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#67982 - 10/27/03 10:09 PM what is dissociation???
stpbb Offline

Registered: 03/03/03
Posts: 103
Wondering about this -- what is it like when the person you are with dissociates?

Lately, sometimes when my ex & I talk he seems to suddenly get exhausted in the midst of our conversation. Now I know he could really just be tired, but it seems like it happens regardless of the time of day, whether he has been working hard or not, & as a result of talking with me. Could this be dissociation? I'll say something benign like 'the neighbors are having a barbque' & there will be a long pause, then he'll say "what did you say?" I'll repeat myself & this will go on for a few minutes until he says he's just soooo tired he has to get off the phone.

What makes me think it isn't that he's so tired is that he'll start off the conversation fine, or even full of energy & then end up sounding like he's semi-conscious. It also happens regardless of the hour -- 7pm, 10pm, etc. And usually he is the one calling me, so he starts off in the mood to talk. He sounds like someone who is reading, watching TV, on drugs, or otherwise occupied while talking, but he isn't doing anything else (or on drugs), just suddenly absent.

Could he be shutting down because of the conflicting emotions he has about me? Am I way off base? Is this what dissociating is like? From my side, it feels like he has 'turned off' like a light switch got pulled & he's no longer present. Is there anything I ought to do when it happens? I haven't even pointed it out to him because I don't want to give him anything else to worry about -- he's got plenty going on right now & is covering a lot of ground in therapy & in his personal & work life. I'd think it was just tiredness based on all of that, but I've seen him totally exhausted before, and this is different...


#67983 - 10/27/03 10:38 PM Re: what is dissociation???
outis Offline

Registered: 02/27/03
Posts: 2261
Loc: Maryland USA

I should definitely know better by now, especially since I've given up coffee in the work day, but I'll try to answer based on what I have learned about dissociation in therapy (and out).

I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV (or the web, for that matter).

When a person "separates" some part of their conciousness which is normally integrated, it's dissociation. Like the highway hypnosis when a driver "separates" recognition of passing time and the outside scenery from normal conciousness. In trauma survivors it evolves as a defense mechanism, a way to "escape" when actual physical escape is not possible.

Was it you who looked up "cognitive dissonance" just for kicks this summer? Well, either way, if you want to look up more stuff on dissociation, try and for material accessible to laypersons.

There was a thread here a few weeks ago about DID/MPD where I suggested that the best place for answers is a trusted professional. I still believe that's the best way to get good answers, but I don't always wait till a therapy appointment to seek my answers myself and I have perused both of those sites and three library systems since returning from the conference in MN. For the record, I do take my concerns to my T. That's why I'm in therapy after all.

It's got to be tough to figure out what's going on when you're not even in his presence, just talking on the phone, but things like losing track of the conversation do show up in lists of signs that someone is dissociating.



"Telemachos, your guest is no discredit to you. I wasted no time in stringing the bow, and I did not miss the mark. My strength is yet unbroken…"—The Odyssey, translated by W.H.D. Rouse

#67984 - 10/27/03 10:50 PM Re: what is dissociation???
Ivanhoe Offline

Registered: 03/19/03
Posts: 1907

Ya, sounds like it to me. But if you say that he is working as hard as you say he is, he's got a lot on his mind.
In most conversations or social situations, I'm on guard or in a super sensitive mode. When I have an opportunity to relax some, I can, "daydream," as they used to refer to that kind of behaviour.
I have to remind a buddy of mine to look me in the eyes and stay with me when he "winks out" from time to time, when we're talking. And I'm an interesting conversationalist!!!
Seriously, he probalby does have a lot on his mind, but a gentle reminder that you need a response or answer to your quesion shouldn't be too upsetting, as long as you don't accuse him of not listening to you--just ask for his attention.

Hope this helps.


"No soul is desolate as long as there is a human being for whom it can feel trust and reverence."
George Eliot

#67985 - 10/27/03 11:57 PM Re: what is dissociation???
Lloydy Offline
Administrator Emeritus
Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 7071
Loc: England Shropshire
"What was the question again ?"

Ah yes, dissasociation.
It sounds very much like it, and it's something that's very common to suvivors and other trauma victims.

It's something we could do without, it holds us back more than anything I believe. I've never been able to concentrate on anything for long and my education and careers suffered badly.
I do a bit better these days, but it's still hard.

My wife recognises it now and wakes me up, but I've had years of practice at hiding it.

Here's a few more links,


Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
Henry David Thoreau

#67986 - 10/28/03 02:58 AM Re: what is dissociation???
stpbb Offline

Registered: 03/03/03
Posts: 103
Thanks guys! What a help. I can't take credit for the cognitive dissonance definition, but I do like to learn what I can about things like this, so I appreciate the links

The web sites talked about a lot of stuff that he does -- I have noticed other things from the criteria, but I also think that it seems awfully complex to try to analyze without a lot of training & experience.

I've never seen him 'check out' like that in front of me -- I mean, he has completely forgotten unpleasant conversations. If I get angry, he has lost everything I've said except to remember that I was 'mean'. Of course, this is so integrated into his coping mechanisms that he'll also choose to 'forget' things like that to avoid dealing with it. But then I think he also does a lot of that to cover up the fact that he loses so much info.

Now it seems like he is listening when I get angry & zoning out in a different way.

But then, we all do, don't we? As David pointed out, having a lot on your mind can make anyone preoccupied & who hasn't found themselves in a daydream at some point or another? I even remember as a child being able to completely shut out the outside noises when my mother gave music lessons. My parents would have a terrible time getting my attention when it was time for dinner! Not exactly trauma, but who can listen to the same music, played wrong, over & over & over.... :rolleyes:


#67987 - 10/29/03 12:15 PM Re: what is dissociation???
Leosha Offline

Registered: 06/18/03
Posts: 3614
Loc: Right here
I have heard that are various types of dissociation, that even daydreaming is disocciating a bit, to take yourself away of the present.

I supose I have the extremer form, that I actually have split some in my head, to have 'others'. But I hear of other people who disocciate from there emotions, to shut down some. It sounds as though maybe that is what you do.

Not sure how else to answer. I hope that you get some good advice.


Avatar photo in memory of my younger brother Makar.

"Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted."~~~Martin Luther King Jr., 1963


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