothing, a space that is necessary for the silent glacial movements of healing in the dark. Dissociation makes it possible to survive, yes, and eating and making a dollar to afford the right to sleep somewhere does count. It matters, to be able to physically move on after experiencing violent disrespect. I also think it enables us to perpetuate this violence to ourselves (not seeing or hearing our own feelings), and even worse, to others. The cycle of violence takes immense strength to merely survive, and even more to shift the direction towards holding ourselves, and one another. When we dissociate we become violent machines, though innocent and not from our own inherent being. The daily work of acceptance and love is really really hard work, as I’m sure we all know. Every step widens the path to healing, that others may join.

  • Mamamuzic

    May 21st, 2016 at 11:31 PM

    I was raised by a multiple personality mother who was horribly violent and a father who sexually abused my sisters and I. I had all the symptoms of abuse, especially dissociation, and was extremely fortunate to find a great therapist, who, when I was 24 in 1987, began my healing process. It took 5 intense years. Lots of writing, remembering and crying. And slowly, the negative energies dissipated. I was able to feel neutral, even sympathetic toward my parents. It can happen! You can be whole and not dissociate or live in fear and anger. Let yourself feel, when you are safe and ready…you can do it.❤

  • kris

    June 24th, 2016 at 4:38 PM

    I was really sick and couldn’t remember what happened to me . I had a ruptured intestine, sepsis,coma and found out I had cancer. I went back to the hospital to be reconnected. and had my incision rupture and got C- diff.
    I have been through a lot. I think I might be suffering from disassosion .I have border line personalitity.I have been treated fo 18 years. I am not feeling well. I went to my dr. yesterday and he tweeked my meds. should I seek therapy ??

  • Helena J

    August 12th, 2016 at 5:27 AM

    Kris, I hope you’ve reached out for help and is going through therapy. Please consider if you haven’t already.

  • Elsie

    November 26th, 2016 at 9:13 AM

    I grew up with an alcoholic mother, who was both physically and emotionally abusive. From a young age it made me angry inside and after a while, I remember thinking that other people lived in the “real world” and I lived in my bubble without being able to experience “real life”. After my mother died, I went into a major depressive episode and was diagnosed with MDD. I was in and out of therapy for years. Then in 2014, I found a therapist and we clicked and it has made all the difference. I don’t have to disassociate anymore. 22

  • Anita

    March 31st, 2017 at 3:54 PM

    I have been emotionally abused by my mother and sister. I have seen different therapist throughout the years. It only seemed the few good ones, had to leave after 12 weeks. The last therapist gave me the impression of being judgemental. Thank god I never opened up too much. After a few visits with him, I knew I wouldn’t connect. Here in Toronto, it is very hard to find a counsellor I can trust. I have found a lot of them kick you when you are down. They take advantage of me being vulnerable. I have learned not to put myself in an abusive situation on my own though without counselling. Yet, I realize not too many people have earned my trust. Now I don’t trust people.

  • Phil

    September 10th, 2017 at 11:54 AM

    Disassociate…I didn’t know there was a term for fixing my mind on some distant place while I was living in fear from the psychotic, broken, rage filled, wretched, bi-polar person who was my biological (father). He was brutal in his words, his disapproval and insults, daily. I was least favored of a large family and 3rd in birth of 4 boys in a row; a birth every yr. So I was not treasured, nor was I treated like the rest. Just a commodity, a small white haired boy who was born blind in one eye…flawed and put to work as early as possible. I grew up on a run down, rocky farm which he ran like a concentration camp; complete with brainwashing and beatings. I started avoiding him as a toddler because his disapproval and ridicule was so hurtful. He made no pretense of treating my brothers much better. The physical brutality started when I was a small boy. With head slaps that shocked and bewildered me…seemingly coming out of nowhere. I received my first real beating when I was 7 or 8. I have been beaten semi-nude with hand, fist, belt, stick and a wire coat hanger fashioned into a wire whip. As I grew I learned to leave what was happening and, in my mind go somewhere else and be someone else. I also became real good at not showing any pain..standing there in silence as he vented his rage on me. I believe this silence pushed him over the edge many times but I didn’t care. I wanted to be dead or in the Hospital. In my teens he would find me alone out of sight and sound of family. He would start in verbally about some false charge against me or some stupid little thing that he was obsessing about. He ordered me to stand and look at him while he worked himself into a rage and when he started talking through clenched teeth I knew it was too late. I had to wait for the blow to the head that he administered with either one of his fists. He had been a welterweight champion boxer and if I flinched or helplessly raised and arm to protect my head, he would feint with one fist and come in with the other. It was always a blow to the temple of my head and there would be a flash of light in my brain and then nothing…blackness. I don’t know if I fell down from those blows nor do I remember how any of those violent attacks ended. I don’t remember him walking away…nothing. I am an older person and a Viet Nam Veteran and in the last 20 yrs I have processed all of it as I healed. I have come to realize that those times were the biggest acts of cowardice I have seen done by any human anywhere. I had PTSD, not from the Military but from my childhood. Nowdays I would call the cops and charge him with domestic violence, assault and attempted man slaughter..There is so much more to my many incidents and so many ugly, irrational words and memories. Child abuse is indeed a life sentence and I live with it daily. My abuser is long passed away. My brothers and I were pall bearers at his funeral; no tears, not then, not now, not ever. I shed my last tear over him when I was 14, in a tree in the woods. Then it became just survival until I could get away from him. I married the love of my life in my late 20s. He tried to interfere with our marriage plans by threatening not to attend the wedding if I went through with it. I just answered by saying that he should do what he was comfortable with. I was marrying the girl I loved and it was going to happen whether or not he attended. I didn’t see him for months but he was at our wedding and they tell me he sat with his head down during the whole ceremony. We ignored him. A yr or so later he approached me and said one of the most ignorant, arrogant and ridiculous things I have heard in 70 yrs on this earth. He had distanced himself from my brothers wives for various childish reasons but he decided he liked my sweet natured and soft spoken wife. He said “You have no idea what a nice wife you have. You better treat her right or I’ll knock your block off”. Just another insult to my intelligence coupled with a threat. I was a married father in my 30s but he still treated me like the brainwashed, naïve, despairing teen who was his barnslave, fieldhand and whipping post. I never allowed him to be with our 5 kids unless I was there keeping a watchful eye. When they were entering their teens I kept them away from him completely. He didn’t know them. He couldn’t even name them. I am a very good father and now grandfather…and I will always protect what is mine. I have forgiven my abuser even though I never spoke to him about it. He continued to treat me with rudeness and no respect until he died. One can forgive someone from 200 mi away without speaking to the abuser. My forgiveness is about me, not him and saying prayers of forgiveness daily has brought me Peace. My abuser is obsolete and I leave him there to wallow in it. I have no need for him or his memories in my abundant life and I carry my scars with pride. I know now that all the abuse I went through is a definition of him. It says nothing about me other than that I was an innocent child; a victim and now, a survivor. He may have won all the battles when I was young and helpless and despairing. But he lost the war and I am living proof of that. I am a successful husband (44 yrs), father, grandfather, busy retiree, a strong healthy man and a Christian. The ultimate victory over child abuse is living well, happily and abundantly.

  • Anita

    October 18th, 2017 at 9:11 AM

    Phil, I want to congratulate you on your empowerment and strength.

  • Ann M.

    September 13th, 2017 at 7:26 AM

    Seeing some of your brave recanting is humbling to me. My trauma comes from living with parents who fought constantly and a mother who ‘snapped’ now and then under the pressure of raising a large family on limited means. By the time I was 14, I hated my mother for her inability to cope and for the ways she had of dissociating (which included alcohol and overt social promiscuity). I hated the names she called me and the habit she had of reminding me and my siblings that we were not welcome to stay in her home beyond the age of 18. Once we were all out of the house, our parents’ relationship deteriorated but they stayed together and we were often dragged into their emotional power plays during family visits. Not a supportive, caring environment and I’m not the only one of my siblings suffering in later life with emotional scars. We don’t relate well with our mother (now a widow) and I don’t have a relationship with any of my siblings. I recently also ended my relationship with my mother. Her disrespectful behavior toward me and others that she’s closest to likely stems from her own childhood traumas, but I can’t help her and am trying to save myself at this point. I’m married, have children and grandchildren, and am working daily on developing healthy relationships with all of the people in my life. That’s why I no longer speak with my mother or my siblings, except for very cordially in circumstances where life events bring us together – which isn’t often, especially since I’m no longer near to any of them geographically.
    I’m not sure if I dissociate. I do have memories of specific moments of trauma, both physical and emotional abuses, but maybe not as many as actually existed. I’ve had nightmares about things that I think could not have been real, but maybe there is more trauma hidden in those dreams than I’m able to get in touch with.
    For a long time, I’ve told myself I’m just too sensitive. Only recently am I able to own my emotions and respect them as valid. I’m not too sensitive… there’s no such thing. Sensitivity is innate in me and I’ve decided years ago not to try and drown it out with addictions and self-inflicted abuses. Mindfulness is something I’ve been working on and continue to work on, and now I’m working on holding others accountable for the energy and emotion they bring into their relationship with me. I don’t need to be friends with everyone I meet and I don’t need for people to like me. That realization has helped me project more honestly and with integrity. And, from that position it’s easy to claim there is no dissociation. Maybe all of the coddling I used to do and accepting of others’ bad behavior towards me came from a place of dissociating. Standing tall in your shoes (even if tall for you is only 5 feet) and being mindful and respectful of your own energy helps heal the hurt … for me, it’s still there because other traumas from loss have left terrible hurts, but I can embrace it and acknowledge it as a part of my story without the need to unplug or dissociate from it.
    Thanks for giving me a platform for this expression.

  • Violet N.

    October 18th, 2017 at 8:23 AM

    I am 57 years old, and still struggling with PTSD from a very abusive marriage. I have also just recently realized that I was verbally abused as I was growing up, and that has had a profound effect on my self-esteem, and contributed to the man I chose to marry. There are many details that I’m afraid to list because they are unique and could lead to someone recognizing who I am. But one of the things I had to do was protect my children from my ex when he would go into his rages. This included him breaking glass bottles and lunging toward them with them. I was in a situation and a place where reaching out for help, thru law or otherwise, was not possible. He constantly berated me, spit in my face, tried to push me down stairs, and would not allow me to have friends or be in contact with my family. I began to disassociate during this time, but I knew I had to keep a firm grip on reality to protect my children from him. We finally escaped him (me and my children) but had to live in hiding for years because he came after us. He hired detectives and hounded my family, even bringing lawsuits against them or showing up to their homes with a gun. It’s been 20 years since we got away, but we lived for about 6 or 7 years looking over our shoulders. My kids now are married and have their own lives, and I’m a grandmother. But I’m still struggling with PTSD, and I’m finding that I have been disassociating by daydreaming – almost living a completely different life in my head. I’ve also had other personalities come thru, which I’ve never discussed with anyone because I feel deep shame about it. I’ll get really talkative and extroverted, laughing and joking with everyone. I’m sure they notice, but no one has said anything. I wish I could be that way always, but then I disappear into myself. I do nothing all day, I go nowhere, I have no friends. My kids and grandkids are my world, and my children have always been supportive of me. But I feel my usefulness has expired, and I’m making no effort to expand my world. It’s like my life has closed in on itself. I go to therapy, and they’ve tried to do EMDR, but it’s never worked out. I’m not completely honest with my therapist about what I’m actually struggling with. Something happened recently that caused me to go into disassociation – I recognized it after a few days. The event was trivial, but my reaction was exaggerated. I looked up “disassociation” online and found this site. I know to discuss this with my therapist, and to be more honest with him, or I’m not going to get better.

  • Anita

    October 18th, 2017 at 9:01 AM

    Hi Violet, first of all, they are coming out of all labels to people nowadays. I wouldn’t be hard on myself with the label (PTSD). Almost everyone in this world eventually will suffer some form of it if they live a long life. We all go through losses eventually, 1 in 4 women will be assaulted in there lives eventually, men and women will be traumatized in some form eventually, and this is all part of life. The only thing we have control over is what one can do about the circumstances and with whatever decision you make is what you know at the time. Not to be hard on ourselves either is very important. For example, when I am upset and feel no one is listening, I will start remembering the people I have lossed in my life. The good people, my beautiful cat, my favourite teacher, my grandmother, etc. This may be PTSD, a trigger of an upset, because memory comes back, but it may not be always a negative memory. These memories of what was good for me keeps me going in life. It is weird, but when I have a trigger, there is no memory what bad people in the past, it is only the good I remember that comes up and how much I miss them. If this is what PTSD is, I am happy for it and proud of it. I had similar experiences like you, where my mother use to hit me until one day when I was sixteen, and stood up to her and told her to never hit me again. She never did. The man who tried to hit your children, I can relate. He has problems. The only thing to do is your children are living and healthy. I hope you can work on your own empowerment. Just by expressing yourself here on Good Therapy is an empowering step you have taken.
    I encourage you to keep tracking and empowering your self by having a voice.
    Have a great day

  • Randa S.

    February 27th, 2019 at 3:47 PM

    Really enjoy this subject. Makes me feel not alone

  • Kate

    February 11th, 2022 at 6:06 AM

    I didn’t have a good relationship with my step father, emotionally and physically abusive through my childhood. Two partners who were again emotionally and physically abusive. I dissociate and deal with difficult situations very well, I find it a blessing. Music grounds me and the sea. My mothers said about counselling but I don’t feel I want to open that box. I have a good man in my life now and surroundings don’t always feel real but it’s training my brain to believe there’s good people out there. I dissociate during physical pain and emotional pain but it doesn’t hinder my life, I feel like I am able to deal with anything because of it. Almost indestructible.

  • Rohan

    July 24th, 2022 at 9:21 AM

    Just binge watched MoonKnight . He did the same in the series . Im thinking to learn this technique as it may be very helpful at some times. Its like same protagnist with 2 characters .

  • Rohan

    July 24th, 2022 at 9:25 AM

    Heyy Kate . I hope you are doing well . I have question . … Like how do u dissociate i know it happens automatically on time but if u were to teach me .. how can i do that ? How do i dissociate so all the pain and distractions around me dont bother me muchh ..

  • Kayla

    September 3rd, 2022 at 6:24 PM

    You cannot just teach someone to dissociate. And trying to unlearn this coping mechanism is very difficult. Your brain will automatically dissociate for you if it’s a stressful enough or abusive/neglectful situation to protect you from the emotional damage and the immediate impact of the event(s). I have been dissociating off and on for 31 years now due to a childhood from hell, and difficulty in my relationships with my husband and his family. Don’t ask to learn how to dissociate, because one cannot be taught how unless they want someone to intentionally traumatize them over and over again like being mentally and emotionally tortured.

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