A coping mechanism is what you might use to help you cope with difficult emotions. Dissociation is a coping mechanism that is used at the time the abuse is taking place.
It is an
adaptive defence in response to high stress or trauma characterised by memory
loss and a sense of disconnection from oneself or one’s surroundings.
It can be a
reaction to early abandonment, severe sustained pain, near-death experiences
and/or prolonged neglect.
What is Dissociation
It is a
way in which some survivors (specifically children under the age of 7) survive
abuse by escaping mentally while the abuse is happening.
It is the opposite of ‘association’ i.e. when two things are associated, they are in relationship with each other, they are linked and connected. When two things are dissociated, they are disconnected from each other.
It is a response to severe relational trauma in which an individual
adapts the survival mechanism of ‘friend, fight, flight, freeze and flop’ and
dissociation is the flop response.
What happens when someone Dissociates
The body and
the mind seem to separate.
body is being hurt, the survivor no longer feels it because the mind manages to
“escape” to a perceived safe place.
survivors may dissociate in different ways. One example is “leaving”
the body and floating on the ceiling over the bed where the abuse is occurring.
The individual may even watch what is happening but it is as if it were
happening to someone else.
is able to feel nothing. So even though they may remember aspects of the abuse
experience it is as if it happened to someone else.
Observations of Dissociation
An averted gaze; Eyes hidden behind hair; Peeping out; Staring at something intensely;
Drooping or fluttering of eye-lids; Jumpiness; Not hearing you; Things do
not add up
e.g. the indivdual functions well in certain circumstances, but collapses
Inappropriate childlike speech, behaviour, feelings and body language; Sudden
change of mood.