Self-Love for Dissociation

I realized recently that for me the answer to my chronic dissociation is NOT traditional grounding activities, but rather working on maintaining an attitude of self-love– and it has been really successful!

(While some may criticize my thought process as being overly medical, I conceptualize my new realization as Unconditional Positive Regard For The Self. Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR) is a therapy concept pioneered by humanist psychologist Carl Rogers in the middle of the twentieth century. It basically means having an attitude of acceptance and caring towards your therapy clients no matter what. This does NOT mean approving of all their actions, but rather holding them in high esteem regardless of what they’re going through. I find this conceptualization to be more specific and actionable, but you can just call it self-love if you want!)

For some background, I have dissociated severely, 99% of the time, since a depersonalization-based mental breakdown at age 14. Part of the reason for this is that existing in my body feels bad. It’s hard to describe, but it’s like a visceral sense of sickness, including achiness and fatigue. (I have wavered back and forth on whether this is a chronic physical illness or more psychological in nature, but it’s such a vague complaint that I never know how to describe it to a doctor. Plus, the fact that I’ve found a psychological approach to be helpful means that it’s probably my brain!)

Grounding exercises don’t work for me because they end up just shocking my system into further dissociation. This has always been true and it made me feel hopeless about my symptoms because 5-4-3-2-1 and holding ice cubes (etc) are regarded as the ONLY solution for dissociation.

Instead, maintaining a loving attitude towards myself during daily life (independent of any particular self-care activities) is really helping! It’s hard to describe what this means exactly— I just kind of maintain an attitude of pleasant openness to myself. Even though self-caring actions and thoughts almost always come as a result, the basic concept doesn’t involve anything besides the attitude.

This approach of maintaining self-love makes it way more pleasant to be in my body, so I don’t dissociate nearly as much! Try it if you like!

Review: Still Life With Tornado by A.S. King

“I tell the truth slowly. I think that’s how the truth shows up sometimes.”

For much of this book, we don’t know what’s wrong with the main character Sarah. That’s because Sarah can’t even bear to think about it herself. After all, she tells the truth slowly, but she gets there. This is the main source of tension and intrigue for the reader. Not a lot happens in this book except for the character’s internal shifts and the artistry in how they are conveyed to the reader. If that sounds boring, then this is not the book for you. If you can appreciate introspection in your fiction, however, this is a masterpiece of YA.

I connected wholeheartedly with this book, and found exceptional catharsis in it, despite how different the facts of 16-year-old Sarah’s life are from mine. For one thing, she is an artist and I am a writer. She is cisgender and I am transgender. She doesn’t go to school for weeks at a time and my high school attendance was exemplary. However, the overall atmosphere of the book conveyed the exact feelings I had as a teenager with a dissociative disorder, previously known as multiple personalities. In Still Life With Tornado, her dissociation has a magical but poignant twist in that other people can see her other selves as separate, very real, people. When she first meets her other selves (at ages 10, 23, and 40) she is startled and confused, but gradually she and the people around her come to see them as allies. This is the exact trajectory of healing from trauma with a dissociative disorder, and A.S. King has portrayed her version with immense empathy and care. What may have initially seemed to be an unconventional literary device leaves readers stinging with the truth.

Note: Big TW for physical and emotional abuse.