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When Dissociation Is The Solution

In the Psychedelic Somatic Interactional Psychotherapy (PSIP) model, there are two states of dissociation, state 3 and state 4. State 3 occurs when events are overwhelming but there is still a possible external solution available. For example, grandma's house is close by and a safe haven from the abuse or neglect that happens at home. Hopelessness, depression, heaviness, and sleepiness are some of the symptoms of state 3. We go into state 4 when there are no external solutions available. The only solution left is not to feel our bodies at all. In state 4 we are left feeling numb, blank, spacey, or floaty. One might even feel dead inside.


If things are bad enough at home, dissociation becomes the default state for children. And it will continue to be the water they swim in as adults. However, thanks to our brain's capacity to adapt and compartmentalize, we can still function with dissociation. In fact, we can live much of our lives in dissociation.


How does one discover how much dissociation is stored in one’s nervous system? It's not easy. The whole point of dissociation is to tune out and not be aware of what you are or are not feeling. However, unless you had a very good childhood with parents who had secure attachment, you likely have some dissociation stored in your nervous system. 


We dissociate when life experiences overwhelm our fight/flight responses. Children have very little power relative to their parents and thus very few solutions for their fight/flight responses to abuse, punishment, judgment, rejection, and neglect or isolation. Dissociation is often the only solution children have. In general, adults have more fight/flight solutions than children: speaking up, fighting back, calling a friend, moving out, hiring a lawyer, receiving therapy, among others.  


Many of us can easily remember being spanked or yelled at or sent to our rooms, with no one to help us feel the huge, intense feelings of fear, shame, aloneness, and heartbreak. But it can be difficult to remember how vulnerable it is to be a child, how big their feelings are. Moreover, we've only recently discovered how much children (and adults) need resonant, attuned support to feel through intense emotions. Dissociation is better than prolonged states of terror, shame, heartbreak, and alarmed aloneness; I can't imagine how we would have survived our childhoods without it. But it comes at a huge cost. It leaves us reaching for any number of unhealthy options to break through the fog and feel something,


For more on Selective Inhibition and PSIP, join the Psychedelic Somatic Institute’s newsletter list so that you’ll be notified of the free, introductory, bi-monthly PSIP webinars. These webinars are a great place to learn how PSIP works with dissociation, attachment, solution, selective inhibition, primary and secondary consciousness, negative transference, and more.





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