Complex trauma can be an incredibly heavy burden to bear. It leaves emotional scars that still feel very raw, even years after the trauma occurred.
The mind’s way of coping with such intense and repeated trauma is often to detach from what happened. This is called dissociation. And although it may be the innate way the mind deals with complex PTSD, that doesn’t mean it’s a healthy coping response.
While the brain has created some distance between the experience and you, the underlying trauma has not been resolved.
If you’re dealing with complex PTSD and subsequent dissociation, there are ways to get help with resolving the trauma. To begin with, it’s important to understand some details about the brain’s coping mechanism.
Dissociation is the term used to identify one way that the brain copes with complex PTSD.
Thoughts, memories, or feelings linked to experiences related to complex trauma can be very painful. In fact, they can be so upsetting that they may cause tremendous emotional distress, leading to a great deal of anxiety in a person’s life.
To cope with these distressing thoughts, memories, and feelings, the brain tries to create a separation between you and the trauma. Its objective is to isolate and wall-off those experiences so that they do not affect the rest of your life.
How exactly does the brain try to do this?
One way that your mind imposes barriers to block complex trauma is through memory loss.
For example, you may find that you have forgotten everything that happened when the traumatic event(s) occurred. Even if you were told that you were present, you just don’t remember. You might even be shown pictures or video, but those don’t jog your memory either.
Of course, that can be incredibly confusing for you. Yet, it is how your brain is trying to help you to cope with the distressing traumatic memories.
Disconnection from the Body
Another way that the brain copes with complex PTSD is through what’s called depersonalization-derealization disorder.
In this case, you may feel disconnected from your body—a sort of sensation of being outside yourself. There is a noted detachment with how you respond to the world around you, almost like feeling “numb” either physically or emotionally. And you might also feel that you have little control over how your body moves.
Depersonalization-derealization can be unnerving or even frightening because of the feeling of a lack of control.
Typically, these coping mechanisms don’t happen intentionally. Rather, it is an internal, subconscious response of your brain. The problem is that even though your brain has created barriers to your complex trauma, all is not well.
What Can You Do About Dissociation Connected to Complex PTSD?
Treating this problem requires working with a therapist who understands complex PTSD and dissociation. Why?
Because these are issues that are intricately woven into the fabric of your life’s story. And you probably don’t fully understand how complex trauma has affected your life. Or you may have no idea how your brain subconsciously has worked to cope with your PTSD all these years.
A trained therapist can help you understand your inner workings and your history. They can also be a source of support and reassurance so that you feel understood and safe. In therapy sessions, you will learn how to connect the dots that will allow you to resolve the trauma that you experienced all those years ago.
Understanding the connection between complex PTSD and dissociation, as well as how that dissociation affects your life, will take work. Granted, there is a reason why your mind is dissociating. It is its way of coping with the intense memories of the trauma that happened all those years ago.
While it can be scary to consider even touching on those memories, a skilled and informed therapist will be able to guide and support you through this process of resolving your trauma. If you would like to know more about my approach to Trauma and PTSD Therapy, please contact me or click on the link.