Dissociation – An adult host’s experience

Another Quora question asking about

Can you explain what occurs during dissociative experiences, such as watching oneself in third-person?

I would like to add our perspective from a functional POV.

So, I am Charlie. In our System, I am referred to as the Duty Manager. In the old days, we would have called me an ANP, but we are now on a quest to achieve a healthy multiplicity, which can also be referred to technically as resolution (P. 73 Adult Treatment Guidelines – ISSTD) or functional multiplicityand the kids like to call it KaleidoscopeSo we have done away with that term. I think LWP (Least Weird Person) is more appropriate and more authentic.

My job is specifically to ensure that we can function in what we call the Now-Space in a coherent and structured way by associating all dissociated functions that are required for functional living while enabling the external expression of our true selves.

That means I can see a good amount of dissociation that is related to IRL, but I do not see the one that is purely internal and does not participate in daily life.

Interestingly, Teo and Alex’s answer is focused on the experiential aspect, and I suspect that Five AG may wish to add an esoteric perspective too, especially in terms of Reality Shifting and multidimensional living.

The focus of conscious attention

I specifically find it difficult to relate to the term dissociation, because for me when people see dissociation I see a shifting focus of attention. It is like a consciousness zooming in.

We wrote a while back explaining our view of the Layering of Consciousness in IRL, which is explained a little differently by the CTAD clinic in this video and this other one, but I believe it refers to the same phenomenon.

The image is a conceptual diagram illustrating the layering of consciousness in a Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) system. Here’s a description: Higher Thinking: The topmost layer, representing advanced cognitive processes. Front/Co-front: The second layer, indicating the identities that interact with the outside world. Host/Co-host: The third layer, denoting the main identity or identities that present most frequently. Body, Brain, & Nervous System: The foundational layer, encompassing the physical aspects of the individual. This simple yet effective diagram uses a gray triangle divided by yellow lines to differentiate between the various layers, providing a clear visual hierarchy of consciousness within a DID system.

So, our focus of attention, within individual systems can shift between those levels.

therefore, the experiences that are usually mentioned as signs of dissociation refer to the bottom three layers, yet what about the top one?

It is not uncommon for someone to walk while I am thinking or chatting with someone else on the top level of the pyramid. When my attention goes back to lower layers I usually have to ask what we are doing and where we are.

From my perspective that is not dissociation, it is a well-functioning human system with multiple foci of attention. More than dissociation I would call it delegation.

Mutually exclusive systems

My personal experience of dissociation is due to mutually exclusive systems.

Graphics of my complex DID system, please see image description

Looking at the image, the “Supersystem” at the top simply refers to the body as we do not have an integrated system, at least not yet.

The systems below the top level were initially created to be independent and fully autonomous. They were always replaced by a new one and never coexisted.

This has the unfortunate effect of segregating whole systems and the slice of life each lives.

That is why we rely heavily on Quora and other somewhat unorthodox means of communication.

So, that means we switch between the kids, some other weird systems that we are still trying to work out, and my system with little memory of what each did, if any at all.

We are getting better at being co-con between systems, and this is certainly an improvement.

Yet, it is far too commonplace for someone to be IRL without knowing what they are supposed to do, or even what system they are.

Also, it is common to find ourselves coming to IRL in the middle of a task that someone else was carrying out, without knowing what it is that they were doing.

For example, I have been working on this answer for a couple of days. I just keep switching out as I am writing it. That means that someone will find themselves in front of the computer with my partially typed answer without any context.

In the past, we were trying to be helpful to each other and try to complete one another’s actions, but we always got it wrong and now have learnt that if we find something we know nothing about, we leave it undisturbed so the person who is working on it can resume when back IRL.

The power of this so-called dissociation

There are some issues with this, especially in terms of continuity.

However, I think that we are learning to use “dissociation” in many adaptive ways.

Especially for healing and working on trauma.

  1. Dissociated executive control: this is the one where someone else takes over some body functionality such as speech, movement, etc. as described in Teo’s answer. We find this very helpful in many instances. Aside from the practicality of it, it is very validating for selves to be able to contribute in some small way to daily life. For example, the littles like to cook, and eat, and are happy to do quite a few chores because it makes them feel accepted and useful. This happiness spills over to other areas of their self-expression giving them the experience of joy. This is a new emotion for them, and it is a positive one that is helping them heal. And while they do that, the adults can keep their work and conversations going … win-win!
  2. Dissociated flashbacks: Flashbacks are always overwhelming. Especially the emotional and sensory ones. I think our brain is aware of that, and it helps us forget them. When we come out of it, we might feel pain (from the sensory component), be very confused (because we forget what we experienced), or emotionally shaken (we know we felt some very intense emotion but don’t know which). Externally that can look like we are in a trance for anything between a split second and a few hours. Yet, even if we forget, it does help us establish a bond with our traumatized selves. They know we are willing to share their torment, and that is always therapeutic, even if only on a subconscious or unconscious level.
  3. Dissociated IRL. We find that when we have a new person/subsystem that is ready to begin their healing process they are flung IRL for an increasingly long time. They are on their own, terrified, confused, traumatized. Their first feeling in IRL is what they were used to. They go back to the emotional, mental, and physical state that they were when they were active. Yet, as difficult as this stage is for them, it is essential for unblending (to use IFS terminology). We need to improve this and communicate better as Teo keeps reminding us, but it is a start in understanding being safe. We are working on smoothing this step out.

So, overall, we find the concept of dissociation a little more intricate than what people are usually led to believe.

I hope this is helpful to someone 😁

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