Dissociation and Trauma

“Dissociation is the essence of trauma. The overwhelming experience is split off and fragmented, so that the emotions, sounds, images, thoughts, and physical sensations related to the trauma take on a life of their own.” (Van der Kolk, 2014, p66).

I have seen many clients when talking about their trauma (unprompted by me) energetically leave their body. When I check in with them and ask where they are, they often tell me they remember the scene of the event, but they are not in their body, they are watching the scene from above or another vantage point. I know exactly what they are talking about because this has happened to me a few times in my life.

When trauma has happened again and again, especially as children, the ability to dissociate and keep yourself safe becomes second nature.

As an adult it can be difficult to be in the body and feel safe at all. The process of returning to the body is a gentle, loving process which require a lot of physical, mental and emotional safety. It can be done mindfully with a therapist, or as part of a personal healing journey, but it CAN be done!

Do you resonate with any of the above? Has this ever happened to you, or does it happen all the time?

(Note: this is not a diagnostic tool)


Van der Kolk (2014). The Body Keeps the Score.  London, UK: Random House.