The shame of dissociation
She enters the therapist’s room and there is nothing but terror. Something has happened – she doesn’t know what; the therapist doesn’t know what – but here she is now: here and not here. In a 30-something body, she looks child-like, fragile, vulnerable. The therapist feels the familiar thud of compassion on the inside of her, the almost-overwhelming need to protect and care and repair. Does she move towards her, take her hand, guide her to her chair? Or does she wait, encourage autonomy, let this scene play out? It’s never an easy choice, nor an obvious one. She waits.
The woman’s eyes flick around the floor. Her breath is caught up in her ribs, hardly exhaling. Her fists are clenched. Her shoulders shrug upwards around her neck, protectively. The agony of being is raw on her face. Terror and dread and shame and confusion. She shuffles slightly forwards. Everything seems strange. She’s not sure where she is, what she is doing here. She knows this place, but only as if in a dream. She doesn’t know it now. The ache of dissociation sits heavily in her.
‘Come on in,’ says the therapist softly, not daring to break the tension with too much volume. ‘You look very scared.’
Find the complete article in Carolyn's new book, 'Unshame: healing trauma-based shame through psychotherapy', available now!
A word of explanation
I had therapy mainly between 2006 and 2015. These blog posts are not verbatim accounts of sessions, but rather the client equivalent of ‘case studies’ - amalgamations of various sessions, ‘narratively true’ rather than ‘historically true’. Although often written for stylistic purposes in the present tense, they are very much from a past period of my life. Ideally they should be read within the wider context of other blog posts, articles and my book, to give a more integrated and rounded sense of where I was at, where I’m at now, and the process that took place between those two points. I have been on a journey of recovery, and the difference in me from when I was in therapy (especially at the beginning) to now is testament to the brain’s ability to recover from even the most appalling suffering.
My primary work now is writing, followed closely by training therapists, counsellors and other professionals to support survivors of trauma. Regrettably I cannot provide one-to-one support but our charity framework PODS (Positive Outcomes for Dissociative Survivors) provides a helpline and a range of other services: please go to www.pods-online.org.uk for more information, and https://support.pods-online.org.uk/start-here if you are looking for support.
For training, please see our range of live courses at www.carolynspring.com/live-training, and our online courses at www.carolynspring.com/online-training. We also publish a range of resources to support recovery from trauma, which you can see at www.carolynspring.com/shop. My first book, Recovery is my best revenge, is available to buy at https://www.carolynspring.com/shop/recovery-is-my-best-revenge-paperback/