Dissociated, dissociation and detachment refer to an absence of feelings,
lost memories and to people with a diminished sense of personal identity.

Loss of self seems quite common. Many people tell us that they want to get rid of negative emotions or bad parts of themselves. But they may not enjoy the consequences. Then they tell us that they feel incomplete, hollow or dry … and sometimes they say that they have no emotions or feel “out of their bodies”.

All I want is to feel at home in my own body. I mostly feel empty.
My memories are like little movies of myself doing things, rather
than the view from my eyes. Parts of me that are always watching me.

M
y psychologist calls me “dissociated” but it just means no emotions.

While a complete loss of self can follow severe disappointments such as childhood abuse, major trauma or brain damage; many people dissociate to avoid feeling unpleasant emotions such as fear, loneliness, desperation or boredom!

What are Dissociation and Depersonalization?

Dissociation and depersonalization usually refer to interruptions of conscious functions … a loss of connection with memories, feelings and a sense of self. This can lead to automatic thinking and robot-like behavior; and perhaps to obsessions, compulsions and cult-like behavior. Empty people trying to fulfill empty lives.

Some people dissociate to deal with abuse, trauma and stress. They try to distance themselves from experiences and emotions that they could not assimilate. Others dissociate as a result of prolonged discouragement of emotional expression, perhaps discouraged by parents, teachers and employers.

Have you fragmented yourself?
Have you split off or hidden parts yourself? Split-off parts
often show up as irrational emotions, self-sabotage or obsessions.

People who feel disconnected can be great emergency workers – they do not become emotionally involved. Some dissociated people become criminals for the same reason – others become police, prison guards or emergency workers … until they burn out or until they turn to medication, alcohol or drugs.

It’s like I have many minds, one inside one another!
It’s like I’m forever standing behind my own shoulder.

Many therapies and New Age techniques advocate dissociation. It’s not difficult. Have you been advised to clear your emotions, to bury your feelings, to destroy your ego, to abandon your intellect? But the long-term consequences of dissociation can be worse than feeling bored, irritated or frustrated!

> Since he came home from Iraq, my husband is not so much
> empty of emotion as devoid of humanity. Only his body is here.
> He is still an intelligent man – clever but empty.

Some people consider emotional dissociation to be a spiritual goal, especially people who seek magical ways to avoid problems. Spiritually motivated dissociation includes out of body experiences, astral travel and some meditation techniques.

> … I felt detached from reality and from the people whom I loved
> with that came an absolute loss of self confidence and health,
> because the people whom I loved hurt me the most.
> They misunderstood my situation and humiliated me, and they
> said “it’s just your thinking” … but I felt dead inside …

Emotional dissociation may be partial (part of me is missing) or near-total (I feel  hollow or empty). Such dissociated parts often retain unpleasant emotions. Some people talk about their inner child. (I find that many people have inner kindergartens and need inner babysitters – until they can help their parts grow up.)

People who often say, “I don’t know” to questions about emotions may not want to know, as admitting to emotional issues can step towards taking responsibility for them. We may ask, “Do you want to know – is this not important for you?

As we help people solve emotional problems, we also assist helping professionals to care for their own emotional health. Many helping professionals specialize in their own issues and need to untangle themselves from their clients!

Solutions for Dissociation & Dissociative Disorders

Do you avoid feeling anger, sadness, anxiety or guilt by dissociating? Dissociation offers short-term relief but can hinder solving problems, can impair your flexibility and limit your sense of life. How can dissociated people come home to their bodies?

Since our sessions my life has changed. I did the work, but you helped me get
off my sofa and start living again … you helped me find my own way.
Toronto

Have you replaced some of your qualities with unfeeling reactions, compulsive behavior and confusion? Do you sabotage yourself? A useful step is to make a list of what you can and cannot feel … and what you want to feel … and when.

I felt so empty. The only thing that gave me comfort was sleep. Nothing gave me
real pleasure anymore. I just wanted to cry. People thought I was going crazy …
and then our wonderful sessions … now I am coming back!
Miami

Extreme dissociation may be called nervous breakdown or emotional breakdown. Did you become frustrated, angry and anxious; and later dull; empty of anything except perhaps boredom or loneliness? Did you lose a rich sense of life and now only want to distract yourself? Some common signs are:

  1. You have few goals and feel little sense of life.
  2. Your mood or behavior swings between extremes.
  3. You feel few emotions – or chronic irrational emotions.
  4. You attempt to live someone else’s life (real or fantasy).
  5. You experience obsessions, compulsions and limiting beliefs.
  6. You feel unpleasantly bonded to someone, yet you cannot leave.
  7. You cannot describe your own feelings or express your own values.

Following trauma, abuse, therapist damage or membership of cult-like organizations, people may lose access to some human qualities. Relationships often suffer first and  depression is common if your relationships don’t make sense. Anti-depressants are poor substitutes for friendly relationships based on self-esteem.

Identity Loss: an inability to access emotions and qualities that are central to a sense of self and sense of life. This loss often follows abuse or relationship distress and manifests as chronic dissociation or the chronic expression of inappropriate emotions.

Many people show symptoms of identity loss. They may feel emotionless, often replacing a search for sense of life with a search for distractions (e.g. internet, cinema, drugs, etc).

Do you hide your anger, anxiety and disappointment and later have emotional explosions? Repeated dissociation may result in lasting identity loss; which may be followed by irrational or obsessive behavior as you try to feel human again.