Grounding Techniques For Dissociation That Could Change Your Life
I promise that I’ll get to grounding techniques for sissociation in a moment, but first I’ll start with defining dissociation.
Dissociation is when you feel outside of your body.
The experience can have a wide variety of symptoms.
If you’ve ever daydreamed, you’ve experienced a very mild form of dissociation.
The most severe dissociation can be classified as a mental health disorder– Dissociative identity disorder (DID).
Here are some common symptoms of dissociation:
- Forgetting about difficult events, conversations, and relationships that you had in your life
- Detachment that can keep you from feeling physical or emotional pain
- Memory gaps
- Time seems altered and distorted
- An out-of-body experience where you have the feeling that the world is not real or that you are not real
Believe it or not, the way a person develops DID makes sense in the context of their life circumstances.
It is a coping mechanism that a person (most often a child) used to deal with a traumatic experience.
Let’s pretend for a moment that you were a child that witnessed the murder of your parent.
It was so overwhelming for you to comprehend that you disconnected from the reality of the situation.
You shut off your brain.
As you navigated the months and years after the murder, you learned that the easiest way to cope with your pain was to continue to ‘check out’ or dissociate.
What was an understandable coping mechanism at the time of the murder eventually became destructive to your life.
You learned to check out and forget about anything that was difficult.
Forgetting and not facing the inevitable life difficulties keeps you stuck in a cycle that gets you nowhere.
So, if this sounds familiar to you, I’m happy to inform you that there are (relatively simple) things you can do- one of them being grounding techniques.
Some people find that some grounding techniques work better for them than others, and some grounding techniques may be more helpful in some situations than in others.
Most techniques will become more effective with practice.
Preparation for using grounding techniques for dissociation:
There are 3 essential steps that need to be taken prior to using grounding techniques:
- The cues that you’ve been triggered
- Everyone’s cues are a little different. For you it could be your heart or mind racing or it could be dry mouth and sweating. Pay close attention as your body is trying to communicate something to you!
- What are your triggers?
- I know this sounds easy, but take some time to really think about this and notice your feelings. When I mean time, I mean it can take weeks or even months to name most of your triggers– especially because you are skilled at forgetting your feelings!!!
- When you feel difficult emotions in your body, think of them as a signal that something is up. Get curious. Ask yourself,
- “I wonder why I feel this discomfort?”
- “What happened right before the discomfort occurred?”
- Which grounding techniques work?
- All grounding techniques are not created equal. It is very individualized which ones will work for you and which ones don’t.
Most grounding techniques will be more helpful with practice.
Practicing in advance of a trigger is ideal… waiting to use grounding techniques until you are panicked or dissociating will be challenging because you are in fight or flight mode.
When your brain is offline it is very bad at learning new skills!
4 Grounding Techniques For Dissociation
1. Work your brain!
When you start to dissociate, your brain is in overdrive.
Your fight or flight response is activated.
Therefore, using the logical side of your brain will help you get back your brain back online.
- Solve some math problems
- Create a list of categories in your head. For example: Different types of dishware, football teams, or colors.
- Pay attention to your surroundings, then look away, and write down what you saw
- Sing your favorite song
2. Use your senses!
- Find something sour and take a bite!
- Eat a raisin… but make the experience last five minutes. Roll the raisin between your fingers. What is the sensation? Raise it up towards your sight. What do you see? Put the raisin on your tongue. Notice the taste and sensation as it sits there. Slowly chew. What sounds do you hear?
- Hold ice for as long as possible. Notice how the sensations change over time!
- Close your eyes and focus on all the scents, smells, and aromas you notice.
- Take off your shoes. Touch your feet to the floor. Notice what it feels like. Now slowly move your feet over the floor. What do you notice? What do you hear?
3. Shake your groove thing (aka: Move your body)
- Piggybacking off of ‘taking off the shoes:’ After you’ve noticed your feet moving, stand up and take a step. Make sure it takes several seconds to lift your foot and place it on the ground. Pay attention to the sensations in your body and the sounds.
- Get some exercise!
- Stretch! You can’t help but notice your body’s sensations while you are in a deep stretch!
- Breathe and count your inhale and exhale.
4. Self-Compassion Exercises
Visualize a person who makes you feel safe and loved.
- What would they say to you in a moment of suffering?
- How would they speak to you?
- How would they try and soothe you?
- Find some excellent self-compassion meditations here.
Grounding Techniques For Dissociation:
Treat the Underlying Causes
Are you doing all this and you are still struggling with dissociation? You may benefit from trauma-informed therapy.
There are a range of various evidence-based modalities out there including trauma-informed cognitive behavioral therapy and EMDR.
In other words, solutions can be found.
Have more questions and thinking you may be ready to give therapy a go?