What is dissociation? How to return to safety?


One of the survival responses of the body is freezing in certain situations to take ourselves away from a painful part trauma. In this case, sometimes people dissociate from their bodies. “Dissociation is a normal protective response that falls under the immobilisation or freeze response. The ability to disconnect from your body or mind allows you to find safety elsewhere in moments of need. Derealisation and depersonalisation are types of dissociation, which can feel like you’re not connected to your environment or you’re floating above your body.⁠ These states and response systems are completely involuntary and automatic, your body and brain’s way of keeping you safe.,” wrote Therapist Anna Papaioannou as she explained the process of dissociation.

What is dissociation? How to return to safety?(Unsplash)

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Some of the symptoms of dissociation included not feeling like a part of the body, or feeling like an observer observing ourselves from outside, and not being aware of the surroundings we are in and becoming absorbed in things. Feeling overwhelmed or in order to handle stress or panic, dissociation happens as the body’s survival response. In their daily lives, people often switch off sometime to recharge themselves and get back to reality. When we carry the burden of past traumas, often dissociation happens in later stages of life as soon as we spot similar danger. Disconnecting from the body enables us to move past the situation without getting absorbed and affected by it – this can help us through extreme physical, mental and emotional suffering.

But how do we return to safety from dissociation? Here are a few ways:

Glimmers: Glimmers are positive signs to help ourselves feel that we are safe in the present. From calming music to walking barefoot on grass, or spending time in nature, or being in the presence of our loved ones can act as the signal of safety for the body and help us get back to reality from dissociation.

Touch: Soothing touch from ourselves or people we connect with can help us activate positivity and return to safety. However, sudden touch can be triggering, and we should approach it slowly.


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