Part 2 of Our Different Selves – We all have different parts of ourselves that operate – the Professional Self, the Parent, the Partner, etc.. When does this go into Dissociation and Dissociative States? Dr. Liz talks about flow states that writers, runners, and musicians report as well as when a state becomes dysfunctional as in addiction. Dissociative Identity Disorder is also more defined and discussed in terms of hypnosis for treatment of it. And practical things you can do at home if you find you’re feeling “unreal” or dissociating.
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Transcript and Thoughts
I decided to do is do a part two around dissociative disorders and what is dissociation, because I was reviewing the previous episode with one of my friends and she had so many great questions that I thought oh my listeners are going to have these same questions. Let me go ahead and do a part two and then hopefully that I’ll answer some of them and give you a better idea of what I’m talking about.
So first I’m going to talk about what is a dissociative state in positive dissociative states and also negative or dysfunctional disassociative states. And then I’m going to talk about dissociative identity disorder and some about Borderline personality disorder and how it differs. And there’s some overlap there. And also when to get help if you really think you have one of these or you’re dissociating in a negative way.
Positive Dissociative States / Flow
So let’s talk about positive states first. We often will call this a semi-hypnotic state when someone is daydreaming or really getting into something. Like everything fades away. You’re driving home and it’s just like you’re on automatic. So is getting ready in the morning. It’s on automatic. We all go into these states during the day. You know another way to think about this is athletes when they’re in the flow. They talk about everything dropping away. They are just in the zone. That is really like a semi-hypnotic dissociative state right there. It’s a positive one that works really well for their lives. And everybody sees that as positive. That’s what it feels like.
Artists will talk about this when they’re creating; writers too. Absolutely. I can speak for myself when I start to write. Often time disappears and I will look up at the clock and the time absolutely disappears. That is a dissociative state. That’s a positive one that works for my life or may work for your life.
Therapists sometimes describe this too when they’re in their flow with the client. When they’re working really hard and you’ll look over the clock and you have five minutes left in the session. And again it’s like, “Oh my gosh we only have five minutes left!” So most people have some sense of what this feels like when they’re working well.
Often business people will talk about this when they’re making a business deal on their own and they’re in negotiations and everything drops away. It’s very similar to that. Often though the shift feels more unreal. Like everything else on the outside doesn’t feel as real.
Negative / Dysfunctional Dissociative States & Addiction
So let’s talk about how it shows up negatively or sometimes goes into dysfunction. Addiction is a perfect example of this. Addicts often describe this when they’re in addiction or right before an addictive episode. So overeaters , Sex and Love Addicts, gamblers.
The casino itself creates a dissociative state on purpose. They have no clocks, no windows, no sense of time passing; there’s free alcohol everywhere. You know that is like you’re entering into a world and forgetting everything else. But when you really look at like gambling addiction that will often be the case.
Drug users and alcoholics absolutely describe this and often the pull is to enter into the dissociative state to forget everything they want to escape. All types of addicts will describe this; like something takes them over when they went into their addictive activity even though they know it’s not good or safe for them. Overeaters absolutely talk about this; the sense of watching themselves eat something that they shouldn’t be eating. They know is bad for them. But they’re they’re still doing that; not even feeling grounded and not feeling like themselves.
Alcoholics talk about blackouts where awful things can happen and they have zero memory of it. Technically, that’s a dissociated state but it’s induced by a substance. So that’s a completely different animal. That is not dissociative identity disorder. It’s not considered that at all because it’s substance induced. But it is similar to what I’m talking about. And when you talk to alcoholics when something horrible has happened during a blackout you know how destructive it can be. Like they will cause accidents. They will go off on loved ones. Sometimes violence occurs and they go to sleep and they wake up and they have no memory of it. But yet they have to face those consequences of what happened. So that is one type of negative dissociative state.
Triggers and Dissociative States / Feeling “Unreal”
Often the very first to work in addiction is to make a list of triggers things that set you off and often lead up to it. And these can be subtle, like a phone call that doesn’t go well or a particular relative that triggers them. A more obvious when is driving by a bar for an alcoholic. They’ll often have to change their driving patterns. Same with stalkers who fall into Sex and Love Addicts and have to change the complete way that they drive so that they don’t do that really negative destructive activity.
When you start to look at triggers you’re saying, “What triggers you into addiction? What triggers you into that dissociative state, that dysfunctional state, which triggers you into wanting to use.”
And then the next step is often to make a list of things that are healthy for them. So what can you do other than go into that state when you’re triggered?
- Call your sponsor
- Call your therapist
- Call another person in the program or a friend
- Turn it over to your Higher Power
- Taking a walk
- Going to the beach
These are all very individual and personal but it’s a list of these things that you can do other than go into addiction until the feeling of being triggered passes, which eventually it generally does.
You can do this at home. You can make this list. I have talked to people over the years that stop addiction on their own. It’s not very common but it is possible to do that often before it gets really bad or destructive, like when someone’s seeing the first signs of addiction. They can do that.
12-Step helps hands down. It is one of the most effective treatments for addiction. But it is not a fit for everybody. So sometimes it’s a therapist that helps them along. Sometimes it’s 12 step. Sometimes a Buddhist addiction program for people who really don’t want a religious kind of affiliation. There’s all different types of programs.
But what I’m saying is that this is a great thing to do at home no matter what you’re facing. If you’re facing something that triggers you or some kind of activity that you feel is addictive and is not healthy for you at home, make your list of triggers. Figure out what’s setting you off and what’s happening right before you do that so that you can catch that sooner.
Hypnosis and Addiction
And now make a list of all the positive things you can do so that you don’t do that thing. So just want to throw that out there. I do want to say too that hypnosis is not a primary treatment for addiction. It can help. Absolutely, it can be supplemental but it is not going to cure your addiction. So I just want to say that very clearly. Don’t go spending money on hypnosis that claims to cure you of alcoholism or drinking. No, no, no, no, no. You need to be in treatment. Really. It’s to that point.
If it’s not to that point yet, it can help you change those patterns and habits. Absolutely. If it’s not really to the addiction point. But when you’re really at addiction point, it can be complimentary but it’s not going to cure it. The exception to this is Smoking cessation. For stopping smoking and smoking cessation hypnosis is very effective. About 65 percent effective and often in one session. So the package as I offer in person in my office in Broward county in the Fort Lauderdale area is one to three sessions. But often people don’t need session two and three. One session does it.
And I’ve heard that from my hypnotherapists friends over and over again. So that is an exception but if you’re really talking about food, drugs, sex and love, alcohol, gambling . . . this can help but it’s not going to be the only thing that you should use is my opinion on it.
Dissociative Identity Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder
So back to dissociation. Before I want to talk about this I want to see that I’m not an expert on dissociative identity disorder. I see a lot of borderline personality disorder in my practice and I love my borderlines. Oh my gosh. Love them. Love seeing them. And there’s some overlap sometimes between DID and BPD which is borderline personality disorder. There is definitely dissociation going on with BPD, particularly when someone is overwhelmed with negative emotions like fear, anger, sadness, anxiety. They all come up they’ll start to feel dissociated and unreal. They’ll say that they’re not really present.
And sometimes the feelings start to take over and they’ll do things that when they’re in their right mind they’ve really wouldn’t do. This can be really scary for them sometimes. They they’re not sure they’re in control. They don’t feel in control and then they get scared by that feeling. Sometimes it’s fueled by compulsion. And that moment is very similar to what addicts describe if they know they shouldn’t be doing that but they don’t feel like they can stop themselves. The difference here between BPD and DID is that DID will have amnesia for stuff they do or switch into a completely different personality state, a different self.
Addicts will talk about the “addict” coming out and sometimes even give him her name. But they’re aware of the addicts. They’re aware of what they’re doing. For it to be dissociative identity disorder, there’s not addiction going on. First of all blackouts are not DID, like I said. But they also have amnesia for that state. There’s two or more distinct personalities going on that come and go. They have their own set of mannerisms and ways of talking and doing things. And with amnesia for the other personality or other personalities. Like journal entries they don’t remember writing or shopping they don’t remember doing. Clothes show up in their closet.
An example that the presenter gave at the workshop I attended is that she had a client that would start to run. The runner would come out her runner personality and run miles and she would find herself somewhere else without her car. Her car was back wherever it was. And with no memory of how she got there. That is dissociative identity disorder where an entire other personality is coming out. They can do that. And there’s absolutely no memory of what happened in between.
I know this is hard to imagine. Sometimes the person can report this or loved ones or friends. When they report this to friends is often how people start to figure this out actually. There’s this whole like, “Don’t you remember doing X X and X conversation?” And they’re like, “No.” That’s often when they start to get a clue about what’s going on.
It’s also not part of cultural or religious practices. There are some religions that speak in tongues and want to create that dissociative state going on. That’s not DID. Imaginary friends – that’s not the ID. I love imaginary friends and kids. That’s a lovely experience that children have. That’s not DID, so don’t worry about that if you’re a parent.
Hypnosis and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)
So what’s the work in therapy? And with hypnosis? That’s the question here. The work with hypnosis and how it can be helpful for DID is to increase awareness of other personality needs so that the person does have more control, so that the personalities can talk to each other and get to know each other. The personalities can know what’s going on and communicate and work more towards what we call “entwining.”
They’re functioning better with awareness, with feeling grounded, with feeling real and not dissociating. Again, I’m not an expert on DID. I’m willing to sometimes take on a client in my practice because I have quite a bit of experience with treating dissociation through borderline personality disorder and through some addiction work that I’ve done. And I also have excellent support and colleagues to call on to consult with. So Diane Lindner in Miami has been on the board of FSCH forever. She’s an expert in this.
If you have resources to call on as a therapist, where you’ve really studied some of this, and you know some of the in’s and out’s and you have colleagues that you can talk to that’s a good place to be in terms of seeing DID or BPD, which I do have a specialty in.
Grounding at Home if you’re Dissociating
Let’s work on grounding. When the first signs of dissociation start . . .So if you’re at home and you’re having some experience of dysfunctional or negative dissociation, you know emotion often will take over that thinking brain. So we make lists (and you can do this too at home) of grounding activities that you can do that you can pull out and look at and then choose to do something off of that list to get that thinking brain working again.
We work on mindfulness, which is a huge component of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). We can use those mindfulness exercises to increase awareness of what’s going on in the moment and to decrease dissociation. And then we can use hypnosis for them also to practice what we call anchors, which is an action that you can take to feel grounded, to feel sane. And you know anchors is such a lovely word. Like it does
anchor you. It connects you, connects you to the ground, to the earth. Like a ship drops anchor into the ocean. And it’s really into the earth below so the ship doesn’t float away.
It’s the same thing that we’re doing when we’re creating that in hypnosis, recreating a lovely technique – a small action or a hand motion someone can do to bring them back to relaxation, to bring them back to feeling grounded. You can’t be anxious when you’re in relaxation. They’re opposites. So we work on how do you get into that relaxed state.
When to seek help
When you seek help is when it causes disturbances or pain in your life. When it causes distress or impairment, like it’s affecting your job or it’s affecting your mothering or your fathering. It’s affecting your relationships, your work, or your children, or maybe just causing you personal distress.
You can be really high functioning borderline or DID or a really high functioning addict. You have it together in most areas of your life and then you have this one area that’s like, “Oh geez you know this isn’t working here.” So when it starts to get painful, that’s a great time to seek help. Yes. “Let me get some help with this. Let me feel better. Let me have this not affect my loved ones, let me have a happier experience of life.” That’s when you get some help.
Hopefully this answered a little bit more of your questions about dissociative states and how they function in people’s lives; how they may function in your own life. Again you can always reach out and let me know your thoughts. I absolutely love to hear them around this topic. It’s fascinating to me. I love talking about it. So make sure you email me.
I specialize in hypnosis for anxiety and chronic conditions in Broward county and the Fort Lauderdale area. To see if we’re a good fit to work together, schedule your free consultation at 954-309-9071.