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Fight, Flight, Freeze, Dissociate

Dissociation is a form of “freezing”. It is a strategy that is often used when the option of fighting or running (fleeing) is not an option. We shut down to draw less attention to ourselves, or in extreme cases, shut down. ViKtor Frankl speaks of this in his famous book, Man's Search for Meaning.

It is important to know that dissociation is a normal response in the face of trauma, but it can become problematic when dissociation becomes the primary method of coping with uncomfortable situations that trigger old traumas. It is also useful to note that many people oscillate between being hyper aroused and dissociating. Both experiences stem from the same part of the brain (limbic system) that is not settled and perceives current experiences through a distorted lens of a past trauma.

How do you bring yourself back to the present? Through grounding techniques.

Here is one example.

Sit down in a comfortable chair where the entirety of the bottom of your feet make contact with the floor and your back rests against the seat back.

Close your eyes and focus.

Breathe in slowly for the count of three, then out slowly.

How does your body feel sitting in that chair?

Can you feel the contact between your body and the chair’s surface?

Press your arms down on the chair arm or the seat cushion. How does that feel?

Next push your feet into the ground, imagine the energy draining down through your body into the ground like sand through an hourglass.

As the energy drains from your head, feel how heavy each body part becomes, your torso feels heavy and now your arms as you relax those muscles. Lastly, feel the heaviness go down your legs, through your feet.

Continue breathing in for 3 seconds and out 3 more times, sighing slowly on the exhale.

Did you know? "Diaphragmatic breathing (also referred to as "slow abdominal breathing") is something you can do anytime and anywhere to instantly stimulate your vagus nerve and lower stress responses associated with "fight-or-flight" mechanisms. Deep breathing also improves heart rate variability (HRV), which is the measurement of variations within beat-to-beat intervals."

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