Detaching and Dissociating

Detaching and dissociating are words which describe the act of mentally (and therefore emotionally) leaving the present moment and of becoming distant from it. It can be experienced mildly as a subtle feeling of being separated and apart from everyone and everything around you. It can be experienced more dramatically as actually being outside of your body and looking on. Others may speak with you and you will not respond, though you may know that they are speaking. You are elsewhere. People around you may have difficulty with this, especially if it appears to happen right out of the blue. Some people will take it as evidence that you are mentally ill. You may be treated in a devaluing manner as a result of this. Again, mental pollution is popular.

You may suffer from this thinking error: "Because I detach, I must be a helpless, useless, whacked-out person." Let's dispute that one right away. First of all, congratulations on having an emergency exit. Are you aware that this kind of escape hatch has been used by a whole lot of sexually victimized people? Many of them were victims of sexual violence as little children. You may have developed this means of escape way back then. And good for you too.

The problem is this: Your emergency exit has become habituated and you may be using it when you don't really need to. Are you still at risk of being victimized? No? Then you do not really need it these days. The development of the emergency exit is not only because of trauma, but also because of the re-victimization process, in which a child's normal life gets split mentally from the abusive episodes. The habituation of this process evolves naturally and there is no blame for it. It's a survival device and it probably saved you from more severe mental, emotional and physical pain than you know. So far so good?

Now that the detaching has become automatic, you will doubtless be finding it somewhat inconvenient, inappropriate or downright embarrassing. Get on with the job of disputing any self-downing thinking that goes with this. It is a fact of your life - for the time being anyway. Why do a double whammy and feel bad about it too?

e hike? No you won't. The canoe was a useful vehicle for crossing the lake, but it will be an unnecessary burden for hiking. No big crime - just inconvenient and a lot of extra work. Your emergency exit once was a necessity. Now it is in the way.

As well as accepting the fact that your escape hatch routine has become habituated and is no reason for self-damning, there may be more that you can do. For instance, recall that memories of trauma are only difficult when the thinking that comes with them is troublesome. Your detaching is likely provoked by some kind of habituated stress-making thinking that gets triggered in the here and now. When you think something like: "I can't stand this. This is really horrible. Help! I can't handle this!, I have to get out of here!", you may trigger the habituated emergency exit routine. Good bye. Off you go.

Check this out: While off and away, you still have the ability to think. So relax. Briefly enjoy the sense of safety, and begin purposeful thinking. Challenge the awfulizing. Recognize that you are safe and that you can actually handle what ever is going on. Explain this to yourself. It may be unpleasant, but it is not so tragic really. Challenge the I-can't-stand-its. Work gently towards understanding that you are able to stand whatever it is, even though it may be a royal pain in the butt. Allow yourself to come back. Explain to yourself that it is safe out there. It's just another case of habit thinking - no big deal. Keep the internal chatter and challenge going. Compliment yourself on your return. Buy a hamburger or a yogurt shake. Treat yourself.

In this manner, you can develop some control over your comings and goings. You don't have to just be at the mercy of these habituated escape processes. You can work towards becoming an expert traveller between states - with more control over it. Hey, some of us meditate for years and we still cannot do that kind of thing. Medication might also be helpful with this if it is a big concern.

As your thinking matures, you may be able to live without the emergency exit for longer and longer periods. Don't worry. If you want it, it will still be there. On the other hand, as the quality of your emotional life increases, you may not want the great escape anymore. Give it some thought.

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