Interpreter please

Every once in a while I come across a statement that is so cloaked in psycho babble that it hardly makes sense.  This is one of those time.

Continuing with the best practices:

Understand and attune to the prevalence and varied forms of dissociative responses, the differences between hyper and hypoarousal, and the need to stay within `the window of tolerance’

Structural dissociation represents an extreme form of defence in the face of extreme (inescapable) threat, and is a frequent feature of complex trauma when abuse begins early in childhood.7 Yet there are many and milder forms of dissociative response of which the therapist needs to be aware (`The more you know about dissociation, the more you automatically watch for its markers’) (Shapiro, 2010 p.36)

As responses to the experience of extreme anxiety, hyperarousal is characterised by agitation, while hypoarousal manifests as passivity, `shut down’ and withdrawal (Rothschild, 2011). Therapy must always remain within `the window of tolerance’; i.e. the threshold of feeling the client can accommodate without becoming either hyper or hypoaroused (Siegel, 2009).

I am a pro at dissociation….I did it most of my life.  It was the ultimate secret weapon for disappearing.  My brother pegged it right when he insulted me with “The lights are on but nobody is home.”  That is precisely what I did.  I disappeared.  I could hide even from myself or anyone else.  My counselor helped me put into words what I did.  He explained that dissociation is on a continuum.  Mild is day dreaming or driving some where and not really remembering the trip too much because you drove it so often.  On the extreme end it separates the mind from the body. There is a lot going on in between.  If you are hyper you are pumped up supercharged or what I call energizer bunny on steroids.  Hypo meaning down, sleeping, disappearing emotionally and becoming non responsive.  You sleep 20 hours a day but still can’t function.  So there are the extreme ends and a split off to hyper or hypo.

Window of tolerance is that delicate balance of pushing the client to explore their emotions and hurts without tipping them into a dissociative state that stops all progress.  Please, be aware, dissociation is not living, is not being engaged, you check out.  The lights are on but no body and I mean no body is home.  I remember one time when my counselor pushed a bit too far into a painful experience and I stopped listening all together and started reporting how I was feeling.  “Hey, it is like I am inside my body and my eyes are too high for me to peak out of. I’ll try jumping to see you.”  He stopped helped me ground and come back to his office where my body was sitting and the rest of me needed to be there too.  This is a simple example of what can happen.

There are some cautions I will share after living in extreme dissociation for over 40 years:

  1. It is addictive and harder than drugs to quit since it is only a thought a way.
  2. It is not living.  Dissociation by its definition is a form of disconnecting from life.
  3. No healing occurs.  It is a narcotic that sends you on an oblivion episode but nothing is resolved in oblivion.
  4. It is sneaky. I can be cruising through the day when I suddenly realize I have no idea what I am doing or where I am.  Really bad if I am at work or driving.
  5. Cuts me off from other people.  I used it because it cut me off from my abusers.  Abusers are out of my life and I do not want to cut myself off any more.

I hope this helps a little bit.  If you have questions or further explanations use comments.  Since I review every comment I can respond to a question and not post the comment if you ask me to do that.









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