Extreme, chronic, ritualized abuse prompts our bodies to provide us with a way out. Dissociation and depersonalization are an extreme response to an extreme situation. Developmental trauma in its most severe form can foster an assimilation of dissociating into day to day existence and thus becomes a primary coping strategy for some survivors.
Assuming dissociation occurs on a continuum, Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is on the far end of it, while occasional “forgetfulness,” or feeling disconnected from the body could be on the mild end of the spectrum. Other experiences that occur in a range of frequency or intensity include a sense that the body is distinctive from self or that it belongs to someone else, having the feeling like one is watching themselves experience an event or events, often from “the ceiling,” and the experience of being approached by people who seem to know them but who feel like a stranger to the individual.
DID as well as other forms of dissociation is commonly a response to developmental trauma, and thus would be approached from a stage-based perspective. Internal family systems (IFS) is often very effective with this population and is an honoring approach to survivors with such profound histories. ITTC views dissociative responses as an emotional life raft and approach it in a non-pathological manner.
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